“They need you both there”
This is what someone said to me recently with regards my children and the plans my former spouse and I had in place, as a separated couple of a year, to spend Christmas Eve afternoon and the morning of the day itself together.
The comment was (I hope) meant kindly but also struck me with its passive aggressiveness and its complete lack of imagination and empathy. What about, I thought, the people who have lost partners to illness or accidents? What about people who are alone for no reason other than that they are? Those who have not chosen that? What about all those parents and couples/families who are physically present but emotionally absent during the much of the year let alone the festive season?
I am happy, and feel privileged to be able, to make these shared plans and to be present in the family home (which I currently live in part time) for Christmas. This is because I want all the changes we are going through as a family to be gradual and not because I think that the children “need” a mum and dad to be present.
And, it was in thinking of all of us who are not “perfect” in society’s eyes, who have made different choices or who life has not given that option to, that I wrote this…
What children need is plural and multiple, it cannot be reduced to one relationship, one pair
What children need are emotionally present and available adults
What children need are adults capable of, and free to, meet their own emotional needs as well as to support them in learning to do the same
What children need is the freedom and safety to express all their feelings
What children need is to be loved and to feel love from a range of adults in their lives
What children need are engaged and engaging adults around them
What children need is a society that treats them with respect and kindness
What children need is to be and feel free from the pressures that our society puts on all of us to look and behave in a certain way
What children need is a society where none of them are hungry or cold. Ever.
This is what children need…