Thursday, 12 April 2018

If only the rest of the world could adjust its view of growing old like children's books have - a ReadItTorial

Cast your mind back to when you were a child, perhaps when you were at school and you started to wonder what you'd be like when you grew up.

Can you remember what you wanted to be? What you wanted to do for a job? Can you remember looking at your own parents and perhaps even your grandparents and thinking "Oh man, I'll never be like that" or perhaps even "Oh wow, I'd love to still be able to kick ass and chew gum at the age of 66!"

Recently there's been a lot of Twitter buzz about the depiction of old people in children's books, particularly Grandparents.

Watching a couple of threads unfold, there seemed to be a general opinion that kids books needed to catch up with the 21st century vision of what folk over 50 are like now.

Recently coasting past the half century myself, I'm surprised to see children's books getting any criticism over this at all, considering most of the books we see and review on the blog regularly celebrate the diversity and most of all the renewed energy in our older generation and have done for quite a long time.

In general, children's books quite rightly portray a positive view of older folk and to me this accurately reflects the fact that the world has indeed moved on, people are in work and active a long longer, retirement - well, hah, retirement for most of us normal hard-working folk is a hilarious pipe dream unavailable or not an option anywhere this side of 80.

The point here is that for most kids, this is the view they have of their grandparents - they're actually secret superhumans who are capable of amazing things, can perform magic, can bake practically anything, make anything, are full of the most incredible wisdom and collected knowledge and are still capable of keeping up with their energetic machinations down at the local park or on a long ramble in the countryside.

We're lucky enough to still have two amazing sets of Grandparents with us, who C completely adores. On the rare occasions we get a book through for review that does depict the "1970s view" of grandparents as being wizened old grey things collecting dust in the corner while glued to the tellybox, she doesn't recognise those characters at all.

The whole "Old" thing is another matter. As a society, we are incredibly age-ist and there still seems to be an assumption that your life as a viable human being ends as soon as you tip over the brink of 40 (personally I find that completely ridiculous, technically I felt like my life actually began at 40 - the age C was born and so many changes rolled over all of us, not just me but of course my wife too). I've been on the receiving end of no end of cheap gags about getting old (mostly from friends and family, notably) and though I smile and chuckle politely, it really does bug the hell out of me if I'm honest.

As folk have kids later on in life, I wonder if they feel they're not really properly 'grown up' until they do have kids, and take on probably one of the most important responsibilities they'll ever have in life. No matter what your job is, your career, your business, I personally don't think any of that can equate to the life-changing and massively impactive decisions you will have to make as a parent. Argue me out that choosing a career and running your own business is more stressful and carries a greater responsibility if you like, but nothing will ever match being jointly responsible for another human being's growth, development and well-being IMHO.

I really am sick and tired of some of the Twitter chat about age though, coming from folk who think it's hilarious to make cheap gags about getting old - and who blissfully think that their 20s or 30s will last forever and that they'll still somehow remain cool and relevant forever too.

Even in my 20s and 30s I had a bucketload of respect for older folk (probably because I grew up around grandparents and older relatives) and the attributes I've already mentioned above, and I think it's incredibly sad that society doesn't always reflect the idylls we see in picture books, particularly when it comes to dealing with age and generational differences.