You’re thinking, “what does a 33 year old mother of 3 know about parenting? Why is she more knowledgeable than me? Where’s the 60-something grandma with 6 kids and 20 grandkids and a PhD in child psychology—now there’s a mother I’d listen to!”
Frankly, I don’t know what Erica, my editor, was thinking. But perhaps she was taken in by my crazy varied experience: had my own babysitting business at 15, went on to be a group leader at a Christian day care. Then I was a private nanny for a while once I got married (but she was crazy) so I left there in favor of a ghetto child care in rural North Carolina, where we were living at the time. After that I worked in the Teaching Materials Center in the college library where I went to school. Then we moved back to MD to be near my family and I continued to pursue my education degree.
I have student taught, group taught and observed a gazillion classrooms, all different teachers and situations and demographics, from Baltimore city schools to suburban schools to a Catholic school. I’ve volunteered as a Sunday school teacher. I have worked with ADD, ADHD, developmentally delayed and ESL kids. I have a dual degree in elementary education and liberal studies. (I didn’t choose a dual degree, the college made me). Then I worked at an educational resource store for 4 years before becoming pregnant with my first child, who is now 6. Now I have a 4 year old and a 1 year old as well. My husband was deployed for a year and now works for a company that has him traveling 30-50% of the time. I’ve been home alone with my children a lot. I’ve used my pediatrician’s office like a crisis hot line and taken my eldest to a play therapist in desperation. I have read the equivalent of a small library of parenting books. I know that of which I speak. What I don’t know, I research like crazy and everything else I make up.
That being said, let me just share with you my top ten pet peeves (you’ll find I like making lists…I’m kind of anal that way):
1.Mamby Pamby parents. Don’t be a mamby pamby. Be the adult, be the parent. Use the word “no.” A lot, firmly, in public, at home, anytime. Ignore ensuing screams, your child is not in fact dying nor is using “no” mentally damaging. They are just in denial. Pretty much everything about parenting falls under this heading.
2.Don’t ignore their bad behavior in public and then explode on them. We, as the observing public, don’t enjoy it and I’m pretty sure your child doesn’t either. If you have your kids, do not pretend you are shopping alone. Give them some attention because that’s what they’re looking for when they start acting up in public. Better yet, don’t take them shopping with you.
3.Your child is no angel, honey. I have worked in several group situations and had to interact with parents on a regular basis. The worst kids were the ones whose parents thought they were total angels. I’m here to disabuse you of that notion. What’s that saying? “Angels at home, devils in public; devils at home, angels in public”? Very true! Trust me. I’m always the first one to offer up my child as the culprit when we’re out and about and someone else’s child starts screaming. Kids act out. Trials and tribulations of life affect kids in all different ways. Be surprised by nothing.
4.Your child should be sleeping through the night from the time they are about 3 months old until they die. Getting up once in a while because of a nightmare (or even a string of nights) or because they’re sick is one thing but I am completely baffled by parents who almost proudly proclaim that their child has never slept through the night…..and they’re four! That’s a head scratcher people. Have a bedtime routine from birth and you should be ok. It’s nothing to feel badly about, it’s a problem to solve!
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5.Breastfeeding is not the be all and end all. Do I personally believe it’s the best way? Absolutely. It saved us a ton of money and I felt like I really bonded with my children as a result. Am I going to shove it down your throat? No. No one likes a boob nazi.
6.Use drugs on your children. If they are teething, give them Tylenol for crying out loud. I’ve met a number of moms who say they feel like Tylenol is not safe for their children. It’s a drug that has been in use for over 80 years. If there were long-term effects, we’d know it by now (per my pediatrician). Read the directions, follow the little Tylenol/Motrin chart that they give you and you won’t overdose them. Truly. I wouldn’t lie to you. Put both you and your child out of your misery. Your first job as a parent is to see your child comfortable and healthy, yes? This falls under that heading.
7.Don’t look at me funny when I tell you I didn’t send my eldest to preschool. He was a highly emotional kid who was having separation anxiety issues because his dad was deployed. I tried two. They failed miserably. (email me if you want to know which crappy preschools I used). I wish I had known about St. Joseph’s of Dallastown—they are awesome! If it makes you feel better, I can say that I homeschooled him (even though preschool is not a legal obligation and is really us just paying for our kids to play with other kids for socializing purposes….but don’t get me started!)
8.With the obesity problems in this country, you’re really gonna give your child soda with every meal? Allow them to have sugary desserts even though they didn’t eat all their dinner? Really? You don’t want to re-think that?
9.Don’t lie at the movies to get cheaper tickets. Don’t lie in front of your kids…ok, how about don’t lie period? Not only can that lead to embarrassing situations (“DAD! I’m not 10! I’m 12!”) but it teaches them by example. Remember: kids do what you do, not what you say. That means you need to put down the soda too and eat some more veggies already!!
10.Do not walk out of the house looking like a homeless woman while your kids look like J.Crew models. It looks weird. It looks like you don’t take care of yourself and that you’re one of those obsessive moms that puts her kids first 24/7 but never brushes her own teeth. Ew. It’s not healthy. And again, there’s modeling: they aren’t going to keep up dressing (cooperatively) if they see you are not doing the same. Kids are logical like that. They will do what you do, mark my words!
These are but a few of my nuggets of wisdom gleaned over the years. Take them with a bolder of salt and a dash of humor.