If Only We Had Known This Sooner

The other day, someone told my wife we should write a parenting book.

Yeah. Sure. Instead of “Parenting for Dummies,” we could call it “Parenting by Dummies: Everything We’ve Learned in Hindsight But Refuse to Try by Having Another Child.”

I guess having two children who don’t eat people for fun (yet), haven’t been arrested (so far), and can write their names in cursive qualifies us as model parents?

Either way, the statement did get me to thinking about any wisdom someone like me might pass along to perspective parents other than the only child easy to raise is one that’s not your own. Trust me–we all know how other people should raise their kids.

I might also tell new parents that you should always love your kids, but it’s okay if you don’t like them all the time. Especially at 3 am when they are crying, vomiting, or just getting home hours past curfew. (Or at any given moment between the ages of 13-16.)

One of our problems, I suspect, might be that we’ve never actually read a parenting book. I’m pretty sure we had a copy of What to Expect When You Are Expecting. To be fair, I have nothing negative to say about the book, but I’ll also admit that I also have no recollection of the book.

While I will admit that the prospect of raising a human and being responsible for his long-term mental health was pretty daunting, I always told my wife we should just follow our instincts and trust that millions of years of evolution qualified us to be parents. Of course, for all I know she’s been secretly reading parenting books for the last 18 years learning how to counteract my “instincts.”

Either way, I have been toying with an Introduction to this mythical book we have no real business writing.

Dear Parents:

Your life has changed. You are now responsible for a human being. The good news is that feeding and changing diapers is the easiest and least messy parts of the job.   The bad news is that the feeding and changing are the least messy parts of the job. While you will get plenty of advice from other parents, friends, radio talk show hosts, and random strangers who write blogs regarding your child’s academic success, we encourage you to read to your children every night (starting tonight), teach them to do fractions as soon as possible, and avoid thinking that proficiency on a smartphone is a sign of intelligence.

As you think about your child at 18, these are the five most important things you need to remember and teach your children in order to create a healthy, happy child. Please also remember that this book makes no promises and offers absolutely no guarantees that anything we say will work and we reserve the right to choose 5 more things by the end of chapter 1.

1. Remember Occam’s Razor.  Try to solve all problems, conundrums, and difficulties by focusing on the simplest possible explanation first. The simple answer might not be right, but the most complicated one probably isn’t correct either. Your child will get a fever. That doesn’t mean he has meningitis or polio or some other incurable disease. It’s probably a cold. Start there. At some point, your precious child will also miss out on a valentines day card or a birthday party announcement. This is not a sign of a grand conspiracy or social leprosy.

2. Make sure you can look at yourself in the mirror everyday. You have to be the kind of person you want your kids to look up to. If you are cheating on your taxes, stealing fruit from the store, talking bad about people all the time, and parking in the handicap spot without a reason, that’s what your kids are going to do. I can promise you that they do not understand the fine nuances of your ethical system.

3. Life is a marathon not a sprint. Your child might not be potty trained at the same time as little Sally across the street, but let me assure you that she will learn how to use the toilet. The same goes for spelling, reading, writing, speaking, hitting a baseball, and making friends. Life is not a checklist of events to cross off at specific times.

4. Keep your pants up and your lips to yourself. Admittedly, this one is more for the kids than anyone else, but you parents might keep it in mind also. If you are all stressed about this new child, better think long and hard if you want another. (Don’t think about it being long and hard, though. That might be what got you into the mess to begin with.)  In an era that seems amazingly oversexualized, it’s important to remind ourselves and our children that sometimes a hug is all we need and all we should expect. (By the way, shout out to Miss Fanny P for her Sex After Childbirth posts. That’s funny stuff.)

5. The most important thing you can remember and pass along to your child: She’s a free agent in this world. So is he. So are you. Life is full of choices from the simple (breastfeeding or formula?) to the complex (cream or sugar?). Maybe I have those backwards? Either way, each individual makes choices. Those choices have consequences. Some of those consequences are positive and some are negative. Don’t want to clean your room? Fine, but the consequence is . . . Want to eat your brussel sprouts, the consequence is . . .  (Bad example. No one wants to eat brussel sprouts.) We get to choose how we act, how we behave, and how we handle life around us.

All of us made a choice as well. We choose to accept the responsibility for this human being. Some of us did so on purpose and some of us had it thrust upon us (pun intended), but here we are.

Or rather here you are. Let us know if any of this advice works. Unfortunately for our kids, we didn’t think of all the good stuff until they were moving out but that’s okay. That just means we can help them raise their kids when the time comes.


About John Wegner
John Wegner is a Professor of English where he also serves as the Dean of the Freshman College. He and Lana, his wife, have been married over 25 years. They are the parents of two great sons who (so far) haven't ever needed bail money.

6 Responses to If Only We Had Known This Sooner

  1. Its such as you read my thoughts! You appear to know a
    lot approximately this, like you wrote the book
    in it or something. I think that you just can do with a few p.
    c. to power the message house a bit, however instead of that, this is excellent blog.
    An excellent read. I’ll definitely be back.

  2. 8d82c662 says:

    i like the free agent metaphor. nicely written, its a good start to a great book.

  3. Aaagh! Am I the only one who likes brussel sprouts?!! “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” helped me survive through three sympathetic pregnancies; “Love and Logic” classes (big on helping children live with consequences of their decisions) helped me through their teenage years. You mention ages 13-16; I might narrow it further to age 15. Thanks for an entertaining and memory-stirring post.

    • John Wegner says:

      The short answer is, Yes, you are the only person who likes brussel sprouts. Unless we cover them with cheese–then they are almost tolerable. Thanks for the comment. I’ll have to look up Love and Logic classes although I think logic is wasted on teenagers.

  4. grannyK says:

    I totally agree about choices. That’s how I teach children. Life is about choices and every choice comes with a consequence. Good or bad. Natural and logical consequences (and sometimes consequences of my choosing). Great post.

  5. Miss Fanny P says:

    Thanks for the shout out. 😀

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