We just got back from the bookstore. I love books. I love bookstores. They are awesome and I can loose myself for hours in them. Books are wonderful, opening doors to stories and places, lives you never would have imagined on your own. Ideas for cooking, crafting, creating, abound and in the leaves of a colorful book you may discover a passion for a hobby you didn't even know existed. Do-It-Yourself books, relationship advice, and spirituality titles boost confidence that we can do, be or become whatever we want. Every difficulty and challenge can be mastered if we're armed with the contents of the shelves in any given section. Need to know how to fix plumbing? Other than this book you'll just need a wrench! Going to build something? Get this book first. Want to understand your faith better? All laid out for you right here! In pursuit of happiness? Follow these 7 easy steps! Your husband an ass? Read this and have a new one by Friday! Your child is a handful? The answer is right here!
I get sucked in quickly. I start thinking I should get this book for cooking tips, this other one for knitting ideas, another one for home schooling, and yet another one for parenting. Today we were getting to spend gift certificates so I wasn't on a mission but because the girls needed help weighing their options (suddenly their gift cards seemed very small) I wasn't able to spend much time browsing myself. There was one book I was looking for that had been on my list for quite some time. When I had a moment I headed over to the parenting section and begin to browse. The book I was searching for wasn't on the shelf so I read through the titles to see if anything else caught my eye. It didn't take long for something else to jump out at me. The titles and blurbs on most of the books read as though children are problems. That if you just read this one book and follow their step by step instructions, you can turn your child into the perfect little mini-me you wanted. There were few books that seemed to focus on helping parents understand their child instead of telling parents how to change their children but in my eyes even those seemed to be lacking something. Something profound yet so simple. With the exception of special needs children, most of those books addressed what parents could naturally find in community with others, a community of parents and non-parents.
But more often when moms and dads get together and have the opportunity to share ideas and experiences, including the difficulties, it becomes a competition. Instead of finding support we often enter into a bizarre game of "my child is better/worse than yours, I have it better/harder than you." I think we miss the opportunity to actually support and learn from each other. Would we need so many books on parenting if we could realize that this parenting thing isn't a competition? That these books aren't manuals on how to win the parenting Olympics? Or that being the perfect parent is a myth? And that having the perfect child isn't possible? That what we're all really shooting for is to not screw them up too badly?
Want to hear a secret? No matter what it looks like at any given moment I know you don't have all your shit together and you know I don't have all my shit together.
Here's another secret: it isn't a competition and we don't have to go it alone.
What works for one family may not work for another but we don't need to go buying book after book to find answers. Books are great but they don't take the place of community. Being together with other parents, parents at all stages in their parenting, we can share so much more and not only save money but have true friends as well. Let's cut the crap people, we're all in the same boat and none of us have it figured out entirely. If we could silence the parenting games we may find that we have good instincts when it comes to rearing our children and when we feel at a loss, maybe there is a friend that can encourage us. It is possible, I really think it is.