They always say that kids don’t come with manuals. This is true. When I left the hospital, the nurses handed me a single sheet with instructions on both sides telling me how to care for my baby. These instructions included lay her on her back to sleep. See a doctor within a few days. Count poops and pees to know if she’s getting enough milk. There was no manual; this cheat sheet only got me through the first couple of weeks because babies grow and their needs change in an instant.
People always told me that parenting gets harder, and I used to get so mad. In a sleep-deprived state with a newborn, no one wants to hear that anything is harder than that. But it’s true; you learn to decipher baby cries, find just the right shush to calm your baby and learn whether the baby is hungry or just needs a diaper change. When all else fails, you just go down your list until the baby quiets down into a happy zone or falls asleep.
It gets harder as your kids get older and as you add other kids, and not just because there are more kids. Babies become little people, with their own wants and needs and desires and opinions. Their own will and stubbornness (that, admittedly, they get from their mother). There are new dynamics at play; there is balancing giving your attention to the attention-hungry. There is refereeing fights between siblings. A lot of times I feel like I’m making up the rules as I go because the situation I’m dealing with today is a new one, and it’s trial and error to see what works.
Being a parent means sometimes feeling like you have no idea what you’re doing and wishing there was a manual. But it’s not entirely true that there is no manual. There are lots of manuals, and endless parenting advice. And being a parent sometimes means that I have to go seek out the wisdom of others. My cousin (this one) recently sent me information on a webinar by parenting expert Amy McCready. I signed up — what parent doesn’t want to stop yelling at their kids? — and realized that I’d actually checked out her book, If I Have to Tell You One More Time…, before but hadn’t read it. The webinar was well worth the hour spent. Not only did it make me feel like I wasn’t alone in my parenting troubles, but it made me feel like there might be tips and tricks I could add to my parenting “tool box” to help me out with everyday issues all parents have. I immediately went back to the library and got her book.
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. And when you don’t like how something is going — too many tantrums, too much yelling — we should be willing to dig a little deeper, improve ourselves and our relationships with our kids. I grew up a bit of a perfectionist. And although you’d never know it by looking at my house, I’m always striving to be better: better at my job, stronger, a better parent. Parenting is the best, most rewarding job, and most of us just figure it out on the fly. No book will have all the answers, but books are great about giving you a new perspective and just might give you a different strategy to use when your go-to methods aren’t working. I’ll keep you posted.
Have you taken any parenting courses or read any books to try to improve your own parenting skills? —Erin