Conferences are notorious for being a lot of noise with a little bit of helpful information mixed in. I’ve always held that if you glean one or two useful nuggets, you’ve done well.
Yet there are some areas of my life where I find myself more prone to believing that there is a right way and a wrong way; thereby, throwing over my discretion and ability to determine what has merit and what is just so much noise.
Parenting is one such area. It may be because the responsibility for another’s life feels intimidating that I want to believe there is a TRUTH. And that if I learn it, all will be well. There’s a comfort in certainty, even if it is a specious comfort.
As a new mother I, of course, read the pregnancy books and then moved on to the parenting books. While there were nuggets in all of them, there was a lot of chaff too.
My favorite tip from a pregnancy book was the suggestion that you create your “birth plan.” As if there is any event in your life less amenable to control or planning than the birth of a child!
As a new mom, a friend and mother of three told me to trust my instincts. A singularly helpful and, at the same time, unhelpful bit of advice. Yes, if I had ANY instinct how to handle a situation, I wouldn’t be turning to friends and books in search of ANSWERS.
Before I put down the books, it took years of following guidelines that proved all wrong for my family: why couldn’t my 2-year-old feed his baby brother a bottle as a way to bonding? The book failed to mention that a bigger age difference between the siblings might have made this a more successful experience.
For better or worse, I have yet to find a way to dip back into those resources. I’m afraid of being seduced by the author’s confident pronouncements.
So, while in other areas of my life: leadership, finances, cooking, time management, I am able to read the books, assess the information against what I know to be true about myself and my circumstances and take what makes sense and discard the rest without a backward glance. I don’t do it when it comes to parenting.
With so much at stake, I can’t afford to lose my hard won trust in my instincts, in allowing myself to see the situation before me as it is, and not as I wish it would be, and responding to it, in all its complexity and subtlety.