Part of becoming a parent is learning to take advice from other people. It begins with the book What to Expect When Your Expecting (which is probably as bad as going on the web every time your stomach hurts, your feet look a little swollen or you cannot see your feet at all from eating too much marshmallow iced devils food cake.) Solicited, unsolicited, there are always those individuals who feel they need to impart their expertise. And there are few things more aggravating then listening to a know-it-all when you are covered in spit up and haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks.
My dad was telling me about an article he read in which the author wrote of how babies should be let free of their diapers and that will enable them to toilet train faster. Gee, that sounds like a great idea. Why didn’t I think of that? I so enjoyed the potty training phase, especially having all boys and having no idea how their plumbing worked. Do they sit? Do they stand? Do they hold it down? Does their father have to come home from work to help them hold it down? I hadn’t the slightest clue. My husband would have been thrilled to save money on diapers though. Maybe, when my sons become fathers (God willing, one day before I am too old to remember their names) I will give their wives that idea .That would be a great thing to do as a mother-in law. (Just kidding, whatever they do will be perfect, even if the kid is still in diapers as a 10-year-old—not my business).
As a mom who nursed, my favorite articles are on the benefits of nursing your baby for more than six months. Fewer ear infections they say...but son #3 had an ear infection every three weeks. Sleep better through the night. Son #2 never got that memo. The man who wrote those pieces probably laughs himself silly every night, while his wife is suffering from post-partum depression somewhere. Can I write an article about why I didn’t give my kids formula? Simply because every so often I can say to my husband “I was up with your boys every night, two to three times a night, for eleven months, the least you could do is put them to bed tonight!” (I’m wondering how much longer I can get away with that excuse, especially since we go to sleep before they do.)
The other aspect of parenting where moms feel the need to be no-holds-barred is the disciplinary component. Now this component has a life of its own as the “crimes” are always changing with the age. At 2 and 3 when my boys would pull each others’ hair, out of love and perhaps maybe to test the effectiveness of the shampoo they were using, my punishment would usually involve them not getting a cookie when we went to the bakery before Shabbos. And kudos to me because it was a very effective punishment and our hair-pulling phase was very short lived. But the scary know-it-all mom who witnessed this crime and punishment felt I was being too lenient. I looked at her with my baggy eyes and said “Lady, lock your kids in a closet if you think that is what they need, my kids only care about getting a cookie.” And I probably said it just like that because, well, I’m me and that’s how I roll. I don’t think that when any of us are handed those precious little creatures, bundled so tightly in their hospital blanket we think “Hey, how many different ways can I possibly screw this child up?” We each genuinely believe that we are going to do the best we can, with the tools we were given by our parents, or grandparents or whomever had the greatest influences in our lives. The best advice is what our heart tells us because we love these kids so much. Sometimes it works, sometimes we fail miserably, but we only do it with the best of intentions and hope that one day, our kids will realize that and not lock us in a closet somewhere. Though, if the closet had cookies, it might not be so bad.
By Banji Latkin Ganchrow