Read the text and choose the option A, B or C which best completes each sentence. 0 is an example.
Today’s worship of children borders on the perverse
Every Father’s Day or Mother’s Day, when our children are required for a few hours to acknowledge their parents’ unstinting efforts on their behalf, I am asked by one of them, usually resentfully: “Why isn’t there a children’s day?” The answer reliably comes back: because every day is children’s day. Then I found out there is a children’s day after all – National Children’s Day on 15 May.
Doubtless the idea of this day is to bring attention to those children who suffer hardship and neglect. However, I have a suspicion that were my nine and 13-year-old daughters to find out about this occasion they would simply assume they were going to be entitled to some extra privileges. Nevertheless, I was somewhat encouraged to learn from the press release that it was going to “raise awareness about the importance of adult wellbeing … adult happiness … and [adult] mental health in the UK”.
Adult happiness – there’s a concept I could embrace. However, it sits uneasily with the rest of the release which announces that the way we are to achieve “adult wellbeing” and (apparently incidentally) produce “heartful and mindful” children, is to “enjoy” informal activities such as “a playing out day for local families, carrying out daily random acts of kindness during the week, holding a street party, and ‘a go home on time’ week for working parents to spend time with the family.” Which sounds a lot more like simply more fun for the kids to me.
I may be sounding a trifle sour at the moment. This is because a few days before writing this column a couple of things happened that made me slightly less mindful and heartful than my darling children. As a family we took The Complete Walk of Shakespeare’s plays along the South Bank in London and after an hour or so we reached a screen with chairs in front.
My wife and two younger daughters found chairs, but I couldn’t see one. A little weary, I asked Louise, my nine-year-old, to let me sit down (I am 60, not incidentally) and to sit on my lap. She did so, but a minute later decided she wanted her chair back. I refused. As a result I was turned on as if by a trio of velociraptors, not only by Louise, but my wife and older daughter, who both insisted I was being unconscionably selfish. The atmosphere remained frosty for some time and I found myself looking forward to the catharsis I might get seeing the excerpt from King Lear.
On the tube home, a young couple got up to give their seats to two kids who looked about seven. It seemed strange to someone of my generation. Once upon a time it was normal practice for children to give up their seats for adults.
The most important shift in power in the last few generations is the welcome historical movement away from men towards women. It may be that the shift in power from parents towards children is part of the same phenomenon. But this worship of children does seem to be bordering on the perverse to me – much as I adore my own.
Perhaps now that we have given up on political ideology, romance and God, children are the last place we can go where we might find some kind of religious relationship. For it seems that they have indeed become objects of our veneration. If so, they are better idols to worship than an almighty God, or Karl Marx or a passing romantic fancy. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes it feels like they get spoiled rotten. That is to say, as a worshipper myself, I sometimes to lose my faith.
I only hope my children will find the heartfulness and mindfulness to forgive me.
The writer’s child
A complains about the fact his/her family doesn’t celebrate children’s day.
B doesn’t know there is a children’s day.
C feels gratitude towards his/her parents.
1 Children’s day
A celebrates parents’ happiness.
B draws people’s attention to social inequality.
C is a day for children to receive presents.
2 To celebrate children’s day
A families are encouraged to help other people.
B parents are allowed to leave work earlier.
C street parties are organised.
3 A few days ago the writer and his family
A saw some Shakespeare’s plays in the open.
B went to the park with a book by Shakespeare.
C went to the theatre.
4 During the trip
A everybody found a chair eventually.
B the writer felt tired.
C the writer got angry with his daughter.
5 On the tube home.
A a child gave his seat to the writer.
B the parents left their daughters their seats
C the writer was surprised by a young couple’s behaviour.
6 The writer points out that
A children are also gaining power.
B children have become dictators.
C women have taken away too much power from men.
7 These days it seems
A children are all spoilt.
B children are the centre of attention.
C religion is making a comeback.
Photograph: Alamy for The Guardian
1B 2A 3A 4B 5C 6A 7B