Nick-Crews_2402286b–Photo: SWNS in the Telegraph

The US has its cruise missile (Tom) but, according to the British press, the UK now has its own “crews missile” in the form of a letter by retired submarine captain Nick Crews to his three children, as reported in the (UK) Daily Mail newspaper on November 16th.

This letter has hit a sore spot—the belief of some parents that their adult children are not managing their lives in any sort of reasonable fashion and are staggering from “one cock-up to the next”—feelings that now have a champion in Commander Crews.

I don’t have a dog in this fight;  my two older children are teenagers and my youngest will be ten years old tomorrow (!), but I think that this is interesting, not least that it came out of the UK, rather than the US.

That’s not to say that UK parents have less to “whinge about” than US parents in terms of their adult children;  it’s just that Brits generally (but not always–Russell Brand and Sacha Baron Cohen come to mind) hold their feelings more closely to the vest.

But times are a-changing in the land of stiff upper lips and don’t-frighten-the-horses.  A UK television program such as TOWIE (The Only Way Is Essex)–a revolting reprise of the US Kardashians and Jersey Shore–airs all the dirty laundry among a coterie of vacuous young people whose motto is:  “Get a spray tan, put on your tightest clothes and be reem (sic) as we return with some more diamante-clad drama from everyone’s favourite county.”

So American “oversharing” and more has come to England in the form of Commander Crews (or at least his daughter, who released his tirade to the press in an attempt to gain publicity for a book she was translating–wonder what her dad things of that?).

Crews felt compelled to write to his three children after an unpleasant evening in which the daughter apparently drove their mother to distraction:

Dear All Three

With last evening’s crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.

It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.

We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realise how we feel — we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us. We don’t ask for your sympathy or understanding — Mum and I have been used to taking our own misfortunes on the chin, and making our own effort to bash our little paths through life without being a burden to others. Having done our best — probably misguidedly — to provide for our children, we naturally hoped to see them in turn take up their own banners and provide happy and stable homes for their own children.

Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they are faced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents.

So we witness the introduction to this life of six beautiful children — soon to be seven — none of whose parents have had the maturity and sound judgment to make a reasonable fist at making essential threshold decisions. None of these decisions were made with any pretence to ask for our advice.

In each case we have been expected to acquiesce with mostly hasty, but always in our view, badly judged decisions. None of you has done yourself, or given to us, the basic courtesy to ask us what we think while there was still time finally to think things through. The predictable result has been a decade of deep unhappiness over the fates of our grandchildren. If it wasn’t for them, Mum and I would not be too concerned, as each of you consciously, and with eyes wide open, crashes from one cock-up to the next. It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven, and then helplessly to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you, their parents.

I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don’t want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it’s not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won’t do it by simply whingeing and saying you don’t like it. You’ll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn’t possible, or you simply can’t be bothered, then I rest my case.

I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.


David Brooks in the New York Times says, “Crews a hugely popular folk hero in Britain. Many parents are apparently delighted that someone finally had the gumption to give at least one set of overprivileged slackers a well-deserved kick in the pants.”

The problem, of course, is that no matter how emotionally satisfying these tirades may be, they don’t really work. You can tell people that they are fat and that they shouldn’t eat more French fries, but that doesn’t mean they will stop. You can make all sorts of New Year’s resolutions, earnestly deciding to behave better, but that doesn’t mean you will.

People don’t behave badly because they lack information about their shortcomings. They behave badly because they’ve fallen into patterns of destructive behavior from which they’re unable to escape.”

said this:

Does Crews have a point, or is he an absent father railing unfairly and ineffectively against his children?

And, do you think that a similar letter written by a US father become so important that it would be published and republished as part of a national dialogue?