I have huge respect and admiration for those who have children and love them and bring them up as well as they can. I also think we should celebrate those who take care of other people’s children – full time or part time, for whatever reason, step-parents, foster parents, or just as random spare adults.

Granted, step, adopted or foster parents are sometimes abusive – let’s face it, so, sometimes, are parents. I understand the Wicked Stepmother was invented because the Grimm Brothers couldn’t cope with the idea of the wicked mother. But the whole business of spare parents and extended families tends to get a bad press, and sometimes it can be wonderful.

I have to declare an interest – I acquired two brilliant stepdaughters (one sadly no longer with us), and my life has been immensely enriched by them. I hope I have not done too badly by them. I was talking recently with friends, one a step-parent, others housing random displaced friends of their own child, all of us doing the best we can with what life hands us, and it occurred to me that this is a valuable thing to do, and perhaps too little appreciated. Wickedness makes headlines; in my experience huge numbers of people just get on with life, being flawed and human, but on the whole, more often than not, humdrumly and unspectacularly good. This is something to cheer about.

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