Parents are people with no education, training, or experience, who are not certified or licensed, practicing outside their area of competency. At best, if we are lucky, after a few years we will get a trophy of participation.
When I was young and naïve, I used to think I knew a thing or two about parenting, which seemed to be a couple things more than the parents I judged via their kids’ behavior in public places. Now that I am old and wise, I realize that I know next to nothing (and sometimes less than that) about most things, parenting in particular.
It seems to me that as soon as you learn anything whatsoever about your kid, the kid changes and you’re in the dark again. In short, nothing you ever learn even generalizes to your own kid, let alone your other kids, and least of all, to anyone else’s kid.
I had a friend send me an email asking me for some parenting advice. I asked my daughter how to spell “Bwahaha!!” so I could write my friend back. (I was shocked that the ‘B’ in “Bwahaha” figured so non-prominently in the spelling when it seemed so central to the particular style laugh that I was trying to convey.)
By “Bwahaha” I mean the following: What the hell do I know?! I am not doing any of this “right”. I am, at best, doing a half-ass job of following advice that seems quite good indeed to my undiscerning self, so who am I to advise you?
Still, in case my friend might be able to learn from my mistakes, I told her what a book I read would advise, and noted repeatedly that I am totally NOT doing any of that stuff because I am ____ (insert whatever pejorative term you can think of for someone with good intentions who doesn’t follow through on most of what they know they should do, and it probably doesn’t matter anyway because by the time I would get around to implementing the advice, it will be obsolete or irrelevant anyway).
(I hope at this point you have a deep appreciation for how little I feel I know in the parenting realm. Yes? Good. Now try to stick with me on this part, because it’s a little confusing, even to me.)
I am an advice-seeker, research-reader, investigator, inquirer, etc. I research disorders that friends of friends on Facebook have that I’ve never heard of and then I don’t tell them what I learn because I don’t even know them. If I want to know something about a medical condition or medication, I will find out who the experts in the field are and then I won’t hesitate to contact them ask them questions (they even sometimes answer!). At the same time, if I can’t find any randomized, placebo-controlled studies to guide my decision of whether to send out an invitation in a blue or grey envelope, I have no problem asking the 4-year-old next door what he thinks. In short, I am not afraid to ask questions or to ask people for advice.
So, if I don’t ask you for advice about parenting or ask your opinion on my parenting, it’s not because I’m shy or afraid to ask. I don’t ask because I think you know what I know, which is just about nothing. You might even know less than I do about my kid, which (in case you’re as good in math as I am) is less than nothing.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t see the little Mona Lisa smile you smile as if to yourself when I encourage my kid to eat, a behavior I know you disapprove of because I know that smile. It’s the smile I used to smile (hopefully only on the inside) when I was so sure that if the parents would just parent like I know they should, their kid’s behavior problems would be nonexistent. And to that I say, “BWAHAHAHAHA!” I hear you say that ADHD is over-diagnosed and/or that kids with ADHD are over-medicated and I hear and recognize that all-knowing tone of voice and to that I say, “BWAHAHAHAHA!”
So, friend, stranger, fellow-incompetent: We are uncredentialled, untrained imposters whose wisdom is obsolete by the time we attain it. So, let’s be humble. Do me a favor and I’ll do the same for you: When you see me doing what I do, assume I know next to nothing about how to parent my kid, which is just a little more than you do.