Parenting seems to be one of the few enterprises where expertise diminishes over time. Or, rather, one’s perception of expertise diminishes over time, and maybe that amounts to the same thing. All my other life skills — with the possible exception of highway merging — have clearly improved over time. But I’ve been a parent for almost twenty years and an early childhood “educator” for quite a few, as well. And I have the Young Adult world covered. (I’ve got street cred is what I’m saying.) Yet I still feel like each day with children is just one more chance to mess things up.
And a corollary point: does it even matter? I go back and forth on this. I’ve read all those twin studies and how parents count for zilch yada yada. But come on! Does anyone actually believe that conveniently exculpatory claptrap? Not my children, who will tell you that I have huge(-ly unwelcome) influence on their lives. When I wrote a piece last year about being a ‘dolphin mother’ – a kinder and wiser alternative to the scary Tiger Moms – my children tried to have me brought up on charges of false representation. It’s true I skew to a vigilant, hawk-eyed parenting style. I maintain that I’m a gentle and nurturing hawk, but that’s possibly splitting hairs. My middle kid thinks I track too many things, ie him. He calls me a “monitor lizard” for my hyper-supervisory ways. I prefer to call myself “engaged.”
Of course I’ve tried on many other parenting hats over the years: Indulgent; Aspirational; Slacker (Whoops! Somebody forgot to
buy cook dinner tonight); Faux-Frontier; Bitch. But I can cheerfully attest that I still have no proven hypotheses. I know nothing. If anything, I’m actually getting dumber as a custodian of children as time marches on. Fortunately, Dr. Harley Rotbart has it right: Who cares which parenting theory you go in for? Just love your child and stop worrying. She offers what amounts to the only wisdom — via 17th century poet, John Wilmot — that I’ve gleaned from my 10,000 hours of reading parenting books:
“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children. Now I have six children and no theories.” After more than 30 years in practice, I feel the same way.