A Town for children?

Written by Jo Carroll.

The other day, in Mather’s, a young woman apologised to me as her double buggy was blocking my way.  It was no problem – it was easy for me to get by.
 
But it set me thinking.  What was she sorry for? Having two small children and needing to go into a card shop?  She and her children had as much right to be there as I did.

What if, adding decades to her, she was elderly and in a mobility scooter?  Or with a walking frame?  In my experience Marlborough responds to the frail and vulnerable with great compassion.  We are good at caring for people when they have their healthiest years behind them.

So what led a woman feel she should apologise for having children?  I began to wonder if, as a town, where many of us are well past bus-pass age, we find it more difficult to extend our empathy to children and young people.

I’ve heard it said that young people don’t make it easy for us to warm to them. They gather outside Lloyds Bank or in the Priory Gardens and use language that should stay in the playground. Smaller children race along the High Street without thought for anyone they might bump into.

But they are children. Children run and play and make mistakes.  They are noisy and drip ice cream in the street and sometimes they swear in public.  Little ones in buggies may need us to step into the road out of their way.  Older children make us feel uncomfortable as they ask difficult questions (Why does that lady have so many wrinkles?  Why do I have to eat things I don’t like when you never do?).  Teenagers can huff and puff as they try to work out who they are and who they want to be.

Such behaviour is all very normal.  It is part of family life – and should be part of town life.  Surely, being a truly inclusive community means that we offer the same welcome, understanding and patience to children and young people as we do to our frail and vulnerable.

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