I have, on occasion, ventured into the contentious world of blogging parental advice. I do not claim to be Miriam Stoppard, or the frankly terrifying Annabel Karmel. They are both efficient, trouser suited type women who run their lives and the lives of the infants under their care with a type of military precision that I am incapable of even thinking of without wanting to weep…
or hide in a cupboard.
I do however, feel that parenting manuals written by such doyennes of the field often miss crucial informations that, had I or you, or any of us, known anything about them beforehand, would have saved an enormous amount of anguish over the months and years. Although gin sales might have dipped slightly (I have a theory that Miriam is sponsored by Gordons’. I’d put money on Annabel being a Hendricks’ woman).
My posts are attempts to fill in these blind spots in their publications.
I suspect that the reason they don’t think about these things is because the sort of issues that I as a parent come across, simply never happen to ladies like these. I cannot imagine Annabel being caught at Lego Land with a toddler who has just abandoned their Pull Ups and done an enormous, steaming turd in the Wendy house, which they are now running through in bare feet with an abandon usually reserved only for maenads and possibly dervishes in the grip of the highest religious ecstasy. Nor would she be unable to reach said toddler due to her inability to hack her way successfully through the crush of other toddlers crowding all entrance and exit points, watching thoughtfully and taking notes.
She would definitely not only have half a packet of baby wipes with which to rectify the problem.
In this situation (with hindsight) I recommend abandoning the toddler completely and denying all knowledge. Do not, under any circumstances cry, whilst attempting to apologise to everyone in the Western hemisphere and keep a toddler slick with shit and sweat tucked under your arm like a particularly unpleasant bit of carpet.
Here are a few more items that I wish to advise upon.
Pick your battles. I, for example, do not give a crap if my child’s socks do not match as long as they dress themselves. If someone judges someone else for wearing odd socks it just goes to prove they have too much time on their hands and are not the sort of person you would want to associate with anyway. Imagine what they would think of the dust on your mantel piece if they can’t deal with mis matched socks.
Never be fooled by the thought: ‘It will only take a minute or two. Sod it. I’ll just do it now.’ An example would be teaching your child how to lace and then loosen laces on a pair of 8 hole Doc Marten’s at twenty past eight in the morning when you have to leave the house at half past. The levels of ineptitude exhibited by both parties in this project, one through lack of coffee, pressing time concerns and patience failure, and the other by sheer cack handedness will cause you to have to apologise to the school secretary for being twenty minutes late and cause OFSTED ratings to plummet. It is never worth it. Wait until a weekend. If that means your child going to school in espadrilles for a week in the meantime, live with it.
Never assume that your child pays any attention to routine or regularity. Remember that everything is always a massive shock to them. Everything. Examples include:
I didn’t think I had to bring my sandwich box/water bottle home, even though I do it every day. I have bought Dave’s home with me though. Is that alright?
I didn’t think I’d ever have to do PE again so I have hidden my PE kit in a gigantic mound of detritus in my room and will only decide to tell you this when it is sports’ day and I am screaming because I NEED it and it is very important and you are a useless parent for not knowing where it is. P.S. did I tell you that my trainers haven’t been fitting now for three months and you have approximately half an hour to buy me some new ones, although that half an hour will be during a school day, so you will have to hand deliver them to me.
I didn’t think to tell you that I need £27 in non sequential bank notes ( to include fourteen ten pence pieces for the lockers) this morning, and could you fill out this form, in your own blood, not forgetting to include your NHS number, your National Insurance number and details of a guarantor? It also needs to be witnessed by someone who has known you for a decade, but is not in fact related to you, and who has at least a grade C in GCSE biology. Thanks.
This will be your whole life. You will have to think for them every moment of the live long day. There is no such thing as mums’ being stupid with baby brain. It is a lie spread about by people who operate on the assumption that their mothers are still thinking for them, even though they are all grown up now and supposed to be able to do it for themselves. People like David Cameron and Sepp Blatter. It explains a lot.
What actually happens is, that once you have children your brain has to do the work for all of them, as well as for yourself, and possibly your other half. I currently have one brain doing the work of five. Is it any wonder I have moments of deep bewilderment where I think: ‘Why? Why am I here again?’ This can be taken as both a specific and a deep, metaphorical question.
My other piece of advice is to never show fear or uncertainty. Adopt Granny Weatherwax’ idea that you must, when asked any question whatsoever, even if you have no idea what the answer is, never back down from the challenge. You need to be able to do this, so that, when you are forced to take charge in times of deep crisis, all children in the area respond with Pavlovian efficiency to the ringing certainty in your voice and find themselves obeying you despite their better instincts. This is why, when asked by my 11 year old last week what Quantum Physics was about, I was able to answer: ‘It’s exactly like a mille feuille, but in space.’ She said: ‘What’s a mille feuille?’ To which I responded: ‘It’s like a vanilla slice, but in universal terms I am sure there’s no icing on it, and I’d go for confectioner’s custard over cream. It holds the space time continuum together better. Are we clear now?’ To which she responded: ‘Yes.’
Job’s a good un.