IS IT FAIR TO INFLUENCE YOUR KIDS’ POLITICAL BELIEFS? Tonight, I was getting Boy Wonder ready for bed and I complimented him for doing as I asked and not being ‘naughty’. His face grew serious and he told me the following:
‘Do you know the Iron Lady, Dad. Well, she was very naughty. She took jobs away from daddies and mummies and they couldn’t earn pennies. Their little boys and girls didn’t have any food to eat and everybody was very sad.’
For a moment, I was speechless. The Duchess is working tonight so I can’t check yet but I expect that he saw the film poster on a bus or billboard and asked her about the identity of the woman with the bouffant hair and cold face. The Duchess obviously didn’t pull any punches and we’ve now got the future president of the Communist Party in our midst.
After he’d finished his manifesto speech, I laughed and gave him a big kiss. My only words were: ‘You’re dead right, son. The Iron Lady was very naughty.’ I admired my little boy and felt a burst of pride that I was wed to an uncompromising class warrior, who after all could have just told him it was some sort of random grandma on the big sign.
The Duchess has got previous. Last week, I was off work and I took Boy Wonder to the library to change his books. Just as we arrived, he told me how the people who worked there had to close it the other week because ‘they’re like Robin Hood, having to fight baddies like the Sheriff of Nottingham who wants to steal all of their money’. The ‘other week’ must have actually been last year and the Duchess had used his favourite tale to explain the public sector strike and the barbarism of the cuts.
So yeah, the Duchess and I are Guardian-reading left-of-centre liberal wet farts and we probably can’t help but indoctrinate our little kids. Boy Wonder already worships police officers, ambulance drivers and fire officers – ‘they help people Daddy’ – and the Duchess has clearly decided it’s time to move on to party politics. But we’re not cruel: we won’t make him like Ed Miliband.
Is it fair, though, to transfer our beliefs on to our kids, even if we’re sometimes being playful or trying to spark developing minds? Interestingly, my Dad was born into relative poverty in rural Ireland and he absolutely hated Margaret Thatcher. So that must have had an influence on me. More interestingly, though, the Duchess’ Dad is a staunch Tory and look how she turned out. Was she always going to adopt her political beliefs, is it just the way she sees the world, or were they fuelled by the dinner table debate when she was a teenager?
I guess the former but high-minded, faintly rebellious youngsters are always drawn to the underdog and when we were growing up that wasn’t the long-serving, omnipotent Conservative Government.
As it is, I think the Duchess has cracked the secret of indoctrination: be artful, subtle, metaphoric, witty… or, as it’s also known, sly!
Music offers a template. Our house is regularly filled with the eclectic new-old sounds of BBC 6 Music and Boy Wonder already knows the words to fragments of some Smiths songs. (‘I would go out tonight but I’m skint and have to look after you tinkers’, is my own special remix.) I want him to find his own space, his own ‘vibe’ (hey, check out the 40-year-old conversing like a youngster!) but he’ll never scale Everest without a solid base camp. Heart FM, the musical equivalent of the Tories, is definitely not the answer.
So, it’ll be interesting how he turns out and whether his sister follows his lead or veers off in an opposite direction of her own. Knowing my luck it’ll be the former but we’ll end up with two kids who listen to Radio 3, drink dessert wine and campaign to overturn the hunting ban…