I get called a rebel. I'm a responsible parent with a strong sense of right and wrong. I'm a thinking individual with reasons behind my actions. I'm a law-abiding citizen. But maybe I'm just not ... uniform enough. And the police don't like it.
It started early on. Normally, parents where I live would rent the village hall for their child's fifth birthday. I could have done that, of course. But it would have been rather cruel to my little one, who had just got through a very bad year in nursery — failing to develop the noisy, extroverted personality the system demanded.
So, as a caring parent, I did something more suitable and the police were called out to investigate. They were pleasant enough: they checked that our beach bonfire was under adult control and that no alcohol was present, they advised us not to drown any children, and they left. But that was only the first on a long string of callouts, probably 999s, from well-meaning members of the public who never fail to feel “concerned” if they see children outside of four walls.
Over the years the police have attended, uninvited, quite a number of our birthday events. They have come to ascertain whether we are terrorists, or homeless, or crazy ... and on one occasion a policewoman even tried to tell me I shouldn't light fires on beaches. Meanwhile, people who have called in burglaries must wait until the police have time to speak to them.
Last May, my son had finished his exams with ten days' study leave to spare. On the days I wasn't working, I would pack a picnic and drive out along country roads wherever the fancy took him. We would find an unexplored woodland path or a hillside, or, on one drizzly day, a thicket of trees to shelter us and our food as we ate. He had studied hard, and needed quiet time outdoors. It was the right thing to do...
Except in the opinion of Scotland's well-meaning, nanny-state citizens, who like to call 999 if anything doesn't look ordinary enough. Young people outside of limited rectangular spaces, for instance. It's not normal. Never mind that children's mental health in Scotland is crumbling almost to the point where “normal” means suffering from anger issues and personality disorders.
We did finish our picnic, but the police car caught up with us on the way home, and flashed me down. They had received a call. A member of the public had seen "two people getting out of a car” and had “felt suspicious”.
I don't see myself as a rebel, but I wish I lived in a free country, where you can go outdoors with your children, where you can eat picnics, where you have some sort of right to roam.