Explaining same sex marriages, or the life choices taken by Thomas Neuwirth – alias Conchita Wurst – winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, seems pretty straightforward on the face of it. And it is, until those inevitable follow-up questions arrive in quick succession. Suddenly your well-balanced, duly considered and perfectly reasonable response is sounding a bit lame, and the calm conversational waters you were navigating threaten to become a little choppy.
But children so often come to our rescue. They come with an inbuilt instrument that measures the ability of an adult to communicate coherently. Listening intently to the stalled sentences, they stare wide-eyed, waiting for the hint of an answer. And when the stammering is over, they return to whatever preoccupied them beforehand, leaving you never fully knowing if they’re inwardly celebrating with a fist pump, or just picking up the threads of the Scooby-Doo story on TV.
I'm off for a think. I may be gone some time...
Some people have maybe taken things too far in trying to furnish children with solid perspective on the world at large. I was surprised to discover that Walter Benjamin, the German-Jewish philosopher, had made a number of radio broadcasts for children, between 1929 and 1932, covering such topics as human responses to natural disasters, along with capitalism and its negative impact on the living conditions of the poor. His idea was for children to challenge clichés. In my experience, this is something they manage to accomplish on a day-to-day basis, with minimum assistance from us.