CHILD abuse is an elastic term really. Some of us think that all parents of child tennis players should be jailed. Two years in chokey, with the television in their cell turned off at the mains every time Wimbledon comes around. That'd larn them. They'd never steal someone's childhood again. (We crime and punishment types are always very confident about that sort of thing. ) Also, parents who have their primaryschool children at grinds, when they should be outside knocking down old ladies in the time honoured way of happy children everywhere. Any parent who lays a hand on a flash card in an attempt to teach anyone under the age of three to read. Any parent who is like the obsessed mother of the fouryear-old who was on television the other week. When asked gently "So you want her to become a doctor?" the mother replied, "No, she is going to become a doctor."
Some of us think that Macaulay Culkin's parents should be jailed . . . actually, Macaulay agrees with this himself, if his attempts at litigation are to be taken seriously. A judge took them very seriously indeed, as you would if you discovered that a six-year-old had financially supported both an entire family and the pathetic showbusiness illusions of its parents.
This brings us to the terrifying parents of Michael Jackson's alleged victims. The parents who suspected child abuse and did everything except remove the child from the millionaire's mansion. Hey, ring the lawyers first, mom. No, ring the press, then ring the lawyers. How much financial recompense are these parents actually due, one wonders.
Of course those parents aren't as bad as Jackson allegedly is . . . but they shouldn't be allowed to get their hands on any of the dollars that are going to result from Jackson's appearances in court.
Charlotte Church's mother should definitely be inside . . . possibly with Charlotte, bless her. Or, better still, sharing a cell with Vanessa Mae's mammy. Every posh parent who sent a six-year-old off to prep school, obviously. But let Michael McDowell build a special wing for fashionable parents.
I did see a 10-year-old recently, in a furtrimmed denim jacket, and she looked so pretty . . . no discernible make-up, or breasts . . . that one began to worry right there.
However, we all know that 10-year-olds have their own very strong ideas about fashion. Strong ideas that are frequently expressed in phrases like "Gwen Stefani is deadly, " or "Yeuch, are you going out like that?" and "That top doesn't go with those shoes". The problem being, of course, that they are always bloody right.
So I decided that we didn't need to worry too much about the 10-year-old. Her mother might have forced her to wear the fur-trimmed denim jacket, but if she didn't want to wear it then the 10-year-old was quite capable of dumping it behind a litter bin as soon as she got into the shopping centre and shortly before she started flicking through the teenage clothes.
No, it's Romeo Beckham that I'm worried about. It is little comfort to know that he will hate his parents throughout his teens, because the best parents are hated in just that way. We all know that children are just lifestyle accessories to a disturbing number of parents. But isn't it a bit much to send a two-year-old boy out with an earring and a pony tail. I realise that not everyone shares my strict rules on body decoration . . . no piercing of anything until you have achieved the age of 21, no makeup until you're 14, and no tatoos at any time.
But don't worry, you'll get used to them as soon as the jailing-of-parents scheme proves to be the outstanding success it undoubtedly will.
Fashion for children is a mistake. For the children. And also for Marks & Spencer, as the failure of David Beckham's range of clothes for little boys has recently shown.
But never mind that. While even I would not suggest a return to the days of school shorts and Wellingtons . . . well, I would actually . . . it has to be wrong to make children your lifestyle mirrors.
Strange to say, the truly stylish are never seen with their children. Rumours are rife that Kate Moss's kid does not exist . . . at least as far as the press is concerned.
Kate's happy to be snapped with just a Marlboro, a flash handbag and a druggie boyfriend. Now there's a girl who knows her reporters.
Poor Romeo. Those pictures of him in his girly ponytail are going to be all over the papers when he's crashing cars and snogging girls in his teens. He looks like a pre-teen beauty queen. Worse, he looks like a miniature bouncer at one of the night clubs his father is never thrown out of. A baby bouncer on the catwalk. So not a good look.