During the month of May, I’m going to have guest bloggers on Thursdays. Please make a point to stop on by.
Today I’d like to welcome a very special guest. Her name is Liz Sheffield, and she’s one of the writer mamas in my online writer’s group. Liz Sheffield lives with her husband and two young sons in Seattle. She works full-time in corporate America and enjoys writing freelance articles and essays for parenting magazine.
If there are any newbie writers out there, find yourself a writer’s group that you can hang out with even if it’s online. We share our goals, whine at each other, celebrate our victories and laugh a lot. And it’s all done on a private blog. I can say that this group has made a huge difference in my writing life. Thank you, Liz, for sharing your wisdom.
In Search of An Owner’s Manual
I’ve been reading parenting and child development books since before my first son was born. After nine months I could recite whole chapters from What to Expect When You’re Expecting! Now, seven years later you will still find a stack of parenting books on my coffee table, nightstand or desk.
In fact, if you were to walk into my house right now you would find these titles: Simplicity Parenting, ScreamFree Parenting, No-Cry Potty Training Solution, The Successful Child, No-Cry Discipline Solution, and Siblings Without Rivalry. For those who lost count, that’s a list of six parenting reference materials. That list doesn’t include the books I’ve purchased and which sit on my bookshelf. Or the three parenting magazines to which I have a subscription.
With thousands of highlighted, tattered and underlined pages in my personal library of parenting books, I can tell you this: there is a lot of important, helpful information out there for parents. Much more information, I’d argue, than any previous generation of parents had at their disposal. Yet, much to my chagrin, there isn’t an owner’s manual for parents. (No, don’t think I own my kids.) What this perfectionist, Type-A mama is looking for is a blueprint or magic formula that tells me if I do A, B and C, my two sons will get through life without too many bumps or bruises. That we’ll all make it in one piece.
Of course I do my best as a parent. I make sure my two sons get an annual tune-up from their pediatrician, and our dentist looks under their hoods at least every six months. My husband and I have been reading to both boys since before they were born. We make time to eat together as a family every night. Our vacations aren’t extravagant, but we manage to make them fun. School is a priority, in addition to sports and arts activities that help round out our days.
All of these things provide my sons with a good start in life, and I know they are very lucky. There are families that don’t have health care, without a regular paycheck or access to the information that we have. Still, I’d give my (albeit meager) 401K to get a hold of a book that tells me, on page four, “If the ENGINE light comes on, take your kid to the mechanic for maintenance.” Or on page sixteen, “If trouble persists with the adolescent, use jumper cables until the issue is resolved.”
But no such owner’s manual for my kids will ever magically appear. What I finally understand after seven years is that by the time my sons are grown, I’ll have “written” my own manual – the one that applies to my family. I have to trust that my husband and I know what is best for our kids. Hopefully when we create the index, the entries for bumps will be few and we’ll all still be in one piece.
Liz blogs at Motherlogue. Go by and you’ll find another one of our cohorts.
Can you relate to Liz’s thoughts about parenting? What surprised you about parenting?