GCSE in child-rearing

Making Meatballs

One of my favourite classes at school was Home Economics; I loved learning about food groups, nutrition and kitchen hygiene. It really has proven to be one of the most useful subjects I studied during my school years. OK, so if I need to know how to divide the remaining slices of chocolate cake between my daughters and their friends or to work out the cooking time of a roast chicken, then Maths comes in handy, and likewise if I want to pretend to be all arty and well-read, throwing in a quick line from "Emma" helps no end, but in Home Ec I learnt how to plan a balanced diet, and not just for me, oh no, I could plan a healthy diet if you’re a vegetarian, a small child, a pregnant woman or even an OAP with high blood pressure.
I remember my teacher, Mrs Coles, very fondly, although she sadly died a few years ago from CJD. It is thanks to her that I still make sure my kitchen cloth is rinsed, wrung out and hung up, not left in a bacteria-welcoming damp pile, and I always store raw meat below cooked food in the fridge. Obvious stuff it might seem but extremely useful nonetheless. Now that I am a mother one of Mrs Coles’s comments often comes to mind, when I'm struggling to get my five and six-year-old into the bath or wondering just what else to try to calm my screaming baby. She used to say “People should have a GCSE in child-rearing before they’re allowed to have children!” 
Of course she didn’t mean it literally, that there should be compulsory contraception until you get a grade C or above, but I certainly agree with the sentiment that some sort of training in how to bring up children would be good. They certainly don’t come with an instruction manual. We all know that the formative years are the most important time in a person’s development, and what happens during this time affects them for the rest of their lives. My father has often quoted someone (not sure who exactly), “Show me the child at seven and I’ll show you the man”. It certainly makes a lot of sense. Or as Phillip Larkin put it, a bit more crudely, “They f*** you up your mum and dad, they may not mean to but they do."
So why is something so crucial left more or less to chance?
I’ve studied, I’ve been to university, I’ve even taught English to foreign children, but despite this there are times when I am at a loss as to how to manage my own daughters. I ask them to do simple things like put their shoes away or brush their teeth and they take absolutely no notice. They’re not deaf, I’m pretty sure about that as they always understand the words ‘chocolate’ or ‘cake’.If only there was a course on child-rearing as Mrs Coles suggested all those years ago, I’d certainly sign up for it.

Tags: 
child-rearing
children
GCSE
school

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