I have intentionally avoided reading about all things parenting related in the last five months. My biggest reason for this was perfectly articulated by a fellow blogger–one I don’t read but whose recent post a friend sent to me. She writes:
FIRST of all, ALL of us — all parents I know, all parents I read — we just want to do the right thing. We want to be the best parents we can be. We are all terrified of baby-rearing, because it’s big and important and scary and like nothing else we’ve ever experienced. And it’s complex and challenging.
So…you have a HUGE industry of parenting experts who profit from telling you what to do. Lots of people make money from taking advantage of the fear and insecurities of new parents. And even if you go beyond those and into the territory of non-profit, friendly, trying-to-be-helpful websites and experts — few of them exist to help you feel better. Most (at least most I’ve seen) exist to tell you how to do things the “right” way.
Except none of them — not doctors, not experts, not cultures, not any of them — agree.
There is absolutely no universal method for raising children. There is not one tiny thing about child-rearing that anyone, anywhere can agree on. THERE IS NO SINGLE RIGHT ANSWER.
And THAT, I believe, is the scariest, least intuitive, hardest thing in the world to embrace. We don’t want to hear that, we don’t want to believe that. We want the answers. We want someone, somewhere saying, “You do it like this. You are good at that. You are doing it right!”
Some of the smartest, most competent, most amazing women I know have fallen to pieces because they don’t trust themselves to make the “right” parenting decisions on their own. They turn to every book, blog, expert they can get their hands on in desperate search for the right answer, and then crumble, exhausted, because the information is conflicting and nothing they do seems to “work” and they are left feeling like parenting failures.
My solution? I don’t read those books. I figured some things out about myself when I was planning my wedding: I go crazy when I get too much information. So I picked ONE wedding dress. ONE invitation style. ONE veil company. I met with ONE cake designer. If I had read all the advice out there about how to have the best wedding it would’ve taken me the same amount of time it takes the average bride, and an eight-month in-school engagement was plenty for me. Godliness with contentment, they say, is great gain.
I figured I would feel the same way about all things parenting so I made a conscious choice from day one not to get tangled up in the worry of too much advice. I even handled my doctor selection according to my custom: I asked a trusted friend for a personal recommendation at that was the end of the question.
The extent of my reading thusfar, besides perusal of a couple handy references about what the heck is going on with my body!, has been the book of Proverbs. In September I read it and kept a running list of all the verses I wanted my kids to memorize. They will be busy. Hopefully wise, too. As far as I’m concerned, the important thing about raising children, besides not leaving them alone in the bath and obvious stuff like that, is to teach them to be wise and to teach them to love God’s law and God’s gospel. The first way I’ll do that is by loving it myself, so in our estimation, our real parenting preparation has more to do with cultivating personal holiness than comparing stroller models. (The time for comparing stroller models will come, but I am proud to say I have not started stock-piling paraphernalia yet and I have just passed the halfway mark.)
And now that I’ve explained why I haven’t read anything about good parenting in the last 20 weeks (except the magazines I read for laughs at the doctor’s office) I have a request for you seasoned, tried-and-true moms out there who read my blog. I need recommendations for really good books–books that have made you a better, godlier, smarter mom to happier kids.
I’m happy to report that I gave my two-weeks’ notice at the coffee shop today and am five weeks away from a month-long traveling vacation with nothing to do but relax. I’ve slowly climbed through the piles and piles of paperwork, loan information, medical this-and-that, and all that stuff that comes with living in the real world this fall and feel for the first time in my life like I am caught up. It’s been hard, boring work that I’ve complained my way through. But I think I conquered it and I have a clean house and closet to show for it. So with winter here to stay and vacation around the corner and less and less energy as this baby saps more and more life out of me, I think it’s time for the reading to start.