When my kids were much younger and I was forced to make an unpopular decision, I would tell them I needed to do it because it was in the parenting book that I had been given by the hospital when they were born. I would even cite a specific chapter and verse.
Of course we all know that although there are many parenting books out there, there is no one definitive “How To Raise Your Kids” book. There is no parenting bible.
Parents often wish we had a guide book
There are many times I wished that something had existed to help me with situations for which I was wholly unprepared. But kids are all so different and there are so many variables that even a 20 volume encyclopedia couldn’t cover it all. A lot of it is on the job training and then being retrained for subsequent children.
I remember being out shopping with my oldest son when he was a preschooler and he decided to lie down on the floor in the store. I don’t think he was tired—I just think it was a form of protest; civil disobedience because he didn’t like shopping. He ended up getting tar on his clothes that even my laundry skills (it’s my superpower) could not remove. He, of course, blamed me, saying I had never told him not to lay down in stores. It’s true, I had not. But I also told him I had never explained to him not to lick toilets, which he seemed to understand intuitively.
For parents of teens, here’s the book that CAN help you get through this consequential time in your family’s life: Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family and Raise Independent Adults
Raising kids can be overwhelming
That’s the thing. There’s just so much for us to know and so much we are supposed to be teaching them, it’s overwhelming. We can’t cover every situation. And in many cases, it’s a moving target. Like how to put our babies to sleep in their cribs. My oldest son had bumpers—a big no-no now. And blankets. And I put him down on his stomach. Yikes.
By today’s standards his crib was a death trap. By my next son, I learned I was supposed to put him on his back and blankets were out. By my last son, we had a wedge so he could sleep on his side and we zipped him into a cocoon-like blanket so he couldn’t suffocate with free floating covers.
I’m not entirely sure what they do now with babies—perhaps suspend them over the crib in a hammock like security net that’s attached to a spit that rotates them a quarter turn every 15 minutes?
Parenting takes a lot of flexibility, mental fortitude and stamina. Having little ones is merely basic training for the teenage years. But there is actually no boot camp or classes that can adequately prepare you for the emotional roller coaster that is the teen years. You just jump in the ocean and do your best not to drown. Or drown your kids.
That Big Book of Parenting that I might have wished for probably would hold a gazillion terabytes of information, including things like how to mend a broken heart and how to motivate a child to do their best. I would have liked it to have advice on where to find patience when my reserves were gone, new ideas on what to prepare for dinner that wouldn’t garner complaints, how to make sure they flushed and put the toilet seat down, how to help them make good choices and, most importantly, how to learn to let go of those people I love with all my soul.
Parents, follow your gut
Judging by the way my kids are turning out, maybe I didn’t need to rely on a book. Maybe like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars the (parenting) force was with me the entire time. Maybe it’s with all of us. It’s fine to ask advice, but I believe that the best rule of thumb is to follow your instincts. You know your kids and yourself best. What works for one child and one family won’t necessarily work for you. There is no correct algorithm.
And it’s important to know that no one gets it all right. In the history of parenting, there has never been a perfect one. Just love them completely for who they are, that will get you through. You don’t need Internet parenting forums or Parenting for Dummies. You are all you need.
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Marlene Kern Fischer is a wife, mother of three sons, food shopper extraordinaire, blogger and college essay editor. She attended Brandeis University, from which she graduated cum laude with a degree in English Literature. A Founding Contributor and Advisor at CollegiateParent, her work has also been featured on Huffington Post, Her View From Home, Parent Co., Kveller, Grown and Flown, MockMom, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and Better After 50. You can read more of Marlene’s work on her site, Thoughts From Aisle Four or on Facebook.