I'm fed up with modern parenting. All this fussing around Joshua and his special talents and following him around soft play like a stalker. Trampling on other children as you go while talking into your phone in between taking his picture 200 times.
If any other little ones come into his space, you can't help yourself saying: "Oh Joshua thank goodness you have such lovely manners, even if some other people have forgotten their's today."
Then there's shoving him up to the highest level of the play area until he realises he can't get down so he screams his head off.
So you have to blast through a few tunnels, up a ladder, along a zip wire and between two giant roller-balls to extract him from a place he should never have been in.
Not even noticing that you've separated a couple of children who were happily playing together and bashed some poor toddler out of the way.
Dirt is better than bleach
I'm calling for a return to 1970s benign neglect. Basically, letting children get on with it. Run, jump, skip, climb. Without yelling "slow down, not so high, don't get dirty, come down now". Without following them proffering snacks they are not interested in. Without bullying them to wear coats and jumpers they have no desire to wear. Without intervening in playground politics unless there is blood to be spilt.
This was illustrated perfectly for me a week ago when our three-year-old was forlornly watching a much bigger girl whirling round on a sort of pogo-stick embedded in the ground. She waited and waited and my heart went out to her. I wanted to go and stand beside her in a show of solidarity.
But I held myself back. Instead our five-year-old went and waited with her but when the bigger girl slowed down, she shouted: "Can we come on and play with you?" The other girl was delighted and the three spun happily away.
Later I saw a dad turn the top to spin his children and it ended in snots and tears when they spun far too fast. My main rules of engagement are:
- Don't push children up anything they can't climb. See above. They won't be able to get down
- Don't lift them off stuff either. The sooner they learn not to climb on to or into stuff they can't escape from the better. Talk them down if you have to
- Let them work in teams to figure out the roundabout and swings – refuse to be their swing bitch unless they are too young to use a toilet
- Let them be interested in what they want. If they'd rather pick daisies than play with their friends, great. Go at it
- Don't feed them between meals unless it's bland 1970s apples
- If in doubt, a bit of dirt is better for them than a bit of bleach
- If they fall over, say: "Well done for not making a fuss." Even if they are kicking off, they get the idea that hysterics over a little scratch isn't winning much.
More fierce, funny commentators please
It makes me think of Caitlin Moran and what she might have become had she not been one of eight children in a small council house in Wolverhampton left to her own devices and the local library.
If she'd been from a middle-class family of 2.2 children in Winchester, she'd probably have done very well at school and would now be selling us all toothpaste or insurance or editing a glossy magazine. The thought makes me queasy.
Bring on more fierce, feminist, funny commentators with wild hair and fewer over-schooled 12 A*, grade eight clarinet-playing conformists who never quite speak their minds.
If you're not convinced, I refer to this wonderful Tedx talk from Japan in which an architect explains how small children are essentially monkeys.
With three under the age of six in the house, I couldn't agree with him more. I only wish we designed nurseries like his in London and let our children take more risks.
Christine Armstrong is a contributing editor of Management Today, author of Power Mums (interviews with high-profile mothers) and founder of www.villas4kids.com. She can be found on Twitter at @hannisarmstrong.