Tuesday, October 27, 2009

By the Book?

Now, before I begin, let me just say this; I'm not a parent, I never was a parent and odds are pretty good that I will never be a parent. Having said that however, I was, at one time in my life, on the other end of that. I was a kid. A child. And, as some of you may know, not raised by my parents but in a foster home. In that “home”, their word was the law. Go on either side of that and there were consequences to be paid. Which, of course, left a lasting impression on my psyche not to mention my backside. Love and nurturing were, well, non-existent. You made do and survived. So, my thoughts here are based more from a kid's perspective and as a witness to many of those people who have endeavored to become parents, either intentionally or accidentally. Good and bad and all that is in between.

From the beginning of time, or at least so far as the Bible goes, Adam and Eve, through love and desire became parents. And from my research, God did not hand them a 'Guide to Proper Parenting' book when the blessed event took place. It was up to them to figure things out on their own. And, from what we know about that episode, it didn't go too well, especially for Abel. But that did not stop them from continuing to have children and becoming parents again. They continued to move forward, to adapt, and to try better the next time. And there must have been a few next times otherwise, none of us would be here.

Most of the blogs I follow are written by women. Mothers really. And if I stop to try and count the collective number of children that these women have, it would probably be a pretty good one. And for all of the stories that I have read about them and their children, I cannot for the life of me recall any one of them quoting or paraphrasing a single line from a 'How To' book on how they raised their children. Or their children's children for that matter. They just did it. And the many success stories are pretty self evident amongst the group. That is not to say that they did not have their ups and downs. But, in their retelling the many anecdotes related to their children, somehow the down side no longer seemed as important. They just chalked it up to experience and moved on. Kind of like Adam and Eve.

When people decide to have children, for the most part, I believe, it is a conscious decision. It is not exactly like you are going to buy apples. Where you get to pick and choose the ones that are perfect and unblemished. If that were the case, the world would be filled with budding geniuses. No. We take the children just as they are because in a parents eyes, they are perfect and unblemished. And even if they are a little less than perfect in the worlds eyes, we love them just the same. Equally. Unconditionally. Or at least that's the way I think it should be.

A little over 5 years ago, a very good friend of mine told me that, after what seemed like an eternity, that she was pregnant. She and her husband had been trying to have children forever. Trying everything that was humanly possible. I was ecstatic for her. She was radiant and appeared to be walking amongst the clouds. After about six months or so, all of that came crashing down. The news was devastating. And the doctor, well let's just say he wasn't at his bedside best. The ultrasound showed that the baby had a severe heart abnormality. I don't remember the medical term but basically, the heart did not have four chambers as is usual in a heart.

The doctor gave her three choices. Option one, abort the child and try again. After they went through to get to this point, that option was out. Option two was to carry the baby to term and then just wait for it to die. And finally, option three was, have the child, surgically repair the damage as well as possible and hope for the best. Well, that was just over 5 years ago and the little guy is still providing all that love him many, many pleasurable memories. He is still not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination but they have persevered. At some point in his future he will be faced with a heart transplant. There is no getting away from that. In the meantime, we just love him, spoil him and treasure him. And I can reassure you that the bookstore did not have anything to cover how to be a parent during this episode.

Earlier today, the wife and daughter of a fellow co-worker came in for a brief visit. It is always fun to watch the interaction between father and daughter and always leaves me with mixed emotions. Happy for them but a little sad that I have not been able to enjoy that feeling. Anyways, later in the evening, after a meeting, my boss came over to me and we were discussing the little scene from earlier in the day and he was reminiscing back to his days of long. Not necessarily in the same manner but it did trigger something inside of him. This fellow in the office, I told my boss, had what I call a great foundation. Both he and his wife are two of the most grounded people I know. She gave up a promising career to become a mother and it looks damned good on her. Both of them actually. And again, you can bet damned sure that they were not raised by parents of Doctor Spock nor will their daughter or future children for that matter.

Why this little slam on parenting books you may be asking yourselves by now? Well, earlier today I read an article in the Globe and Mail called, 'Are your instincts about parenting wrong?' You can read it here for yourself. It is about a new book on the market titled, 'Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children'. It was written by U.S. Journalists Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson. To summarize, they “...boil down a decade of psychology, neurobiology and social-science research - and conclude that some of our most cherished ideas about child-rearing are based on outdated theories and flawed experiments.”

Great, that just means that the previous generations of parents got it all wrong. Bull crap! Now don't get me wrong, I am sure there may be the odd book out there that could probably help somebody dealing with a certain issue or two at any given time. But, how many parents want to sit there wondering whether they bought the right book for the right child. What if this book doesn't work for the second and fourth child but is okay for the third and the fifth? What if the book you read for your first child no longer applies; do you get to start all over again? Doubt it. Even I know that with each child comes it's own mysteries. It's own unknowns. Good and bad. Can you afford to be reading up on every opinion ever written about the proper child rearing techniques while your child is growing up behind your back? Or would you rather be playing with them, reading to them, teaching them, listening to them..........and …........Loving them?


Anonymous said...

Parenting. The ever allusive guessing game. It is a forever, am I doing this right? or finding out what you thought was right is actually now wrong. In someone else's opinion and sometimes to your own discovery and disbelief. If I could now go back in time and do it all over again there would only be a few things I would change but some of them are pretty big. The thing is... had I known better I would have done better. My kids are loved and they know that. I suppose that is my ticket to peace in it all. Parenting! Great post Bogey.

Cynthia Pittmann said...

Hi Bogey, thanks for the great reflective piece. I am one of those who has read many parenting books both before and after having children. I do think you have to bring your own wisdom to the task of childrearing. We often think that someone else knows more...it's a mistake. My strategy is to get information, but realize that my own children are living/breathing right their in front of me. I'm responsible for them, not some counselor/doctor/writer...it's up to me to decide about what they need and how to best parent them. Interesting "slam"...on an excellent subject!
Thanks for your substantial comment on Oasis blog. I love to hear from you, Bogey.

smiles4u said...

Oh Bogey...you never cease to amaze me with your wisdom and your ability to put your thoughts into words and great big beautiful heart. So much wisdom here. My daughter needs to read this so I am sending her here to read this.

I think of all the parenting books I have read in my life time...good lord I have lost track. I remember being this young messed up 17 year old girl. Scared to death about the baby I was going to be having. Scared shitless because I didn't want to be a parent like my parents...I didn't want my child feeling scared, hurt and alone like I did. So I went to the library and checked out every book possible on parenting and child care and self help....lol. It didn't matter how much I read, I will still scared to death that I was going to somehow screw up. I was so alone and had no one to talk to about these things. But somehow I made it through. I learned my way...my mothering instinct kicked in and I acted on the love that poured out of my heart. I remember the times I fell on my face, sobbing and begging God to show me the way and how to be "normal" but I was so damn unsure of what "normal" was. Some how I learned there was no such thing. I learned to go with the flow of my heart and what each of my children taught me. I jumped into this parenting gig with my whole heart and soul. I have always said I grew up with my children and that they taught me more than any book has ever taught me about parenting and life in general.

Yes, I screwed up and still do. No, I really didn't know what I was doing, just like I don't always know how I'm suppose to be doing this mommy gig I got going on now. This mommy journey has been the scariest, hardest, funnest, most joyful and rewarding journey.

Thanks for the great post my dear friend! Love and hugs, Lori

Busy Bee Suz said...

What a wonderful post. It is amazing to me that someone with so much insight into parenting, you are not an actual parent right now. Perhaps a lot of this information about raising children the proper way is mostly 'common sense'...which is what I have always thought.
I think I am a great parent, who screws up on occasion. :)
But mostly, it is all common sense.

Brian Miller said...

great post, dropped over from smiles4u's space...parenting is an adventure, no two kids are alike. sure there are some basics that are the same for each, but...i have two boys...there is many a day i have been faced with situations or decisions that scared me that i would screw them up. in the end, love them for who they are, let them have fun, life will get serious later and live life with them...maybe one day they will thank you for it by writing a book...lol.

Winifred said...

What a wonderful post. I'm sure you would make a great father. There's time yet!

A lot of what you do comes instinctively and some from what your parents did or didn't do with you when you were growing up. I know I made mistakes, I wasn't nearly patient enough with them and still think about that a lot.

You adapt with changing times too which I'm not sure is always good. My children got more material things than I did and I stayed at home with them as they were growing up so they got a lot of my time. My grandchildren get lots more things because both their parents work and can afford it.

Now I'm not so sure that it's a good thing giving your children all the things you would love to have had as a child. Not sure they appreciate presents as much as we did. They never seem to have to wait for things either and I remember half the pleasure was the anticipation.

Well that's my take on parenting and it's much easier being a grandparent. I don't think you need a book on that!

Amel's Realm said...

EXCELLENT post, Bogey! I LOVE it. My fave part is the story about your friends who had been trying to have a child for so long.

I'm not a parent yet, but I so long to be one. :-))) Anyway, many friends of mine are already mothers and one of them has a challenging son (he's clever enough to challenge all his boundaries and he knows which buttons to push - at the tender age of 1,5 years!!!)...she read one parenting book but nothing fit there, so in the end she threw it out he he...

lakeviewer said...

What a great post! For someone who has not been a father, you have a lot of knowledge and insight.

Hilary said...

A fine post, Bogey. Of the Moms to which you refer, I'd be reasonably certain that most of us do/did have a few parenting books on our shelves. To parent "by the book" would be quite a stretch, but parenting is often emotionally (as well as physically) exhausting and there are times when others who have been there can offer sound advice. I know my young neighbour (mother to a two-year old and another on the way) seeks MY advice from time to time. Information is no less valuable if sought between the pages of a book. We of course still rely on our own instincts to tell us what feels right. Like with anything else in life, we take what we find of value and disregard the rest. Thanks for the great read. :)

Bogey said...

Hi Queen. You, of course, were one of the many mothers and surrogates that I was referring to. Thanks for your warm comments.

Hi Cynthia and good to see you again. You are right of course. The books may hold some kind of value, but only a parent can make the necessary decisions for their own children. Thanks for stopping by.

Lori, Lori, Lori! You are going to give me a big head if you keep on with that kind of flattery. Wise words you say. Not really. I only looked at what was missing from my own upbringing and what would I think a child would want. Maybe what I would have wanted. The rest was quite simple really. However, I am sure it is easier for me to write about it than it is for me to say I have lived it. All you parents out there are the ones that should take a bow. ;)

Hello Busy Bee Suz, thanks for stopping by and leaving such a warm comment. To some, using common sense is about as easy as climbing Mount Everest!

Hi Brian and thanks for stopping by. You of course, are correct, in that no children are alike. How can any book cover all that is required in bringing up chilren. Here is hoping that any book your boys decide to write, that it will have been an adventure!

Hello Winnifred and thanks for your warm comments. It is kind of funny that the stores do not stock up on how to be a proper Grandparent! They must think you have mastered the art of parenting and just sitting back enjoying the ride. I hope you have been at least!

Amel, I look forward to the day that I can read on one of your posts that you are going to be with child. And I am sure that you will be a geat mom.

Hi Rosaria. Any insight that I may have garnered was only by looking at what was lacking in my own childhood. Then figuring out what it was that I thought I needed. If you fill in those basic needs, what else is there to worry about?

Hilary, in the end, that is all we can do. Take the best and forget the rest. Never easy I am sure when there are just so many different viewpoints out there. Oh, and thanks for your very, very kind poetic response on your blog the other day. It indeed, put a smile on my face.

Lori ann said...

You need to be a Dad.

I could tell you that a very dear friend of mine got married at 52, had his first child at 53, the second at 55 and at 56 he's the happiest he's ever been. But I wouldn't want to be saying too much.
Please forgive me for overstepping. I just know so many men that should have never been Fathers. And then there's you. You are the perfect person because you remember what it is to be a child. That's all you need to know to be a good parent.

Nancy said...

Oh Bogey, you struck a nerve with this one! I totally agree with you because every child "expert" through the ages from Dr. Spock on, (except Dr. Brazelton), were eventuall proved full of, well, lets just say they were wrong on so many levels. There are things you should educate yourself about - such as developmental levels. Knowing what you children are capable of at any given age can bring some basic understanding. After that I tell my daughter to trust her instincts! She knows her child better than anyone else - including her pediatrician. Great post, Bogey.

Lori ann said...

Hi Bogey, I was worried I may have come across the wrong way, becoming a parent is so personal and not for someone to tell another. I was just astonished at your post. I will be honest here, I don't have any experiance with loving fathers, mine or my childrens. Here is a post I wrote about my own children's father if you'd like to read it...

Bogey said...

Hi Lori Ann and thanks so much for the very thoughtful and kind comments. And no, I do not feel that you stepped over anything. You may want to re-think the word perfect though. To paraphrase, it's kind of like an outhouse in an elevator.....it just don't belong! I did go back and read your post and found it very heart wrenching. I am happy for you that you have found somebody more suitable so that your children can get a better understanding of the difference. In some ways, there is a huge chasm between a father and a parent.

Thanks so much Nancy for your wish thoughts. Nobody knows their children better than a parent. Well, a good parent at any rate.