Leona O'Neill: Keeping up with the latest parenting trends can be exhausting, expensive – and dangerous

We've already had to get used to baby showers and now 'gender reveal' parties are the latest parenting trend to cross the Atlantic – much to the chagrin of Leona O'Neill. Still, at least there are some more environmentally concious trends to embrace also...

Gender reveal parties are the 'in' thing in parenting right now
Gender reveal parties are the 'in' thing in parenting right now Gender reveal parties are the 'in' thing in parenting right now

PARENTING trends change greatly over the years. In days of old, parents used to put their babies outside in metal cages to give them fresh air, withhold affection, train their children out of being left handed and even grease their newborns up with lard.

But time has thankfully seen these weird and indeed dangerous practices left solely in the past.

These days we have our own modern parenting trends to contend with, a lot of them brought over from our friends in America. Take, for example, gender reveal parties. It is far from the big balloons which explode with pink or blue confetti that most of us were reared with, but the likes of Kim Kardashian do it, so we must too. And these parties are going to really take off in 2020, according to the experts in such matters.

Like most things in American culture, everything is a competition to see who can reveal the gender of their child in the most outlandish way. Think fireworks, or big fancy signs being unfurled down famous buildings, or loop-the-loop aeroplanes spelling out baby names in pink or blue smoke, a-la the Red Arrows.

And they can sometimes get out of control. Earlier this year a woman died when she was hit by shrapnel at a gender reveal party after a DIY explosive device blew up like a pipe bomb. Last year, a man in Arizona shot a target so it would explode with either pink or blue powder, sparking a 47,000 acre wildfire that raged for a week. There have been cars exploding and people feeding crocodiles pink or blue jelly.

The gender reveal phenomenon is an extension of that other American practice which has gripped Northern Ireland in recent years, the baby shower. This is when, weeks before your child is born, you have a party so that all your friends and family can bring you gifts. My youngest child is nine years old and I never had a baby shower for any of my four offspring. I missed out on all those presents, all those balloons and all that cake. I genuinely feel robbed. Regardless of how dangerous they can be, gender reveal parties seem to be going nowhere any time soon.

The year ahead will also see a rise in parents moving away from traditional names for their offspring and picking 'inspirational' names instead. According to several parenting websites worldwide, names like Joi, Dream, Harmony and Promise are garnering traction, as well as Reign, Legacy and Queen – again trends borrowed from our American neighbours and indeed our American celebrities. Look out this year for more boys in your street being called Genesis, Saint, Baker and Kairo and some little Meghans (as in the Duchess of Sussex), Dior, Adalee, Palmer and Oaklynns running around the playground.

One very positive trend we can all embrace in 2020 is being more environmentally friendly. Parents are waking up to the damage passive consumerism is doing and are making more conscious choices about protecting the environment.

In 2020 we will see parents turn to modern cloth nappies as opposed to disposable ones and looking to non-plastic toys and sustainable products. Parents will perhaps be willing to spend more on products that make them feel good about their impact on the planet and allow them to buy peace of mind, knowing they are doing good things for the world their little ones are growing up in.

At least the trends of feeding newborns coffee, eggs and bacon and letting babies cry so they won't become socialists have been left firmly in the past. Nevertheless, 2020 will certainly be an interesting time for parents.