Breaking news: a four year old is seen with a dummy! Hold the front page! This whole Beckham pacifier debacle that’s got the chat rooms abuzz has drawn me back from a summer blogging-hiatus. Dear Reader, I am fuming.
Maybe it’s because I hate parents being hated on, or maybe it’s because this kind of nonsense passes for news while there are actual deprived children suffering in every nation of this world *screams into pillow*
If you haven’t heard (well done for avoiding the toxic judge-fest that is the daily mail) ‘experts’ have been warning that the Beckhams are putting their daughter at risk by still letting her use a dummy aged 4. As far as I can make out, this is total bullshit. Granted, if the girl was plonked in front of the TV every day with a bag of Haribo, a can of coke and a couple of soothers, there’d be an issue. But she’s not, is she? You can say a lot about the Beckhams, but they certainly seem to love and care for their children.
Before my son was born I thought I’d never use a dummy. Ever. I was all ‘children need to be able to comfort themselves…blah blah blah.’ Needless to say, I was a bit judge about the use of ‘pacifiers’. Well, it took me all of about 2 weeks to drop that self-righteous nonsense. 22 months on, Bubs still has a dummy, mostly to go sleep with, but also in the car, and sometimes just because. If he’s worked up it helps him calm down; if he’s teething it eases the pain.
So, as a dummy convert and a ardent opponent to the parent advice culture that most of us find ourselves drowning in at some point or other, I have decided to respond directly to some of the choicesquotes from the (literally) offending Daily Mail article directly.
“Last night parenting expert Clare Byam-Cook, a former midwife, said that the Beckhams were putting Harper’s wellbeing at risk.”
Did she? Did she actually say that? No, she didn’t. Neither is she a ‘parenting expert’, because that’s not a real thing. Ms Byam-Cook is a well-respected baby feeding expert, others might be experts in maternal health, childbirth, behavioural psychology, child nutrition, peadiatric dentistry… But not parenting. Even if was possible to have the wisdom, sensitivity and breadth of knowledge, you couldn’t possibly apply that to every individual child without spending a lifetime looking after them yourself. You know, actually being their parent? Moving on…
“I can’t believe she is still using a dummy. If she has a dummy in their mouth at this age, at four, it really can damage her teeth and it is very likely to hinder speech development. You are far less likely to speak if you have a dummy in your mouth than if your mouth is free. Many dentists will agree that dummy use at this age really is not good.”
This comment begins by sounding like a cliquey mum at a stay and play group and ends sounding like a Colgate advert. ‘I can’t believe she is still using a dummy!’ Give me a break.
But thank God we have an expert to tell us that if a child has something in their mouth they are less likely to speak, no one would work that out on their own and regulate their little one’s dummy use accordingly. Sigh.
“After about three months, most babies should not need a comforter. Children at the age of four really don’t need a dummy.”
New parents, here is a trick for staying sane: If you see any parenting advice with a) the word ‘should’ in it b) the words ‘most babies’ in it or c) an arbitrary age at which things should start/end, try not to take it too seriously. If all three components are present in the same sentence, run. Run away and never look back. This is not good advice, there is nothing constructive in it and therefore it has the potential to be destructive, at least to your confidence levels.
“David and Victoria seem wonderful parents and I’m sure they give Harper lots of attention but, like it or not, they are role models and lots of people will see this and think that having a dummy at this age is normal when it is not.”
NO! No, Clare, there is no but – if they are wonderful parents then bloody well leave them be, God knows this world has enough people who really don’t care for their kids.
And, sorry, if your reference for what’s ‘normal’ comes from David and Victoria Beckham you have bigger problems. Also, if the pictures are so bad, maybe the Mail shouldn’t publish them. Just a thought. Finally, our first expert adds:
“It could be last child syndrome – because she is the youngest David and Victoria could be clinging on to her being a baby.”
Are your self-righteous bullshit detectors bleeping yet? If not wait until Sue Atkins wades in:
“It is an easy option for parents, because if you give them a dummy they shut up and are quiet. It’s the same as giving them an iPad really.”
Here it is people, the flat-out unashamed judgement of other peoples choices. No mention of the fact that we all need the ‘easy option’ sometimes; we shouldn’t feel guilty about using a soother (or an iPad) to quiet a tantruming toddler every now and then. It’s called real life, and every parent is just a human trying their best. Even the Beckhams. The idea that people who use dummies do so because they want their child to “shut up” is frankly insulting. Oh, but wait, she’s not finished…
“Some parents use them as an easy way to keep their kids quiet, and their language development is impaired by it because they don’t have to talk. It delays their vocabulary if they have them too long.”
Oh, just fuck off. Undoubtedly there are a few naughty/sad/ignorant people out there who just don’t want to engage with their children, but that isn’t most of us. This association between an ‘impaired’ vocabulary and dummies is at best a generalisation and at worst a nonsense based on extreme anecdotal evidence.
Just for the record, my son (the toddler with the dummy) counts to 5, sings the alphabet and knows the difference between a circle and an oval. #mikedrop
Okay, time to get a bit serious. This shit is toxic. What may seem like a fun ranty article to some people leaves others cowering in the corner, racked with guilt about their failure as a parent. I’m not exaggerating. It makes us doubt ourselves and our knowledge of our own children. This is damaging for all involved.
The world doesn’t need less dummies, it needs less overtly judgemental bullying of parents who are obviously doing a very good job in general.
Funnily enough, shoved in right at the end of the article is another opinion. Though it is also from an ‘expert’ it is not included in the headline, probably because this particular person says something completely reasonable. And reasonable doesn’t sell newspapers…
“She said: ‘It is up to the parents – famous or not – to decide when their child is ready to stop using a dummy. It’s a personal decision in every family and they know best […]
The most important thing is that she feels loved, safe, secure and able to engage with the world.'”
Finally, a bit of bloody sense. The only experts we should listen to are ones who acknowledge that, when it comes to our children, we are the true specialists.
What do you think? Is it all a bit much or are you really shocked by what the Beckhams have chosen for their daughter? Leave a comment below and I shall respond duly!