Tory Secretary for Education has upset the British press and parents (again) today by announcing that schools should cater for 2-year-olds to alleviate the pressure for childcare provision. Yes, childcare in the UK is expensive and at times shoddy, but again the government seems to think that children should be institutionalised from the earliest age possible for as many hours as possible so that parents can work all day every day for a minimum wage and then spend the best part of it on paying somebody else to look after their child/children for them. (Never mind that so many jobs out there are only part-time/zero-hour contract and completely inflexible to family demands, hey?) Once again, it’s assumed that caring for your own children is something that people shouldn’t aspire to; that it has to value to society for people to stay at home and do a caring role for no pay. In the mind of the Tory government anything unpaid is worthless. (Apart from voluntary work in non-charitable companies that jobseekers should be forced to do, even if it results in lessened job opportunities, because why would a company pay someone to do a job when they can get the job centre to send someone to cover a position for free?) It’s the sort of attitude that makes my blood boil, but then I’m a hippy-dippy leftie, so what do my views matter?
But today has been Hell on Earth with Noodles and I would have happily have shipped him off for someone else to deal with. (Except really I wouldn’t. I would feel too sorry for both him, as he wouldn’t get the one-to-one attention and freedom that he gets at home and for whoever had to put up with his tantrums, who certainly wouldn’t be paid enough.) But then I thought maybe the government is missing a trick. Maybe, instead of simply sending the nation’s toddlers to school, we could deploy them differently: namely as weapons of torture. Allegedly they already use children’s TV theme tunes to drive victims to the brink of madness. And I’m sure my day with Noodles has contravened several of my human rights.
The day starts squished into a cotbed. No room to position themselves comfortably, especially with the addition of a wriggling 2-year-old who is designed to sleep across any given bed rather than aligned vertically with it, the prisoner awakes at 4am with double leg cramp. They try to extract themselves, but the bundle stirs, cries and they’re going nowhere. They squash their back into the cold wall to try to win some space for their legs and cover themselves as best they can with a thin quilt, but at least one body part will be exposed to a chill air at any given point.
Having been kicked in the kneecaps, groin and stomach whilst trying to dress the child the prisoner will then be offered the chance to exercise. This is made more difficult by the toddler joining in. The plank position becomes even more of a stress position with the small child either lying underneath the prisoner or climbing on the back for a game of Horsey.
Children’s TV will then be played on rote for the next 8 hours. The prisoner shall endure jolly happy smiley people who inside are wondering what happened to all the promises of serious theatre as they chat to hand puppets about the letter T. Hallucinatory characters will talk in incomprehensible gibberish and sing to flowers and the sky. Any attempt to turn the mind-mush off will cause the toddler to sound a shrill vocal alarm to alert all around that a misdemeanour has occurred.
There will be no need for the prisoner to be shackled as the toddler will attach him/herself limpet-like to their leg at any sign of independent movement. Like the human-equivalent of a monitoring tag, the child will again shriek if the prisoner also ventures too far from a limited radius. All trips to bathe or to go to the toilet will also be monitored closely by the child.
Feeding times will be fraught and messy. After concealing their own food into the prisoners hair, face or clothes, the toddler will then take the food assigned to the prisoner and claim as their own. They may be offered some crushed rations back at the end once completely cold and inedible.
The day will also compromise at least one public outing for humiliation and scorn by the wider society. Particularly effective will be the trip to the supermarket where the child will proceed to call attention to themselves and their prisoner by wailing loudly and persistently around the store, preferably flinging themselves to the floor. A trip is marked a success if several dirty glances are given by members of the public and there is audible tut-tutting from the old lady behind them in the queue at the till. The toddler will take the prisoner back to the detainment centre by walking on reins, but will then randomly let their legs give way, so that the prisoner has to permanently stoop and be ready to catch and lift them at any time. Repetitive requests to be carried and then walk will also help make the journey that bit more arduous.
Finally, after a solid 14 hours of this regime the prisoner will be required to get the toddler to sleep. This will require several more body blows and if deemed necessary by the toddler possibly even a few heavy headbuts to the prisoner’s mouth. The child will ensure that he/she falls asleep on the prisoner whilst they are in a stress position and any wrongly-timed movement will require the process to start all over again.
The prisoner by this point will most likely now be shattered and willing to agree to anything for some respite. If hard-core, however, and difficult to break, the child will interrupt sleep every couple of hours and demand that the prisoner again sleeps within the confines of the cotbed. Repeat the process without reprieve until the prisoner relents. Or until the child is old enough for school.
I’d write to David Cameron with my suggestions, but my own miniature dictator has broken me today and I haven’t got the energy. If a confession will get me an unbroken night’s sleep however, just tell me where to sign.