2. We have entirely too much information available.
I never gave any thought to parenting while I was pregnant. I spent a significant amount of time endlessly obsessing about the stages of pregnancy and delivery, but I never wasted a second thinking about what would happen once the baby was born. As far as I was concerned, that would be the easy part. I didn’t know what to expect from labor and delivery, but once my baby boy was in my hands, I was sure I’d be fine. I laughed smugly at my pregnant counterparts as they continuously devoured every parenting book they could get their hands on. Little did I know that within days of Gus being born, I would be trying to get my hands on every parenting book I could find.
My mom came to stay with us a few weeks after Gus was born and I didn’t mistake her amused smiling at the stack of parenting books next to my breastfeeding chair. We had just over nighted the video, The Happiest Baby on the Block, and we made her sit through the entire thing. Lots of people love this video, but we all thought it was ridiculous. It amounted to rolling your baby up into a tightly rolled burrito and saying, “shush…” I’m sure we could have figured that out without the 19.95 plus shipping and handling.
Our bookshelves are overflowing with parenting books. There’s one on every topic. You could probably read one every day for the next ten years and still not be halfway through. Not to mention the inexhaustible amount of information that we have at our fingertips with the click of a mouse. There’s an entire spectrum of material available. There’s the prescriptive how-to books filled with textbook accounts of of childrearing that puts child care into mathematical formulas. A + B = C. The other side of the spectrum holds narratives about parenting written mostly by celebrities or rich white women.
Now, all of this information would be wonderful if all of the sources agreed. But, it’s not that simple. Nobody in the parenting world agrees. On any topic, there is a split as divisive as the Republican vs. Democratic divide. You can read through one piece and find yourself thinking, okay, okay…this makes sense. This is how I should do it. Then you click on a different link that tells you everything you just read was wrong! It’s absolutely maddening. The result is that you have to pick which side you want to take on the issue. Your selection is based on your own decision making process which is exactly what you were doubting in the first place!
I’m fairly certain my mom never read a parenting book in her life. She may have had the ancient Dr. Spock book to serve as a medical reference, but other than that she did what every other woman had been doing who came before her. That is, she figured it out as she went along. She trusted her instinct and for those moments when she didn’t have a clue, she just did the best she could. She still makes fun of me for all of the reading and studying I did on parenting.
See, parenting is not a science no matter how much we might wish that it were. No matter how much the experts may tell us it is. If it was, all of the sources would agree. For example, if you Google the Law of Gravity, you will get a bazillion hits, but they will all define the Law of Gravity exactly the same. This is not even remotely close to what happens in regard to parenting.
I threw my parenting books away along time ago. It felt good.
Photo credit: David Castillo Dominic