Back when my first babies were little, I was a totally naive parent. I had moved cross-country to marry my active duty military husband and had no friends or family local. This meant I had little-to-no support beyond what I could get on long-distance phone calls with friends back in California. This was before the internet was readily available, so I had to learn to find answers on my own. I learned quickly that I would have to reach outside of my comfort zone: talk to neighbors who had kids, meet people at church and find out the protocol for getting help at the on-base hospital. It didn’t take me long to have a good support system and find a wealth of information at my fingertips, so I didn’t miss parenting advice from the internet.
By the time baby #3 came around, not much was a surprise. We rolled with her severe croup. I didn’t need to seek therapy when she cut her hair while I was on bedrest for #4. I figured out how to get the older two to stop fighting and how to potty train an incredibly stubborn child. Self-esteem wasn’t an issue because I followed my instincts and praised my kids appropriately, not giving a participation medal and they weren’t sick constantly because I didn’t push them to get perfect attendance. In other words, I did what worked for us. I didn’t strive for perfection, but I parented then — and still do — in a way that works for our family. What works for my family won’t work for your family. This has allowed us to raise three young adults who have good jobs, know how to do chores and give back to the community. My boys hold doors open for ladies and my girls know how to put gas in their cars. They’ve all learned what they need to do to survive in the world, all without the help of ‘truth bombs’ or other online parenting ‘help’ by way of videos or posts, and #4 isn’t far behind.
It can be done.
Here’s why I’m not taking parenting advice from the internet.
All kids are different, just like all adults are different: what works for one child may not even work for their own sibling, so why should we expect it to work for everyone? Listening to someone tell you what works for her kids is giving unrealistic expectations. Thankfully, our kids all have different triggers, motivators and goals. This is a good thing, we don’t want little drones. I’m glad others find what work for them, but nothing turns me off and has me clicking away faster than “Think about it!” or “Parents, wake up.” Zzzzz….
There is no such thing as a parenting expert other than you for your kids: Who needs to feel as though we don’t live up to what a stranger says we need to do? If I listened to parenting experts, my son with autism would have been spanked, left in a time out and told to eat those beans and be quiet. And he’d still be autistic and no better. Give yourself a break and listen to your gut. That’s the real expert. Learn to trust yourself and if you still feel you need help, seek help from those who have really been there, done that, which is someone with adult children. Most of the stuff you may need help with are things you won’t get from parenting experts, so always remember you have doctors, police, teachers, breastfeeding consultants, etc., to help you craft a workable plan FOR YOU and you alone.
My children are kids, not a small military platoon: I don’t need to order them around en masse. I want to have conversations and learn from them. I can’t expect respectful communication if I don’t give it. We’re a family, a team, and we work together. I wanted a family, so why wouldn’t I want to enjoy that?
Kids only stay kids for so long, so why force them to do things beyond their age range simply to make my life easier? I decided to have them, so I don’t feel the need to pile up the chores. Baby steps. I recently read an article that told me I should have had them making their own lunches at 8 and doing their own laundry by 12. Who writes this stuff? I’d rather put the laundry in the washer and dryer all at once, then they can have their stuff when it comes out. That’s much more economical for my electricity bill and detergent costs, and I don’t have to worry if they have their football gear ready, saving me stress later on. They’ll learn how to do their own laundry when they need it for a date or for work. I don’t need them to sit on the sideline during a game because I refused to remind them to bring a mouth piece. What are they really learning from that? It doesn’t mean I’m brushing their teeth for them when they’re 16, but I’m guiding them on how to do it all along, which sometimes may mean taking their lunch to school if the morning was chaotic or helping them with homework if they’re tired or not feeling well. I figure if I can lean on the husband when I’m tired or not feeling well, the kids can for sure lean on me. I’m their mother.
*****To be clear, my kids do clean their own rooms. They help clean up after dinner. They contribute in a lot of ways, but I’m the mom. It’s MY job to manage the household tasks, and if I can’t handle it, it’s MY problem I had four kids, not theirs. I don’t want a self-proclaimed expert (who typically has small children only, or no children) ranting about how I didn’t force my youngest to pack his bags for a vacation when he was 8. He’d have ended up with 12 pairs of socks, three t-shirts, a pair of joggers, no underwear, 11 stuffed animals and an entire backpack full of Nintendo DS games. My oldest daughter would have been fine, but not my younger son. Pick what works for your own kids and go with it. It’s also not their job to raise their younger siblings. Help now and then, yes, but out of real interest and not because I make them pack their sibs’ lunches each night. They didn’t have the children, I did. So that latest “truth bomb” about babying kids can suck it. Use your kids’ strengths and work on their weaknesses, and only you know what those are.
By letting my kids choose the toys that they wanted and the color of clothes they wanted, or whatever, they have been able to develop as they choose. I don’t need the news to tell me that people are happy when they are themselves. This includes colored hair and other types of physically expressing themselves through clothing and attire. There are limits, such as no tattoos or piercings before 21, in place solely to prevent them from making a permanent decision when they’re too young to know its full repercussions. They need to know what it’s like to search for a job before they have the hassle of doing it with a visible mark that an employer may not like. I also don’t need to make a big deal of what aisle in Target their toys are found or what department we buy their clothes in. It just ‘is’ without me having to make more problems than will naturally come on their own.
I was built with what I need to be a good parent. This may be the most important thing for us all to remember. People have been parenting for thousands of years. They didn’t have the internet, Facebook live, YouTube videos or even nosey neighbors telling them how to raise their kids. They didn’t need it. They had just the basic instincts: keep them fed, warm, dry and safe, teach them to be kind, pay attention to their health and raise them to be productive citizens. We don’t need the internet to do that. We don’t need to be hard on ourselves; we already go to bed some nights feeling like we failed a kid, we don’t need a stranger to raise that bar even higher.
I don’t need to be clever on the internet to feel good about my parenting style. Embarrassing or humiliating my kids is bad any way you slice it. I don’t want to get traffic to my Facebook post at the expense of my kid’s dignity. I also believe in giving a kid privacy, mine and/or strangers, so I never share photos of anyone for the purpose of laughter or derision. Some people feel lifted up by knocking others’ down, and I really don’t want to contribute to that. About all I’m going to tell people as far as parenting — unless they specifically ask me for help — is that you do you, and I’ll do me. That’s the whole point of this post. Do you. It works if you let it.
Give yourself a break. Unfollow the pages that make you feel like you have something to live up to. Look at your kids. You are armed with all you need to be able to parent your child(ren) sufficiently, and if you have a health question, there are legit people to turn to. Keep your internet for fun craft ideas or recipes or a silly video to laugh at when you’re bored. Enjoy being a parent. There are no rules beyond what YOU choose for your kids.
Kids grow too fast. One day — trust me — you’ll look back and regret having put the baby toys away too soon or having rushed through enjoying a moment so you can get onto the next thing. Be okay with making mistakes. Get dirty with the kids. Make crafts. Stroll through gardens. Wander museums. Skip the ‘expert’ bedtimes and strict schedules. Take the time away from getting parenting advice from the internet and have fun with your kids.