Over the years I have understandably gathered quite a large selection of baby and child care related books and during my time as a caseload health visitor I would keep a shelf of Books for Loan in my office, for beleagured parents who needed to know they were not on their own with this little rascal, and that was how a few real favourite books emerged. This wasn't about what I thought parents might find useful, no indeed because it was all very professionally evidence-based i.e. which books, once loaned, never came back. Then I'd take my 'evidence' to the surgery's Patient's Association and ask if they'd buy me more. I could guarantee that six copies of just a few books would always be out and very hard to retrieve 'oh please could I just keep it a few more weeks' ... Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph was one, The Social Baby by Lynne Murray and Liz Andrews was another.
However the most popular and in demand book, and the first amusing one I can recall arriving on the scene after the serious years of Hugh Jolly and Penelope Leach, was Toddler Taming by Christopher Green. I could never have enough copies and we all cried allelulia that at last someone had got it... could look at all this with a sense of humour and perhaps parents stood a chance of feeling less haunted by the lasting damage they were supposedly doing their children, and may be more inclined to view the whole process, replete with all its challenging moments, as at least halfway enjoyable and on many occasions downright funny.
I used to tell parents to store up those moments that seemed so dreadful at the time for future use... after all we now lovingly recall the day the Kayaker played barbers and cut the hair of all Offspringette's friends, solemnly bringing the cuttings, ranging from fair to dark to curly and little ponytails, to me in a box in the kitchen. It was such a memorable day I can almost recall how many hyperventilations per minute I was doing.
Writers sensibly jumped on the hilarity bandwagon and the books all became much more light-hearted but lately we've been back in a serious phase with books about contented babies and baby whispering and continuum concept parenting and what mothers do when it looks like nothing and no-cry sleep solutions, so when 101 Things to Do Before You Are Five by Sally Norton arrived from Penguin last week I was prepared for a wry smile, but perhaps not much more. I wasn't prepared for a little book that has had me laughing out loud every time I pick it up and which I now think should be issued free to every new parent in the country when they apply for Child Benefit or something...
'Congratulations, you've been born! But don't just lie there gurgling. You've got lots to do before you turn five and are packed off to school.
You're only little now but in the blink of an eye you'll be walking through the gates of academia. You'll be someone who has redefined the word 'holiday' for their parents, and a highly evolved human being who can win an argument simply by saying three words - 'no', 'no' and 'no'.'
The book is packed with sage advice for the new arrival...
' You'll start your first year unable to support your own head or tell the difference between daddy and a hat stand. But that's no excuse for just lazing around blowing milky bubbles. If you don't get on with things, you'll find you're one year old and full of regrets for what might have been...so come on, you've got to get through twelve clean babygros a day, regurgitate at least a dozen feeds a week...'
and then the 101 suggestions start...
Here's an extract from 5 ~ Sleep Like a Baby Stay Up All Night
Lull your parents into a false sense of security in the first three days after you you're born by sleeping soundly 99 per cent of the time...clearly you're a very very easy baby.
Once the friends have drifted away and granny's gone home safe in the knowledge she's not needed, it's time to wake up and stay awake.
It'll now take you around six months to work out the difference between night and day. But don't worry because there's loads you can do. Why not stay up all night...
- Crying because you're hungry?
- Crying because you've got wind?
- Crying because you don't want to be picked up?
- Crying because you want to be picked up?
- Crying because you're tired?
or what about 16 ~ Eat Out of the Dog's Bowl
The world really opens up once you start crawling. It gives you the chance to check out hitherto unseen areas of the house. You'll soon discover that chicken-flavoured dog food's nice...once you get started there are plenty of other ways to tickle your tastebuds and enhance the weaning experience...
- Lick the railings at the zoo?
- Suck the edge of a greasy tablecloth in a cafe?
- Swap dummies with that runny-nosed baby in the doctor's surgery?
- Suck the bristles of the big brush that's kept by the toilet?
Which reminded me that all toilet brushes become brushes non gratae the day that I found a little Offspringette brushing a baby Kayaker's hair with one.
I could quote from this little book all day and can't recommend it highly enough as a gift for yourself if you have small children or know anyone who has just had a baby, or for those of you who are grandparents to chuckle over first and then pass on down the line.... oh alright then one more...
46 ~ Like the Rabbits Best at the Zoo
Mummy and Daddy love the idea of exposing you to nature. And nothing makes them laugh more after spending £36 on tickets to the zoo than your favourite animal being something you could see in next door's hutch...
Them: But didn't you like the cheetahs? They can run at 70mph
Them: What about the elephants? They weigh 8 tonnes.
Them: You must have liked giraffes? They can be 22ft tall.