Saturday, December 6, 2014

Parenting: You're Doing It Wrong (Plus A Complete Guide To Doing It Right)

Before you are a parent you have this idea of what your life will be like as a parent.

You buy cute animal shaped wash cloths for bath time, and know that you'll spend hours on the floor singing into a little bubble-filled tub and making animal noises.

You buy a changing table, a wipe warmer and 8 packages of newborn diapers. You're determined to know that (a) diaper changing will be a confined, clean and comfortable experience and (b) your newborn will be a newborn size for a substantial period of time.

You buy learning games and a bazillion books, knowing that your child will not watch TV. You will sit and play and read and laugh with your little one.

Being a parent -- it will be fantastic.

You've read the blogs and done your research.

You know you should breastfed for at least a year, and that cloth diapers are best for the environment and totally worth it. You know that routines are best for a baby and that you won't be letting your infant cry it out. You also won't be yelling at your toddlers or spanking them. Those last three things are crucial, because if you do those things, your child will certainly become a hardened criminal without sympathy and will most likely have abandonment issues.

 You know that you'll only be eating certified organic food and you'll probably be growing your own vegetables for baby food.

You know you'll be tired, but the phase won't last long and you'll make it through. Your child will never act like that child you saw at the mall today. Your child will never get a hold of scissors and cut their own hair. As a responsible parent, you would never let that happen. 

You're all set.

And then the baby comes.

You begin to learn that the picture in your head was wrong. Just. Plain. Wrong.

As you learn to function on 12 hours of sleep a week (no, not kidding) you begin to see the world differently.

Diaper changes are not great, and because you're recovering from, you know, rarely make the extra effort to walk to the changing table. Change it on the couch, it's fine. Bath time is the last step before bed and so that 30-minute bonding amid bubbles becomes a quick pat down to make sure everyone is sanitary. GO TO SLEEP, sweet babe of mine.

You discover that blocks are fun for a complete total of seven seconds. Same with all those other toys. You quickly find the off button (seriously, why do those toys make so much noise?) and find yourself caving to TV time so you can get dinner on the table.

You learn that sometimes babies just cry -- and so you let them do it in their crib instead of right in your ear. You learn that you're still the impatient individual you were pre-parenting, and also that parenting is seriously maddening. And so sometimes - you yell. Because seriously. STOP WASHING YOUR HAIR IN THE TOILET. (I don't know why that phrase has to be repeated at my house).

And spanking. That thing you never said you'd do -- you do. Because sometimes you just need to get their attention and that works for your child.

But the problem is you still have the "picture" in your head instead of reality. You're still reading those blogs and doing the research. On top of all the responsibilities you carry, you also decide to keep looking online (and at your friends) and convincing yourself you're doing it wrong.

You didn't make your baby food. You actually only nursed 6 months...and when you did you didn't eat organic and ::gasp:: had caffeine. Your baby was only in newborn diapers for a week and since you're still human you traded in some of that parenting perfection for an extra twenty minutes of sleep.  And then, the mother of all reality hits you, and you become that parent of the screaming child in aisle 4.

But hey, it happens. Stop thinking you're the only one it happens to.

I'd like to let you in on something: You're doing just fine. These blogs are crap. The research isn't really that scientifically sound. Just because something "makes sense in theory" doesn't mean it is true.

Need proof? How about this: In theory, my children should behave perfectly if bribed with cookies. In reality, that only works about 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time they are just making other outrageous demands with cookie crumbs all over their face and making me look like a jerk.

See? It's not science. Those tests are crap.

Here is everything you need to know about parenting: Do what works for you, your child and your family. 

Period. End of manual. 

My personality, my children's personality and my family dynamics are all different than you and yours. So why would we (how could we) parent the same? It wouldn't be effective.

I re-assess my tactics. Parenting is a continuing game with no time-outs. But the rules change constantly. So, I change accordingly. I do whats right for us. And I refuse to feel guilty.


Because my family rocks. We aren't perfect -- but we're pretty fantastic. No apologies for that.

And you know what?

Your family rocks too. Don't buy into anything. Just do whats best for you.

We're all just guessing anyway.