Great British Bake Off and Food Unwrapped star Briony May Williams reflects on the COVID19 pandemic and recent Black Lives Matter uprising, and what she can do as the parent of a young child to have these uncomfortable conversations in a way that feels safe and loving. Also, baking! She talks about baking. “It’s uncomfortable and it’s awkward, but it’s so important…and I think it’s finding that moment where it’s appropriate to have that conversation. It’s so important to have it because we can’t just sit in our bubble anymore and say, ‘It’s fine, nothing’s going on.’”
You can follow Briony May Williams on Instagram and Twitter at @brionymaybakes
[01:32] Hi, I’m Briony May Williams, and this is Good Kids. So I have a four year old daughter, Nora. She’ll be five this coming September. Soon she should be starting school, fingers crossed. And we live with my husband, Steve. He’s a bit of a legend and a wonderful father to Nora. Very, very lucky. And we also have our dog, Archie, who’s also a bit of a legend. He will be six this year. so we got him in November, and then I found out I was pregnant with Nora in December. So that was really good timing. I actually turned out beautifully because they’ve grown up together and their little best friends. And he’s been a godsend during lockdown because obviously she’s an only child. She hasn’t had anyone else of the mainstream to play with, but she’s really connected with him. I know it sounds silly because he’s a dog, but their relationship has really grown and they’ve really bonded. And he gets so excited to see her now. And it’s quite, quite sweet when you look back at these pictures of him as a puppy and her as a baby. And now you see this little person and this big fluffy dog. And they’re just best friends. It’s very sweet.
[02:52] One of the things for her is that she gets very upset at night before bed. That’s when she gets, you know, all her emotions come out, bless her. And she’s just starts crying for ages because she wants to see people and give them cuddles. And she’ll say to us, when’s all this gonna be over? The best answer we can give her is, you know, we don’t know, but we hope it will be soon. And then, you know, after a few weeks of lockdown, things start appearing on social media, like how to explain the virus to your little one and how to help them deal with it. And I read through a few things, and I think for me, it is very much down to the individual family. I know friends who have told their kids in much more detail who, you know, similar age to Nora, and they’ve told them more in more detail. And they really fully understand the gravity of the situation. Whereas with Nora, we’ve kind of tried to keep it a little bit hidden from her to shelter her a little bit from it. But I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to talk to your child about it, because it’s such a unique situation that none of us have been in before. You know, there’s no parent guide as to how to look after your child in a pandemic. I think it should very much be down to the individual family and individual children about how you do it and, you know, what things you tell them and what things you don’t.
[04:18] You don’t want to hide too much from them because you want them to understand the severity of what’s going on without putting too much on them. You know, she knows something big is going on, and that our part of it is that we need to stay home and stay safe and be careful. And, you know, I’ve taken her out shopping as little as possible. I’d rather, you know, be safer for her and other people if she stays at home. But I’ve taken her to the supermarket a couple of times and she’s very good. She understands that she needs to stay away from people. And now that we’re allowed to go into other people’s gardens, we’ve been ‘round to my mum and she knows that she can’t run in and give her a big cuddle like she would normally. She just has to step back. And she keeps saying, you know, can I touch people again? Which is well dodgy if you’re saying it as an adult.
[05:11] I used to be a teacher before Bake Off. And I sort of said to a lot of my friends, OK, they will miss out on obviously a lot of education over these last few months. Main thing that you can do for your child right now is support them emotionally, and make sure that they’re not suffering from, you know, that lack of contact with their peers and their friends. Because that will be the thing that lasts in their head. You know, they’re not going to remember the fact that hey didn’t learn the five times table in 2020 when they should have done. They will remember that they felt safe from that they felt loved and that they were protected at a time when it was incredibly dangerous and scary.
[05:59] We’ve been doing a lot of baking together, which has been lovely. Because for me, baking started very much as a therapy for me. And with Bake Off, it very much turned into work, which is great, and I’m very grateful for that, but I didn’t do it as much as a hobby anymore. So that’s something that’s been lovely that Nora and I have been able to do together. I’m not gonna lie, there’s been a lot of screen time. It’s, you know, screen time together. We’ll sit down together and watch Moana fiftieth time or The Trolls World Tour is the big one at the minute. I’ve really enjoyed being able to put out recipes for other parents. It’s something I know we’ve struggled with this, filling the days with other things than the tele. And for us, you know, we’ve done a lot baking and Nora will say to me, oh, mommy, can we make a rainbow cake? And I’m like, yeah, sure, why not? And it’s nice to get those recipes out there for other families to use with their children. I think that has been a really special thing.
[07:24] For me, and this is a real big, big topic at the minute, and it’s why am I active in my beliefs about racism? I’ve taken a very passive role in my life so far, and I’ve used the line of, you know, well, I don’t see race, so, you know, that’s that’s me not being racist. And it’s been a real learning moment with everything, you know. There’s been so much information online, so much going on on social media of realizing that that’s not the way forward. You know, you have to see race to see the racism, and to see the difficulties and the daily struggles that black people go through. And that me as a white person, I thought, well, I’m not privileged. You know, I don’t live in a fancy house and I don’t have loads of money. And naturally, it’s stripping that right back and realizing that being white is the privilege. And I felt so stupid that for 35 years I’ve not accepted that part of me. I really think that that’s something that this current surge in the Black Lives Matter movement has done. My hope for lots of people, lots of white people, is to make them really take a hard look in the mirror and say, right, this is uncomfortable for me to admit, but I need to admit it in order for me to move forward and actually make some positive changes.
[08:37] And one of the things, you know, that I’ve read a lot is that, you know, when you’re talking to your child, don’t just ignore the fact that there is racism in the world. Don’t just ignore the fact that, you know, people have different skin colors, because that then will leave Nora to go on living in that same little bubble that I’ve been living in for my life. So what I’ve been doing recently is started opening up a conversation with Nora about race. Obviously, she’s four, I’m not gonna start, you know, showing her the video of what happened to George Floyd, but I have started actually opening up that dialog about race. And, you know, we were looking at her princess book the other day. She said, well, Tiana’s got dark skin and Aurora’s got light skin. I said, yeah, absolutely. And I said to her, do you know that people can be really mean to people with black skin just because they’ve got black skin? And she said to me no, I didn’t know that. And I said, well, what would you do if you saw somebody being mean to Tiana because of her black skin? And she said, I’d tell them to go away. So that is the first conversation I’ve ever had with Nora about race, because my mind before this most recent movement of Black Lives Matter was the best thing to do is just treat everyone the same. And, you know, look past or not even see that race, be colorblind, that’s the best way to handle racism. And the more we’ve started talking about it with her, the more I realize, yeah, this is absolutely the right way to go. Because now if she sees, I hope, if she ever sees someone saying something unkind or she sees something unjust that is being done to this person because of the color of their skin, then she will hopefully say, no, that’s not OK.
[10:35] Racism exists, and it’s our role to stand up for those people and try to make a difference. And it’s little things like buying her books which have people of color as the protagonist, or that talk about race in an age-appropriate way. You know, I recently bought some felt tip pens that are different colors, so that when she’s drawing, if she wants to color Tiana, she can color the correct skin color. Those little things are such small things, and I appreciate that there so, so much to do and so much farther to go. But for us doing these small things and doing them consistently, I hope will teach Nora how to see race, how to see racism, and how to tackle racism. There was a massive protest in Bristol, and the protesters pulled down the statue of a slave trader. And I actually went to a school founded by that slave trader. So it’s bought up a lot of, you know, talking points there as well. But I wouldn’t hide that from Nora because I want her to see what’s happening at the minute and the significance of these actions. You know, I don’t want her to see the violence. I will shield her from that. But I won’t shield her from the fact that it exists. It’s uncomfortable and it’s awkward, but it’s so important, I think, especially at the minute where it really feels like this is a massive moment in history.
[12:18] And I want her to understand that, you know, she was alive when this happened. And I think it’s finding that moment where it’s appropriate to have that conversation, because we can’t just sit in our bubble anymore and say, no, nothing’s going on. I think for me, especially with what’s happened in 2020, is that in the face of adversity, the pandemic, the awful things that have been happening with relation to racism, is that it can show that it can bring communities and people all over the world together. Something that I’ve seen in the UK in terms of the pandemic is that people have really come together as a community to support each other. With the Black Lives Matter protests, people have come together to support each other. And to me, that’s really something I think for kids, for people of the future, is to learn from that, and take from that when bad things happen, you know, you can get through it better if you’ve come together and support each other, rather than fighting against each other and trying to get through it by yourself.
[13:40] If you want to know a little bit more about me and maybe see some of my recipes, follow me @BrionyMayBakes on Instagram and Twitter. I’ve got loads of lovely recipes, great ones to keep the kids busy.
[14:00] Good Kids is a Lemonada Media original. Andrew Steven is our producer, and the show is executive produced by Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Music is by Dan Molad. Westwood One is our ad sales and distribution partner. Like us, give us a five-star rating, and recommend us to a friend. If you want to submit a show idea, email us at [email protected].