What the Parenting Books Taught Me... (part one)

I wrote this a few months ago, when we were just about to throw in the potty training towel with our youngest.  She'd had some success, but a lot of failure and after more than a month we were ready to be done cleaning out dirty underwear.  Potty training, and my inability to successfully do it always brings out ten kinds of angst in me, as you will read.  I'm posting it today as we (tentatively) make attempt #2 of potty training.  Mostly because I need this reminder.  It's a two parter, because apparently, I had a lot of words about the parenting books...


pictures of books written in Japanese because they might have been more useful to me than the parenting books I read...

pictures of books written in Japanese because they might have been more useful to me than the parenting books I read...

Someday I’m going to write a parenting book.  It’s going to be life-changing.  I’ll probably make millions and go on Oprah.  It will boil down to one inarguable truth.


The parenting books are crap.  You have no control over the things they say you can control.  


I could probably just send that to a publisher and my two sentence book would have the power to help a lot of people.  I wish I’d read that book before my kids were born.

Let’s rewind to that beautiful time in my life when I was pregnant with my first.  I was, of course, an expert in parenting and knew exactly how everything should go.  I was hopeful and optimistic that reading the right parenting books and methods would ensure success and it just depended on my commitment and follow through, all of which was in my control.  Parenting wouldn’t be easy, of course.  But I had a plan, and I would follow all the right advice to a T and in eighteen years my well-adjusted, well-behaved child would be ready to go out into the world.

Haha.  Hahaha.  Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

I was an idiot.

At some point during the era I refer to as “The Last Time I Knew Anything About Anything” I got my hands on a book about parenting babies.  This book completely ruined my first six months of parenthood.  

It was a book mostly about sleep training.  And to be honest, in subsequent years I’ve actually followed some of the advice from this book, so it wasn’t all terrible, I guess.  But the way it made me feel, the way it affected my confidence as a parent, that ruined what should have been a sweet time with my newborn son.

This particular book prescribed a certain method for sleep training/scheduling.  It promised again and again that if you followed this method exactly your child would be sleeping through the night (we’re talking 12 hours people!) by the age of three months.  That in and of itself, I’ve realized is a pretty ridiculous claim to make.  But then, to make matters worse, the author had this habit of creating a narrative that told me, “if you don’t do it this way, if you don’t take control and handle this sleep situation, your child will grow up to be sleep deprived, and cranky and ill-mannered and will probably rob convenient stores when he is thirteen.”  So I read the book cover to cover before Liam was born, subscribed whole heartedly to the method and felt super good and a little bit superior about all that sleep I was going to be getting and the non-convenient store robbing kid I was going to raise because I was committed to this particular method.

You can see where this is going, right?

Unfortunately while Liam was hanging out in utero with nothing but time on his hands, he apparently did not read this same parenting book that I read.  (Super rude.  What was he doing in there?  Binging The Office?)  He did exactly nothing the books said he would do if I followed their method.  He didn’t nap when it said he would, for as long as it said he should, and he sure as hell didn’t sleep through the night or come even close. 

So now I had a newborn baby who wasn’t sleeping well and I was a stressed out ball of hormones who now thought I was an incapable parent because the books said he should be doing something he wasn’t and it was my fault because I must not be doing the parenting method right.  (And I was now also vaguely worried about his future career as a delinquent.)  I became obsessed with getting this parenting method right.  I found the mommy bloggers who’d found success with it, I joined the online groups and read message after message from moms in the same boat as me, with kids who weren’t doing what the book said they’d do, and then I combed the responses from the other moms looking for the one thing I hadn’t tried to get my kid to sleep.

this hardly ever happened...

this hardly ever happened...

And I was tired and my kid was tired and the only way he would sleep longer than 45 minutes was curled up on my chest which was actually my favorite thing because then we could nap together and it’s the most wonderful feeling having their little bodies all tucked in you.  But that damn book said this kind of sleeping was the worst thing you could do because then your kid would never learn to sleep independently.  So every time we took a nap together like that I was racked with guilt because I was doing it all wrong and everything was my fault.  Instead of enjoying what should have been the sweetest time with that I’d never have again (read: sleeping all day with my one kid on my chest) I felt terrible all the time.

It was the actual worst and I was the actual worst.


Stay tuned for part two... coming tomorrow...