Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Don't Know What I'm Doing

I have just returned from Barnes and Noble where I purchased two books on parenting, at full price. Hubby will likely saw that I should have ordered them on and saved money. Frankly, I didn't feel I could wait the 7 to 14 days for shipping.

I've been in a funk since September that I couldn't quite define until today. Here's what it is: I don't know what I'm doing. As a mother, I mean.

I have never before raised a seven year old daughter (second grade, PTA, classroom volunteering, homework, friend issues, chores, allowance) and a four year old daughter (preschool, separation anxiety, sibling rivalry) at the same time before. Sophia was four at one time, but Olivia is not Sophia, not even remotely like her in fact. So. I don't know how to mother them. I don't know how to manage two children at completely different life stages with completely different personalities.

I also don't know how to change the oil in my car, or cook duck a la orange, or change the security settings on my facebook page, or build a model airplane. Why? Because I've never been taught how. Though all of those things are infinitely easier than raising a child, I don't expect to automatically know how to do them. And yet, this is what I expect from myself as a mom.

My meager solution to this sudden realization that there is a serious whole in my knowledge and ability was to go to Barnes and Noble. I realize it's just a start. I bought Your Four Year Old-- Wild and Wonderful because I found Your Three Year Old -- Friend or Enemy extremely informative. And I bought How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk, because a marriage and family therapist I revere recommended it, and also, because I keep saying "No one is listening to me!" and it's true. They aren't.

I opened the latter book at a red light on the way home (did I mention that I'm feeling a sense of urgency here?), and here's what the first few lines say:

I was a wonderful parent before I had children. I was an expert on why everyone else was having problems with theirs. Then I had three of my own.
Living with real children can be humbling.

Well, sing it, sister. I think I've chosen the right book.

On the subject of what we think before we had children? While still in the book store, on the floor next to me were two young women perusing the pregnancy and birth section (only one was pregnant). I shamelessly eavesdropped as they cooed over pregnancy journals in which you can voice record special memories and cringed at medically accurate drawings of a vaginal birth. I considered handing telling the mom-to-be what books she should be reading (If they had Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child on the shelf I would have just handed it to her), but then I remembered I am a total stranger whose kids are running wild through the picture books and therefore not a particularly credible source.

Still, the eavesdropping cheered me up. I do know how to do something! I've got the baby thing wired. Unfortunately I no longer have babies. Ah, there's the rub in parenting. Just as soon as you feel competent with one stage you're on to the next. It's a freeing realization really.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

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