My colleagues and I were discussing some current parenting problems. They have young children and have a few concerns that I’ve had some experience with. They are the same age as my own children, so they advise me about how to be a good parent to adults. Everyone has parenting problems. The only way to avoid them is to avoid parenting!
We talked about one of the major frustrations of parenting- it’s the KIDS! LOL Each one is unique, yet they don’t come with a set of instructions. You don’t even have to have an education to have a child. You don’t have to have experience. You just take the thing home, see what it does, and learn as you go! If you have more than one child at least one will be the direct opposite of your own personality, and/or be the opposite sex, just to make it more of a challenge. Boys just want to be boys, and girls just want to be liked. Raising one requires a different set of guidelines and parenting skills than the other!
The next frustration is that children don’t come with a warranty. Every child breaks, especially the first year. They get sick. They won’t sleep. They make strange noises. They do disgusting things. And parents are expected to make them better- find a solution, seek out repairs, buy more supplies- whatever it takes to make them happy and healthy again. Oh, and pay for it, too!
By the way, BTW for you young parents, there is no guarantee that ANYTHING you do while parenting will be correct, approved, right, accepted, or successful. Children will resent you, hate you, talk back to you, and threaten to leave you or disown you for at least a portion of their young lives. Friends, co-workers, relatives, and complete strangers will tell you that you are mean, stupid, or crazy. Half the time you will know for certain that you are the best parent in the world, and wonder why no one applauds. The other half of the time you will be ashamed of being the worst parent in the world, and hope no one notices!
Customer service is a gray area. While there is no industry standard for customer service in parenting, at least there are some resources available. They’re called grandparents. Always happy to advise, support, and provide extra supplies as needed. For some families aunts, uncles, friends, and co-workers make fine substitutes.
Of course my own parents, and most in their generation, felt like they had it all- instructions, warranty, guarantee, and customer service! They had THE BOOK for instructions, and I’m not talking about the Bible. It was Dr. Benjamin Spock’s “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care”. It was the bible of baby care for decades. I even got a copy at my baby shower. If you had any concerns you just consulted the book. Dr. Spock encouraged parents to become experts in their own right and to not fear spoiling their children. He wanted them to be flexible and enjoy parenting. Of course, as humans do, many went to extremes with his advice.
For warranty and guarantee my parents thought they had the government. The government would provide health care and take care of children. It would provide schools to educate them. It would fund research to cure diseases. The polio vaccine was like a promise to my parents- the government cares. The government will be there if something goes wrong. I don’t have time today for the rest of that story!
And of course most of my parent’s generation had their parents next door or down the block, or at most across town. Grandparents practically “co-parented”. As more and more women went to work in the sixties and seventies, grandparents became essential babysitters. For a while, I spent as much time at my grandmother’s house as I did my own.
Parenting issues and controversies change over the years. One of the current ones is “to spank or not to spank”. For my parents the question was not whether to spank, but “how hard, with what, and how often?” Another challenge today is safety. We like to talk about doors left unlocked and neighbors being kindly “back when…”, but the truth is there have always been dangers in life. I was thrown into an empty, but very deep, canal by a group of young neighborhood thugs when I was a child. They left me screaming until my mother finally found me. Two men attempted to kidnap me, by luring me with candy, when I was walking home from kindergarten. A young cousin offered me my first taste of beer. There were other injuries, insults, and temptations over the years. Childhood is childhood, a ritual of pain and problems, no matter the generation.
So it goes with parenting, the same and yet not quite the same, for generation after generation. God really expected a lot of us when he told us to “be fruitful and multiply”. Good thing he only mentioned the easy part first. It’s the cultivating and harvesting that’s really difficult! And if he had included instructions, the Bible would need ten more books!
A note for my Christian friends: Yes, I know the Bible includes many, many parenting instructions, but let's face it- you have to really search for them and be wise enough to understand them. As a young parent I was hoping for more of the "Parenting for Dummies" edition of the instructions and my Bible didn't include that part. LOL