WE’RE sitting in the car at the traffic lights next to Urban Tiger, which has a poster of a girl in undies outside, when one of my sons says, “What’s that there then?”
“Er, it’s a nightclub for grown-ups,” I say, thinking, didn’t it used to be a church?
He persists: “What’s a lap-dance?”
“Er, it’s when a man pays a woman to dance about in front of him for a bit. Now, who wants to go for an ice-cream. . ?”
At the time this conversation took place, my elder boys were at the age where they viewed girls as an irritation, and the idea of paying for anything but football cards
or sweets to be a total waste of money.
Now hitting puberty, they snigger and nudge each other when passing similar posters of girls in their undies. Occasionally I make them repeat a general mantra that women are not objects and shouldn’t be treated as anything other than equal (and then they carry on sniggering).
Perhaps naively, and with weekend bedtimes extended from the usual school times to 10pm, I let them watch the first episode of a new TV version of Camelot on Channel 4, starting just after 9pm.
About seven minutes in we’re all treated to the sight of bumpkin-but-soon-to-be-king
Arthur’s, well, bum, as he’s doing something decidedly post-watershed. It’s a classic parental cringe moment.
A lot of bad dialogue, dodgy history, bucket loads of shaggery and killing follows. By the end, the boys are doubled up giggling. (For the record, they much prefer boob-flashing Eva Green’s maniac Morgan/a to Tamsin Egerton’s boob-flashing flirty-but-spoken-for blonde Guinevere). They are sent to bed, and ordered not to spend any more time giggling.
In a convoluted and roundabout way I’m getting towards the current (for every
generation) debate about the sexualisation of children, a dodgy phrase in itself. The media and the moral majority have chased their own backsides about this issue every few years for as long as I can remember, and I’m old enough to remember the late Mary Whitehouse.
There have been campaigns to ban everything from inappropriate clothing for girls to sex education videos in primary schools. Sadly, a ban on stupid parents has been deemed too difficult to legislate.
So what makes for an irresponsible parent? My three-year-old daughter painted her lips with a red felt-tipped pen this weekend. One minute she’d been drawing “fish and a house” and the next she looked like she was suffering an extreme allergic reaction.
Am I the stupid parent, to give a three-year-old felt tips instead of the usual crayons, which she’s been known to eat? Or because somehow, I’ve let her think that girls’ lips are there to be painted? After all, I’m the one who paints Bonnie’s tiny toes with my expensive Chanel varnish when I’m doing my own? She just thinks her ‘lady toes’ look pretty. Am I inadvertently pushing her down the slippery slope to pregnant teen
or wannabe footballer’s wife?
Despite, and perhaps because of, having three older brothers and a scruffy mother, Bonnie is rather girly. She’s so determined to wear dresses each day I was surprised to see her come out of her room wearing a pair of pink jogging bottoms she’d found in her cupboard. The fact that she was wearing them back-to-front made me notice the glittery hearts emblazoned on the two rear pockets. Eek! Is that sexy clothing?
My view on the whole ‘inappropriate things marketed at children’ debate has always been simple.
Don’t buy it.
Don’t want your kid looking like she’s ready for a Saturday night on Bridge Street? Don’t take her to a kids ‘makeover’ salon for a spray tan. Don’t want your kid teased
about doing pole dancing classes and people thinking you’re an idiot parent?
Don’t send them to pole dancing classes.
The foxy kids’ clothing/make-up pedlars/pole dancing teachers get more publicity from your outrage than money can buy. As you should know by now, there is no such thing as bad publicity (unless you’re Ryan Giggs).
The thing that frustrates me as a parent, which I have little control over, is pop
lyrics. Nothing new, of course. Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax was famously banned, as was Donna Summer’s Love to Love you Baby, and other merchants of filth including Bob Dylan, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, George Formby and Lulu.
But when you’re listening to Radio 1 at 8.30am and your children start singing along with Nicole Scherzinger: “Me like the way that you touch my body, Me like the way that you kiss my yeah yeah yeah yeah. . .” (it gets worse).
I don’t want to be flicking radio stations every five minutes unless it’s to avoid
hearing Chris Moyles. I don’t want to be channel hopping every time J-Lo’s backside jiggles or Rihanna gets raunchy on prime-time telly. I don’t want to have to chaperone my kids to the corner shop because the newsagent has been paid to have the Sunday Sport’s front page up-skirt-shot at 12-year-old eye-level.
I’d prefer it if certain things weren’t waved in my children’s faces, but I don’t like bans.
There’s a certain responsibility that comes with parenting that means you have to show where Mum draws the line. . .