When I was pregnant, I couldn't get enough of those “your baby is the size of a butternut squash and has fingerprints” emails. They’d come in every week and I’d pore over them, imagining what was going on inside me and faithfully forwarding them to my mom and my friend Cindy, who (hilariously) referred to Penelope as “Little Baby Butternut” when she showed up the day after I got that email.
Now that the babies are here, I don’t need those emails -- I’ve got the actual kids to look at, and I don’t have time. But they keep a-comin’, full of helpful hints about how important it is to get outside each day (Really? No. So are you coming over to assemble the stroller?) and play with my child (eyuw!). It’s funny. The more I get to know my kids, the less I feel like I can rely on advice in the pages of a book. And here’s why.
The "experts" can’t agree with each other.
One book says that if I don’t sleep-train my baby, I’m setting her up for a lifetime of sleep troubles. (Didn’t anyone tell this guy that correlation isn’t causation?) Another says that if I do sleep-train my baby, we won’t bond properly. Both cite studies. Both are doctors. I can’t figure out who’s right about what, so they both get chucked out the window. (Then again, I’m not bothering to sleep-train. If you are, I think it’s worth it to read Ferber because he’s actually much more of a softie than people think.)
They’re flat-out wrong.
“I whine whine want a whine whine whine,” my then-6-year-old stepson whined. “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you when you talk like that,” I answered him, using my book-learnin’. “Yay!” he whined. “Amy can’t hear me when I talk like this!” 'Nuff said?
Wait, one more. Amy: “So, do you want a piece of the pie we made?” Eli: “No thank you, I don’t like pie.” Amy: “But the books say you’ll be more interested in food if you make it.” Eli, disgusted: “I know what I like.” Okay, now 'nuff said.
A book doesn’t know my kid.
Look, I’m sure the authors of these books have all the best intentions, but it’s just annoying to think there’s a one-solution-fits-all fix to most problems. The tone of these books is usually so freaking condescending, I want to reach into the pages and whap the author on the nose -- yeah, okay, you’re the expert, but I’m the one sitting here with my kid, and I’m telling you she’s not going to pee on the potty today! Sheesh!
I almost threw my copy of one book across the room when I saw pictures of how they thought my kid’s bedroom should look. A futon on the floor? Only pale wood toys? Are you kidding me? Well, clearly my kid is already screwed in your book (literally!), so let’s just dispense with the whole exercise.
Oddly enough, though, this last book also gave me some of the best little tips I’ve come across. And when there's a specific problem, a book can be my best friend as I actually educate myself on that issue. So maybe we should just note that I’m a very cranky person --and the point is, really, I’m going to take what I like and leave the rest. If a parenting book makes you feel like crap, you should do the same.
What’s the worst advice you got from a parenting book?