I work in PR and so on occasion I have to speak to journalists. One of my clients is a defence client so yesterday I was contacted by this chap from a production company which is about to be commissioned for a documentary called ‘Toy Soldiers.’ This is an OB DOC, or ‘Observational Documentary’, which is basically fly on the wall television. Now, I have my fluffy moments but on the whole I get to work with pretty decent journalists. Halfway through the call, I was ready to napalm the TV researcher.
This is some of their spiel:
“We are making a new Children’s Documentary Film where children tell us their stories about when mum or dad have gone off to war. The film will focus on children between 6 -13 years old, looking at how they try and maintain normality as their lives are interrupted by a war that they might not understand, taking place in a country they may never have heard of. The focus is on the children, life through their eyes and how they try and maintain their lives as normally as possible.”
He wanted to know how children coped with the idea that mummy or daddy essentially ‘killed people’ and what is the service child’s reaction to war? He was excited about the idea of getting the children to illustrate their perceptions of war and what mummy and daddy do so that they could turn it into an animation.
Err woah!! Slow down there chum.
Of course, I said, ‘We rationalise death and the morality of taking life with our children frequently. We consider under which circumstances it’s OK to take human life and those that it isn’t. Well before Hagar deploys to Afghanistan, we sit down with out 6 year old and 2 year old and analyse the geo-political implications of the conflict. We assess Hagar’s strategic input and the execution of the plan. Then with large maps on the living room floor, we plot the campaign so that we can track UK plcs progress and then on his return we hope we can applaud Hagar’s murderous victory should the outcome have been successful.’
Err ‘No, you total knob head!’ I didn’t actually say that.
I think I said, ‘On the whole we try and make as little of it as possible. Afghanistan is a word not a place to most children. We definitely don’t focus on what is actually happening out there. It’s likely that you are going to be filming children that are exactly the same as non-serving children, who are interested in Ben 10 and Peppa Pig and other vile, mass marketed children’s products like my own charming delights!’
The idea of the Grenade illustrating his perception of war filled me with horror. Partly because he is massively into bloody, treacherous, gruesome dinosaur battles. It would make him seem like a little sociopath and it wouldn’t be a reflection of Hagar’s role in Afghanistan but more an insight to the mind of Dinosaur-mad 6 year old.
I wish the media, and also to some extent Joe Public, could get their heads around the concept that to our children being in the military is a job. It’s what daddy or mummy does. Clearly, it’s not JUST a job as it takes special sort of person to do it, someone who is willing to put his life on the line for their country and fellows in arms.
Those of us that decided to marry into it. We are not some weird social experiment to be prodded and poked about by fluffy TV types. How many kids give a toss about what their parents do for a living? How many kids are remotely interested in their parents? They are interested in toys, tv, sweets, treats, working out how they get their own way and then when they get older, the opposite sex, how to attract it and how to spend their parent’s money. I want it to be this way for as long as feasibly possible. I don’t ram it down my kids throats and we try to keep life as business as usual so the impact is minimal. We take each day, day by day and that is all we can do.
Head down, grit teeth, smile and wave. Smile and wave.