Let Them Eat Baked Beans – is there something in the UNICEF report for us all?

After several years of struggle we were lucky enough to get help from a brilliant social worker specialising in fostered and adopted children.  If I could boil his message down into one easily digestible mouthful it was this: spend every moment you can with your children, it will help them to feel secure and will lessen their opportunities to fail at things.  He did not recommend that we kit up with Apple products, a flat screen television and an x-box kinect.

Ground down and brain turned half to jelly, this didn’t sound too appealing at first.  And I thought I was already spending lots of time with them.  He persisted.    ‘Forget about what the house looks like, forget about making wonderful meals, eat Heinz beans every night if it means you can be with them and do whatever they want to do.’  That part was music to my ears.  I bought baked beans, plus eggs and some grated cheese (I still have my standards) and therein began a big transformation in our family.  We watched hours of Almost Naked Animals, Barbie Swan Lake and Deadly 60 together.  Then after our beans on toast, we watched The Simpsons, or rather the children watched me laughing at The Simpson’s (why’s that funny mum?/well that man there is Richard Nixon… never mind’).  It wasn’t all television.  We made things, like paper money and toilet roll people, we cooked, we had a sports day in the garden.  Hardly the stuff of a mumsnet blog, but it made the most remarkable difference to both of our children.  They became calmer, less confrontational, we talked about things, we had fun.  They came to understand when I was tired and needed to doze through ‘Tracy Beaker’ and sometimes they happily took themselves off to play in their bedrooms.  Whenever things get difficult now I restock the tin cupboard, ignore the mess and get down with the kids.

In 2007, a UNICEF report found that children in the UK are the unhappiest in all of the industrialised world.  Yesterday they issued a report which tries to explain why this might be.  Their conclusion?  We try to compensate for spending inadequate time with our children by showering them with material goods.  And guess what?  It doesn’t work.  And this applies to families of all social classes and all nationalities.  Maybe there is a lesson in there for all of us.


5 thoughts on “Let Them Eat Baked Beans – is there something in the UNICEF report for us all?”

  1. Food for thought….this reminded me of my childhood, having being very lucky been brought up on a farm my grandparents owned, we were allowed to run free make dens, enjoy make believe in an around the house without the fear of being untidy, my grandmother used to say ‘let children be children and they will shine with laughter and love’ and we did when ever we spent time on the farm, but we also had a contrast my other grandparents were very strict and tidy minded people and ‘children should been seen and not heard’ I do not have any memories to relay to my children about time spent at their house, only the neat chalk line on the front step, the scary spin dryer that made so much noise you dreaded the site of it, oh and the domino set which we had to play quietly with while the adults chatted!
    So thank you for reminding me…. and tomorrow we will have beans!

    1. Thank you for your comment. Maybe we should launch a National Baked Bean Week (proudly sponsored by Heinz).

  2. Childhood should be full of memories of spending time with your parents/or significant others and not watching the resident house cleaner flit around with a feather duster in one hand, hoover in the other and a mop primed to wash the kitchen floor for the upteenth time that day. Find me a child who will comment in their adulthood with fondness as to the cleanliness of the house or the quality of the meals put in front of them! They couldn’t, generally, give a damn! How many other children will look back and say what a laugh they had, what great games they played, what amazing things they made etc and never pass comment on the state of the house or moan about the freezer to oven meals they were served. I know the memories i want to fill my kids heads with and hence why we have a decicated bean cupboard, yes really we do, along with a well stocked freezer.
    Yesterday we went for a walk despite the hideous weather, it poured and poured. The boys came back with barely a patch of dryness after jumping in many a puddle and had the biggest smiles on their faces. Clothes in washing machine, cup-a-soups served, fire lit and film chossen, sorted! That’s what it should be about, togetherness with a sprinkle of easy prep because round the corner, who knows what bad language, violent outburst, hatred is gonna be thrown your way when, for whatever reson, pressure increases! That could of course be because you’ve choosen to prepare a 3 course meal!!

    1. Thank you for your comment. Anything that buys us time to spend repairing our children gets my vote. Let’s hear it for freezers and washing machines!

  3. I’m reading your teens book and loving dipping into your blog Sally Donovan! Thank you so much for sharing and normalising so much of this phenomenal journey <3

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