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Sunday, 19 February 2012

I shall call him...Mini-me...

I took the lad (Charlie, my 9 year old) to Leeds yesterday. The main purpose of the visit was to go to a book signing by Will MacMillan Jones, who's an author I've met through (initially) Authonomy. His book The Banned Underground- The Amulet of Kings is a comedy fantasy that I thought my son would enjoy (although I was never a massive Pratchett fan myself).

After seeing Will I asked Charlie, as we furthered third world exploitation by trothing a MacDonalds, where else would he like to visit before we went home. His reply- Games Workshop and Forbidden Planet. Going into Games Workshop was fantastic- the dude in there played a quick Warhammer battle with him and his eyes were like saucers throughout. Ever since he's been fixated on Warhammer, mentioning it every third sentence and giving my wife palpitations as she realises how expensive the hobby can be.

It was a similar experience in the comic shop, although mainly it was me getting giddy given that I order almost totally off Amazon now and forgot you can actually look at comics before buying them still.

It struck me as we sat on the train home and he played his PSP Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 that Charlie is becoming a mini-me. It's strange in the sense that he looks like the missus, rather than my ghoulish countenance, and has hair down to his shoulders (not an option when I was 9...) but his passions are duplicating my own.

Now this, I suppose, is fairly obvious. Being feet firmly in the 'nurture' (vs. nature) camp I accept that you are very much a product of your up-bringing. This isn't strictly a bad thing, at least with regards our version of it. Charlie, and Evelyn (daughter, virtually 8) love reading, fantasy (books and film), Dr Who, DnD, comics, video games and indie music. With regards the latter, the daughter has branched out into listening to shite, whereas Charlie has remained resolutely dedicated to decent tunes. He's big into Green Day and is learning guitar... I may as well buy the hair dye and guy-liner now for the inevitable EMO phase. But what about more typical boy-stuff? Well he plays football on a Sunday but has homeopathic levels of interest in it, much like his father. He does swimming and it's 'alright.' Cubs is a winner but I think that's because his burgeoning OCD likes collecting badges and a few of the other kids are into Pokemon there.

Why am I bothered? Well firstly I fret about not giving him an open choice about what he'll get into. My folks had minimal influence on all my tastes, from music to Dr Who, to fantasy and DnD to comics. Sure they supported them--Dad took us to the 20th Dr Who exhibition at Longleat in the early Eighties, and to comic fairs. But they weren't shared interests. Dad liked football, cricket, rugby and I had less then zero interest in them. I never really had anything (until I could drink beer) to share with him. Charlie has the opposite--all his interests are shared with me and I worry that's stifling in some way...too controlling.

The second worry is that I know that liking my nerdish hobbies is going to cause grief in High School. For my daughter I'm less bothered as (i) she'll move onto other interests (ii) her self-confidence is like Plate Mail +5. But for Charlie, whose dyspraxic quirkiness already makes him not fit in to 9year old identikit boy, it's a genuine concern. But I'd be being dishonest to guide him towards cool interests that aren't interesting (to either of us) and I'd also be giving him the wrong message... that you should change your passions, what you like, to suit others. But it's easy being an indvidual and standing up for your beliefs at 40--it's rather more challenging at 11 in a new school.

So it's a conundrum and I think that, as tough as it is, the right thing is to carry on. Because sharing interests, especially ones that encourage imagination, literacy, creativity can only be a good thing in the long run. And anything which promotes time together whilst your kids still want to spend it with you is also worth maintaining. And in the interim we work on the self-belief that will bolster him when, inevitably, the bullies turn their attention towards him.

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