Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Art of Parenting

There are a gazillion books written about parenting. Everything you ever wanted to know about any child development issue has been documented including, but not limited to: discipline, eating, sleeping, pooping, crying, learning, talking, attachment and childcare. Anything you want to know about any child related issue is just one library book or Google search away.

All of this is helpful information if you are raising a text book child. If however, you like me, are raising a real child in the real world with real challenges, then all that information will perhaps make you feel like less of a mother instead of an awesome one.

And that's if you have time to read. Hardly any of the mothers I know have time to sit down with a book on how to be a better parent because they are too busy actually being a parent.

Just saying.

I read parenting books when I was expecting my first child. I remember how some of them made me feel less than adequate while others turned me into a maniac obsessed with scheduling every minute of every nap, meal and BM. Sure our days ran like clockwork but I was losing touch on reality.

While learning how important sleep cycles are to your child's health and making your own baby food is certainly commendable, it is my opinion that most how to parenting books miss the mark.

Parenting is more than the actual act of diaper changing, feeding, disciplining and potty training. Parenting is an art. And if I could tell every mother everywhere one thing it would be this; Breathe.

There is no perfect parent. There never has been and there never will be. It won't be you. It certainly won't be me. And it's going to be okay. Breathe.

If parenting was simply caring for a short person we'd all win mother of the year awards. Instead parenting involves children. An entire, other, temperamental human being is intricately woven into the equation of parenting and despite following every piece of sound advice, children remain an unknown variable. In other words, you could do everything right and parenting would still be a challenge.

I fear somewhere along the way we've adopted a belief that if we are doing a good job as a parent that parenting will be easy. Parenting is not easy. It's not easy for anyone. It is supposed to be hard. You're supposed to be exhausted. Your nerves will be frayed and your child will push you to the limits. You'll lose touch with your pre-baby life and relationships that were once primary will struggle to survive.

But it is ok. You can do this. You get to do this. Work hard. Study up. Read every parenting book if you have the time but at the end of the day, if you've done your best, relax and stop second guessing yourself. Your best effort is all that is needed to make a beautiful masterpiece.

That is after all, the glorious thing about art; it's abstract and messy, unique and gorgeous all at the same time. When you parent you're creating beauty.

I know it doesn't always feel beautiful. But wait. Don't rush to critique your work in progress. Understand you'll make a mess and when you do it will be all right. You are strong and creative and you'll figure out another option. Don't be afraid of getting it wrong. Children are pliable.

Am I against parenting advice? No, of course not! Without it my teenager may still be sucking on the pacifier. By all means educate yourself and do your research. But after all the trying, learning and working relax. Parenting is more than information and techniques. Parenting is art in progress. Be patient, survive and someday you'll surely enjoy the piece you've created. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so. That's why!

Stephanie is a mother of 5 and Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville school district. She can be reached for questions or comment at
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