What can my kids learn about Margaret Thatcher?

There are many and diverse opinions flowing around.
This post is not about those.
There are angry & vitriolic people pitted against those of an opposite view.
I’m not entering that debate.
I have withdrawn substantially from Facebook due to my sadness over what ended up on my Newsfeed.
That’s another matter.

I have 5 kids. At least 4 of them have heard about Mrs Thatcher’s death & some were confused by the outpouring of emotion.
So what do I say.. what can they learn from her & the whole sitation?

I want them to learn that ultimately- we are responsible for our own actions.
Politics aside, a principled person stands by and up to the decisions that they make. Whether they are good ones & they do so humbly, or decisions that do not always turn out for the best- in which case they may need to apologise, take responsibility for them, take stock & move on- learning and being changed by the process.
I don’t want my kids to be pushed and pulled by the wave of someone elses ideas and principles.
I want them to think.
I want them to be able to weigh up a decision & debate with us through a difficult situation. Whatever your views on her politics- you cannot say she was a wavering sort. She was principled & actually stood for something. This post isn’t weighing up rights and wrongs- just looking at the bigger picture of what we can learn. I’m not divulging my changing political views here- so it’s not worth second guessing me.

I need them to understand that women can make a difference.
I’m no feminist- probably at the other end of the spectrum- but we seem pretty short on obvious non-celebrity women who have a message and a platform. I would explain to my girls that are tons of them- it’s just with our societal celebrity crazed emphasis- we just don’t get to see or hear about them as often. They need to know (& my boys too), that you can be taken seriously & should be, but first you need to be the person that both gives & commands respect. Margaret Thatcher had that at differing times. There are few people who would doubt her towering influence on both the country, politics and internationally.
She was a woman.
She had emotions.
It is ok to be in positions of responsibility & be both female and feminine. Women bring particular gifts & abilities that are often unique to our sex. My kids need to know they shouldn’t act like men to be thought better of in business. This world has millions of women making their roles as mothers, chairwomen of boards, CEOs, cleaners, factory workers and mentors (etc. etc.) count, & they’re doing it uniquely as women.

I’d love them to see that there are two sides to every story- even if there is a definite right or wrong. We only ever hear what the media, playground or peers want us to hear. I lived in Nottingham at the time of the miners strike. We knew about the union & government struggle. There were stories that never made the press, opinions that surprised me as a young girl. We have to look for the hurting and struggling & try and understand how to help them, whatever our political bias. Margaret Thatcher reminds me that I need my kids to learn to care, & think & watch out for those who remain part of the fallout from decisions made for them.

I desperately want them to think before they speak. I need them to think of how their actions affect other people. Mrs Thatcher did make some vital decisions that turned out for good & also ones that continue to anger people. However- nothing that she did actually was deserving of the outpouring of hate that has ensued. We’ve talked about people ‘hating’ somebody when they didn’t know her,nor the decisions she made & even if they did, what does their response to her death say about them as people? I wanted my kids to know that it’s inappropriate to rejoice over people’s deaths. I will let slip that I believe that leaving the ultimate judgement to when they meet their Maker is probably a wiser call. And whilst I do not put Mrs Thatcher in the same category as Osama Bin Laden- I didn’t want to ‘rejoice’ in his death either.
I want my kids to show respect to others that they do not agree with. I’m not making direct comparisons here- but when the class bully falls over in the playground, I would not be proud if my kids laughed. I’d expect them if they were standing there to get help, ask them if they are ok, and then go back to playing with their friends.

Margaret Thatcher stands as a towering presence in my formative years. I had to think. I had to decide what I thought about her policies. It wasn’t ok to remain a-political. I needed to have some response. She forced people to take a view on her. Something that seems less prevalent in our increasingly apathetic society. Whilst I’m not part of any political party or society & I’m not encouraging my kids to be per se. I want them to know that who I (and them) vote for actually matters. Decisions made in Whitehall affect them. I don’t want them to remain life long supporters of any party unless they keep agreeing with their often changing manifestos. Politics matters- and she showed that. I don’t want them to forget that either.

She has much to teach my kids; both politically and personally. Removing just a little of her politics helps me to see that.
How I communicate all of this to my kids without lecturing them?
Well, I need help on that one.
Hopefully the way we make decisions as a family might point to some of this.
Mostly, they need not to learn from me as I’m a bad example- but maybe, just maybe I hope to make them think.

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One thought on “What can my kids learn about Margaret Thatcher?

  1. A very well considered post. I have avoided the Facebook debate on this too. I am a teenager of the poll tax years and have fairly strong views because, as you say, she made me think about my position and politics. My kids are too young to have registered recent events, so I haven’t had to try and explain the rejoicing or vitriolic comments. The reactions I have seen do not sit well with me – the rejoicing or the rewriting! #PoCoLo

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