A couple of weeks ago I dropped in on my parents. They weren’t there. With a couple of hours to kill I ended up poking around stuff that had been salvaged from my old room when they’d moved. By the guest bed I found a stack of Calvin and Hobbes comic books. During our teens my parents had given my brother and I these as rewards and the reasons were always written neatly in the front of each. It was these comments, not the books themselves, I found myself most interested in.
“To Ben on the completion of his brilliant Xanadu English project.”
“To Tom on his great 1994 school report.”
I was struck but just how many of these books there were. It seemed that every time my brother or I did well at anything my parents noticed and made a fuss. We were lucky to have them and it’s impossible to know how we’d have turned out if it hadn’t been for their encouragement.
Many young people don’t have what my brother and I had at home. Nobody really cares how they do and when they do well nobody celebrates with them. I find it difficult to get my head round the extent this must restrict some young people.
Two days ago at 3.30pm one such child appeared at my classroom door. Her name’s Chloe and she’d just finished an exam. She hovered around, smiling. I looked up and asked how I could help. Chloe shrugged and said nothing. Her class teacher, who was with me in the room, asked “how did your exam go Chloe?”
Chloe grinned so wide I thought her foundation might crack. “Really well! I answered all the questions!”
As she sat down and began to babble happily away about how hard she’d studied and everything she’d written my heart broke a little. She’d been waiting outside because she needed us to do for her what my parents did for me and my brother. She needed adults to make a fuss because when she got home there would be no Calvin and Hobbes book with her name on it. I’m not sure if anyone even knew she’d had an exam at all.
After she’d gone her teacher and I had a sad chat about the unfairness of it all. Then, after agreeing that we wouldn’t have done half as well in our lives had it not been for our parents we realised there was really only one option. So, for a while, Chloe we’ll be your parents. You tell us about how well that exam went. Whatever we’re doing isn’t as important as you are. We’ll be waiting for you so make sure you drop by. Sit down. Drink your coke, eat your biscuits and tell us all about it. We promise we’ll listen. We promise that when there’s nobody else to do it, we’ll make a fuss of you.