A Tale of Two Babies

Let’s imagine two children have been born today, emerging into very different circumstances but having parallel lives. I hope they can both manage to transcend the difficult circumstances they will be born into. The deck is stacked against them.Neither of these hypothetical babies have been named yet, but for ease of reference, let’s call one of them Prince and one of them Princess. Prince will be born to a well off couple somewhere in the South. Princess will be born onto a council estate to jobless parents in one of the North East’s most deprived areas. Princess faces multiple disadvantages because of being born into poverty. She is likely to do less well at school, have poorer health and die earlier than Prince. Part of this will be because of the higher likelihood that her parents, on the breadline, will struggle to be physically there for her whilst they try to make ends meet, and  part of this will be because poverty itself is a predictor of lower birth weight, poorer educational achievement and a greater likelihood of disability and health problems. By the age of three she is likely to already be lagging nine months behind Prince and his peers at school. (Some of whom will literally be Peers). Who wouldn’t rather be Prince you might be thinking? Okay, except that both Prince and Princess will be the object of interest from the tabloids who won’t be very interested in the real person behind the caricature in either case. Both will be photographed and called names. Both will receive criticism for getting handouts from the state and because their parents haven’t got proper jobs. Both will find it difficult to pursue paths they really want to pursue because of the ingrained expectations of the society they are born into. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has already said that Prince will carry a great sense of responsibility and have a duty to the country. Nobody will expect anything very much at all of Princess. Maybe that will give her a sort of freedom that Prince lacks. Maybe it will become it’s own burden. Hopefully both Prince and Princess will be loved by their parents. Though in future years people may judge the type of love and family relationships they think are possible in their respective circumstances. The vast majority of children born in the next week will fall in the middle of these extremes. But the fact that Prince and Princess are going to be born with the kind of social obstacles that they’re going to have to overcome strikes me as a cruel anomaly in a supposedly civilised country. It’s not often that I find myself feeling sorry for Royalty but setting off on this analogy did the trick (a bit), My natural sympathies though, lay with the estimated third of children living in child poverty in many areas of the North East. A “People’s Pregnancy”? Perhaps we should be birthing new ideas to ensure that the “People’s Children” start on a level playing field.