So in a recent article poor Ryan Reynolds has come under attack from the parenting Taliban. Boo Hoo. If you haven’t seen it, please feel free to Google the story. You know the movie star Ryan Reynolds? He of the chiselled face, rock hard abs and wooden acting (I’m sorry ladies but do you honestly expect us to believe you go to see one of his movies because of the quality of his dramatic discourse?) Anyway it would appear Ryan has been caught strapping his baby into a child carrier incorrectly.
Okay, yes he has done it incorrectly. Yes that should be pointed out. Yes I suspect my wife would let me get away with strapping the baby in upside down and feeding it vodka from a sippy cup if I looked like him. That’s not the point.
The point is the level of back seat parenting. Let me state straight away I am not advocating child neglect. Since my son has been born I have become particularly vulnerable to stories of cruelty and neglect and would spend many happy hours turning anyone who intentionally hurts a child into a human piñata. But let’s be honest, within an acceptable range and with the best intentions possible, do any of us get it right first time? When first born, my son was as helpless as a turtle on its back. He wasn’t capable of getting into trouble because he was pretty much rooted to wherever we set him down. If I’m honest that was quite a desirable state of affairs. If my wife is honest she wishes that state of affairs was equally applicable to his father. It is however a state that is hardly conducive to my son’s development and so, with some reluctance, we encouraged him to become more mobile. His first trick was to roll onto his front. The problem with this is that before the age of one, as nearly every magazine and armchair expert will tell you, sleeping on their front is a possible risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome or cot death. This is a terrible and heart breaking phenomena with no real explanation. I wouldn’t dream of making light of it but there’s no doubt my son has taken a definite liking to sleeping in this position. Because my wife and I took to heart everything we’d read, we were frequently to be found sneaking into his room and turning him over onto his back. This advice has changed several times over the years with no firm conclusion as to what position it is safest to put your child in to sleep. Understandably my son has started to get the arse with this and who can blame him? Should anyone enter my bedroom whilst I’m asleep, and say for example, spin me up onto my head with my legs dangling in the air because the latest scientific research dictates this should be so, I might become somewhat perturbed as well.
Within minutes and with an admirable ‘fuck you’ attitude for a boy of his age, my son would spin himself back onto his front and return to sleep. After a few weeks of this we gave up. Not because we don’t care, but because truthfully you can only manage the risk to your child so much. As he gets older I’m accepting the parameters of that risk management become wider. In the first few months of his life my sons food was prepared with the same care you might approach victims of the Ebola virus. A biological suit was donned. Bottles were sterilised, boiling water was poured over everything. The three-second rule didn’t exist. If something hit the floor- dummy, spoon, my desperate hope he would sleep through an entire night- it was destroyed, placed in a biohazard bag and deposited a minimum distance of twenty three feet from the house in accordance with Department of Health regulations.
Then, gradually we stopped sterilising. His plate and cups were thrown in the bowl with the rest of the washing up. If his dummy hit the floor one of us checked it for hairs, put it in our gob and with a shrug handed it back to him. So far nothing untoward has happened to him and so we have continued on but with each developmental stage more hazards have presented themselves. Recently he started to crawl. His progress, such is the speed with which he can now propel himself through the house and bounce off remarkably sturdy objects, is reminiscent of a competitor in ‘Takeshi’s Castle’. Stairs, cupboards, the corner of tables and on one memorable occasion, the lit candle of a birthday cake that Mummy and Daddy foolishly put in front of him before deciding that moment would be a good opportunity for both of us to turn away and get a camera, have all presented potentially dire consequences. And you thought Ryan Reynolds fucked up. The man is starting to look like parent of the month in our eyes.
Truthfully, we try our best but there is so much conflicting advice: and for advice read interference. I know books and articles on the subject of parenting mean well but if everything they said was correct I’m amazed the average baby makes it to the end of the day. For example, it is recommended not to microwave breast milk, not because it destroys nutrients- there’s little evidence to suggest this is the case- but because heating it up too much may scald your baby’s mouth! Wait a moment; so let me get this right: giving my baby scalding milk is a bad thing? And to think I was about to lend him the car keys.
I don’t want to get all Yorkshire here- and yes when my son gets an ipad for Christmas I will be reminding him that all I got for Christmas at his age was a lump of coal and that was just for Christmas dinner – but compared to how I was brought up my sons day to day routine is one wrapped in cotton wool. I was born in the seventies. My Mother is a good and loving woman but knowing that she smoked well into her twenties, past the age when I was born, I felt compelled to ask ‘Mum did you give up smoking when you were carrying me?’ Her reply ‘Mostly’ is somewhat disconcerting. Thanks Mum, I guess that means I’m ‘mostly’ okay, although my brain’s stunted development may go some way to explaining why I thought it appropriate to place a naked flame in front of a one year old.
All this is a round about way of saying what all parents know. It’s learning on the job. No instruction booklet, no guarantees. Ryan old son, don’t listen to anyone. Parenting isn’t easy and you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.
Apart from for giving us ‘The Proposal’. Two and a half hours of my life I’m not getting back. My wife liked it though.