Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Dog-Eared Handbook

We all know that having children changes you. You only have to look at the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament to see that. Before you have children you have all these 'ideas' of what you will and won't do. How your child will behave. Good luck with that. Good. Luck. However, we do have a handbook. Contrary to the mutterings that all us new parents throw at one another, we do all have a handbook. Now, we can either rip out the pages or highlight and underline but rest assured the book we have is one of the first gifts our parents ever gave us. Whether we use it or not, every child rearing theory we spout or choose to rebuke comes from that book which was in turn given to our parents from their parents and so on and so forth. Yes, we amend it as we go along - or at least we hope to. I suppose the trick is to spot what didn't work and not keep that in the book that you pass down. Simple, right? Well it would be except your partner has a book too and that is where parenting becomes really fun. What you took as normal is suddenly questionable. "What? You mean your father wouldn't come in and kick off his clothes and expect his meal on the table?"
You husband was spanked as a child. If he misbehaved it would be reported to his father who would later explain why such behaviour was wrong and a spanking would ensue. On the other hand, when I was told off I would likely be clipped round the ear or given a smack bottom as I scuttled out of the room. Hearing these differences, I was aghast that my husband was spanked in such a controlled fashion. He in turn didn't like that I was disciplined out of anger. Conflict? No. Why? Because we had this conversation pre-Olive when we also said that we would let our child cry herself to sleep, we wouldn't feed on demand, and we would 'happily' discipline our child. Our imaginary child. That pretend baby that you plan everything for before you actually meet, nay, conceive her. You know, before you realise that the sight and sight of your baby crying makes you want to pull your eyes out and use them as ear plugs, if only to take your mind off the pain of your heart breaking. I am nowhere near the parent I planned to be. Yesterday, i tried to be firm with Olivia when she kept undoing her diaper. I gave a firm "no" and her eyes welled up - I kissed her 17 times until i felt forgiven. I'm officially useless...
I know, i know, we are new parents. I'll get tougher in time. Soon, i'll graduate to the front seat of the car once more and stop dating the back of my husband's head. In the meantime, whilst figuring our way and condensing our parent's handbooks to form our own, my husband and I are united in our admiration of another family. We happily defer to a handbook advocating love, laughter and sweaters with leather patches.
Yes, we want to be Cliff and Claire Huxtable and if that means training Olivia to come down the stairs miming gospel we'll do it.
Here is a snippet from the Huxtable handbook- from a chapter perhaps entitled "Cliff's Tough Love".
Now, this is how you parent...


  1. Ahh to be like the Huxtables. If only it was that easy. But it can't be to hard because my Grandparents had that kind of life...without the commerical breaks to gloss over the bad. lol

    And yes it does get easier to disipline...eventually...sometimes.....sorta. Okay so I still cringe when I have to get onto my 7yr old but...I manage.

    Love your blog following from MBC

  2. i've completely thrown out the handbook i was given from my parents. my single parenting goal is that my spawn leave my home one generation less damaged than i, and that they find a parenting partner with equal or lesser (lessor?) damage.

  3. That's our goal too. My mum's side of the book was awesome but then i'd find the odd footnote from my father...the hardest part is recognizing what patterns don't have to continue and to catch yourself from passing them on - it's amazing what i'll find myself saying and doing and then i'll hear it and realize. Your kids are awesome so you must be writing an amazing book.

  4. What a great intro! Love it, the Old and New Testament point.

    You are the type of mom I love! You reflect on your process. Excellent!

  5. Hi Paula, I just became a follower of your blog. I love it! It's so nice to find blogs that are stuffed with giveaways and reviews, but rather real life! I will enjoy keeping up with your writing. Come visit my blog at and become a follower if you think you would enjoy keeping up! By the way, my oldest is a girl. I never thought I could love someone so much! Enjoy her!

  6. love, love love the Huxtables - excellent handbook - love, humor and then hit ya between the eyes in a loving and humurous way. :) Your processing is wonderful - you guys are doing great work.

  7. Absolutley Brilliant!!

  8. Boy did I love that show. Mr. Cosby actually bought me a pair of shoes about 15 years ago. Funny but long story. Anyway, I'm following from MBC. I hope you'll check out mine at THANKS! Sarah


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