Friday, 20 April 2012

The Bottom Line

I have read back through my blog posts today while stuck under a hungry baby, and a very definite theme is emerging.

Well, when I say emerging, I actually mean fully out of the closet, waving, marching and waving pompoms.  Pretty much every post involves me shouting and waving my arms.  Generally in a
parenting capacity.

Now arguably this could be seen as a negative thing, but having given the matter some careful consideration I actually see this as an opportunity.
When Thomas was born I was given copies of the two main parenting methods – Gina Ford’s Contented Little Baby and The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg.  Needless to say, neither of the routines in these books ever saw light of day in our household.  Partly because we weren’t terribly comfortable with the idea of imposing our ideas about such major life-issues as eating and sleeping on someone who can’t actually articulate any sort of input into the decision, but mainly because I can barely manage to organise the timings of my own life, never mind being responsible for someone else’s routine.

As time went by I discovered that the gurus were just the tip of the child-rearing iceberg.  All sorts of theories, practices and philosophies lurked below the surface, ready to sink unwary parenting Titanics.  No, I know that doesn’t make much sense but I
liked “tip of the child-rearing iceberg” and I can never resist a complicated metaphor.

Anyway, on the pages of the major parenting forums I discovered a whole new world.  Attachment
parenting.  Unconditional parenting.  Baby Led Weaning.  Elimination Communication.  Unschooling. Unfooding.  Babywearing.  Every child-related function has a name and a
dedicated following.  I once mentioned to a lady in her fifties that I had met someone who practiced elimination communication.  She looked blank.  I explained what it was.  “Oh,” she said.  “We just called it ‘putting the baby on the potty’.”

I can’t quite work out why age-old practices suddenly have shiny new names, but I suspect that it is to do with the rise of the parenting forum.  When you meet people in real-life, you don’t tend to launch straight into a prĂ©cis of your beliefs and theories.  There is polite chit-chat, conversation about topics of mutual interest and, over time, you come to know how the other person does things without it ever needing to be articulated.
There is none of that on the internet.  On a forum, everything has to be set out clearly.  Nothing can be implied.  You don’t have markers such as a person’s body language, appearance and activities, to guide you in understanding what they are about.  It lends itself to saying “This is what I do.  This is what I believe in.  And by the way everyone else is wrong."

Personally, I blame tickers.  Or is it signatures?

If you aren’t familiar with the internet parenting forum phenomenon, tickers are the little, cutesy counters attached to a forum member’s posts, showing a tally of whatever the poster thinks people want to know.  You know the sort of thing: 

My little princess is 8 months, 2 weeks, 3 days and 29 minutes old

7 weeks 3 days until my lovely little womb-bean arrives in the world

93 minutes since my last bowel movement 

And then there are signatures.  Like the ticker, these are used to proclaim important facts about the forum member.

Mummy-Boo, proud Stay At Home Mum to three marvellous little monkeys, Becky-Boo, age 5,
Bobby-Boo, age 2 and my wonderful little cloth-bummed, booby-loving, Gina-Fording Barney-Boo, age 4 months.

This is what I do.  This is what I believe in.

As soon as something has a name, it immediately creates opposition.  It becomes something
you do or don’t do.  It becomes something to be argued about, promoted or decried, championed and taught.  Consultants set up in business.  Books are written. 

Parenting theory is a growing industry.  As long as there are acronyms to construct and bodily functions to complicate, there will be room for more gurus, theories and philosophies.

So, without further ado, can I present…..

…..Bottom Line Parenting.

This is my child-rearing philosophy.  It will shortly be encapsulated in a multi-million bestseller.  Gina Ford will be gnashing her teeth.  But in the meantime, here’s a short summary of some of my key theories.

Bottom Line Parenting (BLP) is about, unsurprisingly, the bottom line.  What is the bottom line?

The bottom line is that the child is alive, reasonably healthy and not entirely out of control.  Whenever things go awry, you just have to ask yourself “What is the bottom line here?”

Your child refuses to eat anything but biscuits.  What’s the bottom line?  At least he’s eating something.  Happy days.

You shouted and waved your arms for 90% of the day.  What’s the bottom line?  For 10% of the day you were calm and in control.  Good times.

Your baby has pooed 15 times in the last hour and you have no clean clothes left.  What’s the bottom line?  This is England  - he probably won’t freeze to death.  And he doesn’t look too daft in his four year-old sister’s dress.

So that is BLP theory.  (Hopefully my blog won’t now be discovered by
a whole load of illiterate racists searching for the British National Party)

It’s all about what is good enough.  Not perfect. Not aspirational.  Just good enough.  Who’s in?

I’m going to be rich.  Rich, I tell you!

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