If you’re a parent who wants advice on how best to wrangle your child into sleeping, eating and playing nicely, there’s no end of books to which you can turn. Whether you’re after a take-no-prisoners approach a la Gina Ford, or need a bit of guidance on how to take a step back without seeing your progeny perish (which seems to be where Tom Hodgkinson’s going with his book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids), there’s almost certainly a title out there for you. Alternatively, you can crowd-source your childcare with the hive mind of Mumsnet and its digital brethren (sistren).
Friends and family have anecdotal advice, too, such as just how much of a blended vegetable you can add to a tea-time favourite before its alien presence is detected, and when you need to bring up the concept of “kind hands” when your children are whacking seven shades of something out of each other. All of which much be a comfort when you’re wracking your brains over what to do to persuade kids to do all the things they don’t want to.
I know a bit about all of this as a wicked stepmother of some years standing. But what I’d really like is a bookshelf groaning with how-to books that deal with parenting… my parents. After a low-key but sustained campaign lasting around two years, I’ve finally managed to persuade my mother to get a dog, who has promptly become the love of her life. I now face the daunting task of getting her online and using a computer. I’d happily take three months of trying to make a toddler to go to sleep every night rather than the mixture of wheedling, bullying, cajoling and bribing it’s going to take my mum to sign up to the internet, learn how to switch on a computer and send an email.
The thing is, she actually wants to do this - she tells me - but whenever I try to pin her down, she skitters off with excuses and tells me she’s happy to wait a bit longer. No doubt she can, but each week that passes sees her more cut off from a world that increasingly favours the broadband brave. It’s for her own good, I tell myself as I try to get her to type on an iPad. She’ll love it once she’s got used to it, I think as I steel myself to get her to look at monthly tariffs. We both end up grumpy and grizzling, out of sorts and no closer to our goal. So, if you’re reading Ms Ford, please help. I don’t care if you call it The Contented Little Mother Book or The Contended Big Daughter Book - I need a copy sharpish.