Like most of my fellow parents out there, I came to parenting wholly unprepared for the rigors of the job.
Worse, I was full of vigor and naïveté that would not be born out by any practical application of knowledge on my part.
While both my children were gleefully anticipated, I can say without reserve that in the conscious act of parenting – as in to lead and mold and hold all the secrets of the universe and impart them to future generations – I am very much an accidental parent.
I don’t have all the answers: from why the sky is blue to why dimes simply MUST be swallowed by nearly every toddler on the planet, but a while back I found it refreshing to let go of the dream that I ever would.
Effortless. Making my mellowness seem harsh, however, is a friend who was seemingly born to parent.
I love her (and her seemingly effortless ease of stellar parenting) mind you, but sometimes she makes me nervous – not to mention leaving me feeling wholly inadequate.
While she is carefully using her seemingly bottomless pit of patience to fashion an intelligent, meaningful, and ego-enriching compromise with her preschooler over some point of digression, I am seething, teeth clenched, and muttering, “Oh yeah mister, well I’ll GIVE you something to cry about!” and wondering why I ever thought I’d be good at this.
Lacking whatever innate gift enables parents like my friend to just wing it with smashing success, my husband and I find it refreshing to fall back on the very parenting we learned from our own parents – the ultimate on-the-job trainers.
This would be the very same parenting we swore as children that we would never visit upon our own kids.
This category includes “because I said so that’s why,” “don’t make me turn this car around,” “you have another think coming mister,” “don’t look at me in that tone of voice” and the perennial favorite: “Santa sees all!”
Practice. Should you not wish to simply toss caution to the wind and trust that you can cobble together some semblance of responsible parenting, however, the new rage in practice parenting is called Baby Think It Over.
“Baby” is a computerized doll that is programmed to cry at random intervals, demand care, feeding, changing, rocking, and the like, and require that an assigned guardian be on-call 24/7.
Obviously, this is extremely familiar to anyone exposed to an actual human baby.
In this case, a computer chip in the doll dutifully records the responses to and handling of “Baby” and at the end of the experiment the participants are graded on how well “Baby” would have fared in their care, or lack thereof.
Generally, if your doll reports back that it has died from neglect, it’s summer school for you pal.
More importantly, after carting “Baby” about, being awakened to random and incessant crying, and realizing what a drag “Baby” is on dates, most teens initially involved in the project (and a fair number of the teachers as well) said they would “definitely try really hard not to have a baby.”
Limited. The only limitations I see to Baby Think it Over is that the doll is modeled on an approximately 3-month-old infant.
That might give young parental wannabes a taste of what parenthood would be like. At least I think so.
Like most parents, those first four to six months are a blur, so I’m really going on rumor and random flashbacks at this point.
However, despite those good intentions, Baby Think It Over stops short of the crucial juncture which separates the parents from the pretenders: the toddler years.
When they invent a doll that can say “why?” upwards of 30 times in rapid succession, will only eat macaroni shaped like dinosaurs and “NO OTHER KIND,” and refuses to wear their new pink snow boots because “they might get ruineded!” they might really have something there.
Everyone knows babies don’t really start showing their teeth, literally and figuratively, until they turn 2.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt is still learning as she goes. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 39, Salem, OH 44460.)