There is no parenting manual. No real instruction book. I think just about every new parent is told this, says this or at the very least; thinks these words at one point or another in their early parenting (or later parenting, it is all new). Well, as I often do with those mainstream every-one-knows-it-is-true ideas...I disagree. On the contrary, there are many many parenting instruction manuals. You just have to be open to finding them. And no, I am not talking about the shelves and shelves of "Parenting" books at your local bookstore/library. Come on people; let us get a little more creative then that?
Of course, speaking of "those" books I do happen to be one of "those" parents. You know, the one that drives you crazy? The one that reads every book I can get my hands on. Trouble with a sleeping baby? Buy a book! 2 year old throwing tantrums in public? I am sure ONE of the many multi-colored paperbacks that seem to promise the world (not to mention a perfect child) can help...right? I have a good collection; some of them have even helped. And to the chagrin of those around me, I often will share some of the beads of wisdom found within them. Please, if it annoys you then feel free to tell me to shut up. I wont be offended I promise, I just get a tad over enthusiastic when I think I have a useful resource. Though it is funny, I think the most useful thing I have been able to glean from these so called "instruction manuals" is that I am not alone in my parenting struggles. I remember hardly being able to read the words on the page in The Fussy Baby Book (Dr. Sears) through red, tired eyes brimming with tears because finally, I got a little encouragement that my VERY fussy baby was ok. That it was not just me, that all other babies around me didn't truly spend every night sleeping (without waking every 1.5 hours) and their days smiling and coo-ing as they seemed too vs. my always crying HOLD ME NOW ALL DAY ALL NIGHT! child. And oh the difference it made to hear that what I had been doing was the RIGHT thing. That holding my baby, rocking her, nursing her, being there for her when something obviously was wrong and there was nothing I could do was ok. That I was not spoiling her, that I was comforting her when it hurt, when she couldn't comfort herself. And on the flip-side that it was also ok to take a deep breath, put her in her bed, close the door and let her scream for a few minutes while I ate dinner with my family.
But through all the "parenting" books I really have found my manuals elsewhere. For instance, as stated above, in The Secret Garden; Dicken's mom has much instruction to give to children and parents alike. But how many kids did she have again? And every one of them turned out so smashingly. She knew how to raise hard workers, a parenting talent that is slowly becoming more and more rare.
One of my favorite instruction manuals for parenting comes from a truly un-likely source, the fantasy serious 'The Belgariad' by David Eddings. Absolute gems of parenting genius! I would say those books are worth a read just for the good advice you will receive. Mary Poppins is another one of my idols. She is very mater a fact. And of course, you never know what will happen. I looked for quotes from her - but all I could find were ones from the movie. I don't actually own those books; I need to.
I have heard much praise for the parenting book 'Love and Logic' I have not actually read it myself (though intent on always bettering myself, I would someday like too). But I will dare any expert on real love and logic to out-parent Mrs. Piggle Wiggle! She is without a doubt one of my very favorites. Hmmm, I should read those books to Taylor. She is at the very perfect age to love them. Maybe when she wakes from her nap today. I should go hunt my copy down....hold on. Ah yes! Found it. Oooh, and this one has The Selfishness Cure and The Never-Want-To-Go-To-Bedders Cure. Both great ones! Oh yay, I am excited for Taylor to get up now!
But you see, my manual goes beyond just my favorite books. I will never be a perfect mother, and I shall never have perfect kids - Thank God! For as my incredibly intelligent mother always pointed out to my siblings and I as we were growing: "if I had perfect kids, then if ever we disagreed, I would always be wrong!" Terrible for a mother, always being wrong? No perfect kids are worth that! But perfect as I shall never be, I do very much want to be my best. There are a few things that I have learned from my children and from my manuals that keep my sane throughout the day. For instance, what parent can read this and not laugh?
Elsie Marley's grown so fine,
She won't get up to feed the swine,
But lies in bed 'till eight or nine!
And surely she does take her time
A simple nursery rhyme. But can you not hear the sarcasm! It was first written in the 1700's. I can just hear a father writing those words on the fly when his pre-teen daughter has slept past what he considers a reasonable hour. Can't you just hear "Daaaaad!" and see those rolling eyes?
So the first thing I have learned as a parent is we should take things a little less seriously. Don't be afraid to tease your kids and have them tease you! Laugh together. After all, we can all try again tomorrow. That is one of the blessings of a year having 365 days in it. Every day is new. We learn, we move on. Let it go, laugh!
You ready for my second? I mentioned this book (David Eddings is the author) above. A little background: The boy Doroon has just broken his arm and he is taken to "Aunt Pol" to get it fixed up.
"Drink this," she instructed Doroon, handing him a steaming mug.
"Will it make my arm well?" Doroon asked, suspiciously eyeing the evil- smelling brew.
"Just drink it," she ordered, laying out some splints and linen strips.
"Ick! It tastes awful," Doroon said, making a face.
"It's supposed to," she told him. "Drink it all."
"I don't think I want any more," he said.
"Very well," she said. She pushed back the splints and took down a long, very sharp knife from a hook on the wall.
"What are you going to do with that?" he demanded shakily.
"Since you don't want to take the medicine," she said blandly, "I guess it'll have to come off."
"Off?" Doroon squeaked, his eyes bulging.
"Probably about right there," she said, thoughtfully touching his arm at the elbow with the point of the knife.
So the second thing I have learned - again something my mom has often said. Did I mention she is very wise? Don't feel so sorry for your kids. There are a lot of hard things in life. I agree that it is our job as parents to protect our kids. But I don't believe part of that protection means raising future adults that cannot deal with real life. Does that make sense? It is hard to learn how to clean a room, but you know what? It is something that needs to be learned. So if it takes hours a day to learn this? I will spend hours a day teaching it. I will try every angle I can think of in order to make the teaching as effective as I can. But at the end of the day the room WILL be clean and it will not be me who made it that way. Yes, there is screaming involved, yes it is no fun on both our parts. But this is life. I guess that kind of feeds into the next thing I have learned:
Discipline is all about choices...on the part of the child. Now, this mostly applies to kids 2.5 and up. And yes, at 2.5 they are old enough to make a choice, something big happens around that 1/2 mark. Ask my husband; I say the phrase "you have 2 choices" to my children A LOT. Example? "You have 2 choices. Obey and do as I ask right now. Or, you can choose not to obey and accept the consequences. The consequences for not obeying will be for your ballet shoes to go in time-out for one day. What do you choose?" Or, on the flip side: "You KNOW that hitting is not acceptable in this house. You chose to dis-obey and hit your sister. Because you chose hitting over using nice words, ballet shoes are in time-out. Next time you can choose to use nice words instead and then you wont lose your shoes! But this time you chose to hit, so this is the consequence for that choice." Can you tell ballet is big in this house? What the choice thing does is turn 100% of the responsibility onto them. At least for my kids - this makes a difference. But again, when the ballet shoes are taken away (as they are typically about 1-2 times a week. She has a memory span of about 3 days. Pretty good I'd say for 4!) and the fussing starts? I have to remember that this is a choice SHE made. Feeling sorry for her now will do no good. And if it is a ballet practice day and she has no shoes? She doesn't go to practice. I have a hard time then not feeling sorry. Especially since I am paying for that lesson. I have to remind myself that this lesson is more important and well worth 1/4 of $35.
Goodness, it is getting late and wow this is getting long! I have more, but I will have to make this a two-part post. I didn't mean to delve into all this when this post started. But sometimes, once we throw our sticks into the water they look a bit different coming down the stream then they did in our hands. I hear the real trick is throwing it in a twitchy sort of way....