Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Child rearing wisdom

I have topped a parenting blog index this month, I see from my statistics. Welcome, people who are interested in childcare stuff and thank you for visiting! I can't imagine you'll be sticking around for long, so I feel I should mark this moment in some way. Perhaps I could share some of my parenting wisdom quickly, while I can? I have LOADS. Yes, no-one in this house ever comes up to me and says "Je sais que tu vas dire 'fucking hell', maman, mais..*" Also, one of my friends has just had a baby. I bet she's dying to hear me make like Gwynnie and give her a heap of worthy advice about never letting your baby cry and banning tv and breastfeeding on demand for 18 years, bwahahhahahaa.

The things I have learned - and wholly failed to implement - in 8 years:

1. Never buy those brightly coloured maize pellets they sell in worthy Germanic toyshops, you know, the ones with those stupid Haba games that are almost as rubbish as Woodcraft Folk non-competitive games. As they disintegrate attractively, the colour runs all over you, your children, your pet, and your carpets. Maize pellets make you hate everyone and drive you to commit acts of frothing, elaborate violence.

2. See also glitter, the dandruff of Beelzebub. Playdoh is also the work of the forces of darkness. In fact, screw anything creative that requires your input. Nothing brings home to you quite how unpleasantly arsey and uptight you actually are - well, I am - than craft projects "NO not like that darling just give it here for a moment", then five hours later, there you are making a precise replica of the Lindisfarne Gospel using Fimo and raffia. Evidence here.

3. Buy more kitchen roll. Then buy even more. See also: tissues. Gloves. Socks. Pencils. Red and black felt tips. Wine. Especially buy lots of that.

4. Do not give in to their incessant demands and get a pet. "Please mama", they will say, all big pleading eyes and fluting, longing voices. "We really will look after it and walk it and brush its hairs and feed it bones". You will feel yourself start to weaken. Animals are good for children, you will tell yourself. They teach them vital life lessons about responsibility, and nurturing. Ha. Do they hell. If you feel you yourself need lessons in nurturing and responsibility (hmm, in my case the answer may be yes), go right ahead, but otherwise, do NOT give in. Also, please remember, even RABBITS live for more years than you could possibly imagine, probably far after your children, who have looked, desultorily, at the rabbit four times in the last ten years, have gone off to rack up 6 figure debts at university learning Gaming Science or something. Do you think they are going to come back to squeeze the pus out of the rabbit's abscess? To massage the iguana's arthritic hip? Worm the senile dog? Well, do you?

No. Get a Roomba and tell them it is their special robo-pet. Damn! I really wish I had thought of that a few years ago, it would have worked like a charm.

5. Do not promise you can make a cake in the shape of "Gyrados fighting with Regigigas on the top of an erupting volcano" if you can't, however seductive it is to see their tiny faces lighting up. Manage expectations:

"Your cake can be square, or round". See? Choice, but MANAGEABLE choice.

6. Whatever Oliver James says, do not listen. He is just cross that someone stole his lips.

7. A high tolerance for whining can move mountains. The higher your tolerance, the more likely your children will give up and go and find some way of amusing themselves. This is the nirvana of parenting, the higher state of existence to which we all aspire. Deafness probably also helps. Earplugs, at a pinch.

8. Have an odd number. An odd number of children avoids the Two Child Stalemate Law (The Two Child Stalemate Law: whatever a parent suggests, one child will agree and the other will not, unless the thing is tidying bedrooms or walking the unwisely acquired real pet). If there is no deciding vote, you are always thrown into the rôle of weary, screeching Solomon. It you had wanted to be a judge, you would be a judge and get paid for it and get to wear excellent robes and a wig and not know who The Beatles and Gazza are. You are not a judge. Have an odd number of children and give them an early lesson in simple majority voting.

(People with odd numbers of children: I suspect I am being naive here. How does it all go wrong?)

9. In every large shop, in every town, in every country there is an elderly lady waiting to disapprove of your parenting. Greet her with a cheery smile, and a wave of your crack pipe.

10. Children have the aesthetic sensibilities of weasels on acid. Let them choose their own clothes, by all means, but not your living room rug.

I think that's all I have. One or more pieces of childrearing advice from each commenter, please, to mark this happy day.

(*"I know you're going to say 'fucking hell' mum, but..")



I have actually just had to change my pyjamas. I am not proud, but I am very happy.

Lisa-Marie said...

I have a degree in education and do childcare as a living. My best tip is this -

Parenting books say you should discuss/negotiate things with your children. This is true to a large extent (if you want them to make something of themselves and be good, reasonable people), BUT don't be fooled into thinking this is always true. You are bigger than them. 'this is not a discussion, I am the grown up and we are doing what I say' is sometimes necessary. And entirely acceptable. If that doesn't work, bribery might.

Actually I have two more

-Giving toddlers glitter and glue and leaving the room for a wee might seem like a good idea. It is not.

-Chocolate before bedtime is also not. It will make life difficult and mean much more time before you can have some gin.

Anonymous said...

If you go to Ireland, never let your children drink Club Orange. Giving them wine or Guiness would cause less trouble.

And if you carry them around Paris after midnight, their shoes will fall off...must be the atmosphere.

InvisibleWoman said...

Very fine advice. Sadly my children are almost grown. If only you had been around 15 years ago. Might I add; Lego is the curse of the devil. Especially if you kneel on it (while trying to coax the hamster from under the sofa).

WrathofDawn said...

"... glitter, the dandruff of Beelzebub... " made me do a real LOL.

WV is hooks. Which is just about the best parenting advice I've ever seen. Large hooks secured firmly to the wall from which you can hang the children from their jacket collars if they become difficult. Yes. You must do this thing.

Nothing to see here, Belgian version of Child Services and Protection.

Hot Cross Mum said...

All seems perfectly reasonable advice to me! Had to call in and say hello and doff my cap at your blogging awesomeness-ness.

WrathofDawn said...

I mean hang them up, not HANG them. I'm not a monster.

New WV - gaggivi, which is what the children will do if you hang them up by their collars.

I'm hitting the WV jackpot today, aren't I?

Laura said...

Maize...pellets...? Clueless Yankee is clueless. I am envisioning large capsules of compressed sawdust, but surely this is incorrect, because I can't fathom how that's a toy, even an unsatisfactory German one. Help?

Waffle said...

Ugh, Laura, they are sort of like those packing chips you get, but very brightly coloured. And slightly moistened, you can stick them together to make sculptures. Alternatively, you can leave them on your bedroom floor, spill a glass of water and allow it all to marinate. Mmmmmmm craft.

pinolona said...

I'm from a three-kid family. Usually the older two will disagree and try to bribe and/or beat the third into being on their side. This is especially jolly on the back seat of an Austin Montego on a twelve-hour car journey to Inverness.

Rhia said...

Im from a four child family and it was thee weirdest dynamic as it was always three against one. The combination of children on each side would change regularly but not the ganging up mentality...We love each other really. Anyone from a 5+ child family? How does that work?

Em said...

I'm at the continuously-never-stop-everything's-up-for-it negotiating stage of parenthood with my 14 year old. When she coolly observed that my voice was getting 'high pitched' I lowered it to the point of sounding like Barry White and choked. She smirked and I went straight back up to soprano and reversed the car into the (closed) garage door.
So, um, always open the garage door before reversing.

irretrievablybroken said...

My childrearing motto was taken from Caligula: Oderint dum metuant.

Nice man. Fond of horses, too.

Lisa-Marie said...

Em, i have never been the parent of teenagers (i am 28, so having a 14 year old would be bad), but surely you can still occasionally say 'we are doing this my way or i'm keeping your pocket money to buy make-up with'.

Summer Kinard said...

OMG, I've seen those maize chips in stores here. They call them sculpting peanuts or something similarly misleading. Good to know that they are evil.

My advice: Don't worry about limiting TV time. Just limit episodes. The children get bored with watching the same few things and ignore the screen in favor of actual play.

S said...

i love it. had a really good laff. we were three- but my younger sisters always did their own thing- so my parents were ok with having 3 kids (your rule applied)- what one should do is space them out so the younger two can gang up on the eldest (as mine did till we grew older and became best friends). x shayma

Patience_Crabstick said...

"Dandruff of Beelzebub" Oh my GOD! That was funny.

The three words no mother wants to hear: "Don't worry, mom." That is exactly when you should worry. My aunt actually insisted that the family boat be named the Don't Worry Mom.
And if your child says, "I have a ride home," it will definitely turn out that she doesn't have a ride home and you will have to haul yourself out of bed at 01:00 and drive the dark streets of your city with an address that might be correct scrawled on a tiny piece of paper that you are clutching against your steering wheel.
My kids are teens. I look back on the ages of 5-9 as the golden age.

Anonymous said...

When you spend 18 years trying to teach your dangerously over eager to please daughter to stand up for herself, try not to completely flip when she finally does - by saying a very emphatic and non negotiable NO to you!

Remember that you can have hours of fun at their expense,

Alison Cross said...

I agree whole-heartedly with the manageable choices thing.

NEVER say 'what would you like for dinner darling?' because you will find yourself burdened with a weird list of foodstuffs, none of which you want them to eat for their main meal.

And then you will have the tantrums and the 'but YOU asked me!' teary eyed hell.

Simply say: Meatballs on toast or macaroni cheese?

They still get to choose, but from a menu that you feel like doing.

oh - and it's plastercine that is the Devil's Toy. It never goes hard enough to pick off the carpet - Playdoh does go hard and you CAN get it off.

And in 10 years, that's about my entire stock of child-rearing knowledge.

Em said...

Lisa-Marie, oh yes, I certainly do lay down the law and things (basically anything that gives her communication with other 14 year olds) are taken away. Just not always with the poise and dignity I'd like hence driving into the garage door!

Madame DeFarge said...

I may never have children, but even I feel some benefit from these parental bon mots.

Iota said...

Never ask a child if they have finished vomiting. They will say "yes", you will remove the bucket, then they will immediately vomit again.

Oh and the odd number thing? Three means you get a middle child.

Congrats on your number one spot.

Bryony said...

I myself am oldest of two but I have three and have to say, three works better than two. More combinations obviously, but easier to manage by doing deals.

My only parenting advice is to have very low (horizontal even) expectations of anything. Anything more is a bonus.

Xtreme English said...

The fun doesn't even START until they're in their 20s....

katyboo1 said...

middle children are hell on wheels. I think five is the optimum number if we're going for odd numbers. Three is a nightmare I'm telling you.

My children ate the maize pellets and ended up with rainbow coloured tongues.

Yes on the managed choices. mine are things like 'do what I say, or die horribly.' That's a good choice to give them.

Also never, ever threaten them if you're not prepared to carry out the threat. They will crucify you when you cave in.

Anonymous said...

I was laughing till I got to Xtreme English's comment. Mine are rising 19 and 17. I thought they were on the verge of becoming human - does this mean it can still get worse?

My advice is that bribery is fine while they are young, but discontinue when they are teenagers and move on to grounding/confiscation of mobiles etc as bribery will become VERY expensive the older they get.

I am going off to cry now.

Laurel said...

Ohhhh. I think they used those pellets once at my kids' daycare. I had no idea of the lethal potential.

My children are almost-4 and 1.5 and so I'm relatively low on child-rearing advice, being new to the game. You parents of older children are striking terror into my heart, though.

Margaret said...

"Run out" of batteries. I was 43 before I realized that my parents had never actually run out of batteries or forgotten to buy them. It doesn't make sense now that you don't have kids, but believe me, someday you will thank me.

There were eight of us and all that meant was Coalitions of Various Sizes and Configurations and more trips to the ER. Most important: Parents must always present a united front. We were never able to play my folks off against one another, much to our collective chagrin.

The only pet you should get is a goldfish. Also: Don't "babysit" the school's hamsters over vacation. Just don't.

Kelly said...

justice and democracy are for nation states not families

Anonymous said...

Fantastic advice all round. Well done!
And here is one more: When they cry and pout and look like the world has ended, just tease, and laugh and tickle and tell them that "they will be glad again soon." Perspective is everything.

fourstar said...

Bravo. My good lady wife's blog just suddenly leapt in at #100 in that list, so I'll be telling her to study all your parenting advice to the letter, before I get home this evening :)

bbonthebrink said...

'Buy more red and black felt tips'...oh yes oh yes and oh yes. Add pink to the list if you have a girl under 6.

When you punish your child make sure the punishment is pleasing to you...for example at park in sub-zero temperatures... "if you do that ONE more time, we leave the park and go home" Whereupon you're delighted when they do it ONE more time so you can go back to the warm and...shhh... drink vin-chaud, par exemple.

mountainear said...

The ability to separate/whack fighting children on the back seat of the car while driving at speed, in traffic, is much under-rated.

Johnners said...

Oh thank you, I'm not alone!
We've tried negotiating and we've tried building up to a crescendo of shouting. We also bicker and present a disunited front. There will be no peace until they move out (which may be sooner than they think if social services get onto us...) They are only 3 and 5. If I was able to follow a manual of any kind I would know where to put the oil in the car, never mind bring up a child or two according to Mr James. I just try to aim a lot of love at them and hang onto the hope that they won't be, you know, awful. said...

I'm am STILL laughing at how a woman whose blog motto includes the words 'unfit mother, slattern' ended up Queen of the parenting blog sites. Kudos to you!!

daisydot said...

My only piece of reliable parenting advice is, what goes in must come out. Everything else is dealt with on how I feel at the moment!

That said, I have three children and have managed to get them to ages 16 and 11 (twins).

Sniffle said...

There is no middle child with 3 – there is an eldest boy and girl – someone should really tell the girl though.

Be tall – especially if you intend on feeding them well – giving out when you’re pointing upwards isn’t half effective.

Make like you’re strong - girls gang together and laugh at you – I’m told they respond to strength.

Anonymous said...

(especially oliver james' non-lips). you really are a genius
much love
megster xxx

Kirsten said...

"the dandruff of Beelzebub" - you are a genius! I HATE playdoh (doh!).

My parenting wisdom is twofold: 1) baskets and bins for toy "organizing" - just throw them in and everything looks more tidy! 2) If your child refuses to potty train, teach him to change his own diapers. Enjoy...

Pat in Belgium said...

Best advice given to me from dear friend Cindy: Never forget who's the adult and that it is NOT an "equal" (or "democratic") relationship. Mom (preferably WITH Dad, but without, if necessary) has the last say, including total veto power.

@ Marie: I am the oldest of six; we were roughly divided into two factions -- top three, bottom three (there's 19 years between me & my youngest sister). The best thing I can say about that is we were so numerous that when our mother "lost" it and looked for the switch (being big on corporal punishment) one had a one in six chance of escaping in the scramble.
I have a daughter, 22, my next sis has two boys, the first brother one girl...the younger sibs (punished less) have had larger families (5, 4 and 3 children).

Pat (in Belgium)

frau antje said...

The most important interaction resulting from my (non-biological) child rearing, seems to have been showing said child the vestigial thumb near the end of a horse's leg.

But that's neither here nor there when dealing with one's own siblings. Whoops, time to go knock back some temazepam with bourbon (time does fly when you're having fun).

Grit said...

Parent input, suitable for all situations of sibling rivalry & conflict negotiation:

'If it's not bleeding from three places, I don't want to know'.

GingerB said...

This explains why my daughters' cheap Disney Belle costumes had me singing "Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me-e-ee" while I watched the school program at Halloween amd dug at my eye to remove tiny glittery bits of metal made by melamine eating slaves in China.

Xtreme English said...

@Alienne: din't mean to discourage you. problems don't get worse as they grow out of their teens--just different. when they're infants, you're exhausted, and then there's that long, excruciating childhood from 18 months to approximately 27 (Waffle describes it all so well, though she's only about half-way through). but for generating gray hairs, young adulthood, 27 to 40, takes the prize. After they're 40, you can buy yourself a nice teapot and a carton of smokes and an endless supply of Jamieson's and go to hell in your own handcart. Everybody gets to sail or sink their own ship. Then it will be your turn.

Betty M said...

Girls under 8 (no personal expensive of older ones) will always go for the cheapest, tackiest clothes and shoes. £5 to spend in Primark on anything they want is the ultimate birthday treat.

Helen@Soft Leather Baby Shoes said...

When you can't be bothered to argue the best response to any question is "we'll see" or "I'll think about it". It works for about 2 years until they work out you really mean NO!

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