"Mom, I made it stop raining today. I came out of the library and I yelled at the sky 'stop raining! I've got big plans today!' And almost right away, it stopped raining. But my powers are limited. Then I tried to turn Sean into a 35-year-old but it didn't work."
-Avery (April 2014)
Parenting can be hard.
Some days it can be really freaking hard.
Fortunately, most of us are surrounded by people who love to give advice about how to master every aspect of parenting. And unfortunately, a good deal of that advice comes in the form of either veiled shaming or flagrant self-promotion. So if you're a parent, and you're looking for real-life advice you can use, you've come to the right place. I have no shame, which means I'm sorta the perfect one to offer you the following words of wisdom.
1. The years may be short, but the days are still long.
Want to hear the single most assholish thing you can say to a person who hasn't slept in five days, hasn't showered in four, and just spent the afternoon washing someone else's diarrhea out of her favorite bra?
"Treasure this time, you'll never get it back."Fuck you.
My kids won't be little forever, but that doesn't mean a lot of today didn't suck. That's right, I said it. Some days I rock at this gig, while others have me mentally calculating the number of hours until bedtime.
Here's some truly helpful advice for my fellow parents out there: at the end of each night, scrap any misplaced guilt you may have regarding the fact you were slightly less than orgasmic about the diaper blow-out that covered your only clean shirt while $200 in groceries sat melting all over your shopping cart. Then, pour yourself a glass of wine and - when you are ready - go into their rooms and watch your babies sleep for a few minutes. That's time you can really treasure.
2. It's all small stuff.
When my oldest son was two, I signed him up for a mommy-and-me gymnastics class, and I was crappiest parent in the room. It was mortifying. My kid was the only one who thought it would be more fun to climb the walls and rearrange the obstacle course than do a perfect somersault. For four straight weeks, I begged, bribed, threatened, and time-outed while the other pink-cheeked babes and their smug parents robotically followed directions. Then we dropped out.
My real mistake? Not dropping out after session one. If your kid is great at this type of thing (my youngest would have put those cherubs to shame with his ability to follow directions), then go for it. If not, take the $35 enrollment fee, buy yourself a pedicure, and congratulate your child on saving you both from having to make a weekly trip to the smelly YMCA gym.
Is it a problem if your kid is the last in the group to be potty-trained, hates kale, or can't sit through library storytime? I mean, is it REALLY a problem? Is it hurting anyone? Is your child's health or safety at risk?
No? Then chill. Most of your friends' potty-trained, kale-eating tots are probably biters anyway.
3. They WILL outgrow it.
Remember this: your son is not going to attend high school in diapers. Your daughter will not refuse to eat
I've gone through seriously tough weeks and months with my kids, and I am sure the toughest have yet to rear their ugly heads. Yet somehow, we've always come through to the other side. The thing about that astronomical physical and emotional development that comprises childhood is this: new behaviors are constantly cropping up, and it takes a little time for you and your child to figure out successful strategies to cope with each one.
Here's an example. When I brought up my oldest son's bedwetting several years ago to our pediatrician, she told me he would outgrow it and I should stop worrying. Unless, of course, it was a problem for him.
"Don't you want to stop wetting the bed?" his dad would ask. "I can't help it, daddy," he would say simply, "but hey! I'll grow out of it!"
Naturally, I worried.
But he outgrew it anyway.
4. Maybe it's just your kid.
Fellow parents of strong-willed kids, I'm about to offer you a huge gift, so listen carefully:
Maybe it's your kid, not you. Maybe you're not doing it wrong. Maybe your kid is just challenging.
I could have cried when, after several years on end of late nights, frequent wake-ups, and early mornings, our pediatrician looked over our oldest son's chart and admitted, "it's possible he just doesn't need a lot of sleep." It was so validating! In a separate discussion over his constant desire to negotiate rules and consequences, my good friend and parenting expert Vanessa suggested he might be a child with a high need for control. Again, so incredibly validating. Some kids are more challenging than others. If this is your situation, own it and learn to work with it.
There is a ton of great advice out there if you have a fairly easy-going child, but some of it just doesn't work the same way for more challenging kids. I have three kids, and they are all different. A fairly mild look in his direction will set my youngest son to crying and begging forgiveness, so you can imagine he's pretty easy to parent. Not so with the older two.
So maybe, just maybe, it's your kid.
But then again, maybe it's you. If you're giving your kid grape soda at 8:45 p.m. on a school night, it's definitely you.
5. You have a great kid.
You have a great kid. I know it's hard to remember sometimes. I know if your adult friends treated you the way your kids treat you, they wouldn't be your friends very long. I know there are times when you look at your child and you're completely at a loss. But really and truly: he or she is an incredibly special little individual who has unique interests and talents, as well as significant strengths, and boundless potential.
I don't even have to know your kid to know that. He's amazing. Or she's amazing.
Our children are going to do amazing things in their lives, and they will change this world for the better. No matter how rotten they've been today, there are great kids buried in there somewhere.
Remember that when you're ready to let the wolves raise them.
6. You are a great parent.
If you're a mother or father, nothing is worse than being made to feel like you're a bad parent.
When I was in high school, I worked for a couple of years as a cashier at our local grocery store. I remember one day where a young mother was desperately trying to console her upset baby with one hand and pay for her groceries with the other, when the older customer behind her leaned forward and said, "a better mother could get that baby to stop crying." It wasn't until after I had kids that I realized it would have been a pleasure to get fired from my $6/hour job just for the moment that I could have refused to ring up his groceries.
That baby is probably in high school herself now, and I wish I could go back and tell that woman that she is a great mom. But I can't, so I'll tell you instead: you are a great parent!
Are you loving and attentive toward your kids? Do you do the best you can? Do you fret over your mistakes, while striving for constant improvement? I think so.
Remember #5? Your kids are great kids with great potential who are going to do great things in the world because of YOU.
Pat yourself on the back.