I just spent the past two weeks of my life reading a parenting book that completely negated the parenting book I’d read two weeks before. I have no idea how many hours of my life I’ve wasted reading parenting books, not to mention the billions of articles shared on Facebook every day that promise to unlock every secret to motherhood bliss. I’m selective with my clicks, though. When I see something that seems worthwhile I think back to the last children’s birthday party we attended and read only those articles shared by parents of kids who didn’t pee in the ball pit or throw cake at the dog.
I do know I’ve read enough material that by this point I should be able to write my own book. The title would be: It’s Not Going To Help And You’re Wasting Your Time.
I appreciate parents like me who spend the last few minutes of their mentally, physically, mind numbingly exhausting day of being pushed to their very limits, hanging on to sanity by a thread, worn slick from working and cooking and refereeing, to read about the many, many, MANY ways we’re screwing everyone up. I don’t know about you, but by the time I lay my head on my pillow to go to sleep I’ve rehashed every moment of our day ten times and am convinced that I’m raising future drug lords.
As fierce and critical as we can be to one another (and ourselves) as Moms and Dads, I really think we all just want the same simple things.
We want our kids to be happy and healthy, and be out of our house at 18. It’s okay if our kids aren’t the most well-behaved at the restaurant, but god help those who have the worst. We want our kids to be confident but not arrogant. Respectful but not take any shit. Know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.
There are books that tell us to relax and let milestones happen when our child is ready, and books that have research to prove they’ll never graduate from high school if they’re not reading by their first birthday. I’ve read books that tell me to ignore my kids on the playground to let their social skills blossom, and books that told me to put them on my back while I swung from the monkey bars.
So who do we believe? If experts, who have devoted their entire lives to the research of child psychology and behavior, can’t agree on how to get a toddler to stop eating deodorant, how are we amateurs supposed be successful? By the time we finally figure out something that works, our child already has a whole new set of problems we need to fix. Luckily if you have more than one kid your efforts won’t go to waste, but it explains a lot about why first born children are more likely to develop a nervous tick and scream, “DAMMIT YOU STARTLED THE SHIT OUTTA ME!” when their husband asks them to pass the salt at the dinner table.
Why are books even wasting our time giving us behavior modifying strategies, anyway? Parenting books should help us answer the hard questions kids ask ALL THE LIVELONG DAY that we think we know but we don’t know. Like why leaves fall off trees, what kinds of spiders live in our yard, who would win in an alligator vs. crocodile fight and what the heck this thing is called:
Everything the books tell us to do seems to make perfect sense as we’re reading them in bed at the end of the day surrounded by tranquility. “Oh yes! When my 2-year-old throws herself onto the floor screaming at K-Mart I’ll calmly get down to her level and treat her like she’s the ambassador of another country. I’ll validate her feelings by repeating them back to her 3-8 times. I’ll reason with her. It sounds like Hadley is sad because she can’t touch the vases. Hadley is sad sad SAD! That seems like it will work perfectly.”
But human beings have a stress mode, or what I like to call, “I’M GOING TO BLOW!” My three little girls feed off of each other. When one is happy, generally they’re all three happy. When one starts throwing craps, run. Bail out.
I usually try the techniques for about a minute and a half before I black out and finally come to locked in a bathroom stall surrounded by empty Peeps wrappers. For 90 seconds I am rock star Mom, then a switch is flipped, my patience comes out of the back room with a machine gun going buck wild.