I have been blogging for about 3 1/2 years now. I get asked questions about parenting and kids and stuff like that and I wanted to 1) record those answers while I am still able to know what I am talking about and 2) make that information available to others.
Let's face it; none of us really know what we are doing. Parenting is a lot of trial and error. We learn some things from our parents and some things from our peers and some things through experience. Then there are the things we learn from "experts".
But just who are these so-called "experts"? Are they parents who have been in the thick of life, waging the daily battles against tantrums and messes? Probably not.
"Experts" are people who study what other parents do; in other words, they have a job. Even if these "studiers" have kids ( some don't!) their kids are probably in day care 40 + hours a week (or possibly have a nanny) so the parents are only with their own kids a few hours a day at most.
It is easy to put your kid to bed at the same time every night if you have to get up and be somewhere the next morning, day in day out, for their entire childhood.
It is easy to feed them healthy food if all you have to do is tell the person you are paying to do it or they will be fired.
It is easy to pay someone to potty train your child for you while you go off to research how other people do it.
I am sure there are lots of really dedicated parents out there who do the best they can with the time they have. I am not dissing them.
What I am gripping about is that so many people rely so heavily on what "experts" have to say.
Why are we not looking to experienced parents for advice? Why are we not asking those in similar circumstances how to solve an issue? We rush to the "experts" for their advice instead. Why? You do realize that they change their mind about stuff ALL the time, right?
When my first child was born, I was the kind of parent I am describing. If the doctor didn't say he could eat it/do it/ wear it/use it I didn't even consider it. I was almost crippled by fear of doing the wrong thing. I didn't appreciate the advice I got from "experienced" mothers. They were outdated and possibly immune to the true needs of my precious baby.
Of course, when my youngest children were born, as little as 6 years later, I was often "corrected" by doctors and nurses who told me that "things have changed since then" and "we no longer recommend that". I was a ball of confusion. I was mortified that I was doing the "wrong" thing for my baby. I was ashamed that I had not stayed current on what was right for my children. And I was angry, very, VERY angry that I was made to feel this way by the very people I was supposed to rely on!
I came to realize that there is no magic bullet to destroy all the possible illnesses, injuries, and issues my child might have. Childhood research is a minefield of contradictory information. Let your child cry- Never let them cry. Vaccinate-Don't vaccinate. Bottle feed-Breastfeed. Keep them busy-Let them play. Drink milk- Avoid dairy. Eat grains-Avoid gluten. Eat vegetables and meat- But they might have diseases.
The real problem is that the "experts" lead us to believe that if we do the wrong thing disasters will ensue.
If our kids watch TV they will become violent idiots who will kill people but won't be able to confess because they will be too stupid to form complete sentences.
If you don't read to them they will never get a job and live with you for the rest of your life.
If you don't let them play sports they will never learn to work with others and grow up to be jerks.
If you don't expose them to art and music they will never have a creative thought and be mindless drones.
If they eat the wrong foods they might become allergic, or get food poisoning, or develop behavior issues, or have learning problems, or get really fat and all the issues that go along with that.
And it will ALL be YOUR fault!
Yes, I have issues with "experts". I admit that a part of me is really irritated that I have shared so much practical information on this public blog, exposing many of my own struggles and imperfections as a parent, and yet when an "expert" says the same thing it gets passed around the Internet like some kind of holy grail. I read these articles and thing"I wrote a post about that a while back." But apparently no one read it. Or they did and thought "Why should I listen to you? You're a nobody. But now that an "expert" has said it I will change my ways and do exactly what they say, (which is what you said months ago and I ignored you)."
There is some good information available, more than ever before. But sifting through it is a lot of work. And only rarely is there a disaster.
I have 2 friends with young adult children. I watched their kids grow up. The mothers have made very different choices. One bottle-fed, one breast-fed. One was strict, one was lenient. They both taught their kids right from wrong. Both fed their children, dressed them, sheltered them, corrected their behavior, taught them things. Loved them.
They have all turned out differently. I can see that sometimes it is because of the personalities of the children. Sometimes it is because of things the parents did or didn't do. Both mothers made choices that helped their kids. Both made choices that hurt their kids. Both did their best. All their kids grew up to be obnoxious, moody teenagers and fairly decent adults. No criminals, no disasters. Although they are all making their own mistakes now. It is part of life.
Why can't experts give advice like that? Love your kids. Help them. Teach them about the things you value. Be there for them when they make their own mistakes. And keep loving them.