Kidnapped By The Kids Review: The Parent Trap

December 10, 2009 by  
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3Kidnapped300 KIDNAPPED BY THE KIDS: Thursday 10th December, Channel 4, 9pm ALERT ME

Maybe it’s just me but after hearing the title of this programme, I was hoping it would be a post-apocalyptic drama about a bunch of cannibalistic children waging war on the last remnants of a ravaged adult population.

Fortunately for Lester J Adams, it’s just a documentary about how his 80 hour weeks and workaholic lifestyle are wrecking his home life.

Lester runs Big Space, a children’s activity centre. As a self-made man, he’s obsessed with controlling every aspect of his business (“someone’s put the banana milk in the chocolate milk slot?). Unfortunately, his kids Maddie and Ross and his wife Sue are suffering; Lester has been known to spend up to six nights a week sleeping at the business and frequently sneaks out after his kids have gone to bed to go back to work.

They’ve decided to do something about it. They’re kidnapping him and not allowing him to go back to work until he’s proved that he can be a better dad.

They say “kidnap? but they’re not exactly putting a plastic bag over his head and breaking his kneecaps before bundling him into the back of a van. Rather they’re forcing him to spend a week with his kids in Wales. Yup, Wales. The face he pulls when they tell him where they’re going is an absolute picture – “Please, dear god, let me stay at work!?

There are some really heartfelt moments. When Maddie and Ross make their imploring speeches in front of their dad’s colleagues at work, he starts welling up and you can’t help but feel a little bit moved.

While he’s away there his wife delegates his duties to other members of staff. It seems that part of the problem is Lester’s been trying to do everything himself, so it’s not surprising that he’s constantly snowed under.

It transpires that Lester works so hard he actually gives himself heart palpitations due to stress. He was due to have an operation but in true micromanagement style, he discharged himself from hospital. Not only is he putting his family at risk, he’s putting his health at risk too.

It’s quite frightening just how unwilling he is to let go. He seems to view family time as a chore, something to tick off on a sheet. “You have fulfilled your quota of family time, you may now clock out?. Fair enough if you hate your family, but Lester’s are supportive and kind, not the kind who’d make Microsoft Excel seem a better prospect.

Eventually he does begin to mellow out and stops looking at his watch every five minutes – gradually it dawns that perhaps not spending any time with his children is a bad thing.

It’s a predictable conclusion; you’re unlikely to find a documentary where the subject goes berserk and locks himself in the office never to return, but it is an uplifting story of how in this increasingly high-pressure lifestyle more and more of us seem to lead, it’s important to smell the roses along the way.