When expecting our first child, I received stacks of birth and baby care books. Each one pledged to teach me all I needed (or wanted) to know about the birthing process and newborn care. Skills I would need for only a short while.
Meanwhile, the vast stretch of parenting that takes decades to complete is left curiously blank. Frankly, this obsession with newborn care at the expense of the bigger picture is like a driving lesson that teaches nothing beyond putting the vehicle in gear. That’s a nice skill, but how will you manage the rest of the trip?
License to thrive. Perhaps parenting should require a license. We are required to obtain a license for driving, hunting, selling real estate and fishing, even if we plan to do these things exactly once in our whole lives.
Yet, a 20-year commitment to molding another human being is undertaken without testing of any kind. Shouldn’t we receive at least as much useful instruction and hands-on training in managing a loaded toddler as we do in learning to parallel park?
Trust me, when it comes to parking you can always circle the block until a better spot opens. When a tantrum hits, there is no escape. Much like being in the eye of a hurricane, but slightly more dangerous to bystanders.
Logic. The main problem here is that logic is not included in the base options package on small humans. You have to install that yourself later.
Adults, on the other hand, are extremely logical people. That’s why they let us operate the tricky stuff like DVD players and the federal government.
This gap in the logic continuum is why parents, as a rule, have a hard time with just what goes through a child’s head when they are tired but fight sleep? This does not compute.
Sleep is good. Sleep is your friend. Sleep is sublime. Why fight it? Yet, despite being so weary she is bumping into walls, a tired toddler will do everything in her power to avoid a nice nap.
Worse, as parents we are duty-bound to excuse any and all behavior undertaken by a tired child. Whether the child is whining, has just dismantled the toilet or has bitten the cat, “He’s tired” is the ultimate anecdote for responsibility. It’s a get-out-of-jail-free card for those under 12.
Why can’t adults get in on this gig? I could stage a throw down in the grocery store over the price of pork roast and rather than calling security, bystanders would cluck sympathetically and say, “Oh poor thing, she’s just tired.” They would perhaps even offer a cookie to appease me. It could work.
What they lack in logic, children make up for in their purely egocentric nature. I was assured that having my children exactly two years apart would ensure that they grew up to be very close.
I failed to understand that this meant close enough to poke each other in the eye. Every choice in the day, from who gets the bunny cup, the last cookie or buckled into the car first, is a battle to the death, complete with fists, a thrown elbow or two and proclamations of revenge worthy of a Dynasty catfight.
Forget baby blue and powder pink. Parents of more than one child should all be issued black and white striped referee gear.
Timeout. There is a silver lining to the chaos caused by parenting by the seat of your pants without clear operating instructions.
Sure you make mistakes – we all do. The benefit of this is that parenting experts decree that as discipline for most infractions, you should assess one minute of timeout, alone in a peaceful spot, for each year of the miscreant’s age.
So a 2-year-old rests in timeout for two minutes, a 4-year-old for four minutes, a 7-year-old for seven minutes, and so on.
With my numerous transgressions from perfect parenthood, it’s plain that I’ve got at least 33 minutes of timeout coming to me. And I don’t plan to fight the nap.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt lives in rural northeast Ohio with her two vastly illogical, but lovable, children. She welcomes reader comments c/o P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)