Friday, December 21, 2012
Politically incorrect childcare did the trick
A good and happy little boy now. The father was wised up by his own mother
If someone had told me before my son was born that I would find myself bolting him in his room at night, let alone issuing an ultimatum to my partner that I would move out if she didn’t agree, I never would have believed them. I would have found it abhorrent.
I am aware that admitting to this is breaking a major parenting taboo and I fully expect to be vilified. But, before anyone judges me, perhaps they should read my story.
For the previous six exhausting months, Sonny, then three, had refused to stay in bed for more than a few minutes at a time, even in the middle of the night. We’d been to doctor, read endless books, and taken counsel from parents and friends.
Everything had failed. We had failed. Truly, we were at breaking point. It’s no exaggeration to say we were on the brink of losing our relationship, health and sanity. A child refusing to stay put at night sounds so harmless, until you’ve experienced it. Take the night that precipitated my ultimatum. Diana had got up and put Sonny back to bed 37 times, but every single time he got up, opened his bedroom door and came out.
'I spent hours visiting parenting websites and discovered that the topic is one of the most contentious and emotive in all of parenting'
Finally, Diana collapsed on the landing floor, holding Sonny’s door handle shut as he screamed and pulled and twisted at it from inside.
I knelt beside her and held her as we both sobbed. It was by far the lowest point in our experience of parenthood. If I could have pressed a button and made Sonny go away, at that moment I would have. I hated myself for thinking it, but it was the truth.
Desperate, the next morning I gave Diana a choice: ‘I cannot live like this any more. Either we put a lock on his door, or I am moving out into a hotel.’
Reluctantly, she agreed. Exhausted from months of fractured sleep and on the verge of separation, we had reached rock bottom. We were constantly ill with flu, and a few days previously I’d fallen asleep in a meeting as I tried to close a £1 million deal to launch a website.
It was worse than when Sonny was a newborn and woke every couple of hours. At least then a feed, change or comfort achieved something positive.
Sonny was two-and-a-half when his desire to escape his cot became a serious issue. He is tall and strong for his age, and mastered the art of climbing over the bars.
At first, zipping him into a toddler’s sleeping bag acted as a humane restraint, as it meant he couldn’t get his leg on to the top rung. But he soon worked out how to unzip the bag and extricate himself. Then, one morning shortly before his third birthday, we were woken by the sound of him crashing to the floor. In an attempt to get out, he’d fallen over the side — and we knew it was time for his first proper bed.
But that’s when the trouble really started. At bedtime, Sonny would charge out of bed as we tried to leave his room, yanking the rattly door handle and opening the door.
At first, when we heard the rattling sound one of us would patiently lead him back to bed, then kiss and cuddle him back to sleep.
But he became clingy, and would go berserk when we tried to leave, waking at the tiniest movement. He’d scream until we came back, or wander downstairs to find us.
This would happen five or six times before he fell asleep. It made evening relaxation time impossible.
When we crept past his room to bed, our nerves already frazzled, Sonny would wake at the tiniest squeak of a floorboard, and the agonising process would start again.
After maybe another hour of repeatedly putting him back to bed he would fall asleep, only to wake in the night and repeat the entire performance.
Then, in June this year, my mum came straight out with it. ‘Take his door handle off and put a lock on the outside of his door,’ she said. ‘He’ll soon learn he can’t get out and stay in bed.
‘I locked you in your room. You wouldn’t stop wandering into our room. Everybody did it back then. And it worked.’
This was the first I’d heard of it, yet, amazingly, when I asked around I discovered other family members had done it with their children, too. I was shocked, but I could see the logic. Diana, however, was resolutely against. ‘It’s cruel and might traumatise him,’ she said. ‘It’s not fair.’ ‘Not fair?’ I replied. ‘On who? We haven’t slept in months. We’re ill and argue all the time. Besides, he won’t even remember it.’
Other parents we know were effectively locking their children in their rooms anyway, because higher door handles were out of their child’s reach. Yet even they smarted at the suggestion I bolt Sonny’s door from the outside.
Even among professionals, the technique prompts strong feelings. Clinical child psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin is vehemently against the practice.
Three months later, however, came the night when Diana and I broke down. It took me threatening to move out before she agreed to a trial period of locking his door for one week.
Removing the handle and drilling the holes in Sonny’s doorframe to fit the small sliding bolt I’d removed from our loo door was a dark moment. The noise it made as it clunked shut ran against every positive sense of nurturing.
The first night was an utter nightmare. We put him to bed as usual, but as we hurried out and I bolted the door, his cry of ‘No, no!’ was followed by him thundering across the room and hammering his fists on the inside of the door.
We’d left a blanket and pillow just inside, as people had recommended. He was fed, watered, warm and had a fresh nappy. There was nothing more we could do; comforting him would only prolong the agony. Yet still we felt like prison wardens.
Sonny cried his lungs out for three solid hours, a hideous, guttural sound that haunts me to this day. In the morning, he was curled up asleep by the door.
When I dropped him at nursery, Sonny was like a zombie, and when I collected him that evening, a concerned carer took me to one side and asked if everything was ok at home. Apparently Sonny had fallen asleep face-first in his lunch. His voice was hoarse.
‘Oh, he just had a bad night,’ I stammered, but was filled was a terrible sense of shame. I felt cruel and heartless — but I also felt that we had to hold our nerve. After all, this was our last hope.
Things improved slightly on the second night. Sonny cried for an hour, but didn’t batter at the door, nor did he wake in the night. And, on the third night, he finally stayed in bed and slept through. The message had got through: there was no point trying to escape.
Miraculously, it had worked. Six months of misery had ended in three nights.
We had our first full night’s sleep in half a year, and immediately felt energised and happier. Sonny was brighter and more alert.
The bolt stayed on. Five months later and Sonny is now three-and-a-half. He still occasionally wakes at 5am, but has everything he wants in his room to entertain him, plus a potty, so he merrily plays away until we go in at 7am.
The whole painful process has transformed our lives. All three of us are well rested, and we all get on better.
I still feel uncomfortable about what I did, but really my only regret is that we didn’t do it six months earlier. It could have saved so much heartache.
Bonfire of red tape to liberate small firms in fresh crackdown on council and quango jobsworths
Council and quango jobsworths who regulate small businesses face a ‘bonfire of excessive red tape’ in a fresh crackdown on their box-ticking culture.
Ministers want to prevent regulators from needlessly burdening businesses and stifling economic growth.
They will tell the ‘men with clipboards’ to use common sense before intervening, and are planning a dramatic overhaul of their guidelines.
In the future, regulators will be forced to consider whether their actions will impinge on a business’s ability to grow and be productive.
The move, ordered by Business Minister Michael Fallon, may be viewed with some scepticism among business leaders, as it is the latest in a long line of desperate attempts to get heavy-handed overseers off the backs of small and medium-sized enterprises.
But Mr Fallon is determined to make a difference. He said: ‘We have started a bonfire of excessive red tape, but I know that it is just as important that we look at the way that regulations are enforced.
‘There is room for far more effective enforcement which reduces the burden on businesses which stick to the rules.’
Last week Chancellor George Osborne set out a ‘package of measures’ to tackle systemic problems in the way that regulations are enforced by over-zealous officials. These included forcing regulators to take into account the potential economic impact of their actions before intervening.
In one example, the owner of a factory producing blue cheese was told by his council that he could not have mould on his produce.
Yesterday the Government also promised to overhaul the appeals process.
At the moment, if a decision is made against a business or company by its local authority, it has to appeal to the same body that made the judgment in the first place. On top of this, companies have to accept the initial judgment that they were in the wrong before they can appeal, meaning they are forced to appeal against a decision they have accepted.
Businesses also say that they cannot complain openly about their local authority, for fear they will be targeted. Because they have the power to spring surprise inspections, businesses say, local regulators will ‘make their lives hell’ if they are publicly criticised.
Ministers will spend a month reviewing the flaws in the system before proposing changes.
Mr Fallon added that non-financial regulators, such as the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive, will face a much tougher regime to cut out ‘crazy’ rulings.
About 60 non-financial regulators, as well as local councils across England and Wales, will be hit by Mr Fallon’s changes.
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has previously said that the Government’s ‘bonfire of the quangos’ – designed to cut down on state-backed organisations which sprung up during New Labour’s period in office – would save taxpayers £2.6billion by 2016.
But the figures have been called into question by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee, who say shutting down government organisations incurs massive costs.
Dr Adam Marshall, from the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘The Government does deserve some credit for slowing down the flow of new regulation.’
He added: ‘But only now are they starting to tackle the mountain of existing regulation that many businesses face.’
Women still can't have it all
Nicolle Flint comments from Australia:
It is a decade since Virginia Haussegger's pivotal "The sins of our feminist mothers" was published on this page. Haussegger's opinion piece articulated the anger and frustration of a generation of women left childless as a result of their feminist mothers promoting the myth of "having it all": the career, the husband and the babies. The article hit a collective nerve. A book followed recording Haussegger's personal account of feminism, career, relationships, health, and, ultimately biological childlessness.
The messages resonated with women of Haussegger's generation and with mine. Wonder Woman: The Myth of Having It All was the talk of every woman in town.
Thanks to brave women like Haussegger, my generation received the message loud and clear to look after their reproductive health; to not delay pregnancy too long. We have been successfully reprogrammed to hear the biological clock ticking. Unfortunately, this is not a gentle while-away-the-hours-type ticking. Rather, it is a nuclear-bomb-is-about-to-explode-so-PANIC-NOW-style ticking. I sometimes wonder if this has done more harm than good; if, in fact, it would be better not to know.
But we are, of course, the generation who does know. We know our fertility drops markedly after 35 years of age, that when you hit 40 the chances of natural conception and a healthy pregnancy are so slim as to be negligible, that 40-plus Hollywood celebrity mothers use donor eggs. Our GPs gently, but regularly, remind us of these facts.
Yet all the education, awareness and warnings in the world won't guarantee you'll find a partner to father your children. Contemporary records of this dilemma abound: Sushi Das' Deranged Marriage: A Memoir touches upon it, recent articles by The Advertiser's Amber Petty and Rebekah Devlin discuss it, and Martha Wainwright and Lily Allen have sung about it.
The prevailing advice for those hitting the 35-year-old "single no children" danger zone is to freeze our eggs. This sounds like a neat future-proofing insurance policy but at this stage unfortunately it is not. The procedure is expensive ($10,000 plus) and the statistical success of eventually achieving pregnancy is far from encouraging. But at least we have an option, limited though it may be, and more information than was accessible to Haussegger and her contemporaries.
But did Haussegger's message about the myth of having it all generate other less positive ramifications? Has her warning, in fact, caused a generation of women to regress in the workplace just when women were gaining a collective foothold? Did educated young women heed her warning so thoroughly their careers have been sacrificed for children?
Debates over women's representation in the workforce, and in the realm of literature and theatre abound. According to reports on the arts and theatre for example, more women than men feel caring for children has affected their artistic careers. Women are working "flexibly" or part-time, consciously or unconsciously enabling their partner's career to prosper over their own. Are women and men still incapable of privately negotiating their family commitments to the mutual benefit of both their careers?
It seems so. In an article titled "Desperate Gillard's War has Failed her Own Gender", Henry Ergas wrote in The Australian on Monday "the share of women in full-time employment has increased only 3 percentage points since the 1960s". According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) women represent just 35 per cent of all full-time employees (a figure that was 34 per cent in 2002).
The 2012 Australian Census of Women in Leadership reports women represent just 9.2 per cent of both executives and directors of ASX 500 companies, and that in the "pipeline" to senior ASX 500 management positions men hold 2148 line positions and women just 141. WGEA director Helen Conway said "we've been conducting the census for 10 years and, frankly, you'd expect to see more progress … companies have failed to develop and maintain a strong pipeline of female talent, and you can see this in the negligible growth in female executive management".
If my generation has embraced babies over the target of the boardroom, this is a predictable outcome. As with the debate in the arts, if women are not half the playing field in the first place then how can they expect half the positions? How can workplace gender imbalances be addressed if women are not in the workplace full-time to address them, when the stark reality is that businesses operate on a full-time work week, especially in the ranks of senior management?
The great post-feminist challenge is for women and men to reconcile the myth of having it all with reality, and this is a private matter, not one for the state. Suffocating business with further regulation and reporting requirements is counterproductive and ultimately pointless if couples are making private decisions that result in workplace gender imbalances. Men and women must reflect on the private choices they make and what this means for women's careers.
In a decade from now I hope women in their 30s won't be facing the same difficult circumstances and choices. I hope women and men can privately negotiate to improve women's full-time presence in the workforce, that reproductive technology may have improved further still, that we can have a more substantive and informed debate about other options such as American-style egg donation and surrogacy, and that the conversation started by Virginia Haussegger in 2002 and continued by others like Das, Petty and Devlin might assist the women who follow next.
A decade on from Haussegger's article women know more, panic more, yet are not presented with more conceivable solutions to our problems of procreation, partnership and profession. We should be able to have it all. But this time it's up to women - and men - to make it happen.
Alien nation: The new census reveals a Britain that would be unrecognisable even to our grandparents
The future will be another country. They will do things differently there
The Census is not just a description of the state of things on a day in 2011, it is a prophetic document telling us where we are going, whether we like it or not. I don’t.
For the past 60 years or so, we have lived in a nation that was more or less familiar to anyone who had grown up in the pre-war Britain of 1939. Even the devastation of conflict had not transformed it out of recognition.
People behaved, thought, worked, laughed and enjoyed themselves much as they had done for decades. They lived in the same sorts of families in the same kind of houses. Their children went to the same kinds of schools. And they had grown up in a land that was still identifiably the same as their grandparents had known.
And so it went back for centuries.
As recently as 1949, the prices of most goods were roughly the same, and expressed in the same money, as the prices of 1649.
A short-distance time-traveller between 1912 and 2012 might be perplexed and astonished, but he would not be lost.
That period is now coming to an end. I suspect that anyone in Britain, travelling between 2012 and 2112 would be unable to believe that he was in the same place.
What is the most significant single fact in the Census? I do not think there is one. Several are shocking or disturbing, if you are not fond of change, and delightful if you are.
But there are some, which taken together, prophesy a transformation to come.
Look at these – manufacturing is now only the fourth-biggest employer, after supplying and selling goods and services, health and social work and education.
So, in the nation that was once the ‘Workshop of the World’, we now have more teachers than industrial workers.
London is rapidly becoming a separate nation, as different from England as Scotland or Wales are, with indigenous British people now in a minority, in some areas a very small minority indeed, and incidentally with extremes of wealth and poverty not known since Edwardian times.
Then of course there is the decline in Christianity, down by four million, from 72 per cent to 59 per cent; the growth in indifference to religion, with non-believers almost doubling to 14.1 million; and also of Islam, rising so fast that one British resident in 20 is now a Muslim.
The Muslim population is young, and keen on large families, while the Christian population tends to be older and less likely to have children.
This is very much a work in progress, far from complete. A lot of nominal Christians are no longer bothering to pretend to a faith they have never cared much about.
Do not be surprised if, in ten years, the gap between the number of professing Christians and the number of Muslims has grown much smaller.
The secularists, who have so enthusiastically sought to drive Christianity out of British life, may realise with a gulp of apprehension that they have only created a vacancy for Islam – a faith that is not at all troubled by Richard Dawkins.
Perhaps most significant of all is the accelerating disappearance of marriage as the normal state of life for grown-up people.
For the first time, fewer than half of adults are married.
This means many things – a greater number of fatherless households, a greater number of cohabiting couples, the rapid disappearance of what was once a strong social force.
Since the stable married family is a fortress of private life and individuality, its retreat will mean the opposite of that: more state interference and surveillance, more conformism – and more conformists – and mass culture. Its main effect will be on the children.
Many of them will grow up outside what used to be normal, a lifelong two-parent home.
They will, as a result, be different sorts of people. Already, almost half of Britain’s 15-year-olds do not live with their ‘birth parents’; 300,000 sets of parents split each year.
I cannot believe this is not part of the reason for the so-called ‘riots’ of 2011, in which young men brought up without male authority ran wild.
These were equal-opportunity events, and their causes were home-grown, not imported. This will get much, much worse.
Again, conservatives will find this worrying and ill-omened. Liberal ‘progressives’, who have never had much time for the married family, seeing it as a sort of prison, will view it as a liberation.
Edmund Leach, giving his influential Reith Lectures in 1967, put it this way: ‘Far from being the basis of the good society, the family, with its narrow privacy and tawdry secrets, is the source of all our discontents.’
It is striking that just as homosexuals seem to be most enthusiastic about getting married, heterosexuals are tiring of the whole thing.
But now compare the giant political fuss over same-sex marriage with the numbers of people affected. See just what a tiny proportion of the country is involved.
While the decline of conventional marriage involves many millions, there are 105,000 people in civil partnerships, one-fifth of one per cent of the population, one person in 500.
And that is seven years after they first became available.
I have deliberately left migration to the end. The figures are astonishing, with one in ten people in England and Wales now born abroad, and the rate of increase over the past few years equally astounding – almost half of these new citizens have arrived here since 2001.
And, in a figure that has not attracted the attention it should have, almost three million people live in households where no adults speak English as their first language.
The main significance of this is the speed of it. Even now, official immigration still stands at 180,000 a year. Probably these totals are an underestimate, as illegal migrants tend not to fill in forms.
But the really important fact is that this revolution is the result of a deliberate, planned attempt to change this country for ever, and we have the evidence of this.
On October 23, 2009, a former New Labour official called Andrew Neather wrote an article in the London Evening Standard which was that very rare thing – a genuine revelation of a political secret.
The crucial passage described ‘a major shift from the policy of previous governments’.
It disclosed that a ‘big immigration report was surrounded by an unusual air of both anticipation and secrecy ..... there was a paranoia about it reaching the media ..... Earlier drafts I saw also included a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural.
‘I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended – even if this wasn’t its main purpose – to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date. That seemed to me to be a manoeuvre too far.
‘Ministers were very nervous about the whole thing . . . There was a reluctance elsewhere in Government to discuss what increased immigration would mean, above all for Labour’s core white working-class vote .....
‘Part by accident, part by design, the Government had created its longed-for immigration boom. But Ministers wouldn’t talk about it.’ Why not? Because Labour voters wouldn’t have liked it.
‘While Ministers might have been passionately in favour of a more diverse society, it wasn’t necessarily a debate they wanted to have in working-men’s clubs in Sheffield or Sunderland.’
On Friday the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, was still trying to appeal to working-class voters whose views his metropolitan fat-cat party secretly despises.
While praising immigration to his London audience, he pretended to be concerned about it by admitting there is ‘anxiety’ about the pace of change.
He promised (absurdly, since the EU has controlled our frontiers for many years) that ‘Britain must always control its borders’.
But he then swiftly dismissed the idea – which would be the only hope of future harmony – that migrants should assimilate, saying this was ‘wrong for our country’.
He proclaimed: ‘One Nation doesn’t mean one identity. People can be proudly, patriotically British without abandoning their cultural roots.’
Is this true? In the days when the USA still sought to assimilate its migrants, it certainly didn’t think so. It insisted that they became Americans in every way, and as soon as they could.
Half the point of American state schools was the creation of new young Americans.
Since that policy was abandoned 30 years ago, the USA has in reality ceased to be one country, with large areas speaking Spanish and retaining the customs and cultures of their homes, hostile or chilly to their American fellow citizens, who return the favour.
Any observant person in Britain can see the same process in such cities as Bradford, where multiculturalism has created two solitudes with their backs turned on each other.
Bit by bit, the people of this country are ceasing to have key things in common. They don’t share a religion, or a culture, or a history. Many don’t even share a language.
They don’t eat the same food or watch the same TV stations or have a common sense of humour. They sometimes even disagree about whether to drive on the left. They come from completely different legal and political traditions.
In a strange paradox, many of the new Britons are more socially and morally conservative than their indigenous British neighbours, though their presence here is a sort of revolution in flesh and blood.
Many of the new migrants also have a completely different work ethic, not having grown up in our entitlement-based welfare state – which is why one of their main unspoken functions in Labour’s plan has been to keep wages down by providing a huge pool of cheap and willing unskilled labour.
Without mass immigration, the minimum wage would long ago have had to rise sharply, creating the crisis that all economists predicted when it was introduced.
As it is, we are fast becoming a low-wage, unskilled economy, with overcrowded cities, multi-occupied housing and hopelessly strained medical services, transport and schools.
There is also a widening gap between the rich, who can afford servants again for the first time since the era of Downton Abbey, and the poor, who have to be those servants.
The only way we will be able to sustain this is by becoming steadily cheaper, devaluing our currency through inflation and incidentally destroying the savings and pensions of the thrifty.
That will also kill off the welfare state, whose provisions and payouts will gradually shrink to the point where they are valueless.
We are also becoming a more violent, noisy and unrestrained culture, more drunk, more drugged, more indebted, more rootless and less particular.
There is no sign that any of these developments are stopping, or even slowing. Far from it. They are accelerating. They were meant to.
The secret thinkers at the core of the Blair Government wanted to begin the world over again, at home and abroad, though they never dared to tell us how.
As their mighty, unstoppable project unfolds, Britain as we knew it will disappear, as they hoped it would. At least we know who to blame.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.