I swore that I would not read parenting manuals. There are so many amazing books in the world and I wanted to experience motherhood first hand rather than through a veil of dogma. Then I was challenged to read Gina Ford by someone declaring I was too much of a hippy to do so. Hippy? Moi? Just because I was planning to use reusable nappies! Anyway after that I really had to, and in the interest of balance I also read the Baby Whisperer too.
As a Mum-to-be with previous experience running to...well, holding a friend's baby the right way up...once...cautiously...So why did I want to throw these books across the room with such violence. After all, if I followed their sage advise by the minute, I would have a baby that slept through the night, fed perfectly and no doubt genuflect at the alter of these parenting Saints.
Then suddenly there was a book worth going to bed early for: Debra Jackson's Baby Wisdom. It looks at how different groups around the world raise their children for the first year as well as the history of looking after babies. It was fascinating and the antidote to prescriptive parenting. I could forget about looking at my maternal stop watch and dream of the Kalahari instead. Sure, it did have recommendations and to be a true acolyte of the approach I would have thrown away the cot and buggy. It may not be practical but it certainly was a stimulating read.
Also there is nothing like a contrast to help you view things more clearly - or for the philosophers amongst us I had found my dialectic!
Eureka! It is clear - we keep on reading advice until we find something that reinforces our own prejudice. If you need routine, stick with Gina... if you are a free spirit, go for Deborah.
Then enter @VivGroskop who recently wrote an amazing review of Nurtureshock, the latest book of parenting wisdom to be imported from the States. She recommended Oliver James, 'The F*** you up' amongst others as more credible alternatives.
This book is another compulsive read, it has found me turning on the light again after DH has started snoring. This morning (while the three of us had breakfast in bed together) I was reading a psychological profile of George W Bush based on the parenting he endured. Let's get the criticism out of the way, Oliver James is impressed by his own opinions, very impressed, and he is out to convince you beyond any doubt (reasonable or not) that not only is his theory right, but there is no room for deviation. All behaviour is 100% incontrovertibly nurture rather than nature - and if you don't agree then you should read his book again.
Does the negative out weigh the positive? No, way. I thoroughly recommend it. It is a serious eye opener! It is not aimed so much as a parenting manual but as a guide for all children, to understand the messages of our upbringing and how not to become over burdened by the negative messages that still subconsciously affect us.
The Oliver James book has clarified so much - we need to look at ourselves as people before we take the next step to thinking about how we behave as parents and, by extension, the skills we need to be a parent. Being a good parent is immeasurably helped by having a clear state of mind.
All I want for my little girl is to be happy and fulfilled, I need to be strong enough to guide her firmly but with true kindness, take the time to listen and the effort to empathise. Even though he may be too mighty to appreciate my gratitude, I wholeheartedly thank Oliver James for giving me a rewarding context for all other advice I receive, be it from books, blogs or Mummy friends.
* Inspired by Josie's blog about A Book that Changes your life