A need to be loved

A need to be loved

A need to be loved

First published in Columns Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

When I was seven, I spent an afternoon in a children’s home. It was part of my Brownie Child Minder badge.

Arriving at the cavernous Victorian house, I stepped inside to an unfamiliar smell: disinfectant and the remains of lunch. I was there early to help serve the children’s tea.

The rooms were vast, high ceilinged, and painted in bright, garish colours. They weren’t restful: they were different. They startled me.

As I stepped into the biggest room I’d ever seen, I looked around. At one end was a stage. On it was every child’s dream: a giant toyshop with everything to play for. Best of all, a lot to play with. It was only when I got closer that I realised that most of the toys were cast-offs – unwanted, grown tired of, abandoned, and shipped up here. They lay in a communal pile, everyone’s and no ones.

Next I was led to the other end of the room, where a circular table had been set up for tea. Around it were about 15 little chairs. It was like something out of Goldilocks. On the table were brightly coloured cakes, sandwiches, squash and biscuits. They were served on even brighter plastic plates. The whole effect was psychedelic. What drab planet had I been living on till then, with my parents, brother and sister?

Finally, in walked the children – in line, some holding hands. They were younger than me – probably about three or four. They pulled out their chairs and sat down. At the signal from an adult, they began to eat.

I poured the squash and walked around the table, passing sandwiches and cakes. I remember the noise, but nothing distinct said.

Then something happened. The children fell silent. The adult touched a child on the shoulder. The little girl looked around. I followed her gaze.

There, in the doorway stood a man. The girl jumped up from the table, and pushed back her chair. It fell over in the rush. Running across the room, the girl threw herself into the man’s arms.

“Dadda, dadda,” she cried.

And you know, I nearly cried too. I could cry now. Every face around the table followed the child, and lingered in the doorway. In an instant, the room fell away; the toys fell away; the tea fell away. I felt it too.

These children were hungry – but not for food. Their eyes said it all – boys as well as girls.

They longed to be that lucky child. The one who was loved, in that moment, for all to see: for herself, and no one else. The man in the doorway was special to her. Every parent has that privilege.

A social services spokesman was right, when he spoke on the radio recently: “Children’s homes can provide everything, but a child’s need to be loved.”

Rochdale may have dominated the national news, but here in Oxford, Operation Bullfinch demonstrates what may step into the void, when parents and institutions fail. Vulnerable children seek nothing more than to be loved for themselves. Well, don’t you?

  • Do you want alerts delivered straight to your phone via our WhatsApp service? Text NEWS or SPORT or NEWS AND SPORT, depending on which services you want, and your full name to 07767 417704. Save our number into your phone’s contacts as Oxford Mail WhatsApp and ensure you have WhatsApp installed.

The big brains who made science sexy

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 26th September 2014

Alison Boulton digs beneath the city's dreaming spires

Hertford College puts women's talent in the picture

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 26th September 2014

Tim Hughes reports on an Oxford college that’s shrugging off centuries of male dominance with photographic portraits of its high-achieving women

Enjoy freedom of uni but get it all covered

Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author

11:00am Friday 26th September 2014

Personal finance with Gill Oliver

Puppeteer Emma Boor leaves it all to the imagination

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 26th September 2014

Puppeteer Emma Boor tells Liz Nicholls about her new book and how a move from Newcastle to Oxford four years ago has opened many doors

Oxford festival proves 'old is the new young'

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 26th September 2014

Jaine Blackman talks to the organiser of a new festival in Oxford aiming to celebrate the wisdom of advancing years

Why truth about sweetners could leave bitter taste

Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author

11:00am Friday 26th September 2014

"Don't worry if you've been fooled by Agave Syrup. You're not alone" writes Lisa Cuerden

Packing it all in Swedish style to save planet

Oxford Mail: Renee Watson

11:00am Friday 26th September 2014

"Packaging is certainly one case of bigger not being better" writes Renee Watson

Beauty of a Greek island

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 26th September 2014

Hoping to transform herself into an Aphrodite, Nicole Gallagher visits the Greek goddess’s stomping ground

Beware of the rise of the machines

Oxford Mail: Rebecca Moore

11:00am Friday 26th September 2014

Rebecca Moore is Oxford Savvy

Why age takes the edge off paranoia

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 26th September 2014

Rebecca considers the Ange-effect as she contemplates her own ‘pre-emptive strike’

Laugh all you like, little raises a smile quite like Downton

Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author

11:00am Friday 26th September 2014

"Lord Grantham is back harrumphing around the house like a camp David Cameron" writes Liz Nicholls

Lack of shuteye seems a dream

Oxford Mail: Katherine Rees

11:00am Friday 26th September 2014

"Parenting a baby is quite frankly a breeze - ableit a sleep-deprived breeze" writes Katherine Rees

Setting sail for Andrew

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 26th September 2014

Alison Boulton digs beneath the city's dreaming spires

Comments

Post a comment

Remember you are personally responsible for what you post on this site and must abide by our site terms. Do not post anything that is false, abusive or malicious. If you wish to complain, please use the ‘report this post’ link.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree