Friday, 22 January 2010

Going By The Book

There's a morning talk show over here in the UK called "The Wright Stuff." The format of the show is pretty basic in that several topical questions are posed for a panel to debate, and viewers are invited to call in and share their opinions/experiences. I've only watched it maybe a handful of times since moving over here, but happened to tune in one day last week (or maybe it was the week before...) when one of the topics happened to be the use of manuals in child-rearing. This debate was brought up when Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, roundly criticized Gina Ford's The Contended Little Baby Book. Clegg had become exasperated with the book after a night of his baby crying prompted his wife to ask in a panic, "what does the book say!?"

This then prompted Clegg to liken raising a child via manual to assembling Ikea furniture. Obviously, unlike the Ikea furniture, one set of instructions cannot be applied to every child. So why are so many parents relying on books rather than their instincts?

I'm sure there are several answers to this question, and the root of it is probably that many of us don't really grow up taking care of babies, and so have no idea where to start. Plus, a lot of other things in our life are governed by manuals, from cooking to self-help, so why would people think they can realistically undertake the momentous task of raising another human being on their own !!gasp!!?

I mean, I'm pretty fast and loose with my instincts, and even I can't get away from baby manuals. I've looked into several, but my by-far favorite so far has been The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. But I think the reason I enjoy the theories behind the advice in this book so much, is because they do seem to match with my instincts. As I read the book I kept thinking "yes, this feels right." In that sense, I don't think it's wrong to use a baby manual that confirms your parenting instincts, gives you some confidence, and some great techniques for dealing with emotional situations. The problem occurs when parents neglect to check in with their instincts, and just go along with the first book that was given to them at a baby shower, or the book that worked for their friends. Also, I think a lot of parents tend to judge their instincts as "wrong" when they don't mesh with the advice in a particular book.

I just think we need to trust ourselves a little bit more. Our instincts have been carefully honed for thousands of years, and there's a reason people say a mother's intuition is usually right. At any rate, this post has gotten away from me a little bit. I had hoped to talk a bit more about Dr. Karp's ideas and why I think they'll work for me and Gez, but I think I'll save that for tomorrow or another day. Until then, Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend!

1 comment:

  1. I like parenting books, because I like books, because I'm a dork. :)

    But as far as babies go, I think "What would cave momma do?" is the best/simplest test. I mean, all babies are essentially still cave babies, and all their behavior makes perfect sense in that context.

    When we get older and culture/language/thought start to interject their presence, things get more complicated, but not hugely so.