... isn't it mummy? The very idea of girls in government is enough to break a seven-year-old son's heart. By Cherrill Hicks
Harry, aged seven, is in macho mood tonight. He struts about and juts his hips out like a pop star, thrusting an imaginary guitar to the ceiling. "Ghostbusters!" he shouts. I'm trying to explain about the election. "On Thursday, Daddy and I will go to the school and put an "X" against the name of the person whose ideas we most agree with."

"What, so the one who has the most "X"s, he'll be the government?" he asks, astonished.

"He or she, Harry," I say carefully. "Girls can join the government, too."

His lip curls into the childish equivalent of a sneer. "What - girls can be in the government? Huh! That's what I call STUPID."

My hackles are rising. "Of course girls can be in the government. They're just as clever as boys. I'm a girl, aren't I and I'm clever!"

He's getting furious himself - starts to shout, fight in my face. "Well, all girls used to do was, they just used to stay at home and do the HOUSEWORK! And boys used to go to school and work really hard."

"That's all changed now Harry. In fact, girls are overtaking boys at school, they're better because they work harder. Boys are hanging around thinking about fighting while the girls are getting ahead."

He mimics astonishment, mouth hanging open. "But boys can run much faster than girls! They're much better at fighting. I could beat any girl in my class."

"But Harry, that's not important any more! We don't live in caves!" I shout. "Nowadays what's important is to be able to use a computer, and to read, and work hard..." I trail off. It hardly sounds inspiring.

"So what about if we were in AFRICA? And we had to run away from the tigers? So what would the girls do then?"

We're both shouting now.

"But we don't live in Africa! We live here! And the boys are falling behind the girls!" I look at him, genuinely concerned. How can we help him not "fall behind?"

"Time for bed now."

He's very angry and upset, refuses to kiss me goodnight. "Go away!" he shouts. He puts his head under the duvet, his body bouncing furiously into bed. "Go away!"

I leave, with Max, my three year old, who goes to sleep in our bed. I feel bad. It's so easy to beat him in an argument: like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Five minutes later, the door opens. Harry stands there, shaking with sobs. "Come here, darling," I whisper. He falls into my arms, wailing. Max, on my other side, looks on curiously in the darkness.We lie like this for a while, me stroking his hair. Was I very mean, did I go too far? Or is he simply overtired?

"I'm sorry, Harry. You're so special to me; you know I love you."

The sobs continue.

"You know Harry, Daddy and I, we love having two boys," I say lamely. "We're so glad you're both boys."

He raises his head.

"But you'd say that to any child if it was your child. You'd say it if you had a girl!"

Good point.

"You know Harry," I try again. "I love the way you can run fast, I love you being so strong. All I'm saying is, it isn't everything. Other things are important too."


"And - it's important you don't look down on girls. Never look down on girls. Because I'm a girl, aren't I?"

Suddenly, he starts to cry again; as though his heart would break.

"What's wrong Harry? What is it?"

"It's just that... it's just that, I've always thought these things about girls, and now it feels like I've woken up too soon from a dream!"

Is he just overwrought? Or have I punctured a boyish ego, already based on imagining others inferior? I don't know. I wonder if I am making too much of the "girls are stupid" phase. I worry about boy culture - cool, tough, moronic - swallowing up his sweetness, his sensitivity; making him stupid. We cuddle some more; he yawns. He goes to sleep, whispering to himself about Ghostbustersn