Parenting By The “Making It Up” Book

The Number One thing you learn when you become a parent? There is no instruction book.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Go into any bookshop or search online and there are many, many instruction books about children and parenting.

The problem is that there is no instruction book for you parenting your child. Or you parenting your other child because, trust me, the books (if they existed) would be completely different.

The books that are out there are not totally useless. They can tell you that if your baby is crying it’s probably this, this or this. But when you’ve tried fixing this, this and this and your baby is still screaming that’s when you want to hold your smartphone up to his* head and get a digital readout of what he’s thinking. Where’s the app for that??

Those books will tell you developmental milestones come at “about” X age. Mind you, “about” can have a range of anything up to a year. So when your child’s peers are all running around the park and yours is still crawling across the grass on his elbows looking like the world’s tiniest commando, you try not to worry.

And when do you worry, anyway?

When your child is three and is showing no interest in toilet-training, when is it still part of “normal” development and when is it time to put out the call “Houston, we have a problem”?

Think it gets easier when they get older? Think that if they can walk, talk, feed and toilet themselves, the hard yards are over?

Pfft.

The difficulty when they are older is trying to help them with things for which you do not possess the skills. And I’m not just talking about differential calculus.

How do you help your child establish solid study patterns for his final exams when you always used the “stay up until 3am the night before” study method?

How do you help your child navigate a tricky bullying situation at school when you were bullied as a child and never really got over it?

How do you encourage your child to pursue educational opportunities overseas knowing that you would never have done it yourself?

How do two parents who are introverts help their introverted children survive a world designed for extroverts when it’s a struggle for themselves?

How?

You make it up.

You pretend you know what you’re talking about. You act like you know what you’re doing.

And you hope nobody notices.

Parenting is not an exact science. It’s not even an approximate science. It is jumping out of an aeroplane when you’re still trying to order the parachute from the supplier. Repeatedly.

Sometimes it all comes together and you soar and float in blissful success. And sometimes you go ker-splatt.

I guess the trick is to scrape yourself off the tarmac, get back up there and try again. And hope in hell your kids survive and thrive in spite of you.

Freefall Parenting

Freefall Parenting

*All the pronouns in this post are male not because I believe in the patriarchal habit of using the male gender for general reference but because I only have boys. Referring to girl children is just not in my vocabulary.

 

 

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31 thoughts on “Parenting By The “Making It Up” Book

  1. Great post H.! It isn’t always obvious, but I’m sure the boys are teaching you! I had two girls and then a boy. So very different scenario!! Fran, my first, developed early and that was a worry….then things calmed down. Just enjoy them as once they leave the time at home seems so short.
    Happy flying by the seat of your pants!! 🙂

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      • When I told my mother her problems were over on my wedding day, as I was leaving, she said,’ Your problems are just beginning’, and she was right!! But now, I’m determined not to worry, as my mother did. Easier said than done, sometimes. Life is easier though, as a retired person. Something to look forward to H.

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        • Oh, I very much am looking forward to that. The husband of a friend just got back from a cycle trip in Tibet and there was a woman on that trip who is 73. That is going to be me one day! (Except I have my eyes set on Bhutan, as it happens.) 🙂

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  2. Right with you on this one for sure. It gets harder and harder and even after the first one when you can convince yourself that you can do this and you can get them through it without too much damage, you have that second one coming up right behind him showing you that everything you thought you figured out the first time was WRONG! 🙂

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  3. I think every parent alive can relate to this one. So many times I wished I knew that everything was going to work out ok. I can confidently tell you that even when they are adults living on their own, you will still worry. Different worries, but worry just the same.
    There are some days I think they are way wiser than I am.

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  4. Don’t know if you are “vintage” enough to recall Dr. Spock. IHe wrote THE child-rearing handbook in my mom’s day. I recall seeing it on the table in the livingroom. She must have wanted to have it nearby for immediate reference. Like Bikerchick, I bow to your fortitude and endurance in spite of the high anxiety that comes with the job of bearing and rearing children. I was frightened away from the job and deliberately chose not to have kids.

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  5. Oh yes! I’ve got 4, a stepson and 10 grandchildren, and there’s always someone to worry about. But despite their hideous childhood and my monumental failures as a parent (all too true, believe me!) mine turned out better than OK, and best of all, they talk to each other constantly, help each other out and face the world together. (And still come to me with their troubles.) So what can I say? I was a botch job as a mother, and failed them in so many ways it’s a horror story, but they’re still around, and if nothing else, learned what they don’t want for their own children!
    Why am I telling you this? To prove that you’re way ahead of me already!

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  6. From me you will learn nothing, I promise, H ! I just wanted to put my oar in and say that while I grew up as one of 5 girls, I suspect things were much the same for my oldies. Except … They didn’t continually ask themselves how they were doing; nor did they examine their own backgrounds in regard to applying ’em to their kids. In other words, a couple of generations back, parents were simply Them Wot Knew (pfuh !) and they struggled on believing it. Nowadays, people like you two are continually questioning your own methods in trying to do the very best for your offspring. THAT’s what’s been achieved – and bloody impressive it is, too ! 😀

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  7. OK, I really laughed out loud at “world’s tiniest commando.” The mental image is totally cracking me up!! And don’t agonize too much over things; somebody really wise, with three terrific kids, once told me not to blame myself too much if my kid didn’t turn out well and not to pat myself on the back too much if she did. So much is within the child himself. All you can do is love them, really, and the rest will fall into place the way it’s supposed to, I guess.

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  8. With children long since grown and moved out we still joke that they should have come with their own personal manual. Agreed one has to make it up along the way. This post really made me smile.

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  9. I like your style and you have now got yourself another follower – blame that cantankerous M-R for leading me to you o_O
    Hope you don’t mind me chipping in now and again 😀
    Jude xx

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  10. I think parenting is part hit and miss, part deceit, and a lot of guess work. After almost 2 years of trying, my 3 year old potty trained himself on a road trip across the U.S. when he figured out that the blue highway signs (Rest Area) meant that he could get out of the car and play. On day 4 he started to yell “I need to potty” when he saw a blue sign. On day 7 mom and dad figured out what he was doing. We were clueless, he was smart. But what the hey, it worked!

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