A few days ago, I heard a radio report that talked about how people like to give advice to new parents. Reportedly, these people enjoy giving this advice because as parents themselves, they believe they’ve done this parenting thing so well, they think everyone should do things the same way.
Which leaves me with the thought that I must be in the minority here, because often, the advice I can offer new parents is to do something differently than I’ve done, because I’ve screwed so many things up.
This really started in my first few days of parenting, when we brought Matthew home from the hospital and could not for anything figure out how to get this kid to stop crying and sleep. We were so desperate that we called the newborn nursery at the hospital where he was born. The nurses there must have had some idea of how stupid we were, because the first question they asked was whether or not he was warm enough. As first-time parents, we were following all of the rules we’d been told about, which included not covering him with a blanket in the crib. I guess we didn’t realize that we had to find some other way to keep him warm.
We’ve been parents now for almost 14 years, and don’t get me wrong – I think we’ve got some pretty great kids. But I sometimes question how much we’ve actually had to do with that.
Just a few months ago, for example, our younger son suffered a pretty serious knee injury. Thinking he was overreacting to get a little extra attention, I made him go to Hebrew school the morning after it happened. As he limped into the building, the rabbi asked, “Michael, what happened?” My response? “Nothing as serious as he’s making it look.” Really??! I said that to our rabbi, one of the people in our community who we consider to be the arbiter of all things right and good. So after Michael’s second knee surgery, the rabbi stopped by to see how he was doing. Or maybe just to check and see if my parenting was actually as irresponsible as it seemed to be that day.
I’ve made plenty of other dumb parenting moves. When Matthew was in preschool, I invited a girl in his class to come over for a playdate. I was impressed when she came in and said, “Matthew, I’m your guest; will you please show me around?” So I thought it would be okay to leave the two of them unsupervised in our backyard for a few minutes. Again, I was wrong. This delightful little girl then came to the back door to get me, telling me that she’d tied Matthew up in our yard.
It’s not just me – sometimes Dave makes the same stupid parenting mistakes I do. When Michael was about four years old, he had a friend over to play. I had to take Matthew out somewhere, so I left the little boys at home with Dave. When I returned, he took me aside to tell me I needed to have a talk with the other boy’s mother, because when Dave went to check on them in the basement, they were sitting nicely, playing video games. Naked. And apparently it was Michael’s idea.
So, you see, I’m happy to help you out. But if you’re looking for parenting advice from someone who’s done it all right, I’m probably not your guy.