On May 7th 1999, Irene gave birth to a girl. This was after more than 10 years of marriage and a reverse of previous determination to pursue a career. The baby was immediately installed as the mistress of the house by the doting parents, who indulged the infant's every whim. The entire household became dominated by the needs of the baby; shopping could only be done when the baby was awake and fed; there was to be silence when the child was asleep and no loud distractions during feeding; travelling in the car could only be conducted during the time that baby was asleep; and this with some effort. The child could not be placed into a hot car, the engine had to be started and the air-conditioner run some moments before the baby was strapped into her special crib on the back seat.
The once neat and tidy home became covered in toys; a pile was maintained in the lounge that the child continuously spread throughout its realm without restriction. Discipline was rarely, if ever, employed. Whatever the offspring did was reason for praise and encouragement; whether she banged her spoon on her plate and interrupted adults in conversation, or dragged a plastic chair over the floorboards, generating sufficient noise to interfere with guests viewing television, all were reasons for maternal joy. This was emphasised by the choice of toys, which included a device that played a loud phrase of pop music whenever it was touched. And the baby often touched the toy, which the mother never removed from the child's reach, regardless who was visiting the house. Not even the remote control for the television was placed out of the child's reach.
This lack of restraint was naturally extended to the homes the new parent visited. If the new daughter opened a cupboard and pulled out its contents, this was a demonstration of initiative. If she grabbed her grandmother's wool while she was knitting, this was to be seen as showing an intelligent interest. And when the grandfather separated the infant from the wool, this was seen as an assault upon the precious child, and reason to berate the aged parent.
Talking to Irene in the presence of the child was difficult because the child regularly interrupted. It was even hard to have a telephone conversation with the mother, as the child could be heard screaming or banging in the background. The unfortunate father who earned the money that paid for the toys, house, and car was relegated to the role of servant. He was expected to abet his wife's indulgence of the infant by following his wife's instruction, whether this meant preparing meals or changing nappies. To exercise any masculine authority over the least thing inevitably meant a row, to challenge the way the child was raised would undoubtedly have meant divorce.
Meal times were made tedious not just by constant reference by the parents to their offspring, or the regular interruptions of adult conversation by the child, but also because it was the child's wishes that decided how long each course lasted. Everyone was expected to wait patiently until the daughter eventually lost interest in, or consumed, the food that was in front of her. A process extended by the parent's regular voiced encouragement to eat a particular food, or anxious enquiries about alternatives the child might desire.
As the child grew older her rule changed from the insensible demands of an infant to the direct orders of a growing intelligence. Guests who infringed the rules of the house were reported, in a whisper, by the girl to her mother, who immediately and loudly reprimanded the offender. "Feet off the bed" or "elbows off the table" were not requests but orders, which the mother would have never dared address to any adult, except at the direction of her baby. The offender would be told that no refusal of these directions could be tolerated; otherwise it would undermine the mother's authority over her child. How could she ask her child not to put her elbows on the table if adults were allowed to put their elbows on the table?
The attitude adopted by Irene was clearly the opposite of that demanded by her duty to the community. The necessary lessons of modesty, respect and patience were replaced by encouragement to be selfish. Such indulgence can only create odious citizens and cannot be regarded as child rearing but as child worship.