Recently some friends, who are expecting their first child, asked my husband what books about parenting we would recommend they read before their baby is born.
My immediate answer? Don’t read any books!
Of course sarcasm runs rampant in our household, so I was only being half serious. To be fair, I am not much of a reader. I have only read a handful of parenting books and have definitely come across some good tidbits here and there. But, so far, I haven’t found that one book that can tell me step by step how to handle a uniquely strong-willed little girl, how to handle really long tantrums, or sassy mouths and so on. (Ahem, not that I have any of those problems with my three angelic daughters, ahem.)
I told my husband the advice I would give our friends is not so much to focus on what books to read, but rather to spend time with other parents, be involved with other parents, ask questions, ask advice, learn from them.
I would also encourage them to be patient with their children, and then be patient some more. I would remind them their child is a person, who is an individual, and a person who doesn’t always fit into an exact mold that a book can be written about. I happen to have three lovely girls that I’m certain no one has written a book about! My three daughters are beautiful, funny, sweet, spunky, a little bit sassy, (some more than others!), and one of them can also be extremely stubborn and strong willed and at times a wee bit moody. I have yet to read a book that could tell me how to deal with some of the many situations I have been through with her.. and my other two daughters for that matter. (Maybe I should write a book!)
The best parenting information and encouragement I have received has not come from any book. What I have experienced are relationships with friends who I have met right here in Madison who are sharing the same kind of challenges and difficulties with their own children that I am. With one friend in particular, I often comment that I am certain our children were cut from the same Jello mold. My friend and I can completely relate with each other on the hardships and trials that we deal with that are specific to our “Jello mold” children.
I find it so very encouraging to know other parents who are dealing with similar trials and situations that I am dealing with. The kind of real life, relational encouragement that can only come from having that face-to-face relationship with my good friends and fellow parents.
My friends and fellow mommies can remind me that it will get better. They can remind me that eventually my toddler will not want to climb on my dining room table or unroll the toilet paper roll or empty the cabinets and refuse to sleep past 6:00 a.m. They can remind me that my four-year-old will eventually be able to wipe her own hiney and maybe stop yelling at her sister in her sleep. They can remind me that my seven-year-old will someday not have to be told 82 times to brush her teeth or put on her shoes or get back in bed. They can give me tips that have helped with their children and in their families. They can help me remember, “this too shall pass.”
This is the beauty of having a community where we can come together with other parents who are in the same boat, dealing with similar issues that aren’t always found in books.
This is why we need each other, why we need a community of fellow moms.
This is also the beauty of our great city where there are so many wonderful and diverse families, children, and mothers who we can build relationships with. Where, not only can we have fun together, but we can also share our experiences with one another and encourage one another through this bumpy parenting journey.
And if you have read that one book that has all the answers on how to keep my sanity with my three girls then that is all the more reason for us to meet each other!