Parenting in the 21st century, huh? Who in their right mind would actually choose to do that? What with all the judgements, advice, worries and warnings. Parenting nowadays is like dancing through a field of landmines. Seems like fun but is full of unseen hazards. Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to a time before parenting became big business? A time when Arthur Ransome* could write about four siblings having unsupervised fun on a boat. And no one thought twice about it. No one started a campaign against him and the twittersphere didn’t go wild. When the Famous Five wandered around solving mysteries and eating egg sandwiches without their parents nearby.
For our grandparents being a parent simply meant having kids, feeding them, clothing them and occasionally showing them some affection. To modern eyes they may have seemed neglectful but as long as a child’s world is filled with love and security what else do they really actually need?
Modern parenting is big business. And they get you (and your baby) while in utero. Forking out over a hundred quid for a 3D photo of a baby you’ll meet in real life in a few weeks. Selling you manuals full of guidance and guidelines that will go out of fashion shortly. Producing potions and pills for the health of you and your unborn bundle. Manufacturing fake concern for unwitting, innocent parents to swill by the bucketload.
Modern parenting is a competition. Full of people telling you how to potty train your baby while still in the womb. Frowning at bottled-fed babies, food in jars, babies in buggies, babies with dummies. Children as show ponies, performing their tricks. Parents out doing each other. A circle of pointed fingers, media outrage and shame.
Modern parenting is a constant worry. Is pink a problem? Does he eat too many fish fingers? Or not enough? Will too much TV cause long-lasting damage? How will he cope with this, that or the other? An unhappy marriage of guilt and self-doubt.
So I say enough of this. I’m opting out. Let’s just go back to before parenting became a term that could be bandied about to sell products or judge others or criticise ourselves. Let’s be more like our grandparents and let our kids develop naturally without over-stimulation or pressure or concern.
This is not a movement or me lobbying for anything. It has no label. It is just a re-adjustment. Letting go of the confines that modern parenting places on us. Of realising that the people who sell you stuff, tell you stuff or yell from their soap boxes do not know you or your child.
Parenting is not something for ad men to market. Nor is it a stick to beat us with. It is something people have been doing more or less successfully since time began. But it has become new. It has become fangled. It has become more than the sum of its parts.
Because really being a good parent boils down to very little. It is a simple equation. Common sense + intuition (trial × error) + love. That’s all.
I’m not saying that there aren’t things today that will harm kids. But wasn’t it ever thus? We guard our children against the ghouls of the internet and obesity. Previous generations contended with air raids and TB.
So let’s not sweat the small stuff. And believe me most of it is small stuff. Let’s hold hands and go back to a time when parenting was not considered a skill you must acquire or a lifestyle choice or something you could search on google.
Why can’t we let parents be parents?
Perhaps that is a movement after all.
By Kim x
*The book is of course Swallows and Amazons. For those of you who have never read it – don’t bother. Too many big words (in fact too many words all together). Kids in the old days obviously had a far longer concentration span than me.