Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Best Parenting Advice Ever

     For awhile after my wife and I became first-time parents, we got bombarded with well-intentioned unsolicited advice—from relatives, friends (even single ones without children), and strangers (at super markets, or passing by us on the sidewalk). I hated their advice. I was already so confused, unsure, and hesitant that everything I did felt inept, faulty, and/or harmful/dangerous. Their advice stressed me out and made me second guess myself even more.
       First-time parents: you can spot them even from afar. The solicitousness for their precious treasure is so touching. And their frazzled nerves from sleep deprivation and over-excitability show in their every gesture. And they stick to their charges like flies to, well, honey. I noticed this only a decade later in others and then realized that we, too, were once like that.
   The problem with the advice proffered is it all sounds so credible. Take it? Disregard it? What's one to do? What will happen as a result? Parents think they know best, but how can they, inexperienced as they are, stand confident? Maybe those others who sound so certain know better?
      When I was in the midst of it all, I shared my aggravations with my long-time friend Norm, who already had two young children. He told me, “Tim, you're getting way too worked up about this. Don't take any advice from anyone. Let me rephrase that. The only advice you should take is this: Disregard all other advice you receive from anyone else—whether from relatives, friends, or well-meaning strangers. Even doctors' advice, you should take with only a grain of salt because as parents, by definition, you know what's best for your child. When someone offers you advice, you should say, 'Thanks, but no thanks.' Correction, say, 'Thanks,' smile, appreciate it, then disregard it. That's the only parenting advice you should ever take. And enjoy it. Enjoy being a parent. That's the only other advice you might want to consider taking. Easier said than done, though, at times, aehhh?
      I thought about it and decided I'd take Norm's advice. It's sound and makes sense. For suppose we take someone else's advice against our better judgments as parents and things don't turn out so well, then we'll always regret, “We should have done things our own way. We knew it and should have just done it. It would have been so much better that way.” Or, things might turn out OK, but inside we'll still wonder, “Maybe it would have been alright or even better had we done it our own way.” And, indeed, attentive parents do know their children far better than anyone else, and since every child is different, and no one loves a child more than his or her parents, the parents are in the best positions to decide what's best for him or her.
      Even as our children age, I see the soundness of Norm's advice. Children are resilient and adaptable. No parent is perfect. And no child is perfect, either. We each have our own needs, desires, strengths, and weaknesses. We do our best as parents and hope for the best. The rest is up to them (and God). The main thing is to stick together as a family, support one another, and give them happy childhoods—something they can always look back on for comfort, strength, and grounding, which I've done countless times myself through the years. It doesn't cost much, just a whole lot of love, time, support, talk, care, respect, and discipline—among the best things in life, besides.

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