His Mam and I are in the middle of a debate.
One one side there’s the unpleasant fantasy: the unrestrained, unexplained violence that comes with the playground’s Superhero obsession, which is both deeply unhealthy and entirely inappropriate for little kids. He’s confused and upset by it. Try explaining to a four-year-old that Spiderman doesn’t really hit people, or that Turtles don’t actually use the swords. We find it difficult to reassure and guide – well correct – a little boy who is torn between being naturally gentle and trying to impress bigger friends.
On the other hand there’s realism. We want him to understand that professional soldiers do an honorable and important job protecting us and our values. We’re deeply proud as a family of the Welsh Guards tradition that was part of my grandparents’ family life and is part of my own inheritance. That’s shaped me not least in matters sartorial such the magnificent tailoring that has been passed to me as the eldest (and most burly) grandson, as well as the patiently-taught ability to polish shoes to a mirror shine. It’s also contributed to my overwhelming respect for the men and women in the forces, whether working with them or meeting them in the street.
The Boy would love to be a Guardsman, and few moments have been as delicious as when he patiently explained to a lovely (but seriously tough) Para that real soldiers wear furry hats and red coats. He’s corrected tourists that “the stampy man with lots of one buttons” was a Grenadier, not a Scots Guard. But he’s getting to understand that the swords, the guns and the training are for grown up men in a very strict last resort, and that any time they’re used it has big consequences. I’ve never been prouder of him than when he explained to the regulars in our local pub why he wears his own poppy, and why it’s sad that soldiers were shot.
So do we indulge his love of the red coats, and request Santa to bring the Guardsman costume? I think yes. Our lovely friends, Mrs G’s much loved hon. godparents, brought up their son peaceably, deliberately without toy guns or soldier toys.
He joined the Royal Marines.