2 articles Tag loneliness

Are Our Kids Lonelier Than We Were?

kids playing in streetWhen I was a child, playing in the street was a normal occurrence. My Nan lived in a ‘walk’, which was a pedestrian-only road with no cars anywhere near where we played, and she happened to live next door to a family with a daughter of the same age as me, so I spent countless summers playing Barbies and cartwheeling on my Grandparents lawn with Sara, who was my best friend. Eventually, my parents moved nearer to my Nan and we lived in a cul-de-sac with a huge green in the middle, on which all of the kids who lived in the cul-de-sac played. We were a mixed bunch but we got on well and there was always someone to hang around with.

As I got older, I was allowed to go to the park with my friends. I grew up on an estate in Basildon, a new town that was built to accommodate the overspill from London in the late 1950’s, which meant that my grandparents were, and still are in fact, the only people to ever live in their house. The entire estate was populated by first and second generation Basildonians and us third generationers were blessed with a level of freedom because of the perceived sense of safety that comes from living in an area where everyone knew everyone else. In those days, it meant that misbehaviour was also fairly low, because no sooner had you thought about doing something naughty than a well-meaning onlooker had told your parents!

With Sausage at the beginning of her first ever summer holiday from school, I’ve been thinking a lot about things we can do to keep her occupied. She’s an only child, like I was until the age of almost 9, which means that she doesn’t have any ready-made playmates in the form of siblings. As much as I’d love for her have a playdate every day, that’s simply not possible, so it’s down to us to arrange other things for her to do, like the weekly pony lessons that she’ll be starting on Wednesday. But, I can’t help but wonder; are our kids lonelier than we were?

She’ll probably never be in a position where we’d let her play in the street, not least of all because people drive down our road like utter twonks, but mostly because the world is not the shiny, happy place it once was. I wrote this post a year ago about how shocked I was to see someone leave their child in the car while they went into the shop and had many comments suggesting that I was over-reacting and judgmental. I revisited the post after April Jones disappeared and wasn’t at all surprised to know that many people now agreed with me about how much freedom children are able to have in modern times.

Sausage will never have the level of freedom that Husband and I did and as such will never know what it’s like to ‘knock for’ someone, play in the street, ride her bike up and down until she’s called in for dinner, do cartwheels on a front lawn, knock on the door and ask for a pound when the ice cream man turns up, or be best friends with the kids next door. And I have to admit, that makes me really sad.

However, as sad as it makes me, it’s not something on which I’d ever compromise as her safety is the most important thing. So, what do you think? Are your kids lonelier than you were as a child? Should we do more to make sure they have someone to play with everyday? Or is that just not possible in modern times?

Leave me a comment below.

The Lonely Toothbrush

If you read this blog with any kind of regularity, you’ve probably noticed by now that I’m a little bit…unusual? Between my magpie obsession, my lack of direction and wanting to wipe my brain like a hard drive,  it’s fair to say that I err on the side of the slightly eccentric. However, I realised something about myself today that we can add to the ever-growing list of unusual pathological behaviors;  I have an unusual aversion to loneliness.

Now, I appreciate than an aversion to loneliness in and of itself isn’t that unusual. As humans, we’re programmed to believe in safety in numbers and there’s been absolutely masses of research into the psychology and anthropology behind loneliness – according to Wikipedia “Loneliness has also been described as social pain — a psychological mechanism meant to alert an individual of isolation and motivate him/her to seek social connections”. Loneliness and our feeling about it are central to The Human Condition. But see, this is the thing – for me, it’s not just about humans…

Don’t get me wrong, I have a special pain in my heart and stomach that kicks in when I think about how many old people there are in the world who’ve been left on their own and feel a deep sense of loneliness, that’s all there. But this morning, whilst in the shower, I became deeply disturbed by the living arrangement of our toothbrushes. We have two glasses, mounted above the bathroom sink in which our dental care accouterments live. Today, mine and Husband’s brushes were in one glass with the toothpastes and Sausage’s was by itself in the other.

By itself.

All alone.

So I moved it.

I rearranged everything so that all three of our toothbrushes were in one glass, together, so that no one toothbrush got lonely. It moved me to significant enough sadness that I had to take action.

And now I sit and think about it, I do it with other things too. If I’m making beans or spaghetti on toast, I dutifully bang the bottom of the tin until every last bean or hoop falls from the tin. Not because I’m tight or greedy, simply because if that bean or hoop goes into the bin in a can by itself, it might get lonely. I genuinely have anxiety about lonely legumes.

I realise I’m probably really asking you to plumb the depths of your tolerance to sympathise with me here; the majority of you nice, sane people are probably wondering where the nearest loony bin is that I can be flung into, but I do wonder where this feeling comes from. As much as I’d never crave loneliness, I’m perfectly happy in my own company. I quite enjoy my drive to work, along the seafront, listening to BBC Radio 2, singing if I feel like it. At lunchtime, I try to get away from my desk if I can and have 5 minutes to myself. It’s not like I can’t stand to be alone.

Why do I rate the beans and hoops and toothbrushes more highly than myself, when it comes to company?

Answers on a postcard, dear readers…