When I was pregnant, I devoured parenting books.
If it had the words ‘parent’ ‘child’ or ‘frightening’ in the title, I was your target audience. In retrospect, I should have rested up to prepare for the tsunami of horror that was headed my way. At the very least, I should have stopped eating my body weight in cupcakes. I didn’t do either of those things, and I started my parenting journey overwhelmed and 80lbs overweight.
Now that I am well into this parenting odyssey, as the mother of two teenagers (thoughts and prayers, please), I can’t imagine giving anyone, any kind of advice. Ever. No one can tell you what to do with your particular child because (and brace yourself) no one is you, and no one knows your child as you do.
And not for nothing, but how could anyone give parenting advice when their child…is still a child? Who knows what the resulting human being will be? It’s like recommending a casserole recipe that you didn’t finish. ‘I cut up some tomatoes and onion. Perfect. Do that.’ What?! It might be tasty, but who knows?! Finish and then talk to me…and even then… please don’t… unless I ask.
Hitler was an obedient child. Just sayin’.
I suppose there are tried and true pieces of advice that will always stand the test of time.
1. Don’t hit your kids. Obviously. I mean, do I really have to write that you shouldn’t, either physically or verbally, abuse someone smaller and dependant on you? We all learned that lesson in “The Shawshank Redemption.”
2. Don’t kill your kid’s spirit. Each child is born with a unique ‘je ne sais quoi.’ Do your best to nurture, not bulldoze, that life force. More ‘Good going, kiddo!’ and less ‘Oy. You’re not leadership material.”
3. Set a good example. Some days you will fail at this. That’s ok. Get up the next day and fail again. They’ll be fine.
4. Corn chips or popcorn substitute for veggies at dinner. Naturally.
5. Love, love, and more love. Nuff’ said.
All good pieces of advice, no? General, useful, and all you need to know.
I’m not implying that people that write parenting advice know nothing. What I’m saying is, if their advice worked for them, that’s great. Amazing. I’m happy for their parenting triumph. Not really… I’m super jealous that they have it all figured out…and wrote A BOOK ABOUT IT! How together are they, anyway?
In any event, please step to the other side of the planet with your know-how, so I can roll my eyes and figure out what I’m making for dinner.
Here are just a couple of examples of parenting advice that don’t work for me.
1. Don’t deliver forgotten items. Come on. I can understand if it’s the 13th time your child forgot his/her (fill in the blank) that you may want to put the kibosh on the textbook/lunch/project/ catering service. But, the occasional misstep..why not? Life doesn’t work if we don’t have folks that we can rely on in a pinch. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve leaned on my girlfriends to fill in for my brain holes or had to make a quick dash home to pick up something I forgot. Jeesh. I know they need to learn responsibility, but how about compassion.
2. Don’t wake your teens up in the morning. My dad woke me up in the morning all thru my high school years, and yet, I understood that when I went away to college, I needed to wake myself up. Go figure.
3. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Ugh. I hate it when parents say this. That kind of sleep will never be enough to make up for the missing 27,000 hours you are in the hole. You will be aroused from your deep slumber by a crying baby/toddler. Now, you’re not only feeling tired but also pissy, irritated, and afternoon-nap foggy. Great. For the last time, when your baby sleeps, do a small-ish happy dance and watch Project Runway.
Unless sleeping works for you. And then by all means…SLEEP. Ya see? No one knows anything.
So, to conclude, take all advice you hear with a giant grain of salt. What works for someone else might ultimately backfire on you. Look, we’re all struggling out here in parent-land. The terrain is rough, the climate is inhospitable, and the leadership, on its best day, can best be described as ‘meh.’
But we’re in it together. Stumbling toward the day, we see how our little experiments turned out.
So, if you read something that makes you feel like dirt as a parent, just know…no one knows any more than you do.
They just have a publisher.