Do i as a person without children have anything of worth to offer as advice to those who do?
This blog post or mini series comes out of an article i wrote for 1Africa this morning, titled, ‘Other People’s Children: An offer of help’ with the bottom line being that i do believe we might have something to offer.
Which led to me posting this as my status on Facebook:
For ANYONE WHO DOESN’T HAVE ANY CHILDREN, i am looking to write a blog post to parents of children with one piece of advice from an outsider’s perspective.
To suggest we know best about raising children is ludicrous. To suggest we know nothing about raising children is right up there.
So to those who have babysat, who have siblings, who have lead on holiday clubs or camps, to teachers, to uncles and aunts, to cousins, to older people who observe and anyone else [only point of entry is you’re not allowed to have your own children] what is one tip/idea/hint you would give from what you have seen?
And the comments are pouring in. Well maybe trickling. But i do have some and i will try post them tomorrow. [If you are not a parent and have a piece of advice you would like to offer, drop me an email on email@example.com or leave it in the comments.]
i think being a parent is one of the most difficult and challenging things in the world precisely because there is no handbook or instruction kit. Every child is different. Every context is different. And for the most part you are very likely to be bringing different sets of parenting experiences in, in terms of what you experienced as a child growing up, assuming there are two of you to begin with.
Having said that though, my friend Innocentia made a comment that made me think:
Innocentia Kgobane: I like the idea of ‘invite’ because it suggests that advice/commentary etc was/is consented to. It becomes an issue for us when the commentary was unasked for and from outside the situation. We’ve learnt to be defensive because most people are not offering help, just offensive opinions. There is a stark difference. Help? Yes, of course I’d like help… and can I be the one to state what the problem areas are too? I think that’s the kind of help most parents would react better to.
i am well aware that this is a problem for many parents – so much unasked for/unwarranted advice that is thrust upon them from all sides, including complete strangers [this usually happens in supermarkets i believe] and that is completely unhelpful and rude actually and i imagine this can be where a lot of the defensiveness comes from.
i am hoping that by sharing a few comments here via this short series, that different parents might be able to gain different things from it, even if it’s a hint or a tip or an idea or something – i LOVE the African proverb that says that “It takes a village to raise a child.” That is so completely true.
Another comment that was added to my original ask came from Deborah-Ann Fish who had this to say:
I followed and swear by the Gina Ford books when my 2 came into this world , her baby and toddler books are great imo!! She does not have children, which is why a lot of parents do not like to hear what her books say. I liked them because her philosophy supported the whole family and not just the children. Personally I am a big fan of community parenting, all in our larger social circle are welcome to chip in, just because they’re not yours doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of impacting in ways I can’t and thus bringing a richness to their journey from childhood to adulthood.
So how about it village? What advice can us non-parentals muster from a bit of an outsider’s perspective, possibly avoiding some potential blind spots, to help give parent’s a nudge in the right direction? And parents, are you ready and open to the possibility of learning from what to you might feel like an unconventional source?