When a trusting young mother asks me for parenting advice I’m simultaneously flattered and terrified because while it is a compliment, it’s a lot of pressure. I didn’t Ferberize, or do “attachment,” or read Dr. Spock. I let the kids watch as much “Star Trek” as they liked, but I’m not sure that counts, so I don’t feel particularly qualified to be handing out advice.
But my counsel was recently requested, so I took a bit to review my (rap sheet) experiences and see if any patterns emerged, and this is what I came up with:
One: When the kids would protest, “That’s not fair!” I would always say … well, I would say many things, but the one that I can repeat in a family newspaper is, “You’re right: it’s not fair. It’s not fair that you were born to a middle-class family in the richest country in the world, and it’s not fair that the only reason you’ve ever gone to bed hungry is because you refused to eat dinner, and it’s so unjust that when you’re sick I can afford to take you to the doctor. You’re right: your life stinks. I bet all the kids in Darfur feel sorry for those poor kids in Ahwatukee who have to do their homework before they can play Xbox.”
Two: Never, ever, EVER open your mouth and say, “My child would never do THAT.” I don’t care what “that” is. Failing a math test, jaywalking, clubbing baby seals: it makes no difference. Don’t ever say those words, because when you do you have just guaranteed that not only will your child do “that,” there’s a huge possibility that they’re doing exactly “that” at this very moment, and not only have they been doing “that” for at least a year, they’re the obvious ringleader of a group doing “that,” and someone is filming “it” on a cellphone and sending it to CNN. The mug shot will look great on The Smoking Gun.
Three: Ya gotta pace yourself. In the beginning when everyone still has that new baby smell someone will leave a funky, crimson deposit in a diaper and because you memorized “What To Expect The First Year” your brain snaps to all kinds of horrible conclusions where in your mind the doctor is looking very grave and saying, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do” and pretty soon you’re weeping copiously in the emergency room at 2 a.m. trying not to think about how you had him for only a year and you broke him already, only to discover that your enterprising child has eaten half a Hot Magenta non-toxic crayon.
If you burn yourself out on crayon poop you’re not going to have anything left for the day someone breaks their elbow jumping on the couch with their sister. Or tears their ACL playing volleyball. Or scratches their cornea after a manicure.
In short: the first bloody nose, you freak out. With the 10th one, you’re yelling, “Don’t bleed on the carpet!”
So there’s my advice: embrace equivalent randomness, never underestimate anyone’s capacity for trouble, and try to look at those hours in the urgent care as quality bonding time.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Elizabeth Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.