The best bit of parenting advice I ever got was from a builder.
It was early in 2014 when I found out I was pregnant with our daughter. Before that my husband and I were a little military family of two, with a couple of doggies to occupy our time and no thought of ever starting a family.
So, when little Seren made her way into the world, I was starting completely from scratch on the parenting front and had to learn an awful lot in a short amount of time.
Seren lost a lot of weight when she was born, and the health visitor put it down to her feeding. She made me take her to the GP the day she came home and left me with volumes of leaflets on feeding, reflux, the ‘breast is best’ information (I was formula feeding) and a whole raft of other things that, while important, made me feel a bit like I was drowning.
A few days after we came out of hospital, my sister and brother-in-law came to see her. Steve is a six-foot five mountain of a man who has worked all of his life as a builder. He is rude, crude and pretty rough round the edges.
He came in, picked Seren up and held her in his colossal arms and while he was holding her, she started hiccupping and making a whooping noise due to the reflux she was suffering with.
‘I tell you what gel’ he said while looking down at my daughter (gel with a hard ‘g’) ‘what you wanna do, right, is get ‘er under the arms when you’re burpin’ ‘er so she’s up all nice and straight, that’ll soon get rid of them winds she’s got.’
That was 6 years ago now and I have since had another baby. Both my babies wind easily now and do not suffer from any discomfort at all.
That is, hands down, the best piece of parenting advice I ever got. And it was from a builder.
Steve knew that wonderful bit of advice because he had raised two children of his own already, who happened to suffer with reflux and wind. He had sat there, night after night, trying every which way to soothe his children – figuring out what worked and what didn’t, until he had a foolproof technique. I very much doubt he has ever read one parenting book or baby blog in his life.
He had the experience he was able to share that really helped me at the start of the scary journey into becoming a mum. And that is invaluable.
The Recovery College Cornwall recognises this and strives to use tutors with lived experience to deliver their range of courses. Tutors who have empathy and true understanding of where a student sits in relation to their mental health journey can be just as, or sometimes more powerful than one without that experience but who trained in recognising the condition.
They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. 10,000 hours of battling anxiety, 10,000 hours of supporting people with mental health conditions, 10,000 hours of sleepless nights, teaching your children right from wrong or learning about depression.
10,000 hours of lived experiences.
The best piece of parenting advice I ever got was from a builder. A builder who was also a parent.
We can learn so much from the people who have been there, done it, made mistakes, and learned from them. People who have studied and people who have just gone out there and lived it.
To weave the richest tapestry of understanding, we need to make sure we are learning our lessons in as many places as we can.