Monday, May 07, 2007

I can't quite find the Pygmalion reference

There was another letter in the paper today about Section 59 and education. I've noticed a few letters that argue what is needed along side the repeal of Section 59 is more parenting classes.

In objecting to these letters I'm want to make it clear that I do think learning how to be a parent is important. Learning how to parent is work, it's devalued work, and it's work women do. Either learning how to parent is completely ignored (there's a lot of skill-sharing, and support within women's networks, particularly mother's networks) or there's an idea that it unnecessary - neurotic.

But there's a tone to these letters, a tone that says 'the reason other people hit their kids is because they're not educated enough.' Leaving aside the patronising, offensive implications of that, I just don't think it's true.

I'm the oldest of four children and my parents were better at parenting by the time my little sisters came along. Partly that was about learning and experience, my parents had a much better idea of what they were doing third and forth time.* When my littlest sister hit adolescence and started slamming doors, my Mum would say "I don't know what's wrong with her" and whichever older sibling was at hand would say "Well she's thirteen." There was no-one to do that when I was thirteen; my Mum felt it was about her.

But there's only half the reason. Just as important was that my parents were much more stressed when I was in adolescence. There were reasons for that stress that were specific to our family. But the stress could have been eased in so many ways if parenting was supported and if non-parenting work didn't have to always be organised on what the employer wanted, rather than what you could give.

I said last year:

So while I do support the repeal of section 59, it's ridiculous to look at that in isolation. Parenting will continue to be a job that is much more stressful than it needs to be when it is done in isolation, without adequate support or resources, and children will always be the ones that suffer when their parents are under stress. The law can't change that.
I'm glad the bill is going to go through. Section 59 said kids didn't matter when their parents hit them, and if all this law does is reassure one kid that they do matter, then that's enough for me. But there was a missed opportunity here to talk about parents and what they need. If that had happened then at the very least people wouldn't be writing to the paper suggesting that all we need is a few parenting classes and maybe we would be demanding a whole lot more.

* According to my sister our family is Experiment (me), Boy (my brother), Perfection (her), and Overindulgence (our little sister), she calls me 'speri for short.

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