Musings on Mothering

How many children do you have to have before you are actually qualified to give parenting advice? Even Dr. Ferber changed his stance on the ever popular Ferber method for getting kids to go to sleep after having a child of his own. Too many people who write books on parenting are giving advice from the perspective of only having a degree in child psychology, and maybe only have one kid. I go to my mother for advice—she’s the only one I know who’s really qualified since she has raised 12 kids. My younger sister is a close second. She has nine. I have four kids, and my right to give advice on parenting is very limited.

I hate it when parents of only one child (usually a mild, even tempered, obedient child who has never run away from them in the supermarket) look at a frazzled mother and say something stupid like, “I wish she would learn to control her kids!” or “don’t you think you should have used birth control?”

In order to even be able to start handing out advice, you have to have had a child who has done something horrible, like sneak out of their room after pretending to be asleep at nap time, and then quietly going into the kitchen and getting into the refrigerator so that they could get your eggs out and hide them around the house, breaking a few in the process, or like gleefully throwing cottage cheese onto the carpet because they wanted to pretend they were throwing candy in a parade, or getting out your maxi pads and sticking them all over the bathroom wall and calling them butterflies. Or my personal favorite, squirting chocolate syrup out on the white carpet, pouring milk over it, and then dancing in it. (Why did it take me so long to figure out how to lock the fridge? And why for goodness sake did I ever agree to rent a house with white carpet!)

I remember once, being infuriated with my sister because her 2-year-old little girl had pretended that my stacks of clean folded laundry were cakes and she had ‘frosted’ them with a large bottle of baby lotion that had been sitting out, and all my sister had done was take the lotion away and sternly say “no, no, sweetie!” At the time, of course, my first child was only a few months old, and had never done anything remotely obnoxious. If it had happened now, at least we would have both gotten a good chuckle over it.

And what can you really do about it? Take it away, and say “no, no!” while you try your best to look angry. There are a few areas, however, where I do feel qualified to give some advice. For example, never just nod and say “yes, uh huh, ok,” when your toddler is talking to you in words you don’t understand. For all you know, you have just given them permission to use your scissors to play barber. And if you have put your child down for a nap, make sure that he is really asleep before you go take a shower, or worse yet, fall asleep yourself, or you may find him missing when you wake up. Which brings me to the next thing—if you do fall asleep, first make sure you deadbolt the door and lock the top latch which you have smartly installed way up high at the top of the door, and then hide away, or better yet lock up anything with a long handle, like, say a broom, for instance, or you may find him being returned to you by a strange blue haired old lady who was nice enough to go door to door looking for you rather than calling the police. . . if you’re lucky.