Not all parenting advice is bullsh*t
In a world that’s more divided than ever, it’s good to know the one thing on which we can all still agree is that moms need our advice. About everything, all the time, whether they ask for it or not.
Baby not sleeping through the night? Let me outline my foolproof seventeen-step bedtime routine for you. Toddler having a tantrum at the grocery store? Here are eight ways to avoid that, seven of which you’ve already done wrong. Older kids fighting over the iPad? I can recommend an excellent book on how screen time stunts brain development.
Fathers, it seems, do not face this same onslaught of advice. Case in point, when we were expecting, my husband received exactly three words of guidance from a trusted friend: Noise canceling headphones.
For mothers, on the other hand, there is no end to the free-flowing, infinity pool of “helpful hints” that come our way. The trouble with this is that often we do need advice, but as we’re drowning in the deluge it’s hard to sort out the good from the bad.
I have a two-year-old, so in full disclosure I’ve only scratched the surface of parenting. What follows, though, is a round up of the best nuggets I’ve dredged from the sludge of parenting advice that’s come my way.
Don’t read any parenting books
If you’re a borderline obsessive personality like me, more information is not necessarily better. While there are many good parenting books out there, none of them will provide the silver bullet needed to get your child to eat, sleep, or meet whatever developmental milestone you’re stressed about.
Plus, reading one book inevitably leads to reading another, which will present the exact opposite ideas. Which will then lead to a third book, which will present new, different ideas so crazy that you just might start to consider whether you should throw out everything you’ve already learned. And repeat.
Outside of books, the best thing you can do is identify a small group of trusted sources. Call your doctor’s office with questions. Call every day if you need to, praying that you get a different nurse on the phone than you did the day before so they don’t take out a restraining order against you. Figure out which of your friends seems to be raising happy, well-adjusted children and ask them how they’re doing it. Figure out which of those friends are night people and which keep early morning hours.
The important thing is that you always have someone to call to keep you from turning to the Internet, that beautiful, dangerous cesspool of opinions stated as facts by people with zero qualifications to be weighing in on the topic.
You need more stuff
As much as I hate to admit it, most of my parenting conundrums to-date have been solved by stuff. I understand this gets more complicated with older children, but right now I’m grateful most of my solutions involve Prime One-Day delivery.
I’m a minimalist at heart. It pains me to have anything around I don’t use regularly, but I’ve learned to compromise where necessary to preserve my sanity. Was worth it to me to have two bouncy seats, one for upstairs and one for downstairs so I wasn’t constantly running between floors when I needed one? Yes. Do I own the full rainbow of toddler toothbrushes so that I never again have to hear “BUT I WANT IT TO BE BLUE!”? Absolutely. Do I own backups of every blanket, lovey, favorite toy and t-shirt in the case of a mysterious, tragic disappearance? One hundred percent, and everyone is happier for it.
Food is not worth fighting over
This gem came from my mom, who, IMHO, raised two pretty spectacular kids. She told me she decided early on that the dinner table was not going to be her chosen battle ground. That my brother and I would either eat what she cooked, or not, and there would be plenty of other, more important things to fight about.
The result is that I remember family dinners as fun, happy times rather than standoffs over how many peas we ate. Sure, my brother may have survived on PBJs until he was fourteen, but he went on to become a fully functional adult known to eat vegetables of his own accord. Well played, Mom.
Everything is a phase
This is good news and bad news. I use it on the hard days to remind myself that it won’t be hard forever. That tomorrow is a new day, with a new set of challenges and opportunities, and I’ll survive.
I also use it to remind myself not to get too smug when everything is going well, because the good times are also temporary. Just when I think I’ve cracked the code on bedtime or broccoli, routines and preferences shift and I’m back to square one. It keeps me humble, and grateful for whatever phase I’m in.
What’s the best parenting advice you’ve ever gotten?
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