Saturday, April 7, 2012

Parenting books

I love parenting books. First off, I just enjoy reading them. I love kids, and I love reading about them. Second, I learn a lot of useful tips, even from the books I disagree with. And third, I consider it part of my professional development. If my occupation is to mother my children, well, by golly, I'll be the best at it that I can be. I'm not content just to muddle my way through; I'd like to do better. My job is at least as important as any other job there is. I'm raising the next generation. I take that very seriously.

So when I come up against a topic, whether it's parenting-related (like spanking) or based on another one of my interests (like garden tilling or gluten or whatever else), I research the heck out of it. I want to know every possible angle and point of view. Of course I come at it with my own biases, but I try to give every point of view its fair hearing. Then I try what seems right to me. Sometimes it works fabulously and I think, "Wow, so glad I read that book and tried this!" Sometimes it backfires horribly and I think, "Gee, I guess the guy who wrote that book didn't know what he was talking about. Or it just doesn't work for my situation." And I try something else until I find something that works well. Throughout the process, I also listen to my instincts and common sense.

This process can take months. And at the end of it, I really feel confident in my decisions. I don't find myself shaken up by the judgments of others, because I feel like I know what I'm talking about. I've become as close to an expert as I can be.

And then, invariably, I state my opinion about something and am met with a scoff. "I bet you got that out of some book." In one sentence, all of my work and effort and knowledge are completely dismissed, usually by someone who doesn't know the first thing about the topic. Of course ignorance doesn't stop anyone from having an opinion. I don't think it should. Especially when it comes to child-raising, I don't think you have to read books to know how to do it. But on the other hand, I don't think having read books disqualifies me from knowing what I'm talking about.

I mean, imagine I'm talking to an astrophysicist. He is trying to explain string theory to me, and it just makes no sense. It seems obvious to me that the universe doesn't work that way. I may be right, in fact. But is it any argument to say, "Oh, I bet you got that out of some book"? When you're writing a doctoral dissertation, you're expected to cite your sources. Everything is supposed to be out of some book. But with parenting, it's somehow considered superior never to have cracked one.

I love to listen to grandmas who've never cracked a parenting book. I don't even mind listening to single people with no kids tell me what they think. You can learn a lot that way. But yes, I am insulted when the second I say, "Well, statistically speaking, they've linked that approach with psychological damage," the answer is, "I suppose you could have a study about anything." Or worse, "You read that on the internet, didn't you?"

Um, yeah. I do research on the internet. That's kind of what you do in the 21st century. When Marko broke out in spots, I did some googling and quickly realized it was probably roseola. But, not wanting to be "one of those parents" who diagnoses their kid on the internet and ignores potentially dangerous diseases, I took him in to the doctor. The doctor took one look at him, said, "It's roseola," and gave me a printout on roseola ... from WebMD, where I'd just been. The internet is where people go to find sources that they used to find at the library. (Of course I read print books at the library too.) As an added bonus, I get to hear personal experiences of other moms ... who are, for the record, no different from moms I might meet at the playground. But do people say dismissively, "Oh, you probably heard that from some other mom whose kid has the same problem"? No, because everyone knows other moms are a good source of advice. Unless they have blogs. Then they're just my imaginary friends.

I'll admit it, I'm a bit defensive of you guys, my bloggy friends. I learn a lot from you and I hate to hear you getting dismissed as "just some wacko on the internet" when I bring in a lesson I learned from one of you.

Maybe it's just my pride. I want to be considered the resident expert on parenting because I read so many books. On the other hand, I wonder what it's going to take for people to think I know what I'm talking about. I'm not asking for other parents to consult me on their kids. But I wish they'd at least give me credit for knowing a little bit about what might be best for my kid. I don't think reading Dr. Sears disqualifies me from that.


Sarah Faith said...

Eh, don't sweat it. People are going to be dismissive of anything that makes them feel inadequate, unprepared, or guilty. That is the source of their comments. "When you can't engage with the content itself, insult the source, or the person." Ignore!! :)

Anonymous said...

I don't think reading is bad at all! I can't say I personally choose to do attachment parenting. Partially, it's because it puts too much strain on my husband [who is very ill]. Partially, it's because it just doesn't seem to work for me and my family - specifically since my son is the one who is the schedule-monster.

That said, I am glad when it works for people! I can't say I agree with everything Dr. Sears says, but I don't think there's anything wrong with taking his approach. After all: first they said to put babies on their stomachs to avoid them choking on vomit, then it was put them on their sides to avoid SIDS, then it was put them on their backs to sleep - it all changes, anyway!

Just keep doing what you feel is right for your babies and for your family! I'm a firm believer that the most important ingredient in a happy child are loving and happy parents.

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