Learning from Children

When my sons began to go to school I took up my post as a teacher at the nearest comprehensive school. I said that if either of my children fell ill I would have to take some time off. They agreed because they were so keen to employ me as a maths teacher. I employed a woman to come in and clean my house twice a week. She agreed to do extra time and stay with either of the boys if they were not well enough to go to school, which happily was on the opposite side of the street from our house so I could get home very quickly if anything should go wrong .

It was the children’s first experience of an English winter so it was almost inevitable that this would happen. In fact it did, but their share of sickness did not bring on anything too worrying so I rarely had to take time off. They were so excited by all the new things they saw in England, especially London where they loved going to the Zoo, beautiful parks, the botanical gardens and most of all the science museums where they loved the enormous reconstructions of dinosaurs. Both boys looked forward eagerly to Guy Fawkes Night and their first Christmas in England.

Bob wrote to me and to them regularly. He was hoping that when he returned to England I would have changed my mind about having a divorce. I was still uncertain. The boys missed their father but not nearly as much as they had missed me when I had to go home to sort things out when my brother died. Nevertheless, I did not like the idea of breaking up a family with divorce. Bob was a good father. He loved his children more than most fathers do, just as he loved me more than most husbands love their wives. Whatever I did he seemed to know that I meant to look after my own wellbeing even when he found it hurtful. I never found another man I could marry with the same intense integrity that he had about the rights of women. Whatever some people may say, I was convinced that all children need both mother and father until they are old enough to leave home. I wanted my children to have a much better childhood than I experienced. Bob and I had both suffered under rowing parents and both of us were upset to such an extent that we never, ever quarrelled. We sorted things out logically however painful the situation. Those who have children have a great responsibility.

I found it exhilarating to have a proper job earning money and best of all to be doing something for which I was, to my surprise, well-fitted. For some reason I got on better with the boys than the girls.

Adolescent girls can think up exceptionally crafty and nasty ways to make trouble. They were much more skilful at doing harmful things and causing pain with words than the boys who were far more straightforward and tended to settle upsets with other boys with physical blows. Both myself and my daughter gave birth to two sons. Watching them grow up I noticed the great difference of the sexes between the behaviour groups of boys and those of girls.

Here is an example of malicious teen-age girls at their worst. This one had fair hair and blue eyes and looked too good to be true. Her parents were very nice people. She was not. One day in the cookery-room everyone was making scotch eggs. At the end of the lesson, this particular girl said to another one, “Would you like mine as well?” She agreed and said “That is very kind of you.” The next day this girl told the cookery teacher that when she bit into her scotch egg she cut inside her mouth with broken eggshells. Whilst everyone else took off the shells before they wrapped the sausage-meat round them, this one obnoxious girl had deliberately left the shell intact around the egg.

Another day this same girl was in the science laboratory. She said to the teacher “Shall I stay behind and finish the tidying up?” The teacher was pleased. When everyone had gone, she turned on all the gas-burners, went out and closed the door. Fortunately, as the caretaker was doing his rounds he detected a strong smell of gas, ran into the room and turned all the gas-taps off.

When I left that school at the end of the year the boys gave me a large chocolate box full of little things for babies. I was unexpectably pregnant for the third time. The girls gave me nothing.