Child Rearing: the English Approach

An Englishman apologises the moment he exits the womb.

He address the Doctor by his full title and then formally thanks both the senior and junior staff on the ward, taking care to compliment them on their professionalism and, if applicable, their appearance.

Only then does he turn to address his parents.

As is natural, the father takes precedence and, having offered a “How do you do?” and remarked on the goodness of the morning, or day, or evening, it is customary for the newborn to ask the father, (Addressed as Sir), if he has found the time to have given any thought to the choosing of a name.

If a name is offered it will be accepted in polite silence, a nod of assent being adequate to express the necessary reactions and then a brief handshake is allowed should any emotion have slipped unbidden into the proceedings.

These formalities concluded, the mother may be embraced and the child fed. Thus is set the tone of the childhood to come and childhood is of course merely practice for adulthood.

 Among the lower orders it is said that the Mother may take on a more significant role for the child as he grows to be an Englishman, if one were to accept for arguments’ sake that one these beings might be classed as an Englishman, though the point is moot: among the people who signify, the father alone is of import. The role of the mother is properly understood as being somewhere between a director of the nursery staff and a chaperone for when the little ones are to be displayed in public at such events as the church and the social calendar cast in the path of a gentleman of substance.

Should the parents have the misfortune to produce a girl, the obvious disappointment is, to some extent balanced by the decreased complexity of the tasks ahead: The salient points can be found in my earlier volume “Raising Horses for Dressage: From foal to filly.”

Our primary concern is of course with the man child.

For the first ten years the father had no duties to speak of: an occasional family photograph might feature the two of them, but interaction of any form is surplus to requirements and should not be encouraged. On the child’s tent birthday one of the books may be given: the list is well known: indeed it is the list the father’s own sire employed. Kipling’s Kim is traditionally the first on the list, though there has been an unorthodox and not entirely pleasant trend over recent years of presenting Treasure Island first. This is, of course the third book to be given. On the 11th birthday Dickens’s Child’s history of England is required, and after that the Stevenson on the thirteenth birthday, and then Palgrave’s golden treasury of English Verse, but it should never be the abominable revisions of later centuries, only the 1875 as approved by Tennyson. There is no discretion allowed in this matter: the work at hand or raising a child is not to be trifled with on account of such ephemera as the passing of the years. At Christmas, should the child return briefly from Eton, sports equipment may be given, but the staff can usually be relied on to deal with such minor aspects.....