Because what the internet needs is more wittering about rubbish parenting

Friday, 24 September 2010

I Am Not A Jar of Sauce...

... I do not need a label.

If you've read, well, anything lately, you may have noticed that writers, journalists and gurus of all types like to come up with funky new names for things. A couple of decades ago we had lots of nifty little acronyms (NIMBYs, YUPs, DINKYs and the like). Nowadays, we seem to have what I like to call the Grazianating of words. This refers to Grazia's (it may well be other magazines too, just this is the one I have a subscription for) constant concatenating (see what I did there, eh?) of words with other words to make new and ridiculous words, which they then use to describe whichever social phenomenon they're observing/inventing this week. You are not just eating less meat, you are a Flexitarian. You do not have a shopping problem, you are Fashorexic. They are not really tight, stretchy trousers, they are treggings. It really does my head in.

Anyway, the Grazia thing was really just a roundabout way of getting to my point (while getting to rant about something that annoys me), which is this: People are absolutely obsessed with putting labels on everything. Including, and perhaps especially, the way you bring up your child.

Now to be honest, this isn't something you tend to come across that much in real life. Most people, as long as you aren't feeding your baby beer and leaving them on the pavement while you pop in to Tesco, don't really concern themselves with what you do with your child, and assume that you're doing whatever works for you. Or at least they have the good sense to know that it's bad manners to harrass you about it. But step into the world of the internets, or the parenting section of a bookshop, and everything changes. Here you will find a vast array of people all champing at the bit to discuss parenting concepts and methods, to label their methods and yours, and to convince you that their way is the best one.

Baby-led, parent-led, Gina Ford, Baby Whisperer, Attachement Parenting, Continuum Concept - which one are you? It all unnerves me a great deal. I never knew you were meant to be able to describe your parenting choices with one snappy little term. I never knew you were meant to have one deeply-held, meticulously-researched and scientifically-supported philosophy that governed the choices you would make. To tell the truth, I'm not sure I've ever made anything that I would describe as a parenting choice. I do whatever it occurs to me to do at the time, with the short-term aim of getting her through the day without her coming to much physical harm or resorting to locking her in a cupboard, and the long-term aim of getting her through her childhood without making her hate me. It never occurred to me that I would need someone to tell me how to raise my daughter. It never occurred to me that someone COULD. If there was a book called "Tips for Bad Mammy and Husband on how to deal with The Baby", then maybe I'd consider it worth a look, but until then, no journalist, parenting guru, or self-proclaimed internet expert knows what we are or should be doing.

I'm not saying that reading about child-rearing has no value. Many people I know have had their lives, or at least their sanity, saved by advice from a book, or from the internet. But I don't see why everyone has to have a parenting "style", or why we have to talk about "parenting" at all. To quote someone very wise and sensible (who I actually met on the internet, but don't hold that against her), "Parent is who you ARE, not what you do". Amen to that.

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