Sunday, 8 February 2015

Parenting. We do it so well. Simply by instinct.

“Will you cut that out?” yelled the exasperated mother from the swimming pool changing cubicle behind mine, her voice battling with the sound of the wailing child.

The injunction had the effect you’d expect. The child’s crying grew louder.

“Honestly, it’s always the same. You just have to go and spoil everything.”

A louder explosion of wailing.

“Every time. You just can’t stop yourself.”

A pause. Sobbing.

“Well, don’t think you’re going to have any friends. You’re just a horrible little girl. No one’s going to come over to see a horrible little girl like you. Clara isn’t coming.”

More sobs.

“And Caroline isn’t coming either. No, she isn’t. Why should she come and see such a horrible little girl?”

New outburst of wailing, with some barely distinguishable words.

“Sorry? No, you’re not sorry. Why would a horrible little girl be sorry?”

The wailing dies to sobs, to whimpers, to soft crying as the child regains control.

in a shaky voice: “I really am sorry, Mummy.”

“No you’re not. But you will be.”

The wailing starts up again.

The great test we all just naturally know how to pass
Life calls on many of us to do two key jobs, with little preparation.

For one of them, staff management, we are at least able to call on some training, such as it is, though it isn’t much: usually abstract with little bearing on everyday business life. It’s all Drucker and Maslow and countless other academics, but little to do with the team member who’s missed another deadline, but also happens to be a harassed mother let down by her childminder.

For our other great responsibility, parenting, we generally receive no training at all. Especially now that we no longer live in extended families, with grandparents and older siblings around to offer the gentle, tangential hint that there might be a better way of doing things. And occasionally a little help.

Bringing up a whole new generation, securing the longevity of our species, we do by the seat of our pants.

But then, as the exchange I overheard at the pool confirms, we’re just naturally born to do it well. As Bill Bailey would put it, we take it to it like a duck to a pancake roll.

Who needs training?

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