My friend told her daughter that if she thinks one of her parenting rules is dumb, she wants her daughter to tell her why.
She told her, “I’ve only been a parent of a 14-year-old girl since you turned 14, if something’s not working and you have a better idea – speak up!”
My favorite parenting method is telling the truth.
I don’t always know what I’m doing. I am trying my best. I love you.
There is no “trial period” for parenting. We don’t get a test run. Your first kid IS the test run.
A child comes into your life and you have to hit the ground running. People have all sorts of advice and opinions to share with you, but from what I can tell, every parent and child needs to figure it out for themselves. The second (and the third, fourth or tenth) are just new trials with a different operating system. No mother of multiple kids will tell you that the same approach works the same on different kids.
A sticker chart might work really well for one kid – she jumps out of bed eager to make it, to brush her teeth and pack her own lunch, all for the love of a handful of tiny, gold stars. But that chart doesn’t work at all for your other kid, who refuses to have his life dictated by a sheet of paper.
One loves watching her grid fill up, while the other insists on knowing what’s the point of making a bed you’re just going to sleep in again tonight? What’s the point of hustling for a little sticker? That one refuses to participate in your Capitalist agenda.
Another friend’s Dad used to respond when she questioned the rules, that he was pretty sure he remembered reading it on page 92 of the “Dad Handbook” he was given on the day she was born.
Both father and daughter were well aware that this reference to the Handbook was a Hail Mary pass. A last ditch effort to justify a rule that sounded good. A rule that sounded like something someone might’ve written in a handbook for good dads. A handbook that in a perfect world, you might be handed along with a cigar, on the day that your sweet, baby girl is placed into your arms.
But there are no handbooks that cover your particular parent-child journey.
We are all stumbling along into the unknown, trying to look like we know what we are doing, fiercely dedicated to getting it “right” without having much of an idea of what “right” is other than our own experience and what we learned from watching The Bradys and The Huxtables.
Maybe the journey is easier if we start with telling the truth.
I don’t always know what I’m doing.
I’m doing my best.
I love you.