I don’t know about you as fellow male (or female) readers but I have a pathological dislike for assembling things – that IKEA Billy bookcase laid prone in a boot after a trip to MK (yes our nearest one) gives me palpitations, as does any other form of assembly – including meetings! Which are possibly the biggest waste of time in any organisation – but that will be covered in another blog.
I didn’t like building things in the 70s as a child: the Airfix kits which passed as the height of sophistication BITD left me cold, as does Lego now. I’m incredibly impractical, but probably more disinterested because building does not interest or motivate me. I’m a thinker, me, I think.
There’s something alarming for me about opening a new flatpack piece and reaching for the guide and finding the one page in English – that will change when we leave Europe?
I do tell myself to check components and read the guide before putting Allen key to melamine, but often I can’t be arsed as even slavish following results in Frank Spencer cock ups (showing my age there).
I needed a manual though, 17 years ago, tomorrow, when we gave birth to our son James Walton on 6th December 2000 at the ripe old age of 36.
This baby who came into the world delighted and depressed me in equal measures.
He was a very good baby and remains perfect even now, in teenage mode, but back then, I looked with alarm at his soiled nappies, his long teething problems and his bouts of colic. The only advice we had to rely on was from family and friends and to be honest, many of them had cocked up parenting themselves.
Unless the child is called Billy, creating a child is not like building a bookcase, is it?
We lived, at that time, in a remote part of Staffordshire, sandwiched between Ashbourne and Leek, in Waterhouses, on the Manifold Valley, not far, aptly from Thor’s Cave.
My wife thoroughly enjoyed maternity leave and I enjoyed five days of paternity leave (how measly is that provision?) walking in the hills of Waterfall, Grindon, Butterton etc, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit perplexed by the whole point of a baby. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a good hands-on dad and apart from my spell of regular drinking (from 13 to 51 years of age), I’ve always put their needs first and mine second. But I was conscious that we needed to make James stand tall, like a well-assembled bookcase, and mould his subconscious in those first seven years of his life, so that he wouldn’t suffer from mental demons of his own in later life.
Now this is not a “Well done, me” post – it’s simply a reminder that babies don’t come with instruction manuals, but you need to put good stuff into their developing brains in the first seven years. We were told to equip James with fabric books from day one and always let him have books – he’s now studying French, History and English Literature at A Level – surely not a coincidence? I told the same to an ex pupil, Michael Craddock, whose daughter Izzy is a total bookworm.
So as well as feeding, cleaning, loving your baby, step one of an instruction manual for creating a good adult is to give them books. Fiction teaches them about life, love and loss. It equips them with empathy and understanding and an ability to read emotions, which so many boys patently lack.
Read to your children, read to boys, give them books and stand back and admire what you’ve created.