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.

Enjoy the quiet side of Ibiza in winter

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

During peak season, prices can be astronomical in Ibiza. But once the crowds have gone home, hotel rates drop and the Spanish island is at its best, says Sarah Marshall

Once upon a storytime

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Sarah Mayhew Craddock is a mum about town

Trials of the toffs and tribulations of jungle newbies

Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

"Britain does seem to have the Monopoly on bonkers blue-bloods" writes Liz Nicholls

Us new mums are just doing our best

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Sarah Mayhew Craddock is a mum about town

Oxford unites as the lights go on

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Sarah Mayhew Craddock gets all set for the start of the Christmas Light Festival

Caroleena Elphinstone had a dream - now she's living it

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

‘Nanna’ tells Jaine Blackman why she decided to drop out of her middle-aged world and see what lies far beyond its borders

Mr Bunny's too close to home

Oxford Mail: Sheena Patterson

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Sheena Patterson of Oxford Garden Design has fluffy nuisance neighbours

The festive countdown starts here

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Jaine Blackman takes a look at some of the interesting advent calendars on the market this year

Miriam Margolyes checks out a new role

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Oxford High School old girl Miriam Margolyes talks to Jaine Blackman about her about her new role in Trollied, scrapping with Arnold Schwarzenegger and why she’ll never use Twitter

Toys to snap up this Christmas

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Jaine Blackman asks which toys parents should snap up now to avoid disappointed faces this Christmas

Women are minding their own businesses

Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

"Most importantly if you believe you can do it, go for it" writes Gill Oliver

'Is dinner worth the effort?'

Oxford Mail: Rebecca Moore

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Rebecca Moore is Oxford Savvy

Just how not to spend a day off

Oxford Mail: Katherine Rees

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

"We may have procured a couple of bags of bargain peanuts but at what cost?" writes Katherine Rees

Comments

Comments are closed on this article.

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