James Delingpole James Delingpole

Competing children

Competing children

The thing five-year-olds most dread on their first day at school, according to Child of Our Time (BBC1, Tuesday), is using the dirty, smelly, alien toilets. I remember the moment well. Peeing in the urinal all men quickly learn to dread — the middle one — I was mortified to notice that the two boys either side of me were pissing themselves laughing. ‘He doesn’t know how to use his flies,’ said one boy to the other. And I didn’t. Mummy hadn’t shown me. Instead, I had dropped my trousers round my ankles, just as I did at home. But cosy homeworld, I suddenly came to realise, no longer counted for very much. From now on, I would have to inhabit a cruel, arbitrary universe where the rules were decided by people other than one’s delightfully biased, doting mummy. It was a shock from which I have never recovered.

Being as Child of Our Time is all about children, I should imagine it’s of no interest whatsoever to people who aren’t parents. But, if you are one, especially if you’ve a child born in the same year (2000) as the 25 featured, it can be terribly compelling — mostly for the basest of reasons. What you want to know as you watch is: so what’s the competition like? How do their house size and lifestyle compare with mine? Is my daughter more beautiful than anyone else’s? And more intelligent? And so on.

It’s also quite consoling. If there’s one thing all these children of disparate classes and races have in common it’s that their parents think they’re the best damned things in the whole universe, brimming with vast potential which could so easily be destroyed if the slightest mistake is made with their upbringing.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in