We live in interesting times. Derived from a saying of uncertain origins, and often sounding like a positive, but actually more probably meaning ‘interesting’ as in ‘troubled’ times. In my lifetime this certainly feels as true as it ever has been: climate emergency, war in Europe and worldwide, biodiversity in crisis, human rights violations, polarised politics, massive human inequality and poverty, the pandemic. And closer to home, extreme weather, the cost-of-living crisis, major health inequality, and well, I will just say ‘politics’. It is easy to despair…
Just before bedtime, my partner, me, and our children are in the habit of having some interesting conversations, and on the whole, these do offer much to be positive about. They often lead to joy and laughter. One such ‘chat’ as the kids call them, started after a trip to the dentists: ‘dad, why do we go to the dentists?…. when will we go to the dentists next….. its wasn’t 6 months it was 8 months since last time…. What do you mean there aren’t enough dentists…. What do you mean the government didn’t plan it very well…’ you get the drift. So, I said, ‘what would you do if you were the government then?’ and that prompted the following reply which pretty much blew me away:
Bam, four words. Pretty amazing start. How much government policy would be improved by simply asking – is that kind, is that fair? And intuitively I know my kids include animals and nature in ‘be kind’ It’s a stonking start…. but they had only just got started. ‘Great, what else?’ I said.
Keep people safe.
Ok, I admit that for these two, they actually said ‘make sure you have got enough stuff what you need’, and ‘don’t let bad stuff happen’. But I think my paraphrasing is quite fair. At five and six, they know you need to think about what is needed and plan for it. And they think someone in a position of power has the responsibility to keep other people from harm. Its bang on target again. ‘This is great’, I said, tempted to quit whilst I was ahead, before they started saying ‘free chocolate’ or ‘Christmas every day’. But I sensed there was more, that they weren’t quite done yet…. ‘ anything else’ I ventured. Hmm, they were thinking hard on this; ‘erm, well, erm, maybe….’ Come on I was thinking. It’s in there…. Then, straight in the eyes, with an implied question mark at the end….
‘Don’t argue with each other’?
‘Fantastic’ I said. ‘You should run the country…. Once you have had a good night sleep, come on its sleepy time.
Take that politicians, leaders, parents, adults. Don’t despair, just ask a kid, and then listen, and then do.