Here’s an update on the Archers story, first posted on 13th December. Via the two dads, Tony and Eamon (Sharon’s husband), a plan was hatched for Pat and Tony to be able to meet Rich. A rendezvous was set at Leeds Christmas Market where the two families would ‘happen’ to bump into each other. Sharon, however, decreed that Pat and Tony could not identify themselves as Rich’s grandparents, but must simply be a couple that Sharon knew from her time in Borsetshire. Pat was extremely nervous beforehand but managed the meeting with Rich without blurting out that she was his father’s mother. They learned that, like John Archer, Rich was good at cricket and that he liked all sport and science too. Following this conversation Sharon despatched Eamon and Rich to another part of the market and hissed to Pat and Tony that there was to be no more contact unless Rich himself expressed an interest in knowing about his father’s family. If (and I would say when) this happens, they would then tell him the truth. The final dagger to Pat’s heart was when Sharon said that Rich’s real name was John.
I really don’t know who I feel most sad and sorry for. As a grandmother I find myself empathising with Pat’s agony at not being able to know her grandson…particularly because he is the offspring of a beloved son who died so tragically. On the other hand, Rich is being denied the love, care and connection with grandparents and a whole clan of Archers back in Ambridge (well perhaps being linked with that lot is not such a great idea). Do Eamon and Sharon really believe that this is in Rich’s best interests or is Sharon simply getting back at the Archer family for having cold-shouldered her in the past? Plenty of parents by donor conception believe that keeping their children’s origins from them is a decision that puts the children’s interests first. They, apparently like Sharon and Eamon, believe that knowledge about a father or donor might be upsetting for a child. What we know at DCN is that if children have information shared with them from an early age then they are very accepting of it and integrate the knowledge into their sense of self quite easily. It is changing the assumptions that people have about themselves later that is de-stabilising and undermining of trust.
As Walter would say, the scriptwriters have really got me going about this (and I gather the Archers website is all of a twitter about it too, although not with the same ‘take’ as me). It’s just an everyday story of countryfolk and should be seen as such, but we know that ‘product placement’, so to speak, on the Archers is desperately sought by interest groups as it is so widely listened to and influential. This is a wonderful opportunity to help others see how children’s interests can be obscured by adults needs and baggage. When will Helen, Tony and Pat’s daughter who has a donor conceived child as a solo mum, make the links with her child’s rights and needs and those of Rich…the boy she currently doesn’t want to acknowledge?