“Boys will be boys” – but won’t girls?

There is one book that I remember vividly from my childhood, and that book is aptly named ‘The Wild Baby’ – a title synoptic of my childhood.

Written by Barbro Lindgren and beautifully illustrated by Eva Eriksen in 1985, the book is written in poetic stanzas, joyfully skipping through the story of a mother, who spends her days chasing after her darling wayward child Ben.

‘Mama loved her baby Ben 

Her small and precious child

But he always disobeyed her,

He was reckless loud and wild.’

As an infant this book was my favourite, I vicariously lived my life through Ben. I stole ideas to fill my dreams of running off into the woods overnight, chopping off other children’s hair and getting stuck up trees. In the context of a bedtime story this was all harmless fun, until I reached the age where it was apparent I was one of those kids – determined to make all their dreams a reality.

I got lost in the woods, and I got sent home from school with fists full of hair, and I took great joy in hiding up my favourite tree whilst my friends frantically searched below. If my dear mum knew then what she knows now, maybe ‘the wild baby’ would not have been the bedtime literature of choice… it inspired me to be the girl with the wild mannerisms of the boys. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I was determined to be one of them, for my long, blonde, badly cut locks not to act as a curtain between me and ‘those’ boys.

When I re-visit the book, fully grown out of my wild child ways (well five days a week at least), it seems there are several readings of this supposedly innocent book that I missed. Do you (and by you I mean girls aged between 18 and 25, the rest of you can think of your own examples) remember that awful feeling when you first heard the Spice Girl’s hit, ‘Two become one’, as an adult, and realised its more literal meaning…

Well I’m getting that gut churning, utterly horrified feeling now as I sit here with my beloved baby Ben. He is a prolific symbol of all the woes of the modern family. We see a single mother, jobless, unable to control her little son as he goes out terrorising the neighbourhood. Nowadays we seem the same destructive trend growing with little girls, which I am afraid to admit I may have started. The plateaux on which men and women are supposed to peacefully and equally coexist today, has certainly not taken the strongest qualities from both genders. Instead it has allowed women to lower their standards to rejoice in the apish behaviour that men have been enjoying since the turn of time. As an adult this is a sad state of affairs, but oh what fun it was as a child. As a child you can push boundaries, experiment, and live your life as though you were your favourite book character. It’s the point of being a kid. It’s those that don’t grow up that need our concern, or maybe the rest of us need theirs?

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