Nearly 2 weeks have passed since the Scottish Referendum. I’ve not posted anything about it on here because for the past couple of months I’ve been writing most nights, for most of the night, back and forth in private messages about it on Facebook and emails. I’m not about to start on here, either, and how I voted was private. I only mention it in relation to how it affected the minxes – the usual subjects of this blog!
On the run-up to the vote, The Boss and I distracted the kids from their usual flick-food-under-the-table-at-your-sister games by talking about it together over dinner. The younger 2’s reaction was “Mummy and Daddy are talking scribble – must mean that it’s something we’re not allowed! I want it! I want it now!” whereas Maxi thought about some of the points we discussed and argued, and joined in a bit. She was very put-out that I refused to share my voting intention with them, but hey, when your kids memorise absolutely everything they hear, to later parrot verbatim at the most embarrassing moment possible, you’re a bit careful about what you say. (I’m still haunted by the “Mummy said you probably wouldn’t be arsed to do that” ShopGate incident, and the “Where’s your broomstick? Mummy said you came in on one” debacle, and just about every single time the kids mention me at school).
Maxi was born in Swindon and picked up her Daddy’s accent, probably because he was the stay-at-home parent when she was learning to talk. As a pre-schooler she declared that she was Scot-lish, and we’ve brought her up to consider both sides of her heritage to be equally special. So she took some recent playground taunts about “The English” a bit to heart. After one doomed-we’re-all-doomed-regardless-of-the-result referendum dinner discussion between her parents, she later reflected: “So no matter what the grown-ups vote, yes or no, one side is going to hate me?” I reassured her that wouldn’t be the case; that people differentiate between a nation’s policies and its people.
In school, as in classrooms all over the country, her class discussed the main points in the referendum. It stirred up a bit of anti-English declarations, and some of the kids crowed about Maxi’s birthplace. When she told me about it, I suggested she ignore it – it would soon blow over. We talked about which kids were teasing her. I asked her what they all had in common. She noted that they were all older than her; they had all teased her about other things before; that she cared what they thought; that other kids in the class cared what they thought; and that other kids liked to copy them. I pointed out that none of them were exactly the smartest nor the most brilliant examples of logical reasoning, but I don’t think she was swayed by that.
I told her the kids were being racist and bigoted, and that if she couldn’t shrug it off, she should challenge them. “Be proud of being half-English!” I told her. “You’ve got the best of both countries!” She didn’t look particularly proud. “Your headmaster is English”, I reminded her. “If the kids say to you again, ‘All English people are stupid!’, then ask them if they think their headmaster is stupid”. Maxi sniggered. The kids’ headmaster is an absolute star. I think I’ve raved about him about a hundred times on here. No-one could accuse him of being stupid! She relaxed a bit, armed with a decent one-liner.
The next day, the day of the result, the taunts kept on. Maxi’s prepped one-liner ammunition fell on unhearing ears. She was a subdued little girl that night. When her class-mates painted a picture of The English as smug, arrogant, stupid, cruel, bloated, rich masters, Maxi was seeing those caricatures with the faces of people she loved: her Daddy, her grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Although I was sure it would blow over after the weekend, I dropped by to see Maxi’s teacher on the Friday morning, to give him a bit of a head’s up about what his pupils were saying in the playground. I didn’t name names, and I wasn’t ratting on the children, I was just sharing info that he might or might not find useful, either now or in the future. I stressed that I wasn’t making a complaint, just suggesting he maybe use it as an opportunity to discuss racism in general with the class.
At lunchtime, the head collared me, wanting names. He explained that actually there was enough being said for the police to be involved. What?!! Surely they’re just little kids? They don’t really know what they’re saying; probably just repeating what they’ve heard on the telly or at home. He disagreed, but didn’t out and out say I was being naive.
That afternoon, Maxi came skipping out of school, full of chatter about the “brilliant and really interesting” class assembly they’d just had, all about racism and judging people based on silly assumptions.
“Oh?” I said, feigning nonchalance.
“And it’s really funny:” Maxi said, “Every time Mr X asked a question, it was always A, B and C who put up their hands to answer. It was like they were just soooooo desperate to impress Mr X. If only he knew that it was really them who were being horrible to me!”
“Oh, he knows, Maxi. He knows!” I suspect that he’d have known even if I’d not grassed them to him earlier. Good headteachers are like parents: they’ve got eyes and ears EVERYWHERE. (For goodness’ sake don’t anyone tell my kids about Facebook Messenger – they currently think I’m omnipresent).