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Useful And Fantastic: Childcare In A Box

Val Yule's thoughtful tale will make you think hard about how we bring up children.

Tilley was born in a box in a honeycomb, where ungendered workers in
white or green aprons pushed and pulled along the honey-brown
corridors the boxes of drugs, meals, patients and extrudables.
Her mother put her in a box and took her home in another box and put
her to bed in a box within a larger box within a bigger box inside a
larger box still. People came in boxes to see her and gave her boxes
wrapped in coloured paper with ribbons. Sometimes there were boxes
inside the pretty boxes - plastic boxes with movable parts or buttons
that could be pressed.

Her mother and father loved her dearly, and when they went out of
their nest of boxes, they would place her in a bouncy box in front of
a box to see the world, like the mirror of the Lady of Shalott.
In six weeks, Tilley was old enough to be taken out of the nest, and
one of her parents put her in a box and took her out to their box
that lived outside their nest, and took her to another construction
of boxes. There one of the workers in pink aprons put her in another
box for the day, until one of her parents collected her again.

As she grew older, she became very good at sitting in front of a box
or playing with different sorts of boxes. She also became friends
with Billy, Milly, Frilly and Willy, although she never learned the
names of the workers in pink aprons because they changed so often.

When she was old enough, the ones-of-their-parents each took their
children in their wheeled boxes to another set of boxes, which was as
full of children as an ants' nest is full of ants. I suppose the
administration box housed the large white grubs, but that is being
fanciful. All children were sorted into grades according to their
age, and each set had its own box, with different sorts of workers,
some neat, some shaggy coming in and out at different times to
allocate different sorts of boxes and piles for the children's
attention.

They spent some time each day learning to turn marks on paper into
language which matched pictures. Sometimes they went outside and
played in boxes with no tops to them. Sometimes they went in large
boxes to visit other boxes. One had water in it that they could
learn to swim in.

Sometimes Tilley went with her grade or one of her parents to places
where there were no boxes, but spaces with water and sand, or trees
and hills, which was very exciting, but boring in a way too, because
there were no boxes to look at, and there were unusual and sometimes
uncomfortable feelings on her skin, sometimes called 'weather' and
sometimes 'the environment.'

At home in their set of boxes, Tilley spent a good deal of her waking
and sleeping time in front of a box, and when her parents gave her a
computer, she used to sit in front of another box, moving the scenes
before her with the touch of a finger.

Around her within the set of boxes there was processed air, but to
prevent boredom there were also feelings. These feelings would
appear to arise from tiny sources, like a genie from a bottle, and
swirl around the house, often upsetting Tilley.
One day the feelings exploded the house, and Tilley was tipped out of it.
She lay in the street, crying.

In rows beside her and before her and as far as the eye could see,
there were piles of boxes. Smaller boxes moved like the markings on
speeding arrows that moved parallel in opposite directions. Above
there were high clouds in a dusky sky.

A hand came out of Tilley's home to bring her inside, out of the
dangerous street.

But Tilley had gone.

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