May 14, 2010

Parent and Politician: Nick Clegg

The Politics of Good Parenting
This article is a few months old but I thought it is worth reminding everyone of the fact that our new (often despised, in some quarters) Deputy PM is a really caring family man. Moms, take note. Stop sobbing into your tattered regulation Labour hankies and take heart in the fact that some of the men at the helm of our country are young fathers like Clegg, who arrived bleary-eyed at an interview with the dreaded Daily Mail and explained:
‘I was on baby duty last night – after a state dinner at Buckingham Palace. Miguel [the youngest of his three boys] is one now, but he still wakes up a few times a night and I can’t just lie there listening to him yelping when it only takes 30 seconds to settle him.’
You know, that is so true. How, how can any parent bear to listen to their baby crying in the night and turn over and go back to sleep? Instead of stumbling, blearily, over to cuddle and calm them, feed them, rock them, whatever it takes. And it takes so little. Well said, Mr.Clegg. Gina Ford, eat yer heart out. And on the subject of that prosperous and childless (a fact frequently highlighted, as in here) author of The Contented Little Baby books, Mr.Clegg and I unanimously agree. Well, almost, unlike him I would never dream of following any of her advice:
After he and his Spanish wife Miriam, a lawyer, tried Ford’s advice with their first baby, Antonio, Clegg commented in the media that her strict regime was akin to ‘sticking babies in the broom cupboard’.
Ever the diplomat, Mr.Clegg, insisted that some of her advice was actually of use:
"...her advice on feeding was genuinely useful. It was the micromanagement of sleeping that, far from being a liberation, became rather a tyranny because you have to follow such a meticulous programme. Also you have to bottle up your own responses: Miriam and I couldn’t follow that."
And listen to his description of his sons:
Clegg is an adoring father to Antonio, eight, Alberto, five, and Miguel: ‘the most beautiful, lovely boys on the planet’. They’re all happy and healthy, he says, but ‘the differences are amazing: Antonio is curious, articulate, questioning – and a bit anxious. Alberto’s more of a Tonka Toy of a boy: he just muddles along and is very happy in himself. The little one is the most relaxed of them all.’ Which correlates, he thinks, to their decreasing anxiety as parents. ‘When Antonio was born, everything was alarming. By the third, you’ve become much more cavalier: “Oh well, they don’t seem to be expiring – must be fine.”
I'm not sure what happened, or will happen, to the Lib Dem plans for making changes to policy regarding paternity leave, but it certainly sounds an improvement on our current measly two-weeks:
"Mums get a year, so our first aim is to make that 12 months fully interchangeable between the parents. Longer term, we want 18 months’ parental leave, and subsidised childcare provision after that, rather than starting from age three as it does now."
Clegg also has a final take on overburdening our tots with too many classes, activities, structures and schedules, something I feel strongly about:
‘There’s a danger in filling every minute with classes, courses, organised activities. We deliberately give ours the space to make up their own worlds. With boys it’s important to be physical. I’m very proud because I’ve just single-handedly erected a big trampoline in the back garden.’
You might accuse me of being yet another starry-eyed admirer of the "bambi-like gaze" with which Mr.Clegg famously transfixed the nation during the televised debates. But you'll find that he has actually put into practice a lot of what he believes in when it comes to family and parenting. As for the rest of his party's policies, let's wait and see.

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