I admittedly have an obsession with parenting books and studying parenting philosophies to the point of ridiculousness. One morning my toddler wanted my attention and I was annoyed because I was trying to finish reading this article I found about how to be a more attentive parent. The irony wasn’t lost on me.
But it’s not just the fact that studying about parenting can take us away from the actual act of parenting, it’s the confusing dichotomies of what all these parenting practices offer:
- Respond to every cry and cosleep so your child will learn trust.
- Let your child cry it out in their crib so your child will learn independence.
- Play with your child so they will know love.
- Encourage independent play so they will learn creativity and problem solving.
- Give your child choices because they’ll have to make choices in the real world.
- Don’t give your child choices because the real world doesn’t always offer choices.
In the less than two years that I’ve been a parent, I’ve once firmly believed in all of these conflicting statements. I’ve believed them because each parenting philosophy starts out the same: People have been doing it wrong all this time, you don’t want to raise an asshole, do you? Then follow these new guidelines! And they all make incredibly convincing arguments.
I’m not saying these books are wrong or unhelpful — as a matter of fact, their methods have been positively life changing at times. But remember when it was just Good Parent or Bad Parent? Now there’s Attachment Parent, RIE, CIO, Love and Logic, Tiger, Kangaroo, Helicopter, Dodgeball… (Okay, I made up Dodgeball Parenting, but I’m sure that’ll be a thing someday). Pretty soon we’ll all be wearing our parenting styles on our sleeves along with our Myers-Briggs score and goal weight.
My dream for my son is for him to grow up free from labels that the world tries to put on him, so why would I intentionally label myself? And I’m positively dizzy from how two conflicting philosophies can work on the same child. For example, I used to cosleep and it totally made sense and worked for a long time. Then it stopped working and I had to reevaluate and try a form of cry it out, which also totally made sense and totally worked. So which kind of parent am I? A cosleeper or a CIO’er? Am I both or just one or whatever is most recent? Do I care?
The answer is I don’t care, but when you’re looking for a solution to whatever parenting problem you’re currently experiencing, I feel like I’ve lost trust in consulting books because they all promise to work at least some of the time. And it’s terrifying to think you might buy into something that’s a major swing in one direction which makes you miss out on the hidden benefits of the other direction.
So I’m going to do what I always do when I’m overwhelmed: give up. Screw books, screw philosophies, screw it all. I’m just going to do the best I can and know that as long as I don’t do his homework for him (seriously, who are these people?) he’s going to turn out okay. And God Bless The Daddy Complex for giving the best parenting philosophy an awesome title: CTFD Parenting.