Dear Parenting Books: An Open Letter to the Most Confusing Genre

Dear Parenting Books,


In the last few months my confidence in my shepherding of tiny souls has taken a bit of nose dive as we’ve embarked upon two major (in the toddler scale) life changes: big boy bed status and potty training. So I did what the modern mama does and I filled my Amazon cart and my browser history with parenting advice books and articles. Searching for what is apparently the Holy Grail of parenting wisdom “How to Potty Train a Boy Effectively” “How to Teach Tiny Humans to Control Their Emotions While Maintaining Control of Your Own” and “Can A Two Year Old Require Less Sleep Than a Thirty-Two Year Old” I seem to have come up short.

Real life exchange with Ben this week 6:47 am Ok to Wake Clock definitely not yet green.

Ben: Mommy, I get ice cream now.

Me: Ben, no. It’s too early and you didn’t stay in your bed. You get a sticker for staying in your bed until your clock turns green (positive reinforcement the books say). 

Ben: Mommy, you are NOT my hero!

Me: Stunned having not even had coffee yet.

Do I laugh? Do I beam with pride because he knows the word hero? Am I just happy that his insults have improved from “Paw patrol is my mommy now!” ???

Every book/article I read promises the SOLUTION. Well so far I am just confused. Every philosophy, parenting style, what have you completely contradicts the previous one at best or renders it akin to child abuse at worst. What I am left with is a headache, which may be a result of reading some of them with a glass of wine late into the night. That and a bewildered child. The other day he couldn’t remember where time out was now. And to be frank, I couldn’t remember if I had said “time out” or “take a break” or “take a breath”. I  mean what? Are their Cliff’s Notes for these things?

Peaceful Parenting

Breathe. Damnit Breathe. Ok this one is not for me. Or I at least need to take a peaceful adulting course first. This one sounds so good reading alone with wine tea, but in practice I don’t know that it matches my personality. I like all the breathing though. I am cherry picking the breathing out of this one for sure.

Consequences: Natural or Taking Things Away

Ok, its super cute to hear him say “consequences”. That’s my favorite part. Natural consequences seem a good way to live although within limits for toddlers. Can’t really apply to all situations. ie. Cars drive in the street. So you can play out there, but its gonna hurt when you get hit by one…seems like a bad way to parent. Also, note to self here, make sure taking things away is not a bigger punishment to me that disciplinary provider to my child. See epic meltdown of 2019.

Time Outs in Room/ Time Outs in Corner/ Time Outs with Door Open/Time Outs with Door Shut/ Time Outs with Timer/ Time Outs with Discussion After/ Time Outs with No Discussion/ Time Outs with Hugs/ Time Outs with Apologies/ Time Outs for Mommy

There may just be too many options here.

Having My Own Epic Meltdown

This is not a book or article I read, but I believe it is correlated if not causative. The stunning silence from my children may have been the most effective of all methods.

With this many different contradictory parenting philosophies out there, clearly some of them are wrong. So far bribery and caving seem the easiest, but also the most likely to yield really terrible adults. Moral of the story, I have decided to write a parenting book. Although mine will be more like an advent calendar. Each day will contain a helpful tidbit about kids, a compliment to the mom like “Dear mama, it’s ok that your hair is greasy. I still think you are beautiful.” and then maybe like a Starbucks gift card or a mini airplane liquor bottle. I feel like this method of parental wisdom dispersement might be more effective. See also this beauty.

To those of you out there with perfect little angels that are the reason you breathe, I am so glad for you. You may not have my advent parenting calendar. The rest of us will be at my house clad in leggings (preferable maternity even when not pregnant) and coffee stain t shirts laughing about the perfect moms we thought we’d be when we were young, childless, and stupid.

So Dear Parenting Books, you are NOT my hero!

Special thanks to those that listened to me complain in real time about the reading of said books and the ensuing meltdowns from both myself and my confused child. My kids are precious even if they are responsible for my grey hairs and wrinkles. And because I know myself, I will keep googling until the end of my days to try to be the best mama I can be for them.

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