Parenting: everyone has opinions and most people are full of advice.

Katie Kirby knows better. She knows that parents do their best, that the material they have to work with is occasionally (indeed – often) nearly impossible to fathom or direct, and that amusing anecdotes are far more helpful than any well-meaning advice.

With that in mind, she has written ‘Hurrah for Gin’, a collection of reflections on her own experiences to date of parenting two small children while attempting to stay sane.

What’s it about?

Popular “mummy blogger” Katie, better known as the sarcastic, sweary voice of the website Hurrah for Gin, comments on various aspects of parenting with an honesty and self-deprecation that is both refreshing and engaging.

Using a collection of stick figure drawings to help illustrate her points, Katie discusses her experiences from pregnancy to starting school, including the joys of siblings, poo, chickenpox, getting them to eat (or not) and ‘Bedtime f***wittery’ (yes that is an actual chapter title, and very apt it is too).

Parents everywhere will surely empathise with the frustration of making a threat you immediately realise you have no intention of carrying through (no one wants to leave the party when the host has just brought out the wine cake), the horrors of attempting to parent while nursing a hangover, and the realisation that holidays are no longer a relaxing break from real life, but a chance to spend a number of sequential days preventing your children from annoying other holidaymakers on various forms of transportation / in whatever accommodation you’ve booked, and also preventing them from drowning.

What’s it like?

Consistently, horrifyingly accurate while also being laugh out loud funny.

This was so good, my husband actually read a third of it over Christmas once I had devoured it from cover to cover over a period of about 28 hours (I have a baby. She doesn’t really do “sleep”). Now that might not sound that impressive, but my husband Does Not Read (I know, I’ve no idea why I married him either), so consuming a third of a book in a few days was actually equivalent to another (reading) human being shouting OMG THIS BOOK IS TOTALLY AMAZING. Oh, and he laughed a lot, too.

Expect swearing, nostalgia for days past, excitement for days to come, and an occasional dollop of sentimental reflection on how wonderful it is really to own small people who will totally ignore everything you say, climb all over you while still wearing their shoes and then sob because you made them fall over and they hurt their little finger.

Highlights for me included the chapters on sleep, siblings and holidays. Ah, the joy of booking a cheap family room, then realising you can’t do anything in the evening until the children eventually pass out…which in my experience they will refuse to do until I stop hiding under the bedcovers, using my phone for entertainment, and just go to sleep myself. They have a sixth sense for Facebook.

Final thoughts

This is an excellent book for parents with young children; I defy you to read this without feeling amused recognition and delighted solidarity. Yes, young children CAN be frustrating, boring, and occasionally just plain revolting, but like most things in life, a problem shared is a problem halved, and when you accept that *everyone’s* * kids are grade A gits at bedtime, life somehow feels much more manageable.

(Of course, kids can also be amazing, entertaining, delightful etc etc. as Katie herself recognises at several points. In fact, impressively, children can often be simultaneously frustrating AND entertaining, like when they are refusing to go to sleep at bedtime and you have to go into their room because one of them has done a poo a full HOUR after you tucked them into bed and kissed them goodnight, and you have to turn the light on to change their nappy, and they shout, “Yippee! I can read my story now! Leave the light ON now, Mummy!”)

The simple illustrations with their highly recognisable dialogues are a key part of the book’s appeal. If you were feeling lazy you could get a good idea of the book’s content by just reading those, but you’d be missing out on all the chuckles hiding in the text.

So if you know a parent of young children, especially one who has previously admitted that their children aren’t always Adorable Instagrammable Angels, why not cheer them up by buying them this book? Not sure if you’d like the style? Then why not check out Katie’s blog.

As for me, I’ll be hoping for another instalment, perhaps when Katie’s children reach their tweens. (I don’t know if Katie or her publishers have any plans to write / print another book, but I would definitely buy it.)

And now I’m off to tackle bedtime, where I expect to be told to “tuck me in ONE LAST TIME” at least fourteen times by two Night-Time Kids, both of whom possess an unquenchable thirst and an intense desire to discuss the full details of their day with me / bap each other with their pillows until one of them is sufficiently distressed that I have to come and tuck them in ONE LAST TIME. Again.

Small glass of gin, anyone? No, you’re right; best make it a large one…

‘Hurrah for Gin’,
Katie Kirby,
Coronet, 2016, hardback

* If your children actually get into bed and go to sleep when they are told to do so, without requiring multiple glasses of water / trips to the bathroom / tuckings-in then I definitely don’t want to hear about it. Keep that sort of soul-destroying tidbit to yourself, please, or an exhausted parent of standard-issue small children may be unable to overcome their desire to punch you. Thank you.