Saturday, January 10, 2015

Painting my books: Motherhood and lingering questions

'Common Sense' (watercolour on paper) - Jodi Wiley

When I had my first daughter five-and-a-half years ago I read every parenting book I could get my hands on. They often caused me more trouble than they were worth. Ditto for internet forums.

When I had my second daughter I barely opened a single book. I began to trust myself more when I silenced the white noise of advice.

I found Common Sense in the Nursery in this second-hand bookshop not long ago and I bought it immediately based on the title alone.

Now, I don't know who Mrs. Sydney Frankenburg is but I can tell you, she terrifies me. Just now I read her bio on the back cover which informs me she also published books called, Latin with Laughter and More Latin with Laughter - which terrifies me even more.

Common Sense in the Nursery is a book full of 'shoulds' and 'musts' and 'certainly need nots'.

'From the beginning the child should be trained to go to sleep alone. He should be put into his cot and left.'

'Crying should be systematically discouraged.'

'A most useful invention for the baby in a flat or townhouse with no garden, is the cage fastened to the outside of the window.'

You see? Common sense!

First published in 1922 it is, as you can imagine, full of the common sense of its time. Which made me realise, 'common sense' is always of its time.

The middle book is my mum's very own copy of Book of Child Care: The complete guide for today's parents from my own childhood. This book has a softer tone - it's much kinder. It's been well-thumbed. You can see the spine has been taped up. I remember seeing it around the house as a kid.

The bottom book is mine. I bought it a few years ago in the dark muddle that is early-motherhood with new baby and active toddler and eye-bulging sleep-deprivation. I haven't finished reading it. You might be able to see the bookmark.

Parenting is hard. I'm always grappling for answers. I have plenty of lingering questions. And it comforts me to know that many mothers before me obviously did too.