I caught up with one of my friends last week. She's got a two year old son and he's clearly the centre of her world, so naturally quite a lot of the conversation revolves around him....and that's fine by me. It's nice to see her light up as she describes the joys of parenthood. We worked very closely together for a number of years, and during her pregnancy, I seemed to spend an awful lot of time doing various bits of lifting and carrying for her as she stocked up before her maternity leave. It's nice to catch up.
At the moment, her little boy is a proper little sponge and apparently developing so fast that you can almost see the change on a day-by-day basis as his brain grows and absorbs information from the world around him. His latest thing, I learned, is to hold proper running conversations with himself about what he's seeing as he processes it and tries to describe it in terms that he understands. Usually, this is charming.... but apparently, on occasion it can also be mortifyingly embarrassing.
Picture the scene: you are just finishing up at they gym, and you are standing at the counter in reception waiting to be served. You have perched your little boy on the top of the counter so that he can see what's going on. As you wait, a personal trainer wanders behind the counter and starts browsing through a filing cabinet or something. Your little boy sees him and says:
"Oh look. Big monkey"
The personal trainer is black.
You don't think anyone else apart from you and your husband heard this, but not quite knowing what else to do, you pick up your child and walk quickly out of the gym, all the while hoping that the ground will open up and swallow you.
My friend told me how horrified and embarrassed she was, but that she didn't want to make too big a deal of it with her son because all that would do would be to imprint the incident on him as being significant (another friend of mine backed this up by saying how he had once said "Oh, fuck off!" out loud in front of his toddler and then spent the next six months managing a child who would say that loudly, in public at every possible opportunity, knowing that he wasn't supposed to but delighting in the attention he got for saying it).
Being the supportive friend that I am, I simply told her that she seemed to be doing a bang-up job of raising her very own little racist. Mind you, what this incident really shows is that the average racist has a mental age of approximately two. At least this little boy will move past this; the average UKIP member apparently does not.
3 hours ago