Lordy, bringing up children is fraught with responsibility. Constant worrying, questioning and self-doubt could be crippling if one allowed it to be. There is so much advice out there. Some of it horribly conflicting.
One of my favourite books is called What are children for? by Laurie Taylor and Matthew Taylor, a father and son pair who explore why people are choosing not to have children in our society, and what people who do often expect from ‘family’. I read it when Son No 1 was still just a baby, perhaps hoping it might tell me what I was meant to be doing with my small person in a simple and easy to understand way.
In fact What are children for? questions the value of child-care advice. They point out that the ubiquitous pontificating we parents are faced with is often not worth listening to. “Much of this output takes the form of experts advising parents on what they should or should not do to bring up their children safely, responsibly, and successfully. A large proportion of these pronouncements is pious in tone and based on dubious scientific findings, but nothing, it seems, can stem the tide.”
I’m not entirely sure how saying, “That’s it! I’m going castrate you all!” would go down with the experts but Son No 1 said, “I don’t think you’re meant to use that as threat, Mum, you know for the sake of our future well-being…”
Actually last night I tried hard to be a very stern and strict parent who demanded a kind of dictatorial sense of order. Well, they looked at me with utter shock for about 30 seconds before all four of us burst out laughing, a little hysterically it must be said, and then carried on as usual.
Whatever the truth about parenting, I think my over-riding ambition is to instill a sense of honesty in them. I hate lies. I can’t bear the stupidity of lying. My dream partner would be someone who understood just how utterly ridiculous lies can be, which of course may just be a fantastical dream but one lives in hope…(It has to be said, if someone asks you “Do I look fat in this?” there is a certain amount of diplomacy required.) Blatant, stupid, nonsensical lies really get my goat.
They know how I feel about lying, and although like all children they continue to tell utterly pathetic lies from time to time, they always do it half-heartedly now and then retract it pretty soon afterwards. If I instill nothing else other than an abhorrence of lying, then I’d feel like I’d have done one small thing for the good of society.
Maybe that’s a failing in me. My dearest oldest friend tells me I have some sort of honesty Tourette’s and perhaps she’s right. I tend to disagree though as I have prevented myself from being honest in the past for fear of looking stupid. And have always regretted it. In any case looking stupid is not so bad. You pick yourself up and move on, don’t you? Better to stick to your guns and be honest, I’ve come to realise and hope the kids will realise that too.
So, as far as parenting advice goes, I think I’ll end this week’s post with a quote from Frank Ferudi’s Paranoid Parenting, which I found thoroughly sensible, intelligent, the opposite of pious and extremely well researched:
“Parenting is not a complex science. It is not even a science at all. It is actually just a natural undertaking. Sometimes ordinary, sometimes boring and even banal, bringing up children is always demanding. Parents can afford to make mistakes, although they would do well to learn from them… Be prepared to call the expert’s bluff.”
I think that means… Chill!
Here are some photos of some kiddies from a recent session of Mini-Shoots I did at Piglets Play Centre in Hersham, Surrey. I’ll do another at some point soon so if you’re after some professional portraits and a day out watch this space!
Paranoid Parenting by Frank Ferudi published by Continuum 2008
What Are Children For? by Laurie Taylor and Matthew Taylor Short Books 2003