Monday, 2 March 2009

the Rules

Last week I vowed I had not nor would not read any parenting books.

But it has since been brought to my attention (by the ever vigilant Engineer) that this is not entirely true.

So in the interests of maintaining professional standards of clear, accurate copy (I thought I was the writer and he was the maker of things work) here are the true facts; I have read two books given to me by the health visitor when Snooks was born a year ago – The Pregnancy Book and Birth to Five – produced by the NHS for new parents.

Not exactly parenting books, I would say, but more in the mode of a Halfords make and model handbook – very good on the detail of where to find the parts but not much on how to actually drive.

Echoing the NHS ante-natal, post-natal and simply in-the-middle-of-natal care, they give you a steer about the basics and then you are pretty much on your own.

But I have to admit that on returning from the hospital with three-day-old Snooks this time last year, I was very grateful for the ‘this is how you keep a baby alive’ tone and found both books answered some questions I had been too embarrassed to ask. These included ‘What do children eat?’ and ‘How do you wash a baby?’

(I still had to consult a friend on the finer details of infant ablutions however, as although I had visited most parts of the male anatomy on some pretext or other in the past, I had never been there in the capacity of a cleaner before.)

Now as we approach Snooks’ first birthday, I feel more confident that I can keep him alive without the need for books.

However socialising him (a term I learned from our GP recently as I struggled to hold a conversation with him about Snooks’ ears while the patient squealed at a pitch which made mine meld back into my head) is a different matter.

These are the books I have doggedly avoided and I realise that I may come to rue the day that I didn’t subscribe to the baby Rules – those books that tell you how to produce an obedient, omega-3-fatty-acid-eating toddler who feels the power of the Naughty Step and has learned through ‘controlled crying’ that asking his parents for attention really is a cry in the dark.

Snooks already demonstrates a healthy scepticism for regulation putting his fine set of teeth to use on any visible flesh that is not his own, examining the contents of the kitchen bin in detail and of course, attempting at least once a day, to reach the water in the toilet bowl.

Stern-faced finger-wagging and patient reasoning fail to divert him from these favourites and the GP’s advice to turn away from him when he squeals has only resulted in his delight that the Engineer and I conveniently turn our back while he hurls spaghetti at the sideboard.

I can see the landmarks looming ahead – the first tantrum in the supermarket, the beginning of ‘no!’ and the first time a door is slammed in my face.

But the one I have anticipated since the day I fell in love with the swaddled bumble sleeping in the cot beside my hospital bed 12 months ago is when, at 17, he introduces me to a chewing, sullen, adolescent beauty he wants to marry, and my heart breaks.

I might be glad of a copy of the Rules then.

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