Perspective on Parenting: 10 Points

Everyone  has talked about it, argued about it,  written about it,  parodied it — to the point that there’s nothing left to add to the conversation.

But I’m doing it anyway.

I can’t resist adding my two cents.  Or sense.  Or common sense.

The cover is meant to get attention and sell magazines; that’s clear.   Less clear is the debate it’s stirred up—–about making the right choices as mothers.

As if there are any.

As if decisions on where your child sleeps and how long you breastfeed will turn them into superior adults.  As if these choices should not be unique to every mother and every child.

The maternal instinct is so deep in our DNA;  being a mom used to be thought of as something that came naturally.  It must have been so much easier raising children when mother—and father– knew best.

This flap over the Time cover illustrates how much things have changed.

Today parenting is a minefield; a test we all want to ace—and endless people are ready, willing and entirely unqualified to tell parents what they should do with, for and about their kids.  Do you really want to take parenting advice from Kardashians celebrities?

With due respect to Dr. Spock, Dr. Brazelton, and now Dr. Sears, no  one has figured out a foolproof method of raising perfect children. Besides, there are no perfect children; or all children are perfect—depending on whether you view the glass half full or half empty.

So who do you listen to?

ME.  When it comes to parenting advice, I think some perspective is essential—which I have because I’m OLD.   Plus I can point to my kids as examples of what a great job I did.   I’m willing to take credit but truthfully it’s their choices– not mine–that have made them into the people they are.

That realization comes from perspective.  I had dutifully read a stack of parenting books before I gave birth, yet I still remember wondering how they could allow me to take an innocent baby home from the hospital when I had no idea what I was doing.  Maybe the smartest thing I ever did was to stop reading parenting books and learn by instinct—and by observing my children.

Motherhood is a jouney; a daily pop quiz; a constantly changing curriculum that requires learning on the fly year by year, minute by minute.

So from my perspective, here’s 10 points I’ve learned —so far:

1.  Believe in your instinct and your ability to make good choices.

2. You will make bad choices.   Get over it.  They will.  Kids are far more resilient than we are.

3. You know your child better than anyone else.

4.  Just when you have completely figured them out,  they will completely surprise you.

5.  The older they get , the less they think you know.  The older you get, the less YOU think you know.  ( This is one of the few issues on which you and your child will agree.)

6.  Your influence is essential but not everything.  It’s not always about you.  They might wind up on the couch anyway.

7. Most clichés about parenting turn out to be true.  You know how they say “Bigger kids, bigger problems?”  They aren’t kidding.

8.  I found this mantra helpful to repeat to myself:  You did the best you could at the time.  (This works best at least 5 years in retrospect.)

9.  Most Some of the time they won’t listen to  you.  But you should listen to them.

10.  If you want straight A’s as a parent, here are straight A’s:  Accept.  Appreciate.  Applaud.

Though I didn’t put it on the list, this is what I’d put at the top:  Have a sense of humor.  By the time she’s my age,  hopefully the mom and her son on the Time cover will have a great laugh about it.

Also posted on The Huffington Post

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  1. says

    It is so true about over-reading and over-thinking parenting. Sometimes your gut knows best. I remember being in a panic when I brought my child home from the hospital because I had not done all the reading I felt I needed to in preparation. It’s amusing to me now, but it wasn’t when she had colic and I didn’t know how to calm her. But she and I both survived just fine!

  2. says

    Yes! #3 would top my list. I found that when I stuck to listening to my inner mother, I was a lot more confident with my parenting style.

    As far as the cover goes, I see a strong woman knows her child better than anyone else. -Veronica

  3. says

    Your opinion reflects my own like a mirror, and I am not old… well… not in my head anyway!
    What I am excited about, though, is that there are people out there who still understand that what is natural for you is what is important, and they seem to be blogging about how they chose instinct over books written by men who had never birthed a baby. My mother said she viewed Mommyhood as if it were she and the baby in a cave with no other opinions – she worked on instinct. Her kids turned out okay… And we’re doing the same thing. Books are great for ideas (like blockout on curtains and routine) but for actual care and love… show me a book that can give a hug and cuddle to a munchkin with sore finger.

  4. says

    I had that same panic coming home from the hospital; I can’t even begin to think about how much I over-read and over-thought raising my kids–mostly in the early years. So much agony over making decisions—that now seem so tiny when I consider the big picture. The same way we learn from our own mistakes, I like to think maybe our kids do too. Thanks so much, Debbie, for sharing.

  5. says

    I agree; I felt way more confident as a parent once I found my “stride” and trusted my gut. I think that’s also important because you can’t always apply the same parenting style to different children, even your own–each kid and each situation is different; the gut is the only way to go. I heard an interview with the mom on the cover and think she seems very secure about herself and her decisions—hopefully she’ll weather this storm just fine—and so will her kids. So nice hearing from you Veronica; hope you are traveling up a storm yourself!

  6. says

    I love what your mom said—how lucky that you had such a wise and confident mom. I have a feeling my mom would have said something similar—When I look back and think how young she was when she had children, it’s always amazed me that she did such an amazing job. She was a wonderful and confident mother who knew what each of us needed—and I realize now that she was just going by her own instincts. I’m sure my own early years would have been so much easier as a parent if she had been there to guide me in trusting myself, as yours did. Lucky you. Thanks so much, Jenn.

  7. says

    I think it’s a good idea for parents to have a set of core values that become the foundation of their parenting, that guide their decisions. It give them a true north as they seek wisdom for one of the toughest jobs in the world.

  8. says

    Core values are a great idea—especially if you think about what they are BEFORE having the kids. No question being a parent is the toughest job in the world. Thanks so much, Janis.

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