There’s been a bit of a recurring theme in our family conversations this summer regarding the existence of baddies. I’m not really sure how it all started, although I have always had a pathological fear of haunted houses, so it might just be in the genes. With the youngest members of the family, concern has been based around the literal concept of goodies versus baddies, with the undeniable existence of specific people who only do bad things leading to some of my all-time favourite kid questions: ‘Why don’t baddies carry bigger nets?’, ‘Can all baddies drive cars without lids?’ and ‘Will you go to prison for eating toast from a bowl?’ (The latter is one of up to twenty questions a day regarding the finer details of the British justice system.)
My daughter’s understanding of evil has become more sophisticated, mainly thanks to Harry Potter and the Ginger Friend With One Expression. Even at eight years old, she understands that the baddies being so deftly levitated by young Harry are just metaphors for the real evil out in the real world. She doesn’t go to bed worrying whether her Latin pronunciation is clear enough to defeat werewolves and dementors. But she has started to ask for a detailed schedule of our evening plans, so she knows the exact time the house alarm will be going on and she's fully protected from the lunatics of north London. (Don’t be silly darling, not lunatics, not in north London…)
My own personal dealings with baddies have been in the form of demons, more specifically the expulsion of some. And not before time either. I don’t know why, but for some reason this summer I have been released from a whole host of demons – some irritating but playful, others most certainly from the depths of the Slytherin commonroom. For example, ever since falling on my face in a shameful alcoholic slump I have definitely stopped being so concerned about the 'shame' of the morning after. Self-preservation may have increased, self-analysis has significantly fallen. I am approaching my twentieth year of legal drinking and I still have friends. It can’t all be sympathy.
More interestingly (I hope), I have stopped trying to fit bad people into the good-shaped holes in my life. I have spent my life worrying about whether people like me, sometimes to a near psychotic degree. And now, this summer, I have realised that not all of these people are worth the pain.
My theory is this: We grow up, become young adults and start to pretend baddies don’t exist anymore, make excuses, shut our eyes, and take personal responsibility for all the bad stuff that surrounds us. But then suddenly our bright, insightful children start pointing directly at the baddies, who they can see as clear as day, and we are forced to accept their existence again. But this time it’s easy to defeat them, because we’re old enough not to be scared anymore. And we have very loud house alarms.
I have no intention of being confrontational about this. Accepting that there are people who I have tried very hard to like but who, it turns out, are pretty bad, is a very private victory. And they’ll certainly never know. There’s no way they would give up time to read this and show an interest in my life, but guess what, I don't care. Honestly.