We all have memories of secrets hidden from our parents and other grown-ups, of wanting to mark out the territories in our lives where they were not allowed to go. Sometimes these can be physical spaces, whether a private meeting place or a den or the sacred inner sanctum of a teenager’s bedroom, and sometimes the boundaries are more conceptual.
Language serves this purpose beautifully. In the past, youngsters have used back-slang, pig latin and other fabulously creative inventions to be able to communicate in ways that they suppose adults cannot understand (forgetting that they were once kids too!). I have known groups of children construct highly complex language codes which could be spoken and written fluently by the chosen few.
It's my bet that we all have the memory of one or more seemingly trivial events from our childhood that nonetheless had a deep and lasting impact on our emotional landscape. It strikes me as strange then, that it’s so easy to forget this in our communications with our own children.
There is a shift happening in my own life, which has enabled me to gain a deeper insight into the world of our young people.
Over the last couple of years, the nature of my work has altered so that I am increasingly using the written word more than the spoken word. The impact of funding cuts to schools and the arts has seen both the storytelling and educational consultancy work markedly reduced, whereas the demand for my input to magazines and the creation of books has increased exponentially.
I spent the morning after the UK General Election driving across the country for three hours, listening to various angles of analysis on Radio Four.
The rhetoric of shock rather surprised me. I suppose it shouldn’t have really, these were bastions of our political institutions telling me how unforeseen the strengthening of Labour support and weakening of the Tory position had been. Perhaps their curated social media feeds or limited exposure to the mood of sections of the populace outside their usual scope had protected them from the obvious.
Earlier in the month I read a fascinating article entitled, ‘We just want to be able to talk to our parents’, by Stefanie Marsh in the Guardian. Here’s the link if you’d like to read it in full: