Poor Little Frankie

Backless clogs

When my son Joe was growing up we lived next door to an illustrator of children's books and his family: his wife and their eight-year old son Frankie.

She was a Buddhist and we used to hear her chanting in the morning. It was hard to make out the words through the breakfast room wall. The tone, however, was like an hysterical vacuum-cleaner on hormone-replacement therapy, and the words sounded, to our uneducated ears, like "a-hole-in-yer-bum, a-hole-in-yer-bum, a-hole-in-yer-bum," repeated endlessly, over and over again.

They were a very right-on New Age family. Wholefood-eating vegetarians, pacifist, ecologically-minded. Little Frankie went to Steiner school.

Which is all well-and-good, you might say. Nothing wrong with child-centred education and "honouring the child", except that - deliberately or not - the whole thing was actually really cruel.

For instance, Frankie was made to wear backless clogs.

Backless clogs! On an eight-year old!

Have you ever tried to run in backless clogs? And isn't this exactly what an eight-year old is supposed to do: to run, in the sheer exuberance of his existence, for the joy of being alive? It was like he was being deliberately crippled.

Poor little Frankie.

It was the same with the wholefood diet. What child do you know who likes brown rice and lentils? Joe always got exactly what he wanted. At least that way he got food into his mouth. He liked fish-fingers and chips. He liked bacon and eggs.

One day Frankie came round to play while Joe was eating his breakfast. Bacon and eggs and beans with a round of crusty white bread smothered in butter. And you could see it in Frankie's eyes. His pupils were dilating. He couldn't keep his eyes off the food. He was just staring and staring at the food on the plate and at Joe as he was eating it. And then he was salivating, really salivating. The drool was dribbling from his mouth and over his chin. Great globules of spit dripping down over his chest, soaking into the bib-front of his multi-coloured dungarees.

Poor little Frankie. I would have loved to have given him a delicious plate of bacon and eggs too, only, of course, you cannot interfere.

He was also not allowed to play with guns. You name me a boy-child who does not like to play with guns. I won't go into the Freudian implications of this, except to say that it is perfectly healthy.

Almost anything can become a gun.

One day Frankie was round our house again, playing in the back garden. He had a stick, and he was making "dat-dat-dat" noises with his mouth, aiming the improvised "gun" at the washing pole.

"What are you shooting at Frankie?" I asked him.

"I'm shooting my mum," he said, tottering on his backless clogs. "I've tied her up to the pole and I'm killing her. Dat-dat-dat. Dat-dat-dat. Drrrrrr. Ka-pow!"

Poor little Frankie. I had to laugh though. At least he was getting his revenge.

Sometimes I wonder what became of Frankie. The family only stayed next-door to us for a year or two. I expect he's a arms-trading psychopath by now, with a passion for raw meat. I only hope he is not cruel to his own children.

Feral kids

But it makes you wonder, doesn't it? The things we do to our kids.

It's one of the terrible consequences of the liberal sixties, that people stopped trying to grow up. They became obsessed with their own spiritual path to personal enlightenment and refused to accept the burden of responsibility for their own children. Discipline was a dirty word. Kids were meant to develop "naturally", according to some sacred inner law of their being. Instead of which - and I've seen this - they just went feral.

I think I understood this at a relatively early point. I went to a Divine Light mission once, at the invitation of a friend of mine who had joined the sect. This was in the early '70s. It was in a large hall in Acton. Everyone was milling around with beaming smiles of bliss on their newly-enlightened faces, while the kids just ran around and played. No one was paying any attention to the kids.

One of them came up to me. He did that trick - you know: he pointed to my chest and said, "what's that", and I looked and he brought his hand sharply up to my nose, and then laughed brattishly.

Well I was a stranger. What could I do? I wanted to clip him round the ear, but it was not up to me to discipline the child. Meanwhile, his parents were somewhere else, hugging each other, no doubt, and looking lovingly into each-other's eyes.

But actually kids love discipline. They need discipline. Watch a lioness with her cubs when one of them is annoying her. She will cuff it round the ear, in exactly the way I wished the parents of that child would do, just to teach him respect for his elders.

Which is how, at least, I brought my son up.

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Comments 10 comments

AlexK2009 profile image

AlexK2009 6 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

Good points. Most people fall one side or the other of the right balance point. However kids take their example from parents so maybe the parents, in your last example were somewhere being pains to everyone else.

I wonder if that let the kids run riot attitude led to the uncaring brutality of the Thatcher/Major and most of the Blair/Brown years where money was king, the banks ruled the universe and to hell with the serfs, at least between elections.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

I think you are right, the parents in the last sample were definitely being pains to everyone else. That whole Divine Light thing was so insufferable. Thanks for the comment Alex.


Frances green 6 years ago

Wonderful Chris I really enjoyed reading your story. Made me laugh out load and also at myself having crossed over and back the fine line especially re whole foods and having seen the effect of not allowing certain foods luckily anything goes now in moderation!


salt profile image

salt 6 years ago from australia

Each has their own way of bringing up children and I love places that teach children not to play with guns. There are some fantastic parenting choices you can make that are great for your children that are not what the 30 second ad on TV tells us are normal.


DiamondRN profile image

DiamondRN 6 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

I remember leaving just after dawn on Saturday mornings and not coming home until dark; usually with muddy shoes.

I wonder how people like us managed to survive and live balanced and successful lives without having had the benefit of constant suffocating supervision, CJ?

PS. Horror of horrors; I was also a "Straight A" student in a Christian school system.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK

Lovely story Chris. Poor little Frankie. Reminds me of the boy in the film 'About a Boy'. Kids like to conform until they're ready to do otherwise. And they do need discipline, too, or at least enough to stop them being a pain throughout their lives!


viking305 profile image

viking305 6 years ago from Ireland

Very interesting hub. Yes as in everything in life I believe that moderation in these areas are the best


Anna Marie Bowman profile image

Anna Marie Bowman 6 years ago from Florida

I loved reading this! I couldn't agree more. Working in child care, I saw this all too often. Parents who cared for their children, but didn't really care for them. They loved them, and their hearts were in the right place, but either furiously restricted what the children were exposed to, or alternatively, just let their children "run wild". There has to be a balance of good discipline and fostering creativity. Let a child be a child, but a child also has to know that there are limits. How does a child survive in this world if they don't understand that society has laws, morals, limitations as to what is acceptable? No wonder we have so many sociopaths running around...makes you wonder!


WildIris 6 years ago

I enjoyed this Hub. Poor Frankie having to run in those clogs. I see a lot of neo-hippie parents, the babies of the boomers now become parents, and their feral offspring. There is a contentment with these parents to let their little beasties "be" and to run free without consequence. Kids do not need a parent to be their best friend. Kids need parents to act like parents and set boundaries with clear expectation and consequence.


msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago

I was afraid of being too indulgent as a parent...but I have since reneged on that assumption. I did that sort control when my son was little. I enforced a no added sugar or salt until he was seven years old.

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