Give me a child until he is seven

I love the 7Up series. I am watching 56Up in preparation for 63Up which will be on TV on Monday night.

Listening to the famous opening – “I’m going to work in Woolworths” and “I read The Financial Times” – I couldn’t help but think of my children, our socio-economic class and a particular incident.

When we first moved to the suburb we still live in, my youngest was ten. He made friends with a neighbour of the same age who lived in our street.

The boy attended a non-government school. One that mimicked English public schools. Blazer in all seasons, even 40° summers. Younger boys wear shorts in all seasons, even 4° mornings. Boaters in summer.

While jumping on our trampoline, I overheard the boy asked The Dreamer what he did for extra-curricular activities. The Dreamer had no idea what he was talking about. (Or if you want to sound like you come from a pompous school – no idea about which he was talking as ending sentences with a preposition is something up with which one cannot put.) Extra-curricular wasn’t a term used at public primary schools. We just had “activities” – chess, sport, choir and the like.

Trying to sound so superior, the neighbour said, “I do fencing.”

The Dreamer replied, “Oh no, my mother wouldn’t let me do anything like that.”

Listening on the verandah, I cracked up. I knew what he was imagining. Why on earth would you do that!

The boy persisted, trying to explain what fencing was.

My son was still perplexed and none the wiser, as he was not really listening – the boy was a continual show-off who had to prove he was better than others.

I loved how this little conversation captured a possible class divide. The boy was trying to show how exclusive were his activities. Yet, my little naive, socially unconscious boy wasn’t impressed. Even if he knew what it was, he couldn’t care less.

And yet…

His parents were renting a run-down little house – we were buying a rather beautiful place. Both The Dreamer’s parents (ie Mr S and me) are left-wing who could afford to send their children to private schools, but never would as a matter of principle. Just as the boy’s parents were sending him to a private school as they believed it showed they were of a “better” class.

The boy was a fat, little, unlikeable thing. Higher class or not.

13 thoughts on “Give me a child until he is seven

  1. I was looking up the 7 Up series last night! And wondering when we’d get a chance to see 64-Up! Google couldn’t even tell me. Heard it here first 🙂

    I also read a quote last night about the Financial Times comment. Apparently the boy’s father told him to say it. Amazing. That someone would tell a 7 year old to talk about their reading like that. Goodness!

  2. One day I’ll have to write about the schooling question. I’ve avoided it due to the contentiousness. But of course, Mr D and I teach in independent schools. In my last job, the final tipping point was the sheer hours involved for teaching staff in ‘co-curricular’ offerings and the crushing workload. It actually nearly tipped me over the edge.

    • You, you want to avoid contention? Election. Green topics. Anti The Australian rants.

      But I get the link to work does make it difficult to comment. Please don’t take my above paragraph to be an insult or challenge.

      Who would have thought private school would exploit their workers!!!

      • Haha – lol! I actually am far more scared of this topic though. *Much* more than any of my other rants. Because it brings up money, religion, wealth, privilege and equality in one awe-inspiring confluence.

  3. A bit harsh on the poor wee lad, probably really his parents’ influence to blame. But very glad you are raising important political issues in your blog Lucinda. Have another friend from the Inner West who writes a lovely lifestyle bog about cooking and recycling and household thriftiness, as well as musings on life and family and sometimes Art. Weirdest thing is absolutely no mention whatsoever of monumental election and issues raised in Australia in May and now June. Self- censorship? Disinterest in readers? Life in an inner city bubble? I wonder how these crucial matters are isolated from everyday living . She is a lovely and intelligent person who I am sure must at least think about these things. Press Freedom and ABC raid? Visiting Chinese warships? Adani Mine? I guess she just wants a peaceful life. Or maybe just too contentious and will alienate followers who just want something nice and relaxing to read in these turbulent times.Good on you Lucinda!
    ( Thanks also for tip off about “63 Up”. I thought that series had just quietly faded away. Watched The Truman Show the other weekend. Some similarities maybe. At least they know they are being filmed!)

    • I think the retreat to the domestic is a way of ignoring the horror of the political situation. You may like my friend’s blog, Fiona at Declutterer. She doesn’t hide away from politics.

      Wasn’t harsh on the boy. He was a little pompous twit and in a few years time would be a Liberal voter.

      But did you laugh at The Dreamer’s response?

      • Yes I loved The Dreamer’s response!. To tell you truth real fencing would be a practical and useful skill to learn. I have a wooden fence that needs fixing here at home. Always wished they had taught girls some woodwork instead of just sewing in our day at school. I will also have a look at The Declutterer. Also could certainly do with some of that!

  4. I love the 7 Upseries – it is my favourite show ever. But 63 Up is not airing here and I will have to wait for it to be released in a format I can purchase or borrow from the library. I won’t be reading your next post in case it contains spoilers!

    Did your kids attend public school while you and Mr S taught at private ones? If so, did you talk about it as a family?

    Not too comfortable with commenting on the body types of children, but it may speak to parenting values. I hope your young neighbour was converted to left-wing politics, if only to spite his parents.

    • I’m very bad with spoilers. So good plan not to read my post. I just had one bit spoiled for me by a comment on this post, so don’t read the other comments either.

      Mr S only taught for one year at a Catholic school. Our oldest was 3 at the time. I stopped teaching in the non-gov system when our eldest was in primary school. But we have talked about it a lot since. About perceptions. The value in spending the money on a private secondary education as opposed to family holidays and saving for uni. The values of different systems. In a way we are fraudulent. We moved to a middle class area where the public schools do better. So exclusivity partly by postcode rather than paying school fees. As I always acknowledge, the debate is complex and humans always elements of contradictions.

      My comment on the body has more to do with my values than the parents. Sorry, about that word in my comment. He probably wasn’t fat. He just had a greedy, untrustworthy nature, trying to big note himself. Who knows! Maybe his parents were left-wing but sent him to the school for religion or family tradition.

      I just like that the fencing brag was lost on my son.

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