When I was a new Mum staring out on the daunting journey of parenthood, I hungrily devoured any parenting books that were recommended by people who I respected. I was a novice in need of advice. From toilet training to tantrums; fussy eaters to shaping a strong-will; there was literature in abundance that promoted commonsense ways to achieve child rearing success.
However, four kids later and a few parenting miles traversed, saw my enthusiasm for this advice wane. The demanding responsibilities of parenting, highlighted my inadequacies, leaving me with a whole lot of ‘Mum Guilt’. Added to this was a reality I came to appreciate: that no matter how diligently you adhere to the guidelines, or follow the three step plan, there are no guarantees of ‘success’ (no one is perfect and no child is a robot or a carbon copy of another). With this in mind, I became cautious of anything that claimed to transform a parenting problem. While I didn’t stop observing how others parented, or asking questions of older women who had travelled the path further than I; I stopped looking for the perfect ‘how to’. I stopped reading.
It is true that everyone goes through seasons of much learning. The toddler years seem to throw all parents into the deep-end of the child rearing pool. To begin with there is a whole heap of thrashing about, trying desperately to find your stroke, keep your head above the water line and making straight for the edge when you’re desperate for a break. After much trial and error, hours of practice and a lot of side-line coaching, you begin to take some decent strokes down the pool. The primary school years are a bit like doing laps. You’ve begun to understand your child and what makes them tick; you’ve begun to understand yourself (your strengths and weakness). You know how to stroke and you begin to clock up a few laps. You get tired, your arms and legs get sore, you get sick of looking at the line on the bottom of the pool…but more or less you can swim.
The teen years are like you’ve been hit on the head with a blunt instrument. You wake up with amnesia and you’ve completely forgotten how to swim. Someone has quite rudely thrown you back in the deep end of the pool, and you’re thrashing around again, asking yourself, “How on earth do you swim?”
It was in my moments of great thrashing (a second time) that I once again looked to resources and good books to bring some perspective, hope, wisdom and advice. However, this time I had a changed mindset of how I approached my reading and learning. I ceased to believe that within all this new found wisdom lay a foolproof plan to help navigate my way successfully through the teen years (emerging with a responsible young adult who adores their mother). Rather, I reckoned there was wisdom in arming myself with knowledge; being receptive to different ways of thinking. I approached these resources as an excellent tool, but not a magic pill. Guidelines; not rule books.
I’ve actually enjoyed a new season of learning and discovery. There are great resources, books and magazines put out by many sources that aim to help and equip parents to raise kids for life. What I’ve discovered is, as I learn and grow, adapt and change, my children have also benefited. I’m no longer aiming for perfection or success; I’m aiming for improvement and enjoyment in the process.
If I was to promote anything, one great book I have read in the last year was, The Parenting Book by Nicky and Sila Lee. It’s current, practical, humorous, easy reading, covers many issues and stages of parenting and the cartoons are fabulous. A great resource.