I had high hopes for my son.
I imagined that he would be the next John Stuart Mill.
Studying the classical languages by the age of three, and a master of the ancient Greek philosophers by eight; most importantly he would be a visionary, a man ahead of his time, a frontrunner in the fight for gender equality.
And what did I imagine this youthful fight for gender equality would look like? I imagined a child who was a blank slate, unaware of the stifling conventions of being seen by society as belonging to either gender. He was a child, as happy in a dress as in a pair of trousers, even if I didn’t quite have the stomach to face down society’s gender expectations and actually put him in one. Happy to eschew superheroes in favour of those superheroines Elsa and Anna, or simply to ignore anything that might be stereotypically associated with either boys or girls, in favour of adopting only things that were strictly neutral in colour scheme.
Well, reader, things are not looking good on that front. I appear to have birthed a child who is obsessed with cars.
Where he has got this obsession from, I do not know. I don’t even drive.
He shouts at tractors in the street, he attempts to follow lorries down the road, he recently tried to climb inside a car chassis that was on display in a shop for some inexplicable reason, and most disturbingly of all he has developed a penchant for the Devil’s Own Sport Which Isn’t Really A Sport: Formula One.
This was not a “sport” that featured on my hypothetical list in my head of Sports I Would Most Like My Son To Be Interested In. If I had expanded this hypothetical list (gymnastics was at the top, obviously, and football and cricket featured in there too, but definitely not rugby or boxing or anything else where serious injury could be considered par for the course) to include other so-called sports that are really skills, or games played in pubs whilst drunk, it would have been lying low, somewhere just below darts (promotes an unhealthy lifestyle) and snooker (boring, but at least not terribly dangerous, although I wouldn’t like to see what happens with those cues were there to be a scrap over a particularly tense frame).
In other words, Formula One fails both of the rigorous tests that sports I would like my son to do need to pass in order to be considered, namely relative safety (I have my doubts about cricket on that front. The ball is rather hard, and there have been some deaths. However, I am prepared to overlook a certain amount of inherent danger when it is mixed with an aura of public school charm and quaint, and also nice outfits) and actually being reasonably good for one’s health and fitness (darts and snooker would fail the latter, as clearly played in pubs by old men with questionable drinking habits).
Now I’m sure that certain sections of society (I call these people “lovers of Formula One”) are going to be up in arms about this. They will quote statistics about the relative health and fitness levels of Formula One drivers as opposed to say, those who play tennis or curling, but though I accept that there is probably a certain base level of fitness that one needs to drive a car at two hundred miles per hour (I am not denying that it must require a great deal of skill. I couldn’t even parallel park), push the pedals, steer the wheel, wear the outfits (they look like they might be a bit hot in there), it is still not exactly gymnastics (the pinnacle of all sports). It is also, unlike gymnastics, but like most other sports, even ones that I have arbitrarily decided are acceptable, like football and cricket, depressingly male-dominated.
Basically, it just isn’t the right fit for my gender neutral parenting, and the patriarchy-busting child I thought I’d have. John Stuart Mill, just to pick an example of an eminent male feminist out of the air, would not have been a lover of Formula One, had it existed in the 1860s.
So what to do? Ban all talk of Top Gear in our house (he saw a clip of it today, and looked interested. It was a frightening moment, albeit one that I am slightly less mortified about since they got rid of Clarkson), confiscate all the toy cars (there would be a mutiny. A petition would be presented to 10 Downing Street, requesting involvement from social services and imminent adoption) or just accept that I cannot control my son’s interests, and in the words of those similarly car-loving sages of the 90s, Oasis, I just have to roll with it?
So I need to let go of the things I cannot control. I cannot make him love broccoli (I didn’t even like it myself until well into my twenties), or go to bed at 7pm or prefer a spin around the parallel bars on his hands to a spin around Monte Carlo in a petrol-guzzling contraption. I just have to accept him for who he is, unique and definitely not a mini-me, but a person in his own right, with his own interests, not all of which I am likely to share.
I hear Monaco’s lovely at this time of year.