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Oscar Wilde once said “I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it.” This may be the best parenting advice I’ve ever read. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve handed out mountains worth of what I’ve learned. However, I try to make sure they welcome mat is out before I step through the door. Five kids and many moons later I still laugh at some of the stuff people told us.  Most of it I believed.  What I have come to believe is that it was given to me with the best of intentions.  What they intended me to do with it?  I’m not so sure. 

A vintage illustration of a man and six children.  It appears to be the early 1800's.  The woman is wearing a green floral dress.  The children are gathered around her.  There are toys scattered on the floor and the table.  A baby plays in the background by a window curtain.

The advice starts the moment that the pregnancy is announced.  “Are you going to reveal the name?  *Doesn’t wait for answer* I wouldn’t do that if I were you.  Sometimes, you have to look at the baby to see if the name fits.”  That does seem sensible.  What an embarrassment would that be if I told everyone the baby’s name was Bob but he really looked more like a Robert! What would I do with all the monogramed blankets?  

Then, I had a baby.  Have you seen a newborn before the scrub down?  They are beautiful. They are also angry and covered with an assortment of substances that you did not know could exist inside of the human body.  And, as soon as that kid hits the air they chuck it at you like a rugby ball.  It’s not like you get a good look at the face.  Not to mention all the drugs you’ve been on the last 12 hours.  I was convinced that wallpaper in the birthing suite was interactive like the light up tables at the new McDonalds. If I had waited to come up with a name, I probably would have said something I thought sounded funny like “Raptar”.

Much of what people think is the best parenting advice is straight up comical.  I think they just give it to you just to see if you’re gullible enough to do it.  It’s the parenting version of hunting for snipe.  (Yes, I’ve also gone on snipe safaris.) One such advice came from an elderly woman at the doctor’s office.  Our pediatrician shared a suite with a general practitioner who was very popular with the 80+ crowd.  She looked knowingly at me, the sweet little babe, and the dark circles under my eyes and asked “How’s he sleeping?”  

A vintage photograph of from the 1930's.  A woman in a red dress and had holds the hand of a small girl.  The small girl is dressed in white and wearing a hat as well.  There is a man behind the mother and daughter holding a suitcase.  He is dressed in a tan suit and is wearing a hat.  A car is in the background.  The scene appears to be transpiring on the side of a street.  An elderly woman is on her knees, reaching out toward the child.  She is wearing a plaid dress with a white collar.  Her hair is white.  The mother looks to be introducing the little girl to the elderly woman.
Grandmas always have a plethora of the best parenting advice.

“Not well.” Which was exactly the answer she already knew I was going to say.  She leans in, looks at me with the wisdom of the ages in her wrinkles and says “All you have to do is flip him upside down before you put him in the crib.”

Say what? Flip him like a DQ Blizzard before they hand it out the window?

The old lady’s expression was serious as sin.  The group of old biddies around her all started shaking their heads in agreement too.  I’m sure that at 7pm that night, she looked up at her clock and chuckled.  She must have known that in the desperation of not sleeping more than three hours at a stretch for six weeks, a girl would try just about anything.        

The Best Parenting Advice Goes Awry

The one we always hear is “sleep when they sleep”.  The logic is clear.  Sleep patterns are erratic with a newborn so the only time that you will get some shut eye is when they shut their eyes.  There’s only one problem with that… they’re so cute when they are sleeping.  As infants you want to stare into their little faces and breathe in that new baby smell.  As toddlers, the constant motion of their wake time is erased and the little chubby cheeked cherub reappears.  When they hit elementary school, the baby face can still be vaguely seen in the outline of the big person they are becoming.  There’s a reason that we all cry when we read “I Love You Forever”.  We are so grateful to know that even during the craziest of days, they will always be our baby. 

Sleeping while they sleep also gets a little dangerous if you’re the one who sleeps like the baby.  When I’m out, I’m out.  A couple years ago, I thought “Hey, they are getting bigger so it’s about time we try out the sleep while they sleep advice”  I put the boys down to bed for the afternoon nap. I went to my bad and proceeded to pass out cold as soon as my head hit the pillow.

A black and white illustration.  The illustration appears to be a print.  Possibly from the late 1800's.  A woman is sleeping in a chair near a fireplace.  Her dress has puffy arm-length sleeves and reaches from her neck to the floor.  The fireplace is not seen on the left hand side of the photo.  However, it is casing light on the woman.  The background is a desk, an ink well and several shelves of books.
The most common parenting advice is “sleep when they sleep”

The afternoon creeps by and when I wake up, an alarming amount of time has passed.  I sat up but realized that it was still completely quiet.  Unexpected quiet is always a bad sign.  Always the optimist, I mentally pat myself on the back for sleeping while they sleep.  There’s a Russian proverb that says “Trust but verify.” Here’s my unsolicited advice, always wait to celebrate until you can confirm your notions of good parenting.

I bounce up the steps to wake my sleeping babes.  At this time in our lives, we only had the two boys and they were about the age when nap time begins to expire. We thought we were geniuses when we put them both in the same room. This way, all the toys are in the other room. Little did we know that the best entertainment walks around on two feet. I opened the door slowly and peeked over to their beds.  They were empty.

My bouncing turned to boiling.  They were hiding from me! I searched high and low.  I looked in the closets and in the toy room across the landing.  Pretty soon the panic sets in because I can’t find them anywhere.  As I was raised on a steady 90’s TV diet of Rescue 9-1-1 and Unsolved Mysteries, I was sure they were goners.  I went back into their room and sat down.  It was then that I noticed the summer breeze was whipping the curtains of a gaping-wide window. They knocked out the screen! Twas’ my own nightmare nowhere near Christmas!

Then away to the window I flew like a flash,
Jumped over a bed and squeezed out under the sash.
Then what to my mothering eyes did I see?
Two little boys, on the roof, throwing toys at a tree.

This might have been the only time in the history of my parenting that my immediate reaction was something other than yelling “BOYS!!!”  This is also the first time I silently praised the Lord that I didn’t live in Martha Stewart’s ginormous farmhouse on Turkey Hill

Noticing that the drop would land their little bodies on the sidewalk or the porch quite uncomfortably, I began to gently call their names.  Their little eyes grew wide. It suddenly registered that they were in trouble. Not in danger but in that they had just been busted by mom. As I beckoned with my hand, they slowly began to scoot their little bottoms over the roof.  While it was only five feet of shingles, I could feel every little snag of their poly-blend sport shorts until they reached the safety of the floor of their bedroom. 

I don’t really remembered what happened next.  Most likely, it was a series of hugging and hollering. In the end, the boys learned that they need to stay in their beds during nap time.  I learned that there’s no amount of advice that can completely prepare you for raising kids. And, I never forget to check the roof.

What kind of unique advice did you receive when you were new parents?

If you enjoyed reading about the boys adventures, then head on over to Bringing Up Boys on a Farm.