Picking Sides

  We’re big fans of avoiding gender stereotypes in our household. 

G does ballet and loves Elsa, pink and the girl pups from Paw Patrol, but she also grew up playing with train tracks, dumper trucks and football.

She started playing football when she was 3, at a local class called Diddikicks. She loved it so much she kept going until she turned 6 and she could join the after school football club. C has now started at Diddikicks too and is just about getting the hang of things, and enjoying it as much as her big sister did.

Other than her Diddikicks kit, G’s first football kit was a yellow and blue Sweden kit – an awesome gift from her Scandinavian cousins.

When she grew out of this and needed a new one for school we gave her a choice of country kits – Scottish like her Dad, Welsh like her Mum or English for where she was born. She chose Welsh, and I had a smug face for days, maybe even weeks.

But disaster struck, and the Wales kit went missing. I suspect foul play, but regardless, G needed a kit to wear to football club, so I stiffened my upper lip and we duly trotted off to our local sports shop to pick something up in time for her next class.

Not being a huge football fanatic myself, it had kind of passed me by that at some point G might have to choose her football allegiances. And I naively hoped we could simply skirt the issue – after all she’s still a 6 year old girl who struggles to decide what her favourite TV show or breakfast cereal is on a daily basis.

But there we were, confronted with a simple, yet baffling choice – Manchester United, Manchester City or Liverpool.

G studied the aisle carefully. She picked up one, then another, then started checking for her size, blissfully unaware of the importance of the decision she was making and how it would quite possibly stick with her for the rest of her life. And I did want this to be her decision, not mine.

“I want the red one, Mummy!” she started by saying, and so I explained to her that one of the red ones was Liverpool, and the other Manchester United, and did she have a preference?

She hesitated, hovering between the shirts, and looked up at me as if expecting me to know the answer.

“Well” I started, “I know Liverpool have a women’s team, but I have a feeling Manchester United don’t, do you want me to check?”.  Suddenly reminded of something we had said previously, G piped up “which is the one we could go and see?”

“We could see any of them” I replied, “but I think we talked about maybe going to see the Manchester City women’s team.”

“That’s the one I want,” she responded, quickly finding her size on the rack and exclaiming “oh look! It even comes with socks!”

So, Manchester City it is! Unless she changes her mind of course…

Fast forward a couple of days. Picking her up in the evening after her football class, I asked her if her friends at school had liked her new kit.

“No,” she replied, “except J, as he likes City. The others all said ‘City in the bin, United win’. I told them ‘United in the bin, City win’ but they said that was made up.”

My heart sank. We’d made such an effort to ensure she hadn’t been put off things like football as a result of being a girl – had all that effort been spoilt by something so simple as picking a shirt?

“You’ll never guess what happened when I saw Mr T and Mrs E,” she continued, “they said ‘ewwww, go away!’ because they don’t like City.”

I could feel my blood rising.

Then she laughed. “It was so funny” she said, “that I couldn’t stop laughing all the way back to the hall!”

As she turned and carried on playing with her toys, still giggling away, I thought to myself “we must be doing alright at this parenting lark.”