Here’s a little-known fact about parenting, the whole thing is made up on the spot. You know what most parenting books are? They are a sham. They all deal with these big, idealistic concepts. Parenting books talk about how to raise kids who change the world. In the real world parents are looking for advice on raising kids who will just change their underwear regularly.
The real substance of parenting does not come from a book written by someone who doesn’t know you, or the adorable little fiends that you are raising, it comes in making mistakes, and learning from them.
Take my morning for example.
Preschool was back in session today which means that my morning commute involved the three-year-old ballerina. At some point during I drive she asked me a question.
Before we get to that question it is important to note that I am luck that she was the questioner. The five-year-old zoologist doesn’t take questions, or their answers lightly. It is his superpower, and he is not afraid to use it. God help your soul if you don’t know the answer, or don’t fake it well enough. For someone just learning to read he seems suspiciously well acquainted with the methods of the Spanish Inquisition.
Back to the ballerina’s question. It seemed a simple one, “How old is the baby in mommy’s tummy.” I know the answer, the answer is 17 weeks, the baby has been growing in mommy’s tummy for 17 weeks. This led to some confusion because the ballerina knows her numbers, and she knows that 17 is bigger than 3, which she is; and it is bigger than 5, which the zoologist is; and it is bigger than 1, which is what the demolitions expert is. I assumed that the confusion was related to a misunderstanding of weeks versus months versus years so I attempted to break down the space-time continuum for my little girl. This was demonstrably harder than I anticipated, and the confusion on her expressive little face only deepened.
She paused for a minute, and in her tried and true method of trying to get what she wants, repeated the question. The ballerina looked at me with those big blue eyes and said, “How old is the baby in mommy’s tummy?” Now a rookie parent would have fallen for the trap. A parent who has been reading books on raising the next Mother Teresa would probably have had just gone right back to the first answer. I am not that parent. I am the parent who is making the mistakes, learning from them, and using the parenting book to balance the table with the short leg. I am the parent who thought turning the one-year-old looks with a piece of chalk was a bright idea. I am the dad who has learned from the error of my ways.
Rather than getting into an extended discussion about the difference between the Gregorian and Julian calendars I simply looked back at my daughter and answered her question, “We don’t start counting until the baby comes out of mommy’s tummy.” She was happy with the answer. I was happy that I didn’t have to go back to explaining the earth’s rotation and how often we circle the sun.
Learning from your mistakes, it is what parenting is all about.