My Dad is a retired doctor. He did family practice for many years. In the 1970s, family practice docs were often de facto pediatricians. As a teen, I can recall him counseling new parents on the phone.
“It’s diaper rash. Put some ointment on it.”
“Your kid has a runny nose? Give him some Tylenol.”
“Treat it and it’ll go away in a week. Leave it alone and it’ll go away in seven days.”
“Your kid won’t eat? Well, no kid has ever starved herself to death before.”
“He’s three and he still wants his bottle? I’ve never seen a kid go away to college still sucking on a bottle.”
“Your kid threw up? She’s acting fine? Then I suggest you clean it up.”
As a high school teacher, I have had similar conversations with the parents of 9th graders at conferences.
“Your son hates everything? He’s angry and surly? He’s fourteen? I’d say he’s right on schedule.”
“You daughter gets up two hours before school to do her hair and make-up? Yes, and…?”
Here’s the big secret about parenting.
Your kid, whether you S.P.L.A.S.H, Attach, Detach, Helicopter, or RIE, as long as you aren’t totally FUBAR’ed, will be fine as long as they know they are loved. Your easy going little girl will, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, turn into an easy going woman. Your testy, anxious little boy? Yep, he’s going to turn into a slightly nervous man. We are born with a basic temperament. You, and your chosen parenting technique, are not going to do much to change that.
As long as your child knows you love them, you set reasonable limits, you keep them safe, and you let them make enough safe mistakes from which to learn, they will be fine.
Crazy, isn’t it?
I just Googled “Parenting Technique Books” and it returned over FOUR MILLION HITS. Even frickin’ Goldie Hawn has a parenting technique book. I’m not certain how she became a parenting expert- perhaps she did her post-grad work at the same school which gave Jenny McCarthy her degree in autism diagnostics and immunology, but I pity the fool who buys her book looking for an original and useful thought on parenting.
We’ve been doing this Homo sapiens parenting gig for about 200,000 years. You have to think that pretty much every technique has been tried in that time frame. There are about seven billion people on Earth. We must be doing something right.
Here’s the kicker – I guarantee you that nobody in the Amazon rainforest, or the Russian steppes has ever given a rat’s ass about parenting techniques. Don’t let animals eat the kids, don’t let them drown or fall of the cliff, feed them, keep them warm, and teach them how to get their own food.
This quivering festering manure pile of parenting books is all about parental ego. There is this sad notion that your kid is something special. So she is. To you. You have decided that this child, this small person who loves you at age three and will despise you at age 13, is an extension of your own self and your own ego. This child is you, writ small, and she holds a mirror up to you for all the world to see.
If you believe this, you are fool.
The truth is, we are all so damn busy with our own lives; no one has the time or energy to care.
Your kid, just like you, will choose his or her own path. I’ll bet that you turned out pretty much okay. Most of us do. Actually, most of us are pretty terrific at being people.
Here is the truth. Love your children. Fiercely, boldly, and unreservedly. Remember that when they need love most is when they are the least loveable. Support them. Let your kids make mistakes. Let them learn. Unless there are some biochemical or physical issues which affect their development, your kids will be fine. They will love you.
And stop buying all those damn books by crazy people.