Parental guid­ance taken a bit too far

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

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.

Jill Row­botham

Learn­ing curve: Loulou with her par­ents Shan­non and Louise

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.