How To Ignore Parenting How-To’s

Parenting wisdom isn’t hard to find these days. From online newsletters to social media to – ahem – mom blogs, you don’t need to look any farther than your smartphone to access a range of voices willing to weigh in on various ages, stages, personality types and behaviors: Navigating Boyhood; Raising a Spirited Child; The Impact of Media Use on Family Health – just a few of the topics that made their way into my inbox one recent week.
I’m all about crowdsourcing when it comes to tackling my kids’ challenging or puzzling behavior. Why not benefit from the wealth of experience of those who have weathered these storms already? 
But I have come to see a dividing line between parenting tips that help address a real problem and make us better moms and those that serve to stoke the flames of parental anxiety – a profitable outcome for book sales, perhaps, but not a profitable one for our own sanity. 
I have now kept three children alive with moderate competency past their first birthdays, and that first year of a baby’s life teaches us nothing if not this one truth: with rare exceptions, it’s all just temporary. Your baby will never stop waking up every two hours…until he suddenly does. Your baby is never going to figure out crawling…until, wow, there she goes! No hair/teeth/first word? Wait another week.
Those rapid-fire transformations spread out significantly over the years, of course, but the fact remains that most things with kids – even when they feel endless – actually do end quickly. That doesn’t mean you can pretend they’re not happening and leave your child flailing, but maybe not every problem requires its own book?
As time goes on, I’m increasingly wary of anything that amps up my maternal anxiety (“mom-xiety?”) unnecessarily. Maybe it’s that friend who is always fretting about her own child, thereby causing me to wonder, “Should I be worried about this too?” Maybe it’s alarming stories on the news. Maybe it’s relying on “Dr. Google” late at night when the pediatrician’s office is closed. (You know you’ve done it!) 
But more insidious are the voices that imply there is a one-size-fits-all way to parent. That’s as ridiculous as saying there’s only one type of child. 
So use parenting books, blogs and the moms around you as tools that make you feel supported and less alone on this journey. But at the end of the day, when it comes to your child there is only one voice that truly knows best: the one in your head.


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