Parenting and other fails – get me to class, now


Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m signing up for some parenting classes. Apparently, all you have to do is ingest a lot of illegal drugs and then the courses are free. David Cameron and his perverse incentives, he is a one.

Parenting is harder than I thought. B. C .  I thought, ffs, what is the big fuss about? What is all this wailing and moaning and gnashing of eyelids? Why not just get some help if you feel tired? Talk about Babies for Dummies. Or something.

Who knew it would be so hard to find someone who could handle four behaved children? (There is no word missing from that sentence. It is a speaking omission, while at the same time a blank veil of  privacy.) Who knew I would be so fussy about how they are looked after?

So, I am tired a lot, although less tired than I was because now  the youngest is six, they all sleep through the night.

Bravely, I struggle on with the battle to parent properly. Like the time I told the children, very seriously and calmly, that if they didn’t brush them, their teeth would turn green and fall out. ‘Bagsy blue!’ said the six-year-old. ‘I’m having purple,’ said his brother, aged seven.

One morning, I rebelled against the constant inappropriately sexual, gyrating beat that the children like to have on the radio and put on what used to be called The Third Programme. Ah classical music. The stamp of culture, the marker of intelligence, civilisation and surely, something my children should know intimately. This would not only enrich their lives, but also reflect a none too shabby light on my own values. And Standpipe’s.

Of course there will be those who say that parenting can’t be taught. Most parents I know have experienced that moment of shock when they realise children do not arrive with instruction manuals. (Why is she crying? I can’t find the off switch!) But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn. I have learnt things about parenting that are very valuable to me and the children. The most important one is just to listen to them and encourage them to talk about their feelings.

I have gleaned this insight from a number of sources including John Gottman’s book Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child.

There are just as many people who say that writing can’t be taught. Again, I disagree. Last night I had the last seminar of the course I’ve been doing. (Have I mentioned that I’m doing a course? It’s in Creative Writing.)

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learnt and how I’ve learnt it, recently. After much pondering, I’m still not sure how it works. But I think deadlines definitely help. The course has made me write. Second, our tutors are all practitioners – novelists, poets, screenwriters, dramatists, literary critics. They all have proven records of success in their fields. This makes what they say seem important. I want to impress them.

Beyond that, the actual teaching and learning is quite mysterious. Perhaps it’s a general sensitising, so that in my effort to learn – my reading, my viewing, my general mulling – I’m more able to hear the important things that are said in classes. We’ve just had five weeks with Victor Glynn, a screenwriter whose credits could fill several blogs. At some point I just understood that in films the visuals and the dialogue should comment on each other and are two almost discrete elements in writing screenplays. I think I had heard that before. But suddenly, I understood it.

Good teaching or magic? I decide.

Meanwhile in the car on the way to school, I think it was Brahms, or maybe Bach. Something beginning with B anyway. I went round the car asking the children what the music made them feel. ‘Angry,’ said the one who likes  pop the most. ‘I dunno,’ said his younger brother. I called on the youngest. He did not respond. I called on him again. There was a gulp, and a voice strangled with the failed effort not to cry, said, ‘Mum, it’s like someone’s died. It’s making me feel very sad.’

‘We found love in a hopeless place, we found love in a hoooopeless place…’ ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

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