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  • It isn't difficult to imagine a privileged childhood.

  • We associate the term with a swimming pool in the garden, holidays abroad, lavish presents and outsize birthday parties

  • and maybe someone deferential picking up the clothes from the bedroom floor during school hours.

  • Our ideas are plainly focused on money.

  • The idea has just enough truth in it to convince the cynical parts of us,

  • but the number of breakdowns and mental illnesses gnawing at the upper middle classes should be enough to force us to concede that

  • money cannot on its own be the reliable guarantor of 'privilege' that it would,

  • in a way, be simpler to imagine it was.

  • True privilege is an emotional phenomenon.

  • It involves receiving the nectar of love

  • which can be stubbornly missing in the best equipped mansions

  • and oddly abundant in the bare rooms of modest bungalows.

  • It is (a) true privilege when a parent is on hand to enter imaginatively into a child's world;

  • when they have the wherewithal to put their own needs aside for a time

  • in order to focus wholeheartedly on the confusions and fears of their offspring;

  • and when they are attuned not just to what a child actually manages to say but to what they might be aspiring yet struggling to explain.

  • It is privileged when a parent lends us a feeling that they are loyal to us simply on the basis that we exist

  • rather than because of anything extraordinary we have managed to achieve,

  • when they can imbue us with a sense that they will be on our side even if the world has turned against us,

  • and they can teach us that all humans deserve compassion and understanding despite their errors and compulsions.

  • It is privileged when parents can shield us from the worst of their anxiety and rage and the full conflicts of their adult lives;

  • when they can respect that it is many years before a child is old enough to face the full complexity of existence

  • and when they are sufficiently mature to let us grow up slowly.

  • It is privileged when parents don't set themselves up as perfect or,

  • by being remote and unavailable, encourage us to idealize or demonize them.

  • It is privileged when they can be ordinary and a little boring can invite us to develop into a man or a woman beside them

  • and can know how to let themselves be superseded.

  • It is privileged when parents can bear our rebellions and don't force us to be preternaturally obedient or good,

  • when they don't crumple if we try out what it feels like to call them old idiots,

  • and when they themselves reliably seek to explain, rather than impose their ideas.

  • It is privileged when they can accept that we will eventually need to leave them and do not mistake our independence for betrayal.

  • All of these moves belong to privilege sincerely understood,

  • and they are, at present, about as rare as huge wealth, but at points more crucial.

  • It is those who have enjoyed years of emotional privilege that deserve to be counted among the true one per cent.

  • It can be natural when we meet with any sort of privilege that has been deeply and unfairly distributed,

  • to seek to level the playing field.

  • But it can't be a redistribution of privilege that is required here, rather a universal increase

  • and the assurance of a decent minimum.

  • A truly fair society would be one in which a yearly rise in the degree of emotional privilege in circulation

  • would become a national priority

  • and where an abundance of love, concern, and connection was adequately studied, encouraged, and prized as the true 'wealth' it is.

  • The Joys and Sorrows of Parenting promises us a gentle way of staying calm around one of the most arduous yet deeply fullfilling jobs in the world.

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It isn't difficult to imagine a privileged childhood.

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The Secrets of a Privileged Childhood

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    Evangeline posted on 2021/03/07
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