I am not a parenting expert. I am not a parenting expert. I am not a parenting expert. I want to make sure that I make that perfectly clear! It can be dangerous to be thought of as a parenting expert, because then you are expected to have perfect children. Then when you don’t (and who does?) people have plenty to say about it.
I wrote a few weeks ago about my friend Katie Allison Granju, a well-known blogger and writer on parenting topics, whose son is now recuperating from serious brain injuries. What I didn’t say is that his injuries were the result of a drug overdose and a drug-related assault. What I didn’t even know, but what Katie has now made public, is that her son has been battling a serious drug addiction for years.
Katie never said she was a parenting expert–in fact, she disavowed the title in print on more than one occasion. But she wrote a parenting book, and people who didn’t like what she said in it have taken this sad occasion as vindication of their opinions of her parenting methods. Never mind that her book was about Attachment Parenting, one of the tenets of which is that you, the parent, learn from your child’s cues to be an expert on YOUR OWN CHILD. Never mind that she never told anyone else how they should raise their children, only described how she was trying to raise hers. On the second page of the book, she wrote:
. . . the parenting book you now hold in your hands is fundamentally different from the others you may have seen. It isn’t going to tell you exactly how often you should nurse your baby, or how many hours he should sleep each night because we don’t know you, your child, or your family. Our philosophy is that you yourself–in partnership with your child–are the real “parenting experts” when it comes to your own family, even if you don’t realize it yet.
Ignoring all this, many mean-spirited folks have come out of the woodwork to blame her for her son’s drug addiction, to fault her for making it public, to accuse her of being narcissistic, and worse. And, of course, this is what anyone who writes in a public forum knows she is risking by taking positions on sensitive issues. I won’t quickly forget the many accusations that were hurled at me a few years ago when I wrote a column on Catholics and voting in the East Tennessee Catholic.
But even more than politics, people take their parenting responsibilities–and failures, if that is what they even should be called–very seriously. It’s natural to look for guidance–would there be so many parenting books otherwise? We all want to find someone who can tell us how to do the job right, because it is such an important job and such a hard one.
I’m not that person. I have a lot of kids, yes. But that doesn’t make me an expert on YOUR kids. Most days, I don’t even feel like I’m an expert on my own. I feel like I know a few things, and I like to write about them, but I’m not guaranteeing that what has worked for me will work for you. Lots of things I’ve tried HAVEN’T worked. Lots of days I feel completely at a loss.
In my opinion, people who think they have all the answers on parenting probably have never had any children.
So read the “authorities” or the “gurus” or just the moms like Katie and me and other bloggers out there who share experiences and maybe a little wisdom, and take what works for you and leave the rest; and if you want advice from a real expert, listen to Dr. Benjamin Spock, who said to his readers: “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”