I am getting really sick of some of the attitude. I am tired of other parents acting as though their good luck is not luck at all. I am sick to death of others telling me that you can “make” your kid love reading, you can “make” you kid a good eater, you can “make” your kid a good sleeper, you can “make” your kid smart. Enough! I’m here with my big, fat dose of reality. You cannot “make” your kid a good any of those things!
I am not in love with all of the parenting techniques from the past. I think we can all agree that the end of smoking and drinking during pregnancy is a good thing. No one is recommending that you teach your kid to swim by throwing her in a backyard pool all alone holding an empty plastic milk jug in each hand for floats while you talk and drink with your friends. I am not crying for the return of the days when your parents would put you and your brother to bed, lock up the house and then go and party down the street at the neighbor’s house until 3 a.m., leaving two toddlers home alone asleep. Wait — maybe that was just my parents. In any case, those weren’t necessarily the glory days of parenting and I think we can all agree that being hands-on is a great thing.
But being hands-on seems to have morphed into being all-powerful. What I did like about our parents was the fact that they didn’t seem to feel that they were responsible for every aspect of their kids’ personalities and temperament. I feel like parents used to work hard to mold their kids but they also seemed to admit a healthy dose of luck in the whole deal. If they got a smart kid, that was awesome! If their kid was someone who went to bed at 7 p.m. every night with no arguments and was off to dream land immediately, well, what good fortune that was! You had a kid who loved broccoli…wow! Lucky you.
I am all for empowered parenting, the Internet, parenting books and blogs but I feel like it’s getting a bit ridiculous out there. I know that I live in a cocoon of highly educated parents who invest heavily in their kids, but I also know that it’s not just here in Seattle. There is a cottage industry of books, DVDs, and flashcards aimed at convincing parents that a smart, book-loving, kale-eating sleeper is right at their fingertips. If you simply read the right books and invest in the right techniques, your kid can turn out exactly the way you’d like.
Great thought but here’s the truth. Our kids are their own wonderful little crazy creatures. It is fantastic to spend time reading with them but know that it may not make them love to read on their own. Cook with your child. It’s a great way to spend time together and teach them about math and science. I love that. But know that it doesn’t necessarily translate to a kid who will spend their days shoveling down beets and garbanzo beans. The point is, you influence your kids but you do not mold them in clay. Enjoy all of the great things about them and work with the other ones as much as you can. Don’t claim all of the glory or beat yourself up for the failures. Luckily for us, it usually seems to work itself out in the end.