Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Parenting: the mother of all jobs

Parenting rules used to be so clear. So simple. Taking care of kids was like taking care of guinea pigs: feed them. Make sure they have enough water and healthy snacks to eat. Give them equipment to play on and pet them once a day so they feel loved. Train them to poop in one spot.

And I turned out fine, right? I’m a good climber, a healthy eater, a reliable pooper. So why did everything have to change? Why did parenting have to get so hard?

Now we worry about self esteem and all the conflicting ways to inspire it. From the moment they’re born, we’ve got rules to follow…look them right in the eye. But not too close or they can’t focus. Breastfeed. Don’t breastfeed or they’ll be fixated on boobs forever. Sing, but only if you’ve got a good voice. Read, but only appropriate books. Fairy tales are completely and totally out, what with the violence and cannibalism and such. The Giving Tree? Wow, that’s a tricky one.

Then they get older. What to do if they fall down? Is comforting them really a mortal sin that will lead us all into social decay? Can your daughter get her ears pierced or is that encouraging self-mutilation? If your son wears a princess dress when he’s two, does that mean he’s gay FOR SURE??

To room parent or not to room parent? Their independence teeters precariously on that decision. And by all means, monitor their friendships. Do you want some little girl to have power over your little girl? I think not. And unless you’re the lunchroom monitor, she might. After all, that little girl is the one with the Twinkie.

Oh, and sibling relationships. Let them argue, or is that akin to allowing pit bulls to fight in an arena? Put your kid in therapy the first time you hear, “I’m a failure” or wait it out and accept it as normal childhood angst? Use a depilatory on your kid’s face or tell her the teasing will make her stronger?

Yeah, I haven’t got a clue.

You want to know how I think (hope) you become a fabulous parent? You just do it. You slog through it every day and you tap into your village for help and you make mistakes anyway and sometimes you cry yourself to sleep but you just do it. And you get through it. And it’s almost guaranteed that you will end up liking your kids, and you will realize they’re okay, and that you’re okay, and you’ll realize you did it right all along.

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