The View From A Slightly Twisted Angle

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Parenting Experts

on May 22, 2012

Yesterday I gave my opinion on opinions.  It’s still on my mind today, though in a different form.  Today I’m thinking about opinions that make me want to laugh. Of those, my favorite are the ones on how to parent my children.  I’ll categorize these into three groups of parenting experts: People with no children or babies, People with children younger than mine and people whose children are much older than mine.

I love to listen to people who have not yet had children or have a very young baby expound on their wisdom because they have read a book about parenting.  Sometimes many books. I figured out very early on the problem with parenting from books: The kids haven’t read those books yet.  My toddler was unaware that if he did A and I reacted with B then the result should be C.  Come to think of it, maybe my kids did read those books.  They just figured out how to beat the formula. I’ve also figured out that no two children are the same.  Parenting Formula A  may have worked on my son but not on my daughter. She required Parenting Algorithm B.  I usually cut this category of people some slack because I figure they will eventually figure out they aren’t as expert as they think.  We all have.  The parenting books will then become door stops.

I don’t mind people with older children giving me their opinions  because they’ve been there. In fact I’ve sought out a few of those people asking for advice.  They usually have some good insight. With parents of older kids I look at how their children are doing as adults before I evaluate their opinions:  Some I keep. Some I throw out.  In this group, however, is a sub group of people who have children who are much, much older than my kids.  Again, they have some valuable insight, but, they raised their children in a different era.  While some parenting skills are universal and timeless, some aren’t.  For example: when our youngest son was not quite three one dear older lady was talking to me about the fact that he wasn’t fully potty trained yet.  She was aghast. “I had my kids all trained by the time they were 12 months old.  I put the training potty in my kitchen and every morning I would sit them on it until they went.  I did that every two hours all day every day until they were trained.”   It took a little for me to refrain from voicing the thought that popped into my head: “Sounds to me like they had YOU trained.”  While I appreciated her advice on how to get our little stinker potty trained I also realized that she had no idea that it wouldn’t work for us.  I worked all day.  I didn’t have the option of bringing him to work with his potty chair and making him sit on it next to my desk every two hours.  I do realize that if I was hand washing diapers every day I might have been way more motivated to get the kid trained, but I had the benefit of pull-ups.  My point: different era.  I’m also willing to cut these people some slack because they mean well.

The parents who truly crack me up are the ones with young children who think they have parenting figured out.  I’ve been a parent for almost twenty-one years and I still don’t have it figured out.  I especially love it when these people tell me how to parent my teenagers.  They’ve been parents for six to nine years now, they know how to parent.  There is an evil part of me that hopes I am around when these people’s children become teenagers. I kind of want to see what happens when they find out that the solid theories they have when their kids are five or six may not be work so well when those same kids are fifteen or sixteen.

We have active children: they all have activities that they enjoy participating in.  We’ve strove to keep those under control. In other words, they all get to choose a couple of things that they really enjoy doing and we support them wholeheartedly.  We get them to practice and go to their games and concerts. I’ve recently been told that we are letting our kids do to many things and are running them around too much.  This particular Parenting Expert (P.E. for short) said to me, “We’ve told our children that there are only so many hours in a day and we are not going to spend them all running them around.”    P.E.’s children are in grade school. While I understand that there are parents out there who run their kids to 100 different things so that they can have exposure to everything, my husband and I do not fit into that category.  Each of our kids participate in one or two things at a time.  The issue is that there are three of them still living at home. Do the math: that makes us busy.  Our children are older than this person’s children, so what P.E. doesn’t understand is that many of the activities in which they participate are school related. They are classes during the day which on occasion have activities in the evening.  We go through busy seasons and not so busy seasons. Our thought here is this: this is just a short season in our lives. Our kids are going to grow up and move away and then we’ll have all the time in the world to do what we want. One of them is already gone. It’s amazing how fast that time flew and I do not regret for one moment missing a “grown-up” event so that I could be at one of his football games.  The next in line will be a senior this fall.  I don’t believe that I’m going to be upset that our bedroom isn’t refinished  because I spent the time and money to attend her band competitions.  My jacuzzi tub can wait a little longer.

The most active of our children right now is our oldest daughter.  She is involved in several things.  We’ve given her a little more free rein to choose what she is doing because:  1- she’s proven to us over the years that she is responsible enough to do extra things and keep her grades up. (She’s ranked 5th in her class.) 2 – she drives so we don’t spend time running her around. We go to her performances, but we don’t have to worry about the rest of the stuff.  3 – She’s still living at home and I would rather have her learn now where her limit is while she’s here and has her parents to catch her when she overloads and hits the wall.  Her personality is to think she can do everything.  She’s learning that she can’t.  That was the plan: learn that now while you are 17 and not when you are on medication for stress at 35.   Not long ago I was having a conversation with a P.E. who was concerned that she was too busy.  (Again – thank you for your observation.) I was sharing the aforementioned thoughts when I was interrupted halfway through number three. “Now you know that most women NEVER learn where their limits are.  I haven’t. You haven’t.  As a parent you should control her activities and not let her do too much.”  Couple thoughts here: 1 – I’m sorry this P.E. has never learned her limits.  I have.  I was 40 at the time, but I’ve learned them. 2 – If she’d have let me finish thought number three from above she might have heard me say that our daughter IS learning this now.   3 – This P.E. has young kids and has never actually tried to “control” a seventeen year old girl. I am the parent – yes. She lives in my house and follows our rules – yes.  She’s actually a very respectful and responsible young lady.  We haven’t had any “teenage trouble” with her: probably because I haven’t tried to control her every move.  Maybe because we’ve given her more and more freedom as she has proven she can handle it.  She will be out of my house and out from under my rules in a little over a year. If I have controlled her every move and every activity up until that point of her life, how do you think she is going to do when she is off on her own?  Again, I’d love to be around when this P.E.’s kids are teenagers.  On the other hand, I might be glad we’re moving.

My husband and I frustrate a lot of people because we don’t parent in a way that fits any mold.  People can’t figure us out and it annoys them. We don’t have a master parenting plan for our kids. We mostly take it as it comes with each child.   That isn’t supposed to work according the experts, but, thus far, our children are doing pretty well.  (We have four. We aren’t so crazy as to think we might not have trouble with at least one of them eventually.)    People have asked what we’ve done to raise such good kids. I haven’t a clue.  I can tell you some of the things we did with our children, but I can’t guarantee they will work with yours.  Your kids are different from my kids.  My kids are different from each other.  We have no blanket advice.  The only thing we did was become experts on our own kids. We know them. That makes parenting them much easier.   Nope –  We don’t consider ourselves Parenting Experts as much as we think of ourselves as Parenting Survivors.  We just want to be the last ones on the island.

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