I went to uni for four years to train to become a teacher. Along the way, many of my peers dropped out of the course, usually after realising that even though teaching was one of the easiest courses to gain entry into, it did not automatically follow that they actually WANTED to spend the rest of their lives stuck in a classroom with other people's spawn. And that, apparently, a teaching qualification is not entirely earned at the pub.
I'm sure I'm not the first person to wonder if the world wouldn't be, even slightly, a better place if there was a similar four-year-training requirement before people were awarded the right to become parents. Pipe down, please, all you political correctness zealots, I'm not about to suggest compulsory sterilisation. But who among us has not stood in line at the checkout revelling in silent disgust at the dreadful parenting of those in line before us? (For crying out loud, no means NO! Don't say no fifteen times then hand them what they want when their insatiable whinging finally gets to you! Its been getting to ME for the last ten minutes and you don't see me shoving a chocolate in their mouth!)
So, not so much to solve the problem of an overabundance of appalling parents as to make myself feel better about co-existing with them, I have decided to write a series of blog posts outlining what I see as the necessary skills for effective parenting. Feel free to let me know if I overlook any.
The first on my list is the ability to Switch Off. This is a skill that you will need to utilise many times a day, for the rest of your life. It begins in pregnancy when you will be required to maintain an interested and grateful demeanor whenever you are offered unsolicited advice-slash-opinions about your size/sex of the baby/impending birth/future parenting style.
But it is a skill that truly comes into its own when your children begin talking.
Switching Off is particularly handy when your children engage in their frequent battles with one another. There are few sounds less harmonious than the sound of siblings shrieking at one another, unless it is the ensuing tale-telling and whining about whatever injuries they have managed to inflict on each other. Switching Off not only preserves your sanity in these instances, it also provides a 'teaching moment' to the children - that the noisier you are, the less mum cares.
Switching Off is also useful on those long car trips, particularly when your child is firmly entrenched in either the "Look, Mum!" stage of development, or the "Why....?" phase. Car trips often result in a running commentary that starts out mildly amusing but ends up ringing in your ears like the whine of a lone mosquito emanating from the back seat. Injecting the occasional "Really?" or "Mm-hmm" into the endless drone from your child will ensure the best results.