You’re sleep deprived as you rise to the challenges of the day: the noise, the mess, the endless activity. Your arbitration skills are honed to perfection; you could negotiate for the UN. Your counselling ability is stretched to capacity as you pick up the pieces of broken friendships and broken hearts, or as you bandage sprained imaginations. And lurking just outside your conscious thought is that nagging question: Am I getting this right? If this is you, then you must be a parent.
In which case, you need to read Katharine Hill’s book If you forget everything else, remember this: parenting in the primary years. Instead of this book, I had a How To book. One of my children conformed to the book so closely she could have been given away as a free sample with every copy. From the get go, my other child seemed intent on doing the polar opposite of everything in the book. I’m happy to report that they’ve both arrived in adult life intact, as caring, thoughtful and poised people, happy in their own skin. But if only I had been given this book, instead of the How To book…
The author enjoyed parenthood so much that she embarked on it four times, in the process learning a lot about the vagaries of sharing daily life with small humans. She regales readers with accounts of the day she accidentally left one of her children in London; her son’s creative use of muesli to avoid school, and the inevitable attraction of Coco Pops to the pristine clothes of children dressed for a wedding.
There are laugh-out-loud moments – her husband’s idea of calming down a boys’ sleepover in the small hours with a water pistol. There are poignant moments too – she writes movingly about the day when one of their sons, after years of snuggling into bed with them every morning, suddenly and without notice, stopped. But there is also profound wisdom in each pithy chapter.
Actually, think of it as 42 thoughts – each one short enough to read while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, but each one thought-provoking enough to make you linger over your cup of tea. Reflect on the power of words, the value of wonder and imagination and the special role of grandparents. Ponder on how to parent with elastic, how to give your child roots, and how to model values. Think about your parenting style, how you set up boundaries and how you make sure they are kept. Muse over what it means to laugh together, to eat together, to play together and to cry together. Deliberate on when to leave your child to face the consequences of their forgetfulness, when to take a walk in his moccasins and how to choose your battles.
But this isn’t just a collection of wise thoughts. It is written by a parent who has been there, done it and worn out the T shirts. Embedded in the overarching themes of love and relationship is an understanding that we’re all in this together, regardless of the differences between our children, our families and our parenting. We all feel guilty. We all feel anxious. And we all ask: Am I getting this right? While this book won’t answer that particular question, it will help you navigate the challenges, face the dilemmas and know that you aren’t the only one asking the question in that exciting, nerve-wracking journey that is parenting.
About the author: Katharine Hill is UK Director for Care for the Family and a popular speaker, writer and broadcaster. She has served as a family lawyer and as a member of the board of the International Commission for Couple and Family Relations. The book is published by Muddy Pearl and retails at £7.50. Click here to read a sample.