This was the best quote of the day from Miriam González Durántez, a truly impressive, keynote speaker at the MumsnetBlogFest I attended recently in London. It might seem a bit of a presumptuous cliche but if you follow the thought through and realise that humans are shaped from infancy and that those infants might become the decision-makers of the future, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched. I remembered the words of my independent midwife when I was pregnant with my firstborn: “for the first three years of your child’s life you will be laying down the emotional foundations that will support the rest of its life.” Quite an overwhelming responsibility for any parent. Debates about nature and nurture touch upon this frequently and for good reason. As I listened to the words of this seriously intelligent, Spanish lawyer and mother-of-three my thoughts turned to another Spanish mother-of-three, from a previous generation. I was struck by how very different their lives, upbringing and careers had turned out. How vast and accessible the opportunities were for the modern-day Spanish woman, in contrast to those living not so long ago. Women such as my own mother, who wouldn’t be much older than Miriam González’s mum. Born just before the outbreak of the Spanish civil war, my mother was one of seven children born to a young, semi-literate beauty from Granada and her handsome, educated, older husband. A poet, an intellectual with lofty, left-wing ideals who championed the rights of workers long before many had even heard of the trades union movement. With a father who’d been on the losing side of the civil war and was forced to flee across the Straits of Gibraltar in a small rowing boat one night, my mother and her siblings found they were denied access to even the most basic rights and opportunities. The right of a child to go to school or enroll on any educational programme. In Franco’s Spain, the welfare state and benefits such as those we have in Britain, simply didn’t exist. Single-handedly and with occasional handouts from the “socorro rojo” the Republicans’ underground, welfare system, my grandmother managed to get by, caring for the four children she had left (two young sons were blown up in a grenade attack by Nationalist forces outside their home and a third died in infancy.) There was never much money for private tuition or educational materials. My Mum still speaks of the indignant rage she felt every time she wanted to go to school, any school, or as a teenager when she wanted to learn to type or go on a dressmaking course. “Where are your papers?” they would ask. As soon as the authorities saw she did not have an official National stamp on her documents (instantly marking her out as being a Republican) the doors were literally and metaphorically closed. Hungry for knowledge and learning she made the best of what she had available to her which was her father’s books, his poetry, his works of classical, Spanish theatre. A bright, happy girl, with a love of music and drama whose life could have taken such a different course if she’d had the opportunities available to Spanish women growing up in a democracy. Women like Miriam González Durántez, a high-flying lawyer, who has benefitted from an education and every opportunity available to her, growing up with the kind of freedoms that my Mum and others like her could only dream of when they were young. So as I contemplated the lives of all those who’d rocked cradles over the years, it struck me that despite or because of the lives they led, they too had laid down the emotional foundations for future generations, who would and certainly could, rock the world.
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I combine my work as a media consultant and freelance writer with choral conducting. I'm a classically trained musician, singer and pianist.