Monday, 21 September 2009

Knowledge, local Two young women and a buggy. As I passed I overheard, 'I didn't know. It's the first baby I've had.' Thinks, that's an unusual way of putting it. As a foster carer I find myself reflecting more than I might otherwise on the access that young parents have to knowledge about parenting. We tend to assume that in the murky mythical past of close-knit local communities, packed with chirpy extended families, the concentrated wisdom of handling babies and rearing children was constantly available. Indeed, it may have been unavoidable, young mothers were bombarded with it. What to do if this or that happens - someone would tell you, and you'd be ostracised if you didn't take the advice. Now here's the modern mum saying, 'I didn't know'. What should she know, how should she know it? Has the geographical distribution of families and the perceived decline of neighbourhood networks stifled the flow of information for new parents? Is it right in any case to think of the neighbourhood as a source of knowledge about child-rearing? Surely yes, we should be depending less on formal services shouldn't we, and more on the self-regenerating social capital of local informal networks? So we want to be able to take advice from those around us with experience to share. Well, just to say, in recent weeks, in various conversations with local matrons with a bairn at hand, on four occasions I've been given advice or told things that were simply wrong, things that I as a fifty-something bloke knew to be wrong. Like, no, this one is not teething (at three months?? Stroll on). I must admit, my confidence in the quality of informal local information has taken a battering.

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