Gone are the days when we all read one revered parenting bible, now we turn to the web for answers to our biggest parenting questions. For better or worse, I am one of those parenting bloggers. Since 2009 I have written about 2,000 posts about parenting, for my own blog embracethechaos.ca and Today's Parent, among others. Not all of my posts were good, most of them have at least one typo, and all of them had too many commas. I hope a few of them made people feel a little less alone in this crazy world of parenting.
After six years of writing about hot topics in parenting, I have read many studies, talked to countless experts and quoted hundreds of news stories. I have spent countless hours lost down the Internet wormhole. During that time, my family has grown a collective six feet, and aged from preschoolers and kids to teens and tweens. And I want to be honest when I tell you that despite the thousands of hours I have spent reading and researching parenting, I still have no idea what the hell I am doing.
And so I have sought to reconcile my thoughts by creating a definitive list of parenting knowledge.
The 23 Things I have Learned from Writing about Parenting for 6 Years
1. Confirmation bias is real: I only believe the things that I want to believe. So it doesn't matter how many studies on screen time come out. I believe the ones that say screen time is good, or at least neutral, for your kids.
2. Parenting labels are easy to apply, hard to live down: We all have a little helicopter parent in us. And the same goes for a bit of tiger, a smidge of snowplow, maybe a dollop of dolphin, and in my case a whole lot of sloth parenting -- no one maintains a blind adherence to a media-generated label.
3. You can hold conflicting ideas at once: I say, do and think opposite things all the time. I am inconsistent, unpredictable and conflicted. Some studies would say that makes me a bad parent, I say it makes me human.
4. Pokemon does not make sense, but it will always be cool: Trends come and go, Pikachu is forever. Same goes for Star Wars.
5. There will be a study that will disprove the last study: I have written about contradicting studies within weeks of each other. It doesn't matter what it is, if you wait a year or so, another study will come out to refute the first study, and then another one will come out to refute that one, and so on, and so on, and so on.
6. The mommy wars may exist, but the media makes them worse: Sometimes, a working mom says a stupid, hurtful things to a mother who is at home. Sometimes, a stay at home mom says an ignorant, unkind thing to a working mom. More often, the media makes assumptions and tries to pit women against each other.
7. People like to talk about breastfeeding: It doesn't matter if you are blessed with working mammary glands or not, everyone has an opinion on breastfeeding. But all this talk means that breastfeeding is slowly emerging from the dark bedrooms and washroom cubicles. Or at least I hope it is. The challenge is to discuss breastfeeding in a way that doesn't shame people who choose, or have to use formula. That is something we are still struggling with.
8. There are huge divisions in our society as seen through the prism of lunch: On one side you have the ridiculously curated bento box lunches filled with colourful fruit and veggies made by parents who fear how one gram of sugar will affect their special snowflakes. On the other end of the extreme you have the families who rely on packaged goods because of lack of time and money. This doesn't get discussed enough.
9. The sanctimommies are everywhere: And sometimes they are in the mirror.
10. Technology is here to stay: We can argue about the semantics, but our kids are digital natives and instead of burying our head in the sand, we need to be right beside them. And sometimes, right behind them as they show us the way.
11. We are all doing the best we can: Let's give ourselves some credit.
12. Don't let the studies dictate your parenting: In the end, you have to do what works for you and your family.
13. Love your baby because nothing else matters: Swaddle, breastfeed, co-sleep, formula feed, carry, cry it out. It doesn't matter what you do when they are newborns as long as you love and nourish your child. Those things that you obsessed over become less and less important as your child gets older. I don't remember what my friends did, and I barely remember what I did.
14. Trolls don't live under bridges: But they may live in someone's basement. I am constantly amazed at the vitriol that can come through a keyboard. I often wonder if I have passed one of my haters in real life. Please don't tell me if I have.
15. My job is easy: There are so many parents out there who have it a lot harder than I do, I hope that once in a while I give them a voice. But mostly, I hope that something that I have written has made someone feel a little less alone, a little less klutzy, and a little more adept at this parenting thing.
16. We like to judge: I may get paid to have an opinion, but you don't really need to give me cash to cast the side-eye on someone else's parenting. I judge. You judge. We all judge. People have opinions and they judge each other to make themselves feel better about their own decisions. The problem isn't in the judgement, it is thinking that when you judge someone it is about them -- it's not, it is about you.
17. Vaccinate: Unless a doctor tells you that your child can not have the shot, you must do it. If your instincts are telling you otherwise, they are wrong. Vaccination is important, you don't know whose life you are saving by vaccinating.
18. We care about celebrities: I don't know why. But if I put a celebrity name or photo in a story, more people want to read it. If someone else puts a celebrity in the name or headline, I want to read it.
19. Kids should walk to school on their own: If there is one thing that the studies and the parenting experts agree on (besides vaccination) is that kids should be given as much independence as they can handle and walking to school (without a drone watching them) is the first step. You can feel fear and still let your kids have independence.
20. Everything is a stage: Your kids will sleep, they will use the toilet, they will learn to use a knife and fork, and probably one day they will eat tomatoes. But as soon as you get a handle on one thing, they change and you have a new challenge. Just as the kids have stages, so do the parenting trends. If everyone is talking about one study, or one parenting technique a few months later they will move on to something else.
21. Some stories will affect you forever: The story of the Dragon Mom still brings me to tears. The video the the Whittingtons made for their transgender child changed the discussion around this difficult topic. When life is difficult, some people choose to tell their stories and we are all the better for it.
22. Fatherhood is changing: When I started writing six years ago the idea of a stay at home dad was laughable. Men are taking a more active role in their families and they are doing so willingly and without role models. Gender dynamics are changing and our kids, and our whole families benefit.
23. Letting go is the hardest thing: Accompanying my kids on their journey has been an honour and a privilege. Letting them go as they grow into the amazing adults they are becoming is by far the hardest thing I have ever, or maybe will ever do. My heart expands and breaks almost every day. Thank you for making me feel a little less alone.
The kids are going to be all right, and so will we. Thanks for reading.