Oddly, I am often asked for parenting advice.
I say oddly because I’m hardly an expert, but I suspect that two decades of teaching and two relatively well adjusted children have caused some folks to think I know something about how to raise kids.
I often refrain from offering parenting advice on a public scale because every time I suggest a course of action, some parent whose current course of action deviates from my own feels offended by my suggestion and outraged by my presumptuousness.
Parents can be pretty prickly when it comes to their parenting.
But I was recently asked by a few people - including a few readers of my “Ask the Teacher” Slate column - for my thoughts on parenting. While I have many, many suggestions, I offer seven that I can stand by and defend without reservation.
The rest will have to wait for a day when I am better prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of thin-skinned, exceedingly outraged mothers and fathers.
7 Deep Thoughts on Parenting
Don’t assume that your journey with your children will be anything like another parent’s journey with their children. These are human beings. They contain multitudes. You can’t begin to predict the future path of another parent, so don’t even try. If a parent asks for advice, fine. But unsolicited warnings of doom and gloom are presumptuous, ridiculous, and mean.
If you’re going to complain about parenting to the parents of children younger than your own, you must adhere to a 6:1 ratio - six positive comments about parenting for every one negative comment.
Don’t say even one negative thing to parents expecting a baby for the first time. They deserve to be allowed to bask in the joy of expectant parental bliss, goddamn it. Keep your mouth shut. Besides, things may go swimmingly for them. Your journey may have sucked, but it doesn’t mean their journey will.
Don’t become emotionally attached to the terrible behavior of your children. They are human beings, wholly separate from yourself and filled with flaws and foibles completely unrelated to you and how you’ve raised them. Your daughter’s rage-filled restaurant tantrum is not a reflection on you as a parent or person. It’s merely an example of your daughter’s selfishness and stupidity at the moment. In fact, it’s incredibly self-centered and completely ridiculous to think that every bad decision that your child makes has anything to do with you. So stop feeling like a failure every time your kid acts like a jerk. Stop being embarrassed or humiliated when your child acts like a fool in public. It’s your child who should be embarrassed, Not you.
Parenting can be exceptionally hard at times because nothing good in this world ever comes easy. It’s hard because it’s also the best thing you may ever do. So stop complaining so much, damn it. Did you really think it would be a cake walk? Besides, you’re constantly posting moments of beauty and bliss on Facebook and Instagram, so it can’t be all that bad.
There’s nothing wrong with allowing you child to occasionally stare at a screen for an hour or two so you can relax or get something done. You’ve been bringing that kid to parks and libraries and museums and karate class and birthday parties for years. A screen isn’t going to undo all the good that you’ve already done. Besides, you deserve an hour or two of guilt-free peace and quiet every once in a while, and it’ll make you and your child happier in the process.
Diapers are easy. It’s car seats that suck.