Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Revising the Mommy Advice Books

Thank you for your responses to the last blog (and others.) I really appreciate it.

It got me thinking: mothers are so worried about whether they're doing right by their children. I have no idea why. It's not like moms get blamed on T.V. for everything from childhood obesity to teenage psychopaths.

But I share this anxiety. Just the other night, I told Justin that all I ever wanted was to be a perfect mother. Or at least the kind who could get somebody a glass of milk within 30 minutes of being asked 50,000 times.

There are just so many distractions in the kitchen. Dishes. Science projects. Leftover Chinese food. The newspaper's movie section. Ah...I remember the cinema. A cool, dark place filled with candy and popcorn and laughter...

"Mom, are you ever going to get me that glass of milk?..." comes a voice from the living room.

"Yes, sir," I say, coming to. "Your order is coming right up. It's on the house since it took so long"

Or you hear yourself say to your child after a soccer game, "No, winning is not the most important thing, but it's definitely in the top five."

Who said that? you wonder. And if it was me, what kind of mother am I?

Or maybe somebody asks you, in so many words, "What kind of mother are you?"

Anyway, that's the underlying anxiety.

Now, I'm not saying mothers shouldn't try their best. Read the parenting articles or books. Watch what works for other parents. Make changes when something isn't working for your family.

For instance, I learned from my sister in law that if your kids are talking back to you, you can say, "When I tell you to do something, you should say, 'Okay, mom. That sounds great.'" This really works for me.

And it really works for Richie. At just 4 years old, he's already mastered the art of agreeing with his parents and then doing whatever he damn well pleases.


Me: Richie, it is 9 in the morning. Put down that candy right now.

Richie: (Smiling and nodding) Okay, mommy.

Me: (Looking over my shoulder) I said put down the candy.

Richie: Okay, I will. (Big smile.)

I leave the room and hear him racing through the house to hide under his bed. He put the candy down, all right. Onto his teeth.

There should be a happy medium: parenting advice that helps you do a good job without scaring you into thinking you're doing a terrible job.

So I took the liberty of editing every parenting advice book known to man.

Here is the condensed version.

1. Read to your child age appropriate books.

The last part can be dropped, I think. Those early reader books are baffling. Tug sat on Mug. Mug dug the tug. Sug hug the wug. None of that even makes sense. Skip to the intermediate books, which have plots and non-ridiculous names for key characters. That being said, my children cannot read. So maybe Tug hug the dug, after all.

2. When your child asks you to get him something (within reason), do it immediately. Otherwise, he will not immediately do what you ask him to do.

This is from a housekeeping and mothering book from the 1800s, when they obviously had more time on their hands. It's not like they had to catch their own chickens from the feed yard, pluck their feathers, wash them thoroughly, cut them up and cook them over an open fire just to make dinner. Oh, wait.

Still, I think we can change "immediately" to "at some point." If you do it immediately, you earn bonus points.

3. Do not ever give your child pop, which bathes the teeth in sugar, leading to cavities.

In this case, we add a "never" after "ever" for a more realistic goal: Do not ever never give your child pop. That's something we can all live with...until the first trip to the dentist.

Granted, with these changes, you should lower your expectations. Don't plan on raising "The Happiest Baby on the Block," but rather "One of the Happier Babies on the Block," for instance.

These and other revisions, again, can be found in my upcoming book, "How All Mothers Are Ruining their Own Lives and Their Children's (and Why This Will Ultimately Lead to the Implosion of the Sun and the Destruction of the Universe.)"

If I say that I have an upcoming book enough times...maybe it will actually happen.

Which leads me to...

4. Do something for yourself every day. Well, that is actually pretty good advice. Whatever that something is, it should energize you. For me, it is writing. For others it might be excercising or working at a job you love or watching a favorite show or drinking a cup of coffee before your kids wake up.

However, I think this advice would be even better if we changed "do" to "drink" and "for yourself" to "strong." Now it reads

4. Drink something strong each day.

Either way, remember, for at least an hour a day, try to be the "Happiest Mom on the Block." Or one of the happier ones, anyway.


Anonymous Jeanne said...

My grandkids are the luckiest in the world having you for their mommy! My advice is to remind them of that each day. You should also remind your husband each day how lucky he is to have you for his wife. Your the best!
Love, Jeanne

5:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Jeanne all the way!!! Your children are so funny and interesting and lovable - I know you're doing something right!!! You and Justin are great parents and a great couple - can't get enough of you!!! Love, mom

6:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you care very much - that's what is really important!

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto to your mom-in-law...remind thme how lucky THEY are! You are the best!!

12:32 PM  

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