Books Section Bio Section

Richard Glover’s Guide to Raising Babies

By Richard Glover

The government, we’ve learned this week, might be willing to pay for at-home childcare from qualified people – so why shouldn’t parents themselves be eligible? Sure, we’ll need to take the requisite TAFE course, but the basic information can’t be that hard to master. Here’s a quick outline of the syllabus:

Birth to six weeks   During this time your child will sleep 18 hours a day, but only if you are the author of a childcare manual. All other children are awake constantly, dozing off momentarily between bouts of colic, colic being a technical term which means “my baby is crying for no conceivable reason and if it doesn’t stop soon I may go craaaaazy.” This wakefulness will eventually disappear, but only when the child turns 16, at which point they’ll “sleep like a baby”. It is a curious fact that no baby “sleeps like a baby”, unless “sleep like a baby'' is defined as “bawl uncontrollably and cry for your mother, having urinated in your own pants”.

Six weeks to six months   During this period the child will cry without mercy, demanding to be brought into the parental bed, snuggled in the space between you and your partner. Don’t be alarmed. Your child is merely displaying a very advanced form of sibling rivalry: one in which they attempt to prevent the very conception of any future siblings. It’s at this point you’ll understand why other parents invest so heavily in Wiggles DVDs.

Six months to nine months   It’s now that you’ll finally snap and insist they go to bed on time. This involves putting them in bed at 8pm, waiting four seconds until they start crying, and then picking them out of bed and rocking them in your arms for 20 minutes until they fall asleep, at which point you gingerly move towards the bed, one tiny shuffling step at a time, and lower them onto the mattress, moving so slowly that whole geological periods pass, the ice caps melt and the universe expands. Once they are finally on the bed, you gingerly attempt to remove your hands from underneath their tiny body, displaying the stealthily care of a bomb disposal expert defusing a nuclear device, before gradually turning, ready to creep from the room, at which point they will start bawling. Next: repeat 10 times until it’s dawn, at which moment you can both sit down to watch the Wiggles. The following night, threaten them with a visit from Kevin Donnelly.

Nine months to a year   This is when your child will develop hand-eye co-ordination: his hand, your eye. It’s also the time of teething. Well-meaning neighbours might suggest you make use of the dummy, but you’ll just have to explain he’s back at work now. Instead, provide the infant with lots to chew on. Most of the early land clearing in NSW was achieved when the settlers unleashed teams of teething toddlers into the virgin forests. It would be a rare child who couldn’t ringbark 10 eucalypts before morning smoko, and yours should be able to do the same.

One year to 18 months   This is an important period for bonding – in particular PVA bonding the smashed crockery after you left open the door to the pantry. It’s also the period in which toilet training begins. Just sit the child on the toilet and give positive feedback whenever anything at all is produced. There’s nothing odd about this: it’s been the policy in the Australian film industry for years.

Eighteen months to two years   It’s important to develop a feeding routine. This involves performing a medley of Broadway hits as you shovel in the food: complete with aeroplane actions, train noises and the odd Shirley Bassey show-stopper. Despite all this effort, most meal times will end with the child sporting a face masque of mashed pumpkin, with no food having actually entered their mouth. This is no problem: it is a scientific fact that young children suck the nutrients from food via the skin, which is why they shake their heads so vigorously from side to side as the spoon approaches, giving themselves a good layering.

Two years to 35 years   This is period of “why” questions: “why is the sky blue?” “why do cows go moo?” and “why can’t I borrow the car, dad?” Due to Sydney real estate prices, most children will be reluctant to leave home until they are at least 35 years old. Despite this refusal to depart, it’s reasonable to have sympathy for this generation of young Australians: they are coping with high house prices and enormous student loans, plus the young men have to wear those stupid beards. Despite all these challenges, one day they will eventually form themselves into couples and have children of their own. Having done so, they’ll immediately head off to work and drop the children with you. At which point:

Birth to six weeks   During this time your grandchild will sleep 18 hours a day, but only if you are the author of a child-care manual.



First published in the Sydney Morning Herald, July 25, 2014.

Return to blog index.