Being, as I am, of a certain age, it seems that a lot of my friends are either hoping to have or have already had children. That is not a value judgement – I still love them, I mean I even sort of have children myself, after a fashion, since my husband has three teenage daughters that I may in some ways be at least hopefully a role model to. But now, more than at any previous point in my life, I find myself regularly having conversations about the tricky business of parenting. Oddly, it’s something most people have very fixed ideas about, even before they figure out whether or not they ever want to be a parent. We don’t do that with anything else; I’ve never spent any time meditating on what kind of physicist I would be if I were to become one; would I be a bit rock n roll like Brian Cox or a bit more favourite science teacher-ish like Jim Al Khalili…? Actually that was a bad example, I do sometimes think about that but then I would have to re-take my physics A level and frankly, who has the time?!
But how to raise children is something we seem to think we innately know, and would be naturally good at. Perhaps this is a delusion we as humans need to believe, because if we knew how freaking difficult it would be, nobody would ever bother. Having been a secondary school teacher, I can attest to the fact that some parents actually don’t seem to bother much at all. It still shocks me sometimes that nobody needs to actually learn any skills or pass any kind of test before they are allowed to reproduce.
Of course, there are many thousands of manuals, texts, academic studies and the like, claiming some ‘scientific’ knowledge about the best approach to take. Having undertaken a teaching qualification a few years ago it’s probable that I may have even absorbed some of this knowledge. However, I can’t say I found it very useful in the classroom, when faced with a minimum of 30 dysfunctional teenagers who didn’t really care for these theoretical, academic approaches. Instead, I did what any sensible person who finds themselves with any kind of responsibility for children for the first time would do; for better or worse, day after day I found myself turning into both my mum and my dad.
So how effective was this strategy, given that I am convinced that my mum never sat around discussing whether she would be a ‘tiger’ or a ‘helicopter’ mother? Well, very effective actually. Having given it some thought recently, I have realised that my northern upbringing can mostly be boiled down to a few simple aphorisms, and being the helpful, generous person I am I thought I would share them! So, in case you fear that your offspring will turn out to be some kind of bratty monster full of a sense of their own entitlement, here in no particular order are my favourite sayings from my childhood, guaranteed to turn your turbulent tyke into a rounded, balanced human being:
You’ll have what you’re given and you’ll like it
If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all
There no such word as can’t
No good crying over spilt milk
Put up and shut up
Your eyes are bigger than your belly
You don’t get owt for nowt
Stop whinging before I give you something to whinge about
And actually, my personal favourite, just in case you need a response when they think they might have achieved something: What do you want, a big orange?
They say it takes a village to raise a child. As long as it’s a northern village, they’ll be alright.