A new tenet on parenting
I’ve been thinking again. Always dangerous in my case, but let’s give it a go.
I’ve been reading Mem Fox’s ‘Reading Magic’. Somewhere on the back of the book it’s classified as a parenting book, which is good because I started reading it as a teacher and it’s pretty thin on things like ‘facts’, ‘research’ and ‘proven good practice’ which are all things that get my little teaching brain fizzing. So then I switched register and started reading it as a parent. ‘Oh yes,’ I thought. ‘I agree with that’. ‘Yes, yes, yes’ I thought about that and … ‘Hang on’ I thought.
You see the thing is that the only reason I can read the book is because Mem Fox is a good writer. The pages are filled with wittily recounted anecdotes which make it easy to turn the page, but.
But she isn’t going to change my mind about anything really. I love reading aloud. I love the act of telling a story. The second to bottom shelf of our book case is filled with tatty copies of The very busy spider, The hungry caterpillar, We’re going on a Bear Hunt and The Gruffalo amongst others. Our little one played with books from day one. She’s almost four and a half, and she knows damn well that text conveys a message, and if my daughter is passionate about books it’s because we’ve read to her all her life. So, you see Mem is preaching to the converted. And I hate to be pessimistic, but if you are the kind of parent who doesn’t see the point in reading to your child, I don’t think Mem is going to convince you with some humorous personal experience. And when I thought about it I don’t actually remember my parents reading to me. What I do remember is my Dad telling me stories of Mauritius, about the laughing policemen and walking on coals, so that when I visited at age 14 I had such a vivid mental picture that was nothing like what I really saw.
Basically, my point is that I have this idea about parenting and it doesn’t really come from books. Yes, yes, I had ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ and ‘What to expect the first year’, but they were so innocuous that you couldn’t get upset with them, not the way I got upset with my mother within five minutes of her meeting my month old baby and criticising everything I did. And then there was Gina Ford – holy moly! And that Pamela Druckerman, don’t get me started on her. Basically I’ve decided that these people are vampires. They write these parenting books to prey on our insecurities and make us feel like we’re doing something wrong. Believe me I have insecurities about parenting, I’ve killed so many plants that the first few days I just couldn’t believe that I’d managed to keep this little thing alive. I worry that one day she will grow up and we’ll have a shitty relationship. I worry that she’ll grow up full stop. I worry that I’m too grumpy, that I spend too much time writing, that I don’t pay enough attention to her friendships at school and that I’m not ‘in’ the playdate circle enough. I feel guilty every time I go to a concert and she says: ‘Take me with you’. And I do want to take her, I do, but when she’s a little bit older and can stay up that late. Did I give her enough vegetables, milk, vitamin D…
And when I’m done with all that worrying, I wonder what are we worrying about? What good does all the worrying do? To be honest some of the best moments I have with my Mummy friends is when we’re comparing all our f**k ups. I just wonder if maybe I should join those hoard of vampires, except my book would be all about love and baby carriers that are good for your back and just rolling with it. Oh and there would be a chapter about baby-led weaning (the only parent book I was ever passionate about really). There’d be a big long chapter about why hitting or smacking is just goddam wrong. I’d also advocate that swearing in front of a child is not as catastrophic as you think, especially when you stub your toe or drop your vegetables on the floor by accident. Sweets? Well if you can get away with it and keep your hair, go for it, personally I’m living with one of those members of the population who gets ‘HIGHper’. I would be a big advocate for musicals, not High School Musical or that Disney dross, no The Sound of Music or Mary Poppins or The Wizard of Oz, the good stuff you know. And of course, last but not least, read, read anything, the newspaper, the internet, kids books, adult books, read, read, read. And did I mention boogeying round the kitchen to a bit of really loud Foo Fighters? Or brainwashing them that Batman is the BESTEST superhero of them all?
I’ll leave you with a bit of Billy Bragg…
… just because.
- Interview with Mem Fox (heartmama.net)