For thirty years I’d been deprived of the role of parent. For thirty years I’d wondered just what it’d be like to be a father. I’d married my bride nearly ten years before and I’d waited for the moment when imaginings met reality and discovered the collaboration was reasonable.
I’d not been idle in those ten years of wedded bliss. No, I’d been preparing the stage for the public debut of my child. For years I’d studied books on parenting and had adopted a parenting philosophy. It was clear to me that the reason so many parents were failing the task was because they had gone into the process without knowing what they were doing.
We considered the pros and cons of being a parent…
OUR child would have parents who loved and cared for their unique personhood.
OUR child would learn early and often to obey in a loving and affirmative environment.
OUR child would be a model child for other parents to admire and compliment.
OUR child would likely win all awards ever contemplated and become poster children for success.
Other people would be deprived of being able to observe a ‘perfect’ child.
I hadn’t been able to write my own parenting book yet.
Hospitals generally want money to deliver a child on time.
Then came the day we learned our first child was on the way. We were both so pleased and began to work even harder to brush up on the fine points of parenthood. The books I’d been reading had dog-eared pages and highlighted passages. I had audio sessions I could listen to in the car. I anticipated every moment of pending parenthood.
It’d been so frustrating to see parents who had little monsters for children. They were noisy and exhibited certain foul smelling emissions in public – and seemed to find it amusing. It was disgraceful. When we didn’t extend advice we certainly drew up a battle plan in our mind on ways to confront and conform the little heathen we spotted to a ‘better’ way of life.
We often felt it was the parent who facilitated such unruly behavior through the lack of a firm hand and persistence guidance in the direction of ‘acceptable behavior’.
I was convinced that there was utopian perfection available to parents who had been prepared and I was sure that our model would be the envy of all. I could imagine myself on talk shows dispensing advice like Pez candy. Magazines would hunt me down to write parenting articles for them and I would gladly do so for the benefit of the world’s parents.
When, at the onset of my thirties, my daughter was born I observed her perfection and knew we were in the midst of greatness. It was a tender thing to hold her in my arms and watch her mouth move and her little arms stretch. I was so confident.
Why didn’t the books mention colic or chicken pocks? I discovered there were many very ‘specific’ details the books just happened to leave out. I couldn’t believe it when my daughter persisted in having her own way. Sure, it had it’s own unique quality of cuteness, but I had said, “No”. Hadn’t I?
When she began talking she was filled with questions I had no reasonable answer to. Why was my calm demeanor in jeopardy when I had no answer for why dogs can’t meow and she kept asking, “Why?”
In time she was joined by a brother who felt ‘called’ to challenge everything and was bent on demonstrating his ability to create foul smelling emissions in public. Where was this in the books?
As the years passed our daughter tried hard to be a third parent to our son and, frankly, he didn’t like it. I flipped through the pages and tried to find details on how to convince a child that they simply needed to be a sibling – I couldn’t find it.
We have mailed out apology letters to those parents we’d thought were simply unaware of proper parenting techniques. We’ve tasted cold crow and wrestled the fowl-tasting beast down. We have repented and accepted our ignorant state.
Children are given to us without instructions so we can learn who they are and how to relate to them. Books on child rearing may help – or they may simply be ‘parenting memoirs’ providing a snapshot of how one parent managed to survive the growing years of their OWN children.
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