Parental guidance taken a bit too far
OH dear. This is such a worthwhile program, and so dull.
The ideal audience, surely the only audience, is expectant mothers and fathers, and people who intend one day to have children. Some of us already know, from experience, that babies’ personalities are a mix of their genetic inheritance and environmental influences.
It is likely the rest of us don’t want to know. Do we care that John in accounts is thrusting and opinionated because his father was, and that early childhood experiences reinforced it? Of course not. There is nothing for it now, unless John does the decent thing and finds another job.
Unfortunately, this program comes across as an exercise in observation, with little dynamism.
It is a record of 11 families with babies and illustrates an important and very large longitudinal study of 10,000 Australian children, running from their first year until they are seven. ABC1 is showing it for a second time, in preparation for screening the sequel Life at Three next month. ( Two was a website, as four will be.)
Not quite Seven Up!, the British series that followed a group of people from childhood to middle age, but the concept is similar, and it’s well made and structured. With any luck, those of child- bearing age will take it as a warning and ditch any romanticised dreams of parenthood.
Louise, for example, pregnant against all the odds courtesy of invitro fertilisation treatment, is movingly overwhelmed by the birth of daughter Loulou, but devastated that she cannot feed her naturally. The sight of a nurse shoving the tiny howling baby on to the distended breast, complete with cracked nipple, is harrowing for viewer as well as mother ( also howling) and her mite.
The other horrid part is when the self- confessed control- freak parents Kathy and Darren, who have sheltered baby Anastasija to the max, restricting her care to a few family members, come undone. At her christening the baby is handled extensively by two strangers — godmother and priest — and dunked naked into a ceremonial urn of water. Her wails of distress are painful to witness.
‘‘ It was the longest 45 minutes of my life,’’ laments Kathy. ‘‘ And I was timing it.’’
Apart from that, we are immediately encouraged to be fearful about the prospects for Ben, the youngest of quins, born early, weighing 500g and lucky to survive. ‘‘ I think he’ll show everyone: quite often the litter’s runt turns out to be the leader of the pack,’’ says his redoubtable grandmother, Loretta.
Good to have her on Ben’s side. I hope she stays with the program.
Learning curve: Loulou with her parents Shannon and Louise