I’ve read some eye-opening books during 2017, but none more so than Oliver James’ Not In Your Genes.
Subtitled “The real reasons children are like their parents”, the book reveals the truth about how little impact genes have on the way we turn out as people.
At the core of this is the seemingly-little-known revelation that genes play no part in things like mental illness, our skill at various things like sport or music, or what we enjoy learning at school.
The fact that conditions such as depression or ADHD are not at all genetic and inherently down to nurture is a bit of a shock.
Yesterday we enjoyed the delights of Beckenham and had some lunch at the local Pizza Express, taking advantage of their Buy 1 Get 1 Free deal – no shame for me!
Not long after we arrived and had ordered, a young woman came in with four kids, varying in age from around 10 down to a 2-year-old girl.
We probably wouldn’t have paid them much attention if it wasn’t for the fact that she couldn’t get the youngest out of her pushchair and blocked lots of people for a while, before I gallantly (!?!?) went over and unhooked the toddler’s foot.
It was only when I went back to our table and looked again, I realised that this young woman was actually only a teenager and was looking after these 4 kids as an au pair.
Now, I’m not against live-in help per se – after all, for the rich and well-heeled they serve a useful purpose – not having to do all the dirty work, for starters.
And when you’re jetting off worldwide doing multi-million pound business deals, your kids take a back seat, don’t they?
OK, so I’m taking the mick, but I know that many rich parents make use of young women during the week, while they’re at work.
But this was Saturday. Lunchtime on Saturday. And these poor kids – who actually looked pretty used to the experience – weren’t being taken out by their parents, but a teenage au pair.
Righteous indignation, I know, but not exactly the model way to parent in anyone’s eyes.
I’m a dad. And, in case you’re new to this blog, I should add I have two children – two beautiful daughters.
The oldest is now 5 and yet, I still don’t feel like a proper parent. I often take my children out on my own and am convinced that other people are looking at me and saying to themselves: ‘He doesn’t look like a proper father!’ or ‘What on earth is he doing with that child?’
You see, I still live in a haze of paranoia that someone will come up to me and say, you’re not doing it properly and are a crap dad. Here’s a black mark against you – one more and your child will hate you for life.
It doesn’t how many times I tell myself or C that you only need to be ‘good enough’, it still doesn’t really sink in.
All it needs is for my youngest not to come to the front door and greet me when I come home from work and I assume I’ve done something wrong and she doesn’t like me any more.
Or else I call up B to ask her how her day at school was and she refuses to talk to me, because she’s watching TV instead.
I keep pointing out to myself that I was probably exactly the same (and probably still am) with my Mum and Dad and that’s just the way of the world. In other words, you never truly appreciate what’s been done for you, until it’s almost too late.
I hope that one day I’ll wake up and have that Eureka moment when I realise that actually I’m doing an OK job and that people don’t judge me at every step, but I’m not holding out any hope just yet.