woensdag 2 januari 2013

The idle parent manifesto

"Love is a verb", a friend once quoted. We nodded wisely. She and her boyfriend had been together for several years, living together for a couple as well. They were on the verge of buying a house. Tensions must have arisen, even in their happy union. But then she frowned and said: "It doesn't feel like a verb to me. It still feels like a noun." 

Likewise, a Dutch writer (Herman Koch) analysed the Dutch parental desire for their children to go to bed early. It's because then they can finally have some grown-up time to themselves, he wrote. Elsewhere too, on the lovely blog Dadwagon, I found the quote: "Every parent knows that we love our children most of all exactly five minutes after we've put them to bed and are heading down the hall to get a glass of wine and recover from the day." It rings very true.

But not according to Koch, who has Spanish in-laws. In Spain children get to run around until all hours of the night, because parents don't want time off from parenting. "The Spanish come home from work and enjoy spending as much time as possible in the company of their children. After all, that's why they  had them in the first place, isn't it?" (The beneficial side-effect of this is that they generally don't wake early either.)

This ties in with the kind of parenting Tom Hodgkinson advocates in his book The Idle Parent. It's a follow-up to his book How to be idle, he is one of the founding editors of the magazine The Idler, he has three children between the ages of three and nine and his writing is very entertaining, with that British sense of absurdism and self-deprecation. 

I have now reached page xvii (yes, this means I haven't actually finished the introduction yet) on which Hodgkinson details his parenting manifesto - and I want to share it with you, because I think it is the polar opposite of the Singaporean way of raising children, and the opposite direction of where I feel Dutch parenting is going. 


We reject the idea that parenting requires hard work
We pledge to leave our children alone
We reject the rampant consumerism that invades children's lives from the moment they are born
We read them poetry and fantastic stories without morals
We drink alcohol without guilt
We reject the inner Puritan
We don't waste money on family days out and holidays
An idle parent is a thrifty parent
An idle parent is a creative parent
We lie in bed for as long as possible
We try not to interfere
We play in the fields and forests
We push them into the garden and shut the door so we can clean the house
We both work as little as possible, particularly when the kids are small
Time is more important than money
Happy mess is better than miserable tidiness
Down with school
We fill the house with music and merriment
We reject health and safety guidelines
We embrace responsibility
There are many paths

Less of the work ethic and worry, more of enjoying life as it happens and in the process actually raising happier and more self-sufficient children - could we really have it all backwards? Should we just lighten up and lead our own lives and let our children be? Can having a family really be that enjoyable?

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