Parenting is a continual exercise in humility. In this age of enlightened parenthood, prenatal education and child-rearing pundits, parents should be able to avoid major gaffes and goofs. But, usually when you are trying your hardest to instill some important value, when you are at the very edge of your patience, some unexpected event (that the What to Expect book failed to tell you to expect) happens.
For me and my husband, expecting itself was unexpected, and we were in the midst of the rather extended process of adopting a child. Because of the classes on parenting that we had attended and thoughtfulness with which we had to articulate our desire to be parents, we may have been slightly more prepared than some for the arrival of our little girl. However, there have been plenty of surprises along the way—beginning with a gush of water and contractions two minutes apart. As we drove to Madison timing the contractions and breathing, both of us were thinking, “What happened to the every five minutes we were supposed to wait for before heading to the hospital?!” Then of course, once we were at the hospital, everything stopped.
Since that time our daughter has surprised us by running high fevers when “nothing is wrong” and having serious ear infections with no symptoms. She learned to climb the stairs before learning to walk. And nowhere is there anything written about pooping in the bathtub, a common event that is apparently never discussed in polite company. Everyday there is a new surprise and something else that has to be put out of reach. Our daughter will say “thank you” with great enthusiasm if you give her an animal cracker. We didn’t teach her to say “thank you”, but apparently we modeled it, because she says it and says it at the right times.
“Fortune favors the prepared mind”, and raising our daughter would be far more challenging without the parenting classes, the preparations, the discussions with other moms and dads, and the advice of our own parents, daycare teachers and the pediatrician. However, all of the parenting classes and books in the world cannot replace the unconditional love that allows my husband and me to greet my daughter with a big toothy grin every day after work, that provides the hugs and kisses to heal the falls that accompany unassisted walking these days, and that allows us to let our daughter teach us how to be parents.
A friend of mine tells this story about her son who developed a fierce spirit of independence with the onset of kindergarten, not allowing his mother even to meet him at the bus stop. His mom, however, was determined to be involved and informed about her child’s kindergarten experience. So, everyday when her son would come in after school, she would prepare his snack and ask him how his day went.
“Okay,” would be the single-word reply.
After two weeks of this fruitless inquiry, she was concerned that her five-year-old was transforming into a silent, sullen teenager. So she consulted a child-rearing book that suggested asking specific questions.
The next Monday, when her son came home from school, she asked, “Did you do any counting today?”
“Oh, yes,” his eyes grew large and serious. “We do lots of counting every day.”
“Really? Tell me about it.” She was barely able to contain her excitement at his enthusiastic reply.
“Well, when Mrs. Smith counts ‘one’, you’re in trouble. If she counts to ‘two’ you’re in more trouble, and if she makes it to ‘three’, you’re in so much trouble that you have to go to the principal’s office. I’m getting really good at counting.”
He bounded off, munching on his snack. His mom promptly retrieved the parenting book and tossed it into the recyle bin.
© 2008 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.