`Oh God, not more flowers,' said my four-year-old daughter

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Last week's events exposed the children to something we had managed to shield them from all their lives - the Royal Family. "Who's that?" asked my 10-year-old, prodding the Duke of Edinburgh on the front page. "And who's Edward?" they wanted to know. My four-year-old was visibly shocked at the announcement on Newsround that the Queen was going to fly down to London. "How can she do that?" Hastily, I explained that royalty didn't come with God-given wings and that she would fly in an aeroplane, but I had missed the point entirely. "No, I mean how can she fly when she's dead?" raged my confused and media-stricken daughter.

When I was a child, the Queen exerted a certain fascination - inasmuch as we all wanted to know whether this woman who wore dressing-up box clothes went to the lavatory like ordinary people. (Of course not, was the answer.) Which all goes to show just how much the monarchy really has changed over the years; children don't have a clue who they are and we now know that the Queen definitely does go to the lavatory. Only she takes her crown off first.

Scenes of weeping children in their parents' arms at the funeral shamefully brought out the competitive parent in me. Would my children cry for Diana, would they empathise with William and Harry - or had I bred unfeeling little monsters? Strongly suspecting the latter, we sat them in front of the television with us, my four-year-old daughter acting as chief tissue bearer. "Try not to think about it," she advised with all the accumulated second-hand wisdom of her four years as she mopped up my tears. But generally they watched with a kind of detached fascination and took their emotional cues from their father. "Why's that horse keep kicking one leg to the side?" asked my 10-year-old as the cortege turned out of Kensington Palace. "That's the gay one," replied my husband "and the one behind's the motherless one -" redeeming himself in my eyes only during the singing of "Guide Me, 0 Thou Great Redeemer" when a few tears trespassed down his cheeks. (That's public school for you ...) The children, however, remained steadfastly dry-eyed. And perhaps rightly so. One of the most tasteless aspects of broadcasting last week was the milking of children for emotion. Shortly before the funeral the BBC hauled into the makeshift Westminster studio a young boy with cerebral palsy, who had met Diana at the opening of the centre for conductive education in Birmingham. What was she like, asked the interviewer, settling back for the usual childish tributes to beauty and goodness. "I can't remember," pronounced the boy with an embarrassed grin. Come on now, persisted the interviewer barely able to repress a scolding tone in her live panic, I'm sure you can remember something. Time and again she prodded, phrasing the question in different ways and each time drawing the same stoic response - "I can't remember."

So looking again at those scenes of children weeping, I can't help wondering if the camera stage-managed some of their grief. Maybe this is just the competitive parent in me again, unable to believe that others have managed to instil a sensitivity into their offspring that I have not. But at the age of six or seven you cry because your parents are crying, because you have spent a sleepless night in Hyde Park, or because Mum has just refused to buy you a 99 from the ice-cream van in Kensington Gardens. Children heal with their directness, not with their emotion. As on the evening of the funeral we wandered, sentimental tourists, among the candles and flowers outside Kensington Palace ("no you can't take the toy lamb home, it's for Diana") and turned into Kensington Gore, my four-year-old, perched on her father's shoulders, rolled her eyes up to heaven and exclaimed, "Oh God," (where does she get her language?) "not more flowers." I think Diana would have laughed.

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