Will Lodge: New social skills can be just as hard to learn as practical ones

Will Lodge and his family, Mitch, Gemma, Mila, Seth and Finley.

Will Lodge and his family, Mitch, Gemma, Mila, Seth and Finley. - Credit: Su Anderson

Parenting columnist Will Lodge looks at the new rules of etiquette he has to learn.

I have already spoken in this column about there being much to learn as a new parent, from how to hold a baby and change a nappy, to mastering the debates around whether you can use twice-boiled water to make baby milk with.

But recently I have discovered a whole new area of parenthood that I must have missed the manual for – meeting other children.

Some friends of mine, who have an almost two-year-old daughter, kindly hosted a small gathering last weekend, and I took baby along to give my wife a chance to do some of her university work.

I was armed with everything I thought I could possibly need, but there are some things you just cannot prepare for – such as baby falling asleep and having nowhere to lie down, or wanting to play with another young child’s toys.

Fortunately my friends are, well my friends, and also much better versed than me in this sort of encounter, and kindly offered me use of their child’s cot (plus baby monitor) and toys.

After a somewhat shy start even toddler and baby began to hit it off, with toddler playing peep-o with baby by hiding behind the curtains.

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However the experience did get me thinking about the whole new social etiquette I need to learn as a parent.

As an adult I would like to think I have mastered most of the general etiquette, from rising to shake hands with someone when you are introduced, to not popping to the toilet midway through a course in a restaurant. But there is another world of social norms I now need to get to grips with.

For example, if you see another child misbehaving in a play centre, do you tell them off yourself, or find the parent?

If you see a child fall and hurt themselves, is it OK to pick them up while searching for their guardian, or is that a big no-no?

I fear that sadly these dilemmas are exacerbated for me as a man because unfortunately in today’s society there is more of a presumption that a strange man is looking to do harm than a strange woman – and as opposed to doing something good. I cannot wave my DBS (formerly CRB) check around all of the time.

Perhaps I would find the answer if I trawled some of the numerous websites dedicated to parenting, such as Mumsnet, but I am not sure I’m ready for even that level of parent-to-parent interaction.

Now if only someone would write a book...

If I am honest I’m still trying to get the balance right between dealing with issues between our own multiple children. Applying principles fairly and evenly across different ages can be tricky, with the most common issue being the balance between encouraging sharing but also allowing each child to maintain some sense of privacy and personal ownership.

They say you never stop learning, but I am not sure I even know where to start.

More parenting dilemmas from Superdad Will lodge here.