I somehow managed to get a subscription to two different magazines that I never actually subscribed to. I haven't paid a dime nor received a bill for either one, yet they are sent to me, personally, each and every month. I guess the magazine gods are playing a joke on me, because the magazines in question are Rolling Stone and Parenting.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am not that extreme in either direction. Not. At. All.
I like to skim through each of them, when time permits. I used to especially look forward to the 'Ask Dr. Ozzy' column in Rolling Stone where people would actually seek advice on anything from love and addiction to personal hygeine from the Great Ozzy Osbourne himself.
I used to have a real and purposeful subscription to Parenting magazine. When my girls were younger, I was reading anything I sould get ahold of to find answers to whatever question would come up. How to deal with tantrums, picky eaters, and the seasonal cold were at the top of my list of things to worry about. And the younger, more naive version of me would actually read these articles with an open mind and hopeful outlook.
This article will answer all my questions and change my life, I just know it.
I might as well have been reading 'Ask Dr. Ozzy' so much of that time.
While I know they usually mean well, the whole idea of 'parenting advice' just seems to have gotten out of hand. They change the rules so stinking often I can't keep them straight. By the time you no longer need advice on getting your baby to sleep through the night or how to handle hitting or biting, they have already changed the rules that you attempted to follow anyhow.
Just think about how we were raised. If you are reading this blog and are my age, (30-ish *cough* cough*) you were most likely spanked as a child. You were also most likely put on your stomach to sleep as an infant and quite possibly (if your parents were a little more 'old school') given a rag soaked in a bit of whiskey on it to chew on to get you through teething. If you are from a previous generation, it's possible that your parents dipped your pacifier in HONEY to get you to take to it and stripped your infant body naked and put you in a window for a certain amount of sunlight on sunny days. And sunscreen did not exist back then.
Amazingly, you are still alive to read this blog right now. While I'm not yet 40, I never had a bike helmet and seat belts were optional throughout much of my childhood. My mom still has the car bed from when my brother and I were infants. (A car bed is a bed that is strapped in the back seat and the baby just lies in it to sleep while you drive, most likely rolling from side-to-side when your brake or accelerate.) We rode around in the backs of pickup trucks and our mothers were not discouraged from smoking or drinking while pregnant with us. My mom had trouble with anemia when she was pregnant and her doctor had her eating barely cooked liver on a regular basis to try to boost the amount of iron in her blood.
And yet here we all are. Alive and well to judge others for the crappy job that they're doing with their kids.
If I have learned anything about raising children, it's that there are no rules that apply to everyone. Each one of these miniature human beings have their own personalities, agendas, and motivations. No two people are the same. I am raising three completely different people. (Though sometimes, it feels more like they're raising me.)
My oldest is so terribly easy-going she doesn't often seem real. I could reason with her at a young age in a way that a lot of parents only dream. I can't really take any credit for that. (Though the younger, less insightful mother in me might have tried.) She is who she is. She naturally wants to please those around her and wants to take pride in herself for a job well done. (Except for when it comes to doing most chores around the house. She is, after all, still a teenager!) She tries her hardest at school and to be a good person in general. If I could figure out how I did that, I would probably be able to write a book and make millions. However, I'm pretty sure I didn't really have all that much to do with it. (Okay, so maybe the fact that she hasn't been raised in a CRACK HOUSE has been somewhat helpful, but still.)
My second-born is a completely different person. While she's not quite as motivated to please others as her older sister, she is hell-bent on following the rules. In her world, black is black and white is white. There is very little gray in the world of my 9YO. She is also thoughtful and sensitive and can appear to be extremely serious if you don't know her that well. Just like her dad, 9YO can look downright angry when she's not smiling. I still catch myself trying to read their faces from across the room to see if I can guess whether they are angry or just not smiling. And I'm not always right. They have got to be two of the most difficult to read faces in this world. But their hearts are both made of gold and the anger doesn't usually last long, if there is any anger there at all. She is just so much like her dad as far as her work ethic and how much she values honesty. That's just who she is. 9YO can be too serious sometimes, but is usually your typical goofball kid at home. (Though a lot of people don't believe me when I tell them that!)
And then there's 6YO. She's our wild card. She's not quite the pleaser that her oldest sister is, nor is she the rule-keeper that her other sister is. She's sort of a mixture of both. But really, 6YO is all about the audience. Miraculously, she still leaves most of her drama at home and is the perfect student in class. She realizes that her job at school is to follow the rules and do what she's told. I can't say that she won't participate in her share of drama as she grows, but she seems to want to follow the rules for now where school is concerned. (Thankfully! That's the one I was most worried about.) At home, 6YO lives to argue and create drama wherever she goes. When she's not making me crazy, she's making me laugh. I like to joke that she's not sure if she wants to be an attorney or a clown when she grows up. She could quite easily be either one. Or both.
All three of my girls have been pretty much been raised in the same environment. I attempted to spank all three when they were toddlers. (I say 'attempted' because it wasn't an effective method for my youngest.) Yes, I believe in spanking. I don't believe in beating the crap out of a child or taking our my own frustrations on them, but I believe in a swift swat on the bottom (which is usually diapered because it shouldn't really be necessary to spank someone who is old enough to be out of diapers.) If I draw a line in the sand and they cross it, there is a consequence. End of story. While I do believe in spanking, I don't believe that every child needs to be spanked. I also don't believe that spanking will work on every child. Nor will time-outs. But I have always spanked with a clear head
I think the bottom line is that the only parenting technique that I have ever seen work for every single child is consistency. And you can't possibly be consistent if you follow all the trends in those obnoxious parenting magazines. Evidently, telling a child 'NO' can be a bad thing as well.
Really? NO??? Yeah, that'll prepare them for life as an adult! See how well that works?
I'm not claiming to know all the secrets to parenting. I can't say that anything I've done with my children will work for yours. But I have lived long enough to notice that each new generation of parents seems to live to prove how wrong the past generations were.
Now, I'm not saying that we haven't learned a lot of useful information throughout the years. I had an aunt yell at me for painting the nursery when I was pregnant with my 9YO. She wasn't yelling at me because of the paint fumes, though. She was yelling at me because raising my hands over my head could wrap the umbilical cord around the baby's neck.
Part of me is wondering if maybe she's gotten some of her advice from Dr. Ozzy too.
My children wear seatbelts and none of them were given honey as infants. There are so many things we are learning that are based on science and I'm willing to do whatever I can to keep my children safe. But my children are told 'NO' almost every single day of their lives. They were allowed to cry as infants as long as all of their needs had been met and they continued to cry. Sometimes, babies cry. They learned to calm themselves down and get themselves to sleep in their own beds as infants. They do chores. They are allowed to feel bad if they put themselves in a situations that makes them feel bad. It's not my job to make them feel better about themselves. Do you remember when people first started using time-outs on their kids and the old school parents criticized them for not really using 'discipline?' Well, that method was referred to in this latest issue of Parenting Magazine as 'exiling your kid.' Now time-outs are too harsh? These magazines just go too far. They make parents question themselves even more than that already do.
And children can smell weakness.
After reading a few of those articles, I'm not convinced that all of those 'experts' have even met a child, much less had experience in dealing with one. Please don't think I am telling anyone else how to raise their children. This whole parenting gig is 'learn-as-you-go' and I am in no way fully educated. None of us are.
Stay calm. Take a breath. Keep your mind open to facts and new information. Follow your heart. You know your kid better than anyone else.
And if you should happen to buy a magazine to help you be a better parent, maybe you could just roll it up and swat your toddler on the bottom with it. It's been proven more effective for the most part.
You certainly wouldn't be the first.