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.
40 Comments Add yours
As the parent of a fellow car enthusiast I can completely relate. Every time a car pulls up outside it’s “car”. Every time we walk down the road it’s “car, car, car, caaarrr”. I had somewhat imagined myself with a quiet little child who would be able to amuse herself for an hour at a time. Instead I got the most outgoing child imaginable. You’re completely correct, you just have to let them be their own person. Your son will love you all the more for it when he’s older (: x
I agree-I will just have to get used to it! I love him unconditionally, obviously, but I do find his personality intriguing. He’s also quite fond of bashing things and hitting people. Let’s hope the latter is just a phase!
Haha, I went through something similar with Oldest and Youngest. Didn’t dress them in pink but gender neutral clothes, bought them cars as well as sterotypical girls toys and I banned barbies and the label princess. What has happened is that Oldest loves princesses and now has a barbie and wants her room painted bright pink and loves to sit and read a book Youngest on the otherhand loves tractors, cars, climbing, beating up her sister and jumping in puddles but all whilst wearing her fairy outfit. Both brought up the same but both have their very clear and unique personalities. 🙂
That must be it-just the way they are. With Piglet, as I don’t know what his biological father is like I just blame everything on him! Apparently (according to his “profile”-yes it is like internet dating) he liked fixing cars and playing sport. The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree there. Just not my tree!
Oh I love this. I so get it too…my son is naturally and weirdly into things that neither my husband nor I are remotely interested in. In the battle of nature and nurture nature has won in a couple of cases! Piglet can still be a gender mould breaking pioneer though – the open-eyed and questioning approach to these depressingly unenlightened things can be quite lovely to behold. I wrote a short silly post about my son at a cricket match where I was trying to make that point. I’ll see if I can dig it out though – it may bring you hope!! #triballove
Thanks for commenting. Loved the cricket post, and I can’t wait to see how Piglet responds to things when he can speak and question. Now I just need to get practising my responses!
Haha I love this! I have a daughter obsessed with cars too – is it something with the wheels?! It’s so funny that they’re interested in things we have never introduced or encouraged.. great post, you must keep us posted if the F1 love continues! #triballove
It must be the wheels. Piglet also loves things he can push around. He spent ages yesterday playing with a toy shopping trolley, and had the most almighty tantrum when we had to leave it. Perhaps it’s because they get to be in control of something moving. I don’t know!
Oh Min this is brilliant. Love the way you’ve written it and the shock and abhorrentness (not a word but it fits!). I hate to say it but boys will be boys but perhaps some words of male feminist persuasion whispered in his ear whilst he sleeps dreaming of racing cars may enter his subconscious in some way. Good luck embracing #triballove
Haha, I will try! Thanks for commenting.
Totally understand. I had the same thoughts myself – today my son came to me with his pink t shirt and told me to throw it in the bin; my daughter is obsessed with all things princess.
Where did it all go wrong ??! No fear of the patriarchy being smashed in our house ( I’ll still try tho )
Oh no! How sad that he wanted his shirt thrown in the bin! That said, I think they do go through a stage when they are acutely aware of gender and how society views it. I can still remember refusing to wear trousers in case people thought I was a boy. I must have been about five at the time.
Umm I thought gender neutral was about encouraging kids to find their own interests and not labelling stuff as ‘girls’ stuff or ‘boys’ stuff. I didn’t think it was about making assigned at birth kids do stereotypical things done by the gender they weren’t assigned at birth.
Surely liking cars should be seen as a neutral preference? Women drive cars and girls like cars in fact all people who like cars like cars. The only thing making it a ‘boys’ thing is patriarchy because cars are empowering and give freedom.
Let the kid like cars. Cars are gender neutral.
I know-the post was supposed to be a bit tongue in cheek! It was just funny because I am forever being told by well-meaning family members that his liking cars is a “boys” thing, although my general response is that it can’t be because cars are a recent invention and not something inherently gendered.
I know quite a few boys that are obsessed by cars, just as some girls become obsessed by pink crap. I personally think it’s a bit of inbuilt ‘boy-ness’, mixed with influence of friends. No matter how gender neutral you try and make life, they’ll find their own path (or road in his view!)… his just happens to be cars (could be worse in my opinion… he could be obsessed by football) 😉 #triballove x
Haha, I think he’s got his eye on that too! Actually, his only word so far is “ball.”
I would have thought cars were essentially gender neutral, what makes them predominantly a male interest? Is it because men have claimed they are better drivers in the past? Is it because there have been more engineers? Your little boy has chosen cars as an interest rather than have it enforced on him. It’s possible he might have another interest tomorrow too… Childhood is a bunch of experiments, dipping in and out of various interests. It’s how we respond to their interest that influence whether they continue their interests. For example, your little boy could be a world class engineer but if you discourage him, he may get put off. If you respond neutrally, his interest will take the lead, carry on or diminish. Personally, I would only be encouraging for any interest, to not cause feeling of shame.
I will be encouraging of any interest, don’t worry! Well, provided it’s not dangerous or illegal….
Women drive cars. There are female rally drivers, astronauts and truck drivers. Cars are not an interest which is gendered. I am guessing you would have been happier if he had developed an interest in ballet, despite their being male ballet dancers, or cooking, despite the dominance of male chefs. This is about your perception of the world, not his.
I appreciate your comment, but the post was really about the stereotypical assumption that people make that boys will like certain things and girls will like others, and how I quite frequently get comments along the lines of “well, he likes cars because all boys do.” It wasn’t intended to say that all boys like cars, or that no women do, as clearly that would be false! It was also intended to be a bit tongue in cheek as well, though perhaps that didn’t come across as I had intended.
Secondly regarding your point about there being female rally drivers, etc, I am not sure on the actual statistics (happy to be proved wrong if the statistics prove otherwise) but I would hazard a guess that all three of the careers you mentioned are actually very male dominated. Obviously that is not the same as saying that there are “no” female rally drivers, truck drivers, etc, but there are relatively few when compared with the numbers of men in these professions, so that rather proves my point that certain interests are seen as stereotypically “male,” I would argue.
I find this post quite sad. I acknowledge that you love your son and your post is one that is meant to have a level of humour, but the fact that it exists at all is down to your apparent confusion about your son’s behaviour which has conflicted with your beliefs – and these have come from straight out of feminist orthodoxy.
In my view, the feminist view on “gender as a social construct” is a lie, and the existence of the “patriarchy” is the conspiracy theory they have used for 40 years to justify their one-sided man-hating ideology.
Please do not continue to subscribe to these beliefs. Your son’s behaviour is typical of boys who find mechanical objects like cars fascinating and are drawn to them and want to understand them. This is why, later in life, men and boys tend to lean towards careers in engineering and girls tend not to.
We are not entirely blank slates from birth – we have innate biological qualities and these should be celebrated rather than condemned. Your son has demonstrated this to you and I hope that you embrace his life and career choices fully going forward without trying to artificially change his gender-based preferences.
I appreciate your comment (and I am glad that you noticed that there was some humour intended), but I am going to have to disagree on a few points here.
1.) The evidence that female and male children/babies are inherently different in terms of their interests appears to be, at best, rather unclear. What does seem to be clear is that children develop preferences at a very early age, and that these are influenced by a variety of factors including a mixture of genetics and environment. How that translates to the differences in numbers of boys and girls taking on careers in engineering, however, is even less straightforward, because as children grow up, they are influenced even further by their peers and by society’s expectations of them, and just because fewer women currently pursue careers in engineering, that is not a reflection of women and men having different skill sets, as there are so many additional factors at play here.
2.) I have to disagree with the idea that patriarchy is a “conspiracy theory.” A conspiracy theory is something which relies on supposition and not evidence. As “patriarchy” means a world where men hold most of the power, I would hardly say that there is no evidence for patriarchy. I don’t think it’s necessary to quote actual statistics here, as I think it’s rather obvious that the vast majority of politicians, world leaders, business leaders, etc, in every country in the world (possibly bar one or two in Scandinavia) are men. Therefore, the evidence for patriarchy is, in my view, quite clear.
3.) Feminists are not man-haters. This is a misunderstanding of what feminism is. Feminists are people (male or female) who believe that women and men should be equal. That doesn’t mean hating men. On the contrary, feminists believe that a world where power was shared more equally would be a better one for everyone-men included.
Sorry, but I’m not sure that most men hold any power. Yes, most MPs and judges, for example, are men, which is quite wrong, of course. But 99% of men are not in those positions. They are car mechanics, decorators, IT workers, whatever – but they generally have very little power. Who do I have power over? No-one really…I work in IT company. My boss is a woman and her boss is a woman. I manage a team of men and women. It’s nearly all gender neutral, certainly as far as pay and conditions and working practices are concerned, and everyone is happy, I think.
I didn’t say that ALL men have power over ALL women. I said that there are far more men in positions of power and authority than there are women in positions of power and authority. That is an undeniable fact, as you have pointed out in your comment.
I think despite all your best efforts, he’ll chose exactly what he wants to like, chase and shout after cars and be just a lovely boy. My daughter repeated shouted “Bird” “Bird” “Bird” at the top of her voice on holiday…. numerous times…. no, more than that, just far far far too many times. t was hilarious, but not the best obsession! Cars, tractors, lorrys might not draw quite as many looks 🙂 #fabfridaypost
That’s funny. Actually, Piglet is quite interested in birds too, which I understand as they are really quite odd and interesting things, when you think about it!
Resistance is useless. They like what they like. I birth a Tom boy who loves football, Lego and Star Wars. Now some of that I know who to blame for but … Ah well. (New Top Gear isn’t bad. Much better without JC)
Glad to hear it. I might be watching it soon! You’re right, they like what they like! Thanks for commenting.
Sorry this is really irritating. Why are cars a “boy’s toy”? Most women drive and most of them like cars. Cars are naff all to do with the patriarchy, sorry.
Um, because the post is supposed to be tongue in cheek? The title “boys and their toys” is not meant to be taken to literally mean that cars are only for boys-quite the opposite. Perhaps that wasn’t sufficiently clear.
Snooker would be a cool sport, I could accept this for my son. The car thing is slightly annoying because Formula One seems really dangerous, so I’m sorry for your potential situation. ; ) I too have high hopes for my son in being a front runner for feminism. The only problem I’ve encountered is the science behind male/female babies, they ARE actually wired differently, so we face the inevitable “boys will be boys.” : ( I still have some time to accept this information, in the meantime, he is currently in a girl onsie. ; ) Thanks so much for sharing with #StayClassy!
To be honest, I guess I’m just going to have to accept whatever he chooses. I just hope he eventually steers away from the dangerous route!
Its great how they have these wonderful phases of liking different things and some stick and some don’t. They find their own way and my kids stuff generally ends up costing me money as they wear me down with how much they need, can’t do without or some other guilt blanket they throw over me. Bless em!
Yes, it will be interesting to see which of his current interests remain as he gets older, and which don’t! Thanks for commenting.
It’s funny how you have ideas of what your child will like and then they prove you wrong. Like you I had imagined a more gender neutral life. But my son is 100% stereotypical boy; loves cars,trains,planes, all types of playing ball, throwing ever8, and wants to play fight all the time. Makes me wonder how much of it is related to genetics. Or just what he sees on TV shows. Thanks for sharing!#bigpinklink
Yes, that is the question! I knew he wouldn’t be exactly like me, but it’s interesting to see how strong his preferences are even at this very young age. Thanks for commenting.
Hahaha….I’m sure you’ll survive watching Top Gear in your home! My youngest had the same obsession with cars and motorbikes. I am sooooo not ready for that. For me, when my child likes something which I am not particularly fond of, like xbox, I think what’s the fascination? Is this really my child? or if they do not like reading a particular book which I loved, then i really think I must have brought home the wrong baby!
Haha, me too! Thanks for hosting and commenting.
I know this Ethan went through a similar phrase. It all started in toddler year and then it continues. We even took him to go-karting once (but it was real slow to us). And he loved it! I guess if you can’t fight it – then join in with his excitement. I’m kind of excited for him. Even though as he gets older his interest seem to have grown in various sporting activities – like archery… we didn’t that coming.
Thank you so much for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost xx
Archery, wow! It’s lovely to see how their interests develop.