OPINION: Why you should always go to a crying baby

MY nanna was a smart woman. She raised seven children. And had 18 grandchildren (or probably more, it's hard to keep up).

I adored her.

She died before she could meet my children, which is heartbreaking in its own quiet way but, sadly, not an unusual story for many of us.

But her voice is often in my head when I feel challenged in parenting. I wish I'd spoken to her more about what it means to be a mother. When she died I was footloose and fancy-free. I hoped we would one day have children, but to bring it up felt like tempting fate.

If I could turn back the clock I would have sat at her feet with a notebook. But as it stands I have the one bit of advice she gave my sister near the birth of her first child.

My nanna said: Always go to a crying baby. You can never give too many cuddles.

You can't spoil a baby.

I have inherited my grandmother's (and my mother's) obsession with babies. I absolutely adore them.

So that bit of advice rang true well before I had my own little one. But now, more than ever, it has guided me. And while I'm not one to buy into parenting philosophies - if I had one it would be something like this:

• You're not being indulgent when you support your children through tough times.

• You're not coddling them by being there for them when they need you.

• You're not spoiling them by listening to them when they communicate with you the only way they know how.

It's such a tired refrain that parents these days are too soft. As if you need to be hard to raise children; unfeeling and cold to turn them out right. As if they're not children but dogs that need training so they don't chew your slippers or pee on the rug.

Children, even babies, need tough love, they say. They're manipulative, apparently. There's so much emphasis on discipline and punishment of children, so little room for them to be human, let alone celebrated for being delightful.

It's not a case of: Maybe they're having a bad day. Or maybe they're tired or overwhelmed.

It's: They need to be controlled, the parents need to reign them in, shut them up. They're "feral".

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether these serial whiners are talking about children or animals. And there's the problem: Of course you're never going to get that children are complex and just roll with it when a child's presence is confronting for you. You don't even see them as human ...

We have all seen or heard the rants about how children these days are running wild. There's no discipline. It's EASY to get them to sleep at night, just turn off the light, shut the door, leave them. If they cry they'll eventually stop.

To do anything different is to "overthink" parenting.

As if parenting is a thing that you should just not invest too much thought or time into. As if it's not your life's work but some kind of side hobby that requires little brain power.

And I have no doubt for some of the people who make those sort of comments that "parenting doesn't take much brain power". With so little to begin with, I wouldn't want them to expend it all in one go anyway ...

These comments all suggest the same thing: By doing anything other than enforcing rules by ignoring children or by churning out seen and never heard - and actually we'd rather not even see them - little adults, you're being indulgent. You're coddling. You're spoiling.

And the by-product is that the kids are in charge, because lord knows we have all heard or seen the "You're the adult!" lecture, haven't we?

What these parenting legends (in their own lunchtimes) don't realise in their race to their soapbox is that actually, many of us are choosing to parent this way FOR A REASON.

- NZ Herald

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