I don’t mean to sound paranoid. But is it possible that there is a conspiracy to make parenting even harder? Before you roll your eyes, hear me out. I’m sure I will convince you. And once I do, maybe you can figure out who is behind this. Who is trying to undermine the hard-working, well-meaning (sometimes fumbling) parents of today? (Oliver Stone, are you paying attention?) Okay, begin rant.
My first piece of evidence: the information overload. There are now exactly eight bazillion and fifteen books and websites devoted to parenting. (YES, I counted. Did the word “evidence” not make it clear to you that I was about to present something scientific?) This means that there are eight bazillion and fifteen sources that will happily tell you exactly how to raise your child: how to put your baby to sleep, what to feed your baby, how to handle toddler tantrums, the ominous “symptoms you should never ignore”, how to praise your child, how to separate from your child and so on and so on. This information is supposed to be helpful. And reassuring. And it is. Except for the gnawing subtext that if you don’t do exactly what is recommended, your child is doomed. DOOMED, I TELL YOU. (By the way, did you know that how well you swaddle your infant is highly correlated with their future earning potential?)
Parents, I think you know what I’m talking about. Anyone feeling just a wee bit harassed by the constant drum of emails from organizations like Baby Center? You want to delete them. But. You. Just. Can’t. In a moment of parenting enthusiasm a few years back– probably while pregnant and happily downing your third bowl of ice cream– you told them when your baby was due. Now they know how old your kid is. Which is all they need. (To torture you.) They are going to make sure that you, YES YOU, are the best parent that you can be. And leave no milestone behind.
Congratulations! Your baby is fifteen months old. Is your little munchkin ready for a sippy cup? Hmm? Well, is she? You have NO idea, do you?!? The child is FIFTEEN MONTHS OLD. Have you even offered her a sippy cup yet? No? Aren’t you even the slightest bit concerned that SHE’LL NEVER LEARN TO DRINK FROM A CUP?
What’s that? You offered her a sippy cup and she dribbled most of the water down the front of her shirt. OH, MY. Do you realize that this is a symptom of at least twelve different childhood ailments? Why don’t you take this short quiz to find out which one is the most likely culprit. Go ahead. We’ll wait . . .
Hmm, based on your responses it looks like the most likely problem is that your child is “still a baby”. Okay. Maybe you dodged that bullet. Don’t get too comfortable. And stay tuned for next week’s email: fifteen reasons you shouldn’t let your relatives babysit your kids.
Second piece of evidence. Have you noticed that they have recalled (or otherwise condemned) most of the products that used to make parenting easier? Sleep positioners. Crib bumpers. Baby powder. Drop-side cribs. Let me tell you, it was a sad day for us shorties when they decided that drop-side cribs were a safety hazard. Excuse me, but if we can’t lower the side of the crib, HOW THE HECK ARE WE SUPPOSED TO GET THE BABY IN THERE? (I’m assuming that a good heave-ho and fingers crossed he makes it over the side is not considered acceptable . . . ?) Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I can tell you that teetering on a stool while you lower a baby IN THE 90th PERCENTILE FOR HEIGHT AND WEIGHT into a crib: TOTALLY SAFE. Thank you, consumer advocates.
Third piece of evidence. An even more unsettling thing has happened to parenting. (Yes, I know. Hard to imagine something more unsettling than the short-parent-proofing of cribs.) Someone recalled the phrase “Because I said so!” I’m not sure who. Or why. But I’m damned sure they don’t have a preschooler in their house.
Look, I understand that responding to a child’s question with “because I said so” may be a teensy bit, shall we say, fascist. And not great for the kid’s cognitive or moral development. Children deserve to know why they are being asked to do something. But here’s the catch. We make approximately 257 requests of our children each day. (YES, I counted those too. You people are so cynical.) “Get dressed.” “Use the potty.” “Don’t run over your sister.” “Pick up the Cheerios on the floor.” “Come here.” “Go there.” “Put on your socks.” “Put on your shoes.” “Put on your jacket.” “Let’s GO!!” In my experience, most of these requests are met with some amount of, let’s just call it “resistance”. Moving slowly. Pretending not to hear. Or maybe an all-out, down-on-the-floor, sobbing tantrum. By the age of three or four, children also throw in a more sophisticated technique: questioning. “But WHY do I have to do it?” This morning, my four-year-old, Jacob, didn’t want to get dressed because he was wearing his favorite (puppy dog astronaut) pajamas. “Why do I have to get dressed NOW?? Why can’t I do it later?” And so I had to explain. A few times.
Fine. I can justify my requests. To a certain extent. But by the 15th request, I’m done talking. Done. Talking. I’m exhausted by it. JUST. DO. IT. BECAUSE. I. SAID. S– Breathing, breathing. Imagining the calming sounds of the ocean waves. Imagining soothing ocean breezes. Visualizing the beach. Visualizing sand. Visualizing my four-year-old asking me why he has to WAIT FOR AN HOUR AFTER HE EATS BEFORE GOING IN THE WATER. AAAAARRRRRGGGG.
All I’m sayin’ is that I don’t think it used to be like this. Parenting IS getting harder. (I knew I’d convince you.) But if there is a conspiracy, who is behind it? Who would WANT parenting to be harder? Children who don’t want (more) siblings? Mental health professionals? Bloggers?
I leave it to you to figure that part out.