Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Parenting Can Be Hard, and That's OK

"Parenting can be hard." -- Captain Obvious

Since I found out I was pregnant with Aias, I've read hundreds, maybe thousands, of articles on parenting strategies.  I've read all the big titled parenting books cover to cover (Harvey Karp, Elizabeth Pantley, Dr. Sears, you name it).  I've read parenting magazines, parenting blogs, parenting forums, I've asked questions of friends/family members/other parents and been given awesome answers. At the end of the day, presumably this would have left me the most confident parent with all the answers, a real "parenting expert." Right?


Despite all the texts I've read that were written by parents who make it all look so easy, I still feel like a dunce when it comes to parenting.  As a stay-at-home parent of a 2 year old who spends literally 24/7 with  him at my side, you'd think by now I'd have a few tried and true strategies to keep him happy.  Well, I have no such thing.  In fact, the more parenting I do, the less brilliant I feel. 

Lately I've been noticing a trend in articles I've been reading, and that trend is this:

Parenting article addresses parenting issue = Parenting article explains how this issue isn't ACTUALLY that big of a deal = Parenting article explains quick and easy solution that will make this not a problem for you anymore.

Here's the problem: these solutions rarely work with my kid.  Of course, sometimes they do, but maybe 10% of the time.  And when they don't work with him, I start to feel like there's something seriously wrong with myself or worse, seriously wrong with my kid. Sure, sometimes maybe it's poor execution on my part, but sometimes I really follow advice to a T, REPEATEDLY, and I see zero results. This does a number on  my confidence, and let me tell you, 2 year olds can sniff out that sort of vulnerability.

I was recently talking to a friend who has two kids. She explained to me that her first child was easy as can be; she said if she had to watch 10 toddlers at one time and they had all been like her first child, she would have been able to do it no problem.  While parenting her easy first child, she would read about other people's issues on parenting forums and snicker and judge: OBVIOUSLY these parents were just total screw ups who don't have a handle on their kid.  When she got pregnant with her second, she was certain the child would be the same. After all, aren't second children always "so much easier?"  Much to her surprise, her second child was the complete opposite of her first and suddenly she found herself siding with the parents in forums that were saying "Yes! I tried X,Y,Z... none of these strategies work!"  She also found herself on the receiving end of comments such as "well you are obviously doing something wrong or something is wrong with your kid."  It was incredibly frustrating for her, but she FINALLY understood what the other parents were saying when they claimed these "easy peasy strategies" weren't working for their kid.

Now, I'm not suggesting that these parenting tips/strategies are bad, and I'm also not suggesting that parents who make it look easy are jerks.  These parents are simply reporting their experience of parenting their own children, on the off chance that someone out there has a similar child and can therefore have success through learning and utilizing these same strategies.  At the same time, I don't think that making parenting look like an easy breezy thing in general is doing anyone much of a service; the fact is, sometimes parenting is hard, and most importantly THAT'S OK. 

It's ok for strategies that work with other kids to not work with your kid or family. It doesn't mean there is anything wrong with yourself, your parenting, your family, or your kid. It's ok if parenting doesn't come easily to you, or if it doesn't seem easy to you ever/most of the time/all of the time.  Additionally, it's ok for strategies that you find successful to NOT be successful for other people. It's ok if another parent finds something frustrating when you find it easy and non-eventful. 

Maybe you are one of those lucky parents of a child who doesn't tantrum, always says please and thank you, shares with the selflessness of Gandhi, and happily obeys your every request.  That's awesome and you are lucky.  If you have advice or tips that you believe will lead to success for other parents and other kids, go on and share those.  Be gracious for your good fortune and remember that while all of us are blessed to be parents, not all of us are blessed in that same exact way. 

Parenting Book Disclaimers should read: Caution, results not typical!

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