The Amy Winehouse Approach to Parenting

by Laurence Clark

BBC Ouch 7th May 2007

When I last wrote about my son Tom eighteen months ago, he’d just turned one year old and was already able to out-run me. He’s now two-and-a-half and, looking back, I didn’t know when I was well off.

Being a wheelchair-using dad is not always that easy. For instance, according to all the good parenting guides, you’re meant to place all of your prized possessions out of harm’s way. That’s all very well, but if Tom can’t get to them, I can’t bloody well reach them either!

Take your eyes off him for a second and he’ll be busy getting his hands on something he shouldn’t. Some of his more expensive targets so far have been our TV, which he would watch limpet-style with both hands spread flat on the glass and his nose no more than an inch from the screen, and our stereo system. Indeed, he used to scale the shelves of our old hi-fi stand as if he were rock climbing, intent on reaching the summit to press Play on the CD player.

We eventually solved that problem by using wall brackets to suspend our home entertainment system high above our heads. Thank God for the remote control, eh?

In some ways I am the victim of my own successful parenting, since having introduced Tom to my Doctor Who obsession, he now wants to get his hands on my collectibles at every opportunity. After various attempts, I eventually concluded that it’s well nigh impossible to explain to a two year-old that a toy will become a lot more valuable over time if it is left unopened in its original packaging. Instead, I’ve ended up fighting with him over a Billie Piper action figure. How undignified.

But the main object of desire for our son remains the CD collection. This is unfortunate, because he has the uncanny ability to render any compact disc unplayable within seconds. Thanks to Tom, our music collection his been seriously diminished over the past year, despite the fact that we’ve moved it into our office and put a bolt on the door to keep him out. I must confess, however, that it’s sometimes tempting to point him in the direction of my wife’s Whitney Houston and Wet Wet Wet albums.

All this changed last month when I bought Amy Winehouse’s latest CD and played it to Tom. He loves singing and dancing to music, and he was particularly taken with the track Rehab; you know, the one that goes:

“They tried to make me go to rehab; I said no, no, no…”

I’ve read before that there’s something about repeating a word three times which makes it stick in your mind – indeed, this probably explains the success of my wife’s favourite, Wet Wet Wet! So now, whenever I see Tom reach for one of our CDs, I sing my own specially adapted version of Rehab to him:

“When Tom tried to touch daddy’s CDs, he said…”

To which my son, of course, automatically responds with:

“No, no, no!”

Problem solved – and it’s all thanks to Amy Winehouse.

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