8 Reasons Why Thinking You Have Parenting Down Is A Recipe For Disaster
My children are really good at the grocery store for 90 percent of the time we're there. The remaining 10 percent, starting around when we get milk and ending after we've checked out, they're at best, "lively," and at worst, demonic. My 4-year-old son runs around the cart and then cries when I run over his foot. My 2-year-old daughter has shrieking tantrums and tries to climb out of her seat. I've joked that I need to have a stereo with the Benny Hill theme song playing behind me so everyone knows I recognize the ridiculousness. Thinking you have parenting down? It's a recipe for disaster, because things can get pretty hellacious, especially when you think you're above pandemonium. Refusing to acknowledge the hell that will inevitably befall you, will only make it worse.
As a mother, my three greatest and most useful tools have been the following: a sense of humor, diaper wipes, and humility. Now humility isn't the same as self-deprecation or a lack of confidence. Indeed, I don't think parents, mothers especially, usually give themselves enough credit for the amazing things they do. We certainly don't have to work from the idea that we're all haphazard parents barely clinging on to a single shred of control over our lives (or the lives of our children). However, to pretend we are omnipotent beings with a handle on everything, or worse, to feel like that's the standard expectation, serves neither parents nor children.
Admitting we don't know exactly what we're doing at all times is not only honest, it's liberating. Pretending everything is fine when it's not (just as bad, refusing to see that it's not), is bound to backfire for the following reasons:
You're Less Likely To Ask For Help When You Need It (Or Even Recognize That You Need Help)
When you're determined that you know exactly what you're doing, you're not particularly likely to think anyone else will have the experience necessary to make things any easier. And sure, no one else knows your baby better than you. At the same time, there are a lot of people and a lot of babies in the world and other parents and assorted caregivers have picked up some game-changing tips that can prove to be very beneficial. It would be a shame to close yourself off to such a massive network of experience and insight.
You're Less Likely To Deviate From Your Plan When You Probably Should
There's nothing wrong with switching up a plan. Say you're at a store and you try on a dress in the size you always wear, but it won't zip up. Would you spend hours trying to struggle into something that isn't a good fit, or would you look for a size that would feel better?
When it comes to children, it's pretty much a forgone conclusion that you're going to wind up backtracking on a lot of the "set in stone" plans laid forth in your pre-parent life. Guys, it's cool. As it is in yoga, flexibility is really important in parenting because (to expand upon this yoga metaphor) children can be like pigeon pose, unexpectedly sprung on you, difficult, and a total pain in your butt. Some really great ideas that you'll want to try will work wonders with some children just won't take with your kid. Again, that's fine. Every kid is different and so, too, is every parent. None of this is one size fits all. Regular shake-ups are a sign of parenting done right.
You Will Alienate Other Parents (And Yourself)
I mean, do I really have to tell you that no one likes a know-it-all? (How quickly we forget the lessons of the first Harry Potter books when Hermione came off as really abrasive and snotty). Claiming, evenly tacitly, that you don't need anyone's help, advice, or alternative points of view is just going to shut down any communication with other parents. You will find yourself quite alone in short order, but not without having probably upset the person who was trying to talk to you. The undertone of, "I know exactly and unequivocally what I'm doing," is always, "So why don't you?"
You Will Not Be Open To New Ideas
Even when things are going well, it's never a bad idea to be on the look-out for new ideas and tips that might make your life easier. If you're convinced you're holding it down and #havingitall, you're probably going to tune out other people's excellent ideas that might wind up helping you out.
You Are More Likely To Have A Static View Of Your Child
One of the greatest child-rearing adages I have ever heard is, "Parent the child you have, not the child you wish you had." If you're convinced your parenting plans do not need alterations because you've already thought of everything, chances are you're not going to see your children for who they really are. I don't care how spectacular your plan is, what are the odds you'll be able to predict every single quirk of a human being's personality in order to best raise them? Unless you're some sort of powerful sorcerer who conjured the child in a magical cauldron, it's pretty impossible.
You Will Self-Segregate And Wind Up In An Echo Chamber
Of course amid all this certainty, you will probably wind up allying yourself with similarly certain people. This is dangerous, as anyone who has ever ventured onto a mommy message board can tell you. Not dangerous, like "Molly, you in danger, girl" dangerous, but dangerous like Regina George and Gretchen Weiners are dangerous. For one, being surrounded by people with the same exact opinion keeps anyone pretty myopic and narrow-minded. For another, you will eventually find yourself walking a very thin line. The more specific you get in plans and philosophies, the less room there is for difference or dissent without some sort of nasty push-back designed to keep you in line, whether or not it's actually working for you.
I once had a friend who joined a "Natural Mama" message board when she was pregnant. Everyone was planning unmedicated vaginal births, mostly at birth centers or at home, and had very particular ideas about how they were going to raise their children. When my friend wound up with an emergency c-section, she was kicked out of the group because it was clear she was "not fully committed to the natural lifestyle." Dafuq?! I can only imagine what happened to the poor woman who first began asking questions about cry it out.
You Will Just Sound Dumb
Every parent (even you, person who thinks they have this down) knows, deep in their hearts, that we're all winging it as best we can. We have ideas, we have goals, but we do the best we can with what we have. Our lives are constantly changing, our children are in a state of transition from birth to long after we're dead. So to claim you've got this and couldn't use a hand from time to time? We know that's just not true. Or, if it's true now, it won't be forever and you're refusing to bank any graciousness points to use later. So come on, friend; we all know how this is going to end.
It Will Be Extra Tough To Be Proven Wrong
Humble pie does not taste good, smug parent. If you don't admit you're just doing the best you can like the rest of us, you're going to be eating humble pie with a side of crow soon (and often).