Sunday, April 11, 2010

'But The Book says...'

Between us, my sisters and I have nine children. They are aged six, nearly six, nearly five, four, three, three, nearly two, one and one. They go boy, boy, boy, girl, boy, boy, girl, girl, and boy. When they get together, it’s like swimming in a washing machine – you go round and round in circles, are occasionally overwhelmed, and every once in a while it all bubbles over. Good, clean fun.

Now that we’ve moved to the Fibro and left them all behind in the Big Smoke (bereft, pining…not really, they seem to be thriving without us), the opportunities for washing machine moments are not as frequent. Particularly now that we have three at school. But Saturday was one such occasion.

As I watched them all rampaging around the house, it occurred to me that, between us, we have covered many of the issues that beset new (and not-so-new) parents. We’ve had The One Who Won’t Sleep (and still doesn’t), The Ones Who Wouldn’t Sleep (and now do), The One Who Has Nightmares, The One Who Won’t Eat, The One Who Broke Her Leg, The One Who Had Emergency Surgery, The One Who Gets Ear Infections, The One Who Is Allergic To Panadol...

Then there's, The One Who Didn’t Want To Toilet Train, The One Who Turns Up In His Mum’s Bed Every Night, The One Who Became Very Attached To Teddy, The One Who Wouldn’t Give Up Her Dummy, The One Who Got Early Teeth, The One Who Teethed Late, The One Who Wouldn’t Breastfeed, The One Who Wanted To Breastfeed Forever...

Along with, The One Who Had The Imaginary Friend/s (no prizes for guessing that one), The One Who Walked Early (then stopped), The One (actually there were many of these – must be genetic) Who Walked Late, The One Who Didn’t Talk Much, The One (again, there are many of these) Who Never, Ever Shuts Up… and so on and so forth.

When they were born, we (the sisters) all – because we are alike in many ways – read a lot of books. Whichever book we were reading at the time became The Book. As in ‘But The Book says’… We all had clear, expert advice on how our children should behave and when they should do things. We did our darnedest to make it happen, to nurture those textbook babies, and then threw up our hands when it didn’t.

Now that I know all these children, beautiful individuals that they are, I can’t imagine why we ever expected things to be different. They were never all going to behave the same way.

There’s no such thing as a textbook baby, and certainly no such thing as a textbook child. They’re all works in progress. Wild, creative, imaginative works in progress. And as I sat in the midst of the washing machine on Saturday, I realised how much I’m loving every new chapter.


  1. I love the laundry analogy. And in this case, it'd be great if everything in your wash turned a pale shade of red or purple, as happens to me on occasion. It would just mean you're spreading the Fibro Family love around. =>

    Also, you and your sisters should write a book!

  2. Swimming in a washing machine! If only they came out clean. I loved reading Pinky McKay's books. She has a way of making any 'abnormal' behaviour seem positively normal and endearing.

  3. Sarah (Maya_Abeille)April 12, 2010 at 9:06 AM

    Great post. The other thing I always wonder about it, when we as adults are usually aware that we're not exactly like our siblings, why we are then surprised at how different our offspring are. Logically, it makes sense that they won't be, but you still get a surprise at just how individual they turn out to be. The best advice my mum ever gave me when I had my first baby, (reading all those Books like the researcher I was), was that no book is written about your child, because no other child is your child. That's why books like Pinky McKay's resonate - they aren't prescriptive. Books should be there to reassure rather than preach. Just like this post.

  4. So true! I wonder why it is we have that unrealistic expectation that our children will behave just like it says in "the book"? I just love watching little minds develop and grow their very own personality - hate it though when I see that they've inherited some of my more dodgy traits!

  5. Ah, all so true!

    You shall now be known as The One Who Writes Fabulous Posts!

    Loved it.

    Jodie x

  6. Ahh, but what about those 'how to raise an amazing child' books I recommended on my blog?! How could you do away with those?!!

    Just out of curiosity, how late was The One Who Teethed Late? My boy is late, like 17months old and only TWO teeth late. I'm beginning to think he is a Freak, which is possibly related to the fact that the only teeth he has are the two front ones, and they are fangs!! I swear, not even exaggerating...

  7. @RubyTwoShoes Clearly we would never throw away the 'how to raise an amazing child' section of the bookshelf... there must always be a book to be The Book.

    But your 17 month old is, from memory, an amateur in the late teething stakes. I seem to recall that our late-teether with two teeth at around two...but my memory is very shoddy you know.

    On the other hand, your little guy may be the next generation's RPat, so you could just, you know, go with it.

  8. Ah "The book says..." I know it well. I'm getting better at not taking the textbooks so seriously. Beautiful post about the washing machine effect. It makes everything sparkling and fresh doesn't it. Glad you had some family time as well.

  9. Love this post and the analogy. I wish I had taken a chapter out of your book and knew this when I had my first. I bought SO many books on childcare, child development, but with my second I began to realise that they will do what they're going to do in their own good time. Now the books have gone onto people who don't yet know it!

  10. Love this post. Could you please advise how best to care for The One Who Keeps Falling Off Things and Banging Her Head? We are severely lacking in the Aunties to ask for advice department!

  11. @Christie - We had one of those as well! We called him Mr Bump and checked his vital signs regularly. He seemed to bounce well. Hope your One does too. (BTW, not sure how old yours is, but ours has, for the most part, grown out of it at 3).

  12. It sounds like when my and my sisters get together. Between the four of us we have 12 children under 11. It's a scream! So true about no textbook babies.

  13. Much like Sarah(Maya_Abeille), the best advice I received when my son was a baby was from a lactation consult. When I cried and cried and told her repeatedly "but the book says....", she said "when your child grows up and you have some time write a book about HIM because only then will you have the child in the book"

  14. What a great post. However, I am so glad there were no books around when my babies were little. We had to rely on Mum's advice (ours and others). Seemed to take some of the pressure off. Must been such fun now when you all get together. xxx

  15. Your sisters and you should write a book! It would be so unique and special as I have a feeling you all have a very different take on parenting and the world at large. But somehow all agree?


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