People often assume that since I write a parenting column and blog it means I am a parenting expert. The truth is, I am much more of an expert in what NOT to do when raising kids. My kids have actually grown up to be responsible, happy, and well-adjusted people in spite of me, not because of me. It’s not that I didn’t have their best interests at heart. It’s just that I forgot to read the manual when I had them.
Oh yeah… there was no manual. That might explain it.
I always found it somewhat ironic that you have to practice driving for a year and take a written and practical test in order to get a driver’s license, but all you have to do to have a baby is forget the condom.
Fortunately, nature took over when I was pregnant and I didn’t really have to “do” anything to make the baby grow inside me. But once that baby was out, it was all on me… and a little bit on my husband. And when I say it was all on me, I mean, it was quite literally ALL on me. For the better part of ten years I was covered in all manner of baby stuff from poo and spit up to finger paint and glitter. If the amount of mess I was covered in was directly reflective of the kind of parent I was, then I guess I was at the top of my class… or the bottom, depending on whether or not being covered in goo is a good thing or not.
I was a very hands on parent. Except when I wasn’t. Yes, I accidentally let the baby roll off the changing table once, and he was fine but I cried about it for a week. Then I realized that he was OK, if maybe just a little dented, but it was alright because I going to screw up and so would they. So I made sure to give my kids a little space and let them explore their world without a leash or a parachute. This is not to say I let them go bungee jumping when they were four because clearly that would be bad parenting and everyone knows you should really wait until they are at least six years old to do that. But I let them ride a skateboard and fall down. And then I kissed the boo-boos, cleaned them up, and told them to get back on the skateboard because that was the right parenting thing to do but also because I had a column to write and needed them to get out of my hair.
I also let my kids eat junk. When I was growing up we had nary a Cheeto or Dorito in the house. But I knew what I was missing so I would go to my friends’ houses and pig out on their junk food. I didn’t want my kids to be closet junk food eaters like I had been so I kept some of it in the house and showed them how to indulge in moderation. Of course we had some disagreements about what was an appropriate amount. I felt two scoops of ice cream was right whereas they thought a quart was a single serving container. Like most things, we met somewhere in the middle.
My oldest is now the one who is learning how to drive. He takes it very seriously and gives the car the respect and attention it deserves. I told him it’s good practice for when he becomes a parent one day. And when he accidentally hit the garage door with the car and dented it, I told him not to worry. That’s good practice for becoming a parent one day, too.
Tracy Beckerman writes the syndicated humor column, “Lost in Suburbia” and is the author of the new book, “Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir. How I Got Pregnant, Lost Myself, and Got My Cool Back in the New Jersey Suburbs,” available at Amazon and other booksellers.