Charlotte Philby's Parental Leave: It's important not to shelter children from the realities of life, I decide

A mother's weekly dispatch from the pre-school frontline

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The Independent Online

Now that I'm back at work three days a week, paying more than I earn for someone else to look after my children, thus causing my already-sizeable mother's guilt to soar to uncontainable levels, I have taken to filling the hours away from the office – those when I'm not punching out emails with one hand and batting the kids away with the other – trying to make sure everyone is having a Really Bloody Great Time.

Which is why today, as the sun casts a golden haze over London, I am frog-marching our family towards a lightless cinema. There will be popcorn, shared wonder, and we will leave hand-in-hand exchanging knowing smiles as we skip back to the car which will definitely not be adorned with a parking ticket.

At least, that's what I'd anticipated when I'd gathered friends for a toddler-led activity in a cinema populated, weirdly, by people who appear to be over the age of three.

Minutes into The Wind Rises, the latest Studio Ghibli film, which, it transpires, is actually a two-hour-and-six-minute regaling of the creation of Japan's most deadly fighter plane, featuring devastating earthquakes, Nazis and an incurable case of TB, and despite the judgemental glances of the rest of the audience, I decide I've made a strong choice. It's important not to shelter children from the realities of life.

Besides, they probably haven't noticed – people watch films on different levels. Just as I settle proudly into my chair, my daughter stares up at me, her face contorted with fear: "Mummy, why is everything burning?".