Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Dear parents...

Prepare to be offended.

Someone who is not a parent has no legal or moral right to tell those who are how to raise their children. Someone who is a parent but not of the children concerned will likewise find their advice unwelcome.

But I'm going to do it anyway. Not because I expect in the least you'll listen, or greet it with anything other than 'WELL IF YOU'D HAD CHILDREN...' as though the absence of progeny indicates mental or emotional incapacity of some kind.

Perhaps it does; but it also provides for that thing called objectivity which is hard even for the most self-critical of parents to keep hold of for long once a demanding bundle of baby appears and they lose sight of almost everything beyond the extent of their love, anxiety and protectiveness.

So let me first say the thing that will offend you most: I don't care how you raise your children.

Whether they will do as they're told, rebel, go to the right school or the wrong one, eat their greens or live off Quavers, have a gluten intolerance or any one of the billion different things you worry about every day matters not a tiny jot to me or most of the other people on the planet.

If you've raised them so badly that in the years to come they break into my house to steal a DVD player and sell it for £10 to buy a rock of crack well, then I'd like the opportunity to point out the error of your ways. But by and large I trust my fellow human beings to be doing the best they can with the resources to hand, and I expect most of you will muddle along quite well by yourselves.

But there is a prevailing attitude at the moment that you're not supposed to. That you must be guided, ordered, sheltered, helped, instructed by the state or others otherwise you'll get it hopelessly wrong. Breast is best, five a day, childhood obesity, air pollution, the horrors of sexualisation.

I was bottle-fed on tinned Carnation milk, purely because there was a government campaign for it at the time. Not that it mattered - aside from a very sweet tooth I seem unharmed.

Even though I'm not a parent I find this nannying attitude offensive and I reckon it plays a large role in infantilising parents to the point where they're terrified of everything, tyrannised by too much choice (what is the genuine difference between all those nappies?), stop using their brains and go through life holding their child before them as though it were a shield or an explanation.

And there are some who just scream 'WAH! UNFAIR!' at the top of their lungs as though life were a bed of roses for everyone else.

So, purely in order to wind up the hard of thinking, here is a list of the bleeding obvious from someone who doesn't think womb productivity is the only way to rate opinion:

1. Do not give your children mobile phones when they are seven years old. This is very stupid. Aside from the risks of radiation on tiny brains, no child of that age should be alone long enough to need to ring an adult. If they are ringing other seven year olds, give them a football and tell them to go outside. If as some have suggested they have been gifted a phone by separated parents in order to have regular access you need to a) get a better relationship with your ex and act like a grown-up b) turn off picture and internet services on the account first. If you do not, and their schoolfriends are still able to bully them at midnight and forward pictures of their bits, you have only yourselves to blame.

2. On a similar note, if you let your children use the internet and they find porn this is absolutely and entirely YOUR FAULT. Either a) you have been watching porn online and they've tripped over it b) you have failed to tick the very simple box saying you don't want to see porn or c) you have absolutely no idea what 99% of humanity is like. The reason all that porn is freely available - alongside news, information, and gruesome pictures of murder scenes you also might not want them to view - is because adults want it that way. If you wouldn't let your child skip about unsupervised on the M25 then don't do it on the information superhighway.

3. Don't feed them Quavers. Like, ever. And don't call them 'kids' unless they are actually baby goats.

4. If you decide to have children everything that falls out from that is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. Birth control is cheap, we all know how babies are made, and the morning-after pill is freely available. No-one else is under a compunction to pay for it or feel sorry for you. Yes, child benefit has changed and the system's not very fair, but it's not very fair to an awful lot of people so as harsh as this sounds you're just going to have to get used to it. Be glad you're parenting with better chances than someone who's been blown-up in Afghanistan or whose partner smacks them about. If you seriously thought having a child would be cheap, easy or stress-free you're probably married to Prince William. Stop whining.

5. There is nothing special about you. Well, there is of course about each of us, in our own way and to the people who love us. But people have been having babies for, ooh, the whole of human history and a little bit before, so frankly unless you give birth to the next stage of human evolution you're no different. It might be the first time it has happened to you and it can be frightening, but look around you at everyone else who's coping in worse circumstances, then man up and sort yourself out.

6. Pushchairs and prams are not protected by an invisible forcefield that repels cars. Walking into the road without looking and presuming vehicles will bounce harmlessly off the baby you are pushing into the road ahead of you is dim in the extreme.

7. On a similar note, you do not own the pavement. Walk to one side and have consideration for the elderly, other pedestrians or dog-walkers who shouldn't have to walk in the road.

8. Do not take your baby on a plane if you can possibly avoid it. Of course they cry and are frightened, especially if they have an ear infection, and they have no idea how to deal with the change in air pressure. Wait until they know how to pop their ears and can be trusted not to kick in the kidneys of the person sitting in front of them. Who cares if you can't holiday in Australia for a bit? See point 4 and get used to Cornwall.

9. Don't let them play with guns.

10. The greatest cause of misery in the world is people treating one another badly. It's broken hearts and damaged minds, and most of it is avoidable. The only way to teach your children to be faithful, honest, and kind is to be that way yourself. Show them that men who are good to women, and women who have the wit to demand it, are happier than those who don't.

And that's pretty much it. The rest I leave up to you, and in fact if you want to ignore points 1 to 10 that's your choice too. It's just that if perhaps we didn't treat parents like they'd contracted a terrible disease, and just expected everyone to have a bit more common sense, it might be a little bit easier on all concerned.

Children can bring you great joy and utter misery, and there's not a lot you can do about either. Those that have them do those of us who don't the favour of producing future taxpayers and the nurses who'll wipe our bums one day, and raising them in such a way to keep everyone happy is impossible. Katie Hopkins, for one, would always find something to criticise.

So the final bit of advice, for what it's worth, is to relax. Find the best in your situation, work hard to overcome whatever the worst will be, and so long as you stick to the basics you can probably ignore all the nazis insisting you do things differently.

You can never raise them right; but you can raise them well.

But trust me on the Quavers.