Have you ever pondered the irony that you must be of a certain age to drink, smoke, vote or operate a motorized vehicle but there's no requirements in place, at all, in order to become a parent?
I did, especially when I became a mother for the first time eighteen years ago. I distinctly remember my husband driving the three of us home from the hospital in our baby blue Chevy Cavalier. As we drove away I looked over my shoulder at the nurse still standing on the curb and thinking how does she know I am going to do a good job caring for this child? We couldn't even figure out how to secure the car seat properly. What was I going to do once we arrived at home?
I didn't know the first thing about babies back then. I never babysat as a teenager, grew up relatively disinterested in children and most certainly lacked any sort of nurturing inclination. The only thing I knew was how to breathe through the contractions thanks to a Lamaze class. Which, by the way, did not help with the pain.
My son, who currently has his driver's permit, has a year to take driver’s education class and hours of practice behind the wheel before taking an exam. Shortly after that he will be able to participate in the next presidential election. But what, if anything, will he do to prepare for an even bigger responsibility? Parenthood.
What if there were exams and classes for parenting. I wonder how many of us would have earned permission to parent. I mean c'mon, most of what we know we learned from being in the trenches. This is hands-on, make it up as we go along stuff, right?
If we are lucky we have a friend, neighbor, sister or cousin to ask about the best brand of diapers, the pros and cons of thumb sucking versus using a pacifier and when can we expect that freaky umbilical cord to fall off. We may even feel out our mothers or grandmothers for advice although we are not sure if we should trust any of it because some days it feels like times have changed too much since they raised children.
The problem with parenting advice is that most of us want, and even need it, but we demand it on our own terms. Unsolicited parenting advice is the best way to alienate another woman. I know because in spite of my parent educator license I've mistakenly offered unwelcomed advice and have estranged a few lovely ladies in my day. I still regret those moments.
I know the whole concept of attending a parenting class is a bit too intruding for most of us. In addition to the uncomfortability, we think, "Nobody's gonna tell me how to raise my kid" and we continue on, suffering sleepless nights, fighting temper tantrum wars and feeling like failures all for the sake of propping up a good family image.
But each of us, if we will humbly admit, had parenting moments when we needed help, or a new idea or support. That is why, twice a year, I offer a parenting class designed for parents with children ages birth to five. This three session, video based class will meet at Lincoln Early Childhood School, 325 South 11th Street on Monday November 4, 11 and 18. Complimentary childcare is provided by the Monmouth College Alpha Xi Delta sorority and is available with a reservation.
There is nothing wrong with taking a parenting class. Just like you prepare for other major milestones in your life, a parenting class can offer relief from some of the more challenging aspects of parenthood. But good news, there is no final examination at the conclusion of my class. I can’t offer you a license or permit, but you do get a certificate of completion and the hope of happier days ahead with your kid. Which, I’m sure is exactly what you were hoping for. Why? Because I’m the mom, and class facilitator, and I said so. That’s why!
Stephanie is a mother to five children ranging in age from 18 to nine years old. She's been teaching parenting classes for over a decade and still uses some of the same techniques to keep her personal sanity and order in her home. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-2222 for more information.