Today’s post is a slightly different one on the Ramblings for a couple of reasons; firstly, I don’t often post on a Sunday; secondly, I don’t often cover books about child rearing! However, I chose to post about this particular volume today because it is Robert Louis Stevenson’s birthday and therefore #RLSDay2022; and the great man features in the anthology I want to cover. And it’s a fascinating collection from one of my favourite publishers, Notting Hill Editions, entitled “Tiny Feet: A Treasury for Parents”, which really did make fascinating reading!

NHE have produced a number of wonderful anthologies on all manner of topics, from dogs or cats to walking; however, this one has perhaps more to it than you might think from the very pretty exterior. Their clothbound editions are always lovely, and this one comes in a nice shade of blue, illustrated with a drawing of a pair of bootees. The book comes with an interesting introduction by author Lauren Child, and you might be forgiven for thinking that the anthology would gather together stories of childhood – but in fact it’s much more interesting than that…

“Tiny Feet” instead looks at written advice give over the centuries on the subject of the best way to rear your child; so the first entry comes from a 1690 work called “Advice to Parents and Children” by Daniel Burgess. We move through writers such as Rousseau, Isabella Beeton, Charles Darwin and of course RLS, before reaching more modern practitioners like Maria Montessori, Bertrand Russell and Benjamin Spock, coming right up to date with Toni Morrison and Bernardine Evaristo. The wide spectrum of authors makes for a fascinating read, and is also very illuminating…

I should state here that I have three grown up Offpsring, who’ve all actually made guest posts on the Ramblings at one time or another; and even in my lifetime I’ve seen how the advice doled out to parents has changed (put the baby to sleep on its back, no, on its front, no, on its side), so much so that a poor mum or dad has no idea what to do for the best. So these extracts were so interesting, allowing the reader to watch the evolution of child-rearing advice – and also to shake their head in horror at realising what exactly wrapping a babe in swaddling involved!!!

Of course, some of the authors espouse views and give instruction that we really wouldn’t approve of nowadays; and I was intrigued by the inclusion of Margaret Mead and some of her observations of Samoan child rearing. However, many of the extracts did seem to have some good sensible advice, and I was interested in the way the earlier authors were encouraging parents to let their children have freedom to develop and not mollycoddle them. Certainly, in my experience it’s a difficult balance to get right – do you overdiscipline and risk out and out rebellion, or do you allow them too much freedom and risk injury or indeed your children eventually going off the rails?

In the child’s world of dim sensation, play is all in all. ‘Making believe’ is the gist of his whole life, and he cannot so much as take a walk except in character. (RLS)

In the end, I think as a parent you have to find your own way, and most probably do. However, there’s plenty of good advice, as well as much entertainment, to be found in this little book, which really was a wonderful read! As for the entry from RLS, this draws from essays he wrote called ‘Child’s Play’ (1878) and it seems he was ahead of his time in recognising the need for youngsters to engage in play drawn from their imagination – and good on him!

I do love a good anthology, and Notting Hill certain bring plenty of expertise to theirs! “Tiny Feet” was a joy to read from start to finish and like all of their books, I highly recommend it!

Happy RLS day! 😀