Tuesday 20 August 2019

'Hurry is the enemy of love'

I told the girls not to annoy me while I read a book on good parenting
I told the girls not to annoy me while I read a book on good parenting

I decided that what with everything that's going on in the world I should read a book on bringing up girls. I mean, here I am, a man, and somehow I am being allowed to raise two girls. Admittedly, I have help from a woman, who does 99pc of the rearing, but still, who knows what damage I could be doing to them? I have no doubt that at some stage in the future, much as deaf activists would argue that hearing parents should not be allowed to raise deaf children, men will not be allowed to raise our future women. I could be the last generation of men to father girls, so I need to take this responsibility seriously.

So I got 10 Things Girls Need Most to Grow Up Strong and Free by guru Steve Biddulph.

It sat for a while on my bedside locker looking disapprovingly at me last thing at night as I flicked around the internet and first thing in the morning as I flicked around the internet. I told myself that I need to keep following the news for work. But still, the book sat there, telling me, "This is why you are a bad parent. You don't even have time to prioritise this book that could save you and your daughters".

It didn't help that one day I glanced at a random page and it was about not hugging them unless they initiated it or leaned into it. And I thought about how a major part of our play involves the kind of messing where you grab them and throw them around and they shriek with delight. What was that but a form of forced hugging? And worse, I had brainwashed them into enjoying it.

That put me off for another couple of weeks but then, over the bank holiday weekend, feeling guilty for having had bits and pieces of work to do, I decided to bite the bullet, and so I told the kids to not annoy me for a while, and I opened the book.

The main message I got pretty quickly was that I am not a good person. The people in the pictures in this book were good people, Moms hanging out together, that kind of thing. I was tempted to give up before I started. Then I read the foreword, which was all about girls getting depression and anxiety, so on I ploughed.

I came to the next obstacle pretty quickly. This was an interactive book. You were supposed to fill out little questionnaires at regular intervals. And what's more, at the first one, "Your Daughter's Journey", it said, "If you have more than one daughter, choose one girl to focus on during each exercise throughout the book, and then return and do the others later". So they were basically saying I had to do the book twice! And in fairness, I was getting away lightly. Miriam O Callaghan would be doing it four times. Not that she would need to do it.

Next, they wanted to discuss my journey. They said "Dad's Boyhood Profile" could be the most important thing I did in the book, because clearly, this was influencing the specifics of how I was screwing up my daughters. So between 14 and 18 how trained for adulthood was I on a scale of one to five? How many marks out of five if you are 47 and still not quite trained for adulthood?

Then I see I'm supposed to have found my own self between 10 and 14. My many and varied personalities discussed that one and decided we are probably a bit behind schedule on that one too. And then I see I was supposed to get confident enough to explore between ages of two and five. Let's not go there. The younger one had started annoying me looking for crack by the time I got on to the first chapter proper, "A Secure and Loving Start", so I gave her an iPad to get her off my back while I read about how "HURRY IS THE ENEMY OF LOVE".

I skimmed through the chapter, about finding my own OKness and slowing down, only to discover that, hey presto, they had the whole chapter summed up at the end, in a section called "In A Nutshell". I decided that as much as this is probably a great book, I will be reading the rest of it "In a Nutshell". And then, the elder and her mother came home with Halloween bank holiday pizza and we all sat down and ate, and I forced the girls to eat some of the spicy one, and laughed as they ran for milk, making the comedy faces they do when I force them to taste something spicy. Then I started chasing them around pretending to eat their brains. The book, I decided as I lay back with a full belly, would have to wait.

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