x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Confusing tips on how to raise child

Everything to do with parenthood – from separation versus attachment parenting to breast versus bottle – seems to be the subject of ongoing debate.

My two year old daughter refused to leave the library. "I don't want to go home, Mummy," she said. "I want to stay in the library."

I tried to persuade her by extolling the virtues of going home to play in the garden. Every time I tried, her voice rose in pitch until the entire building was aware of her objections. Eventually, I scooped her up and staggered to the exit.

Once outside, I distracted her by pointing to a bus. You can do that with a toddler. We sang the folk song "the wheels on the bus go around" as the two of us toddled down the street.

At the corner, she remembered the library and started screeching. Flinging herself onto her knees, she clenched her fists, opened her mouth till her tonsils were on public view. I took a photo, obviously.

Neither diplomacy nor threat could alleviate her hysteria, so I stood to one side, pretending to use my phone, seemingly ignoring her while of course keenly monitoring her safety.

A few ear-busting minutes of screaming later, a mother of two walked past, her son slightly older than my daughter. "My boy was exactly the same at that age," she said sympathetically. "You need to move further from her and turn your head so she thinks you've gone. It worked with my son."

I stepped further away from my toddler hoping she noticed her lonely predicament.

A few moments later, an angry wild-haired man appeared. His eyes popping out, he yelled "you pick up this child at once or I'm calling the police". His hair sprang outward like an enraged cartoon character. "This is disgusting, pick her up right now or I'm calling the police."

Two short minutes apart, two wildly contradictory interventions. If there was ever a moment to assert that motherhood is neither easy not clear, this was it.

Being a parent is hard enough, with the sleeplessness, the constant need for physical energy to keep up with boisterous little ones along with the long term worry about doing the best for our children. However, what makes it infinitely worse is the burden imposed by opposing views of experts and do-gooders.

This week in the UK for example, a campaign has been running to persuade women not to delay motherhood, at the same time as a campaign to persuade girls to have children later.

A study has been released explaining why sleeping with your baby is dangerous, at the same time as mothers are told that co-sleeping regulates baby's breathing and sleep. It also helps with night time breastfeeding.

We have continuing raging debates about everything to do with parenthood from separation versus attachment parenting methods; whether stay-at-home or working mums are better for child development, and the continuing debate over whether breast or bottle is best.

While I was ruminating angrily over the pressures on parents, my toddler stopped yelling. We arrived home and the tantrum was forgotten.

We hugged over her freshly-cooked dinner which she shovelled ravenously into her mouth. She is normally a poor eater, spending two hours over each meal, so I saw this as her way of healing the wound of the mid-street tantrum.

She looked in my eyes and declared: "It's tasty, Mummy." A compliment from a two year old? Forget the experts, that's all I need to know I'm doing just fine with motherhood.


Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and blogs at www.spirit21.co.uk