Sometimes, the wheres, hows, whys and whatnots of parenting is like watching a sky full of lighters. I don’t know where to look first, don’t know how to keep my head still from all the swaying flames, I’m easily distracted by whether one light is larger, the other smaller, and I don’t know what will happen if there’s a gaseous explosion and I’m suddenly engulfed by the glare the parenting spotlight.
In other words, I have no freaking idea what I’m doing most of the time.
Why is it that a new iToy comes with an app to get the user started, while a brand new iBaby is delivered into waiting arms (and smells divine) without a list of instructions about ‘how to?’ How is it that the HD TV might arrive with a coloured brochure about each and every feature — from .avi compatibility to shared screen, even a sleep button — whereas a kid is just wrestled from your body, plonked down on your gut, and you’re suddenly a mother. Or father.
Instantly, you’ve bonded with the alien on your tum, earned your parenting stripes, got your PhD in coping, achieved the gold medal in the marathon event of ‘home till they’re 40′ and … wham … welcome to the role where there is neither qualification nor rigourous training available.
It’s Father’s Day in Oz tomorrow. It’s International Parenting No-Idea for me most days of the year. (Happy Father’s Day, of course, to the wonderful dads in our lives.)
There’s a saying down here that goes: ‘bigger kids, bigger problems’, which doesn’t bode that well for people with younger children who are already wondering ‘wtf do I do now?’ Sure, parenting kids isn’t rocket science (at least rocket science comes with complete formulas, course notes, term papers, ‘how to’ manuals and predictable outcomes). A rocket either FLIES or it dies, depending on your ability to deduce equations like x+y=rocket + (research expenditure + astronaut availability)/rocket fuel+explosive things or something like that.
If you’re adept at academia, a gun at exams, a whiz at study, then there’s a fair chance that you might make quite a successful rocket scientist. Provided you have a white lab coat, a clip board and a beard (even if you’re female). Where are the logarithms for a better outcome in Mummying? Where are the grammatical principles that will prevent a fathering situation of splitting infinitives? How can we apply Pi to parenting and get an answer, or use HTML to encode a kid’s brain?
Don’t answer that. Apple might have an app out for this scenario soon where you scan the parenting problem directly from the tense air between yourself and your spawn into an iPad and get the definitive response.
Until then, we’re doing it the hard way. Flying by our pants, winging it, making it up as we go-go, trailing, erring, paying, repenting. It’s bloody difficult, and the guilt? Sheesh, I feel as though I should sometimes wear a sackcloth and hold a flagellant device to my back until I’m cut open, so that all the ‘sorry’ and ‘oh, shit’ and ‘I dunno what to do’ can come rushing out and flow down the drain of motherhood, via the sewer of sainthood, into the flush-hole of fatherhood.
Not that I’m dramatic.
As I respond better to instruction manuals, I’ve devised a small one of my own with regard to Winging-It Parenting. Here’s the abridged version:
1. Realize that you don’t know everything. Pretend you do (after you’ve Googled everything you need)
2. Speak loudly, in an authoritative voice if you’re questioned (most days). If in doubt about anything, use Google.
3. Do a lot of pointing and say a lot of general things like ‘you wait …’ or ‘I’ll see …’ or ‘it’s not a good idea to do that …’
4. Pray for that iParenting app for the iPhone or iPad. It will make everything easier.
5. Don’t get into an argument in the car. Or, better yet, if that happens in the car, pull over to increase drama and suggest that they get OUT. When they do, panic and revert to point 1, above.
6. If in doubt, go for the answer ‘NO’. If still in doubt, Google.
7. Don’t get into an argument while cooking dinner. Beetroot can go flying, so can knives, and if you spill your glass of wine, the entire day will be ruined.
8. Slam your hand on the kitchen bench at least once a month. It’s a great sound, can really calm a situation and means that you’ve got a reason for swearing coz you’ve broken a metacarpal.
9. Ignore eye-rolling, tutting, underneath-the-breath muttering, tongue pokes, screwed-up noses, distasteful looks, massive sighs, groaning and general conjecture. Place your head in a paper bag to ignore this behaviour, rather than the oven.
10. Realize you’re not alone. If you think you are alone, just use Google.
Perhaps sometime soon, I’ll try to write some serious pointers that I’ve learnt over the last decade and have them here for the teenaged times we will one day confront. For now, I’ll sip some wine, do some pointing and consult the Google Gods when I just can’t get it right.
Which is at least once per day.