Yesterday my eight-year-old son announced that he was going to make us all some chocolate cake. He promptly went into the kitchen and emptied a puddle of vegetable oil all over the floor. His seven-year-old brother looked at him despairingly.
“You’re just like Jeremy Corbyn,” he said.
Their baby brother, recognising the aptness of the comparison, suggestive as it was of someone who promises much that is good and right but delivers a total mess, nodded his head and cried.
It is at this point in the story that I should tell you this was all made up. Ha! I was cleverly parodying all of those ridiculous members of the commentariat who “use their children to back up their political opinions.” As Sam Kriss so astutely observes in Vice, “when the time comes for them to really make their defences of an increasingly unpopular status quo, they seem to be constantly delegating responsibility to their children.”
Of course, such people, usually female journalists, are lying. It couldn’t possibly be that over the course of a day (and another day, and another) with several children in your charge one might, just once in a while, find that one of them says something which is either
- incredibly naïve, arising as it does from ignorance, but basically true in a way you’d never thought of before, or
- deeply insightful regarding the contemporary political scene, even though if you asked them what they’d personally meant by it, you’d find they’d no idea of what they were actually talking about.
Such a thing could never happen. According to Kriss, anyone who tweets a “my child said this about politics and isn’t it weirdly apt” anecdote literally expects you to think their child is a political oracle, even though they themselves just made up said anecdote right there the spot. Because some people – usually women, usually mummies – are so, so desperate to make their sad little lives seem meaningful, and so utterly incapable of expressing any serious points for themselves. Isn’t that right, Sam Kriss? There’s no way, right, that Sarah Ditum’s daughter could have laughed at the idea of Corbyn becoming PM? No way that could have happened in real life!
I’m sorry to sound suspicious, but I have to call bullshit on this. I find it hard to believe that Kriss would truly “be ready to stake a claim that not one of the incidents above ever happened.” Has Kriss ever met children? Has he ever been one himself?
Does he know that children constantly overhear conversations had by grown-ups? Does he know that, even if most of a child’s time is spent in the company of mere women, women do not spend every second in which they’re “doing childcare” talking about Thomas the fucking Tank Engine? Does he know that children say plenty of things over the course of an hour – let alone a day – and that every now and then, you come across something which isn’t “blarg-lol-he-hit-me-can-I-have-a-snack-when-are-we-going-to-the-park”? Does he know of the Shakespeare and monkeys analogy?
Is he aware that when female writers have children, these children are not mere accessories, but people we love and spend time with and who, yes, make us amused once in a while? And that sometimes we want to share this amusement? And sure, this destroys the whole capitalist patriarchal division between private and public space – how dare you bring the domestic into the political! – but usually, when we’re telling you about our children’s latest random political pronouncement, we’re wanting to share it with someone who understands the deeper meaning? Because our kids sure as hell don’t understand it. They’re kids! We know that already, you utter fool! Otherwise we wouldn’t have tweeted it!
Kriss’s article seems to me a measure of how little the male-dominated left understands about care work and inclusivity and just not being a total arse. Believe it or not, carers who are also writers do not sit around inventing anecdotes to back up their views. Because that would be a ridiculous thing to do. Far more ridiculous than a seven-year-old boy using “you’re just like Jeremy Corbyn” as an insult against his older brother.
Which is a thing that actually happened.* All of it happened, apart from the baby bit. Their baby brother was at nursery. True to form, I made the baby bit up to prove a point.
* On further inquiry it turns out that to my middle son, “like Jeremy Corbyn” means “messy, cos he has a beard,” unlike our local Green candidate, who is a very pretty man with lovely long hair but a clean-shaven face. No, it doesn’t make sense in relation to emptying vegetable oil on the floor. This is because my child is seven.