Some time after coming out with the fact that I was pregnant for the first time – probably 30 seconds or so – I turned myself to the next order of business: getting the bloody thing out of my body. Luckily, there were courses for that. I took two, in fact, though I really needn’t have bothered. My labor was textbook and bang on time. Sure I had the breathing down pat, but I could’ve learned that from any of the dozens of actors I’ve watched in fake labor on TV.
Actually raising the little suckers has been a different story entirely. If I could’ve had a weekly sit-down with a parenting instructor in my first child’s infancy, rather than the aforementioned birthing instructor, those early days might have been less fraught. But what parenting “expert” would be stupid enough to open their door to a bunch of exhausted parents and their screaming offspring? Certainly no one I know volunteered.
Flash forward a few years and someone finally came forward. Last month I received an invitation from the local primary’s guidance counselor to participate in a four-hour “crash course.” I know what you’re thinking: any parent would surely be able to detect a load of bunkum from a mile off. Rather than blow it off, though, I signed up.
And it was worth every second of those four hours (and the price: it was free). Geared towards parents with children from five to 10, it clearly wasn’t out to tell me how to keep my child alive. Thankfully, we’d all been capable of that. Rather, we discussed the little aggravations of family life that collectively sap our spirits and slowly drive wedges between us and our children: the heat of the morning rush; the shopping showdowns; the homework battles; the inner conflict we find ourselves in when disciplining in the company of friends or family.
We discussed our relationships with our parents, how we might be unconsciously creating parenting patterns, how to recognize those patterns and try to deprogram ourselves. We discussed instituting technology-free time with our families. We learned to communicate with as few words as possible (“Kids, toilet”). To use statements rather than orders (“I see a messy room.” “I see a child in his pajamas”). We learned to recognize when we’re lecturing (no child listens past the first few words). And when we’re overusing “I” and “you” when we should be using “we.”
A futile, middle-class effort? Perhaps, but I find it helpful to have a set of crutches I can reach for when I feel like I’m falling off the proverbial ledge.
So it’s been interesting to read the news this week that the British government is beginning to institute a course of parenting sessions for parents – mostly those in deprived areas of the country. The scheme, unsurprisingly, was conceived in the U.S. Also unsurprisingly, it’s encountered its share of detractors on this side of the pond. How can you predict what difficulties parents will encounter? Why only less privileged parents? What about parents of teens?
Let them clog the chat rooms, I say. They don’t have to show up. Maybe they have all the answers and all the confidence in the world. If so, the classes obviously aren’t for them.
Funny, I’m the last adult you’d normally hear touting a day or more in a too-small-for-her-bum chair in bleak classroom with a notepad at her knee. But then, I guess I’m precisely the target audience for this sort of thing.