Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I don't read parenting books

I work with some amazing people. Many of them are full-time working parents. On any given day, you can walk into the staff kitchen during lunch and witness some of the most interesting conversations about parenting: discipline, spousal relationships, work life balance, potty training, healthy cooking, sickness. You name it. There's usually banter, since not only are my colleagues smart and multifaceted, but they're also passionate and opinionated.

Today the lively conversation was about a parenting book called duct tape something or other. I missed the beginning of the conversation and I missed much of the middle and end, to be honest, because I found myself sucked in to obversing the conversation unfold. One was trying to give advice, based on what she'd read and had success with. Another had read 2 pages and was already skeptical, based on her own parenting experiences. Here I chimed in briefly, "you guys read parenting books?!"

People read parenting books?! One time last year in a moment of sleep-deprived desperation, I succumbed to a book on sleep. I didn't get very far, before I felt completely bewildered. None of the suggestions felt right. They felt too hard, too unnatural. And my baby rejected them too. As a new parent, it took all the courage within me to set aside self-doubt (and that dang book) and rely on my gut. And my baby. 

Sure there are nougats of truth in those books, but if you're a parent searching for answers or hard and fast rules, it's hard not to take the words of the "experts" for gospel and live by them without exception. And the problem there is that as a parent, with living breathing children, you will never fully live up to that gospel. You will ultimately make a mistake or veer from the path and feel like a failure.

I'd much prefer to observe my colleagues at the lunch table and pick and choose the parts that sound good. I'd much prefer to get advice from a friend who is in the same thick of it that I am. I'd much prefer to see how my sister handles a situation, and then choose my own variation. I'd much prefer to watch my own child's cues and let her help direct our path. To get and weigh and assess feedback from teachers. And see how my husband handles working through the trials. 

And make mistakes, but feel ok about it.

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