One Way

November 20th, 2012 § 2 Comments

She walked in like the big hen into her chicken coop. Except, it wasn’t her chicken coop; it was ours … well, our apartment. Handing me the dinner she’d prepared for us – a much appreciated gesture for those foggy, sleep deprived days – she walked past me with her own two kids in tow, and made straight for my wife and the child in her arms. Not long after taking a peak, she launched into a series of questions. Her tone was self-assured; the pacing, deliberate. Clearly, she’d done this before.

“Are you planning on putting him on a schedule?”
“Schedule?”
“Yes. You know, a feeding schedule? Nap schedule.”
The couple look at each other and find in the other’s expression exactly what they’re each feeling: Lost and guilty. The young father thinks, “I haven’t put myself on a schedule.”
“Um, no. We hadn’t … uh.”
“Oh, have you read _____ by ‘So and so’?”
Again the couple look at each other for answers.
“No. We haven’t even heard of that book.”
“Well, you have to read it. It’s so good. Children need structure. It’s comforting to them. A schedule really helps with that. Get them into a good rhythm. It makes them happy. Just read the book; it explains everything.”
The father looks at the lady’s two kids to see if they look happy. They mostly look bored.

I don’t recall anything else about her visit. I do remember though, when she left, we were glad to see her go. We never did read that book. We knew almost nothing about parenting, but we had the good sense to know that there was no “secret” way, no “surefire” method. And certainly the answer could not possibly be in this ostentatiously titled book.

I’m not saying we oughtn’t read books on parenting. In fact over the years, we’ve done quite a bit of reading. We’ve sought counsel; asked questions of both parents and children. What I am saying is there is no “One Way” to raise a child well. Every kid is different. Unique. Beautifully complex. Sure there are principles. I even believe there are principles immune to the wears of time, to the nuances of culture. But because every kid is different, these principles cannot be applied uniformly with the expectation of netting “happy” kids. I don’t buy it; there’s no “One Way”.

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