I seldom find panel shows to be sources of wisdom, but one the other night was clearly an exception that proved the rule. It posed the following question to its participants: ‘If there was one piece of advice you could give your younger self what would it be?’ There were various answers to it, but the one that struck me in particular was simply, to be more confident. Now, I know that doesn’t sound particularly revelatory, but as one unpacks that concept, one begins to see that in some ways it can be revolutionary. Consider my life. If I’m honest it was not until the first rushes of youth had passed me by, like a series of unkempt hitchhikers on the side of a busy carriage way, that I came to that tricky fork in the road. A series of events (not unfortunate like Lemon Snickety but they had left me ponderous nevertheless) prompted me to ask myself, ‘Am I doing what people expect me to do or am I doing what feels right?’ By this I didn’t mean, should I ditch the 9-5 and preoccupy myself with the pursuit of hedonistic bacchanalian revelry, you know, the type that ends up somewhere exotic like a souk bar in Marrakech, but rather, did I have the courage of my convictions? To be honest, I didn’t really have an answer to this, but I did have a new found resolve to try and ensure I did so from then on. So why then am I telling you this and what does it have to do with all this mothering business?
When I became a mama for the first time (I hope you’re imagining that word said with a cute baby twang and not in hairy and slightly greasy Italian chef way) there was so much literature on the subject. You would have thought the entire tome of human endeavour had been devoted to this one activity alone. There was everything from Gina Ford to Henry and a whole lot in between. Much of it contradicted itself, which made sense in a mercantile sort of way. After all you can’t rewrite the same thing ad nauseum and expect people to shell out fifty shekels for it every time. What really concerned me were the vast parts of these contributions that appeared to look down, rather disapprovingly to my mind, on what I should be doing. Moreover, I really felt that these ‘baby trainers’ were helping to create insecure and frightened children.
Let me explain…
Firstly, we all know that motherhood can be scary. Now, if you add into the mix the fact that you are drowning in the collective wisdom of a thousand authors who are each telling you that they’ve been there, bought the T-Shirt, saddled the horse, dug the well and built an African village and for a small donation in the form of a book purchase can make it all go away. With a constant stream of caring but jittery mothers making their way pass book shop windows like migrating salmon it’s easy to see why they are in this racket. It’s tempting, right, to abdicate a measure of autonomy in the hope that somehow these people must know best.
Well, they don’t.
Don’t get me wrong there are some good ideas out there for health, safety, nutrition and so on, but a line must be drawn in the sand. You and your child are your own personal fiefdom and I’m convinced that no interloper can tell a reasonable mother what is best when trying to emotionally and spiritually connect with their child. These are individual beings and they are as different as one snowflake is from another (yes, they really are all different) and there is no one size fits all.