Let me cut to the chase. Basically what I'm saying here is: don't take any old advice out there (especially from self-proclaimed "experts") - but please do take everything you read here straight to heart. Ha! Just kidding. (But no, not really... Nothing like some ego to start off a blog post!)
I recently read on a friend's Facebook wall a seemingly logical and nice sentiment. Basically she stated NOT to take anyone's parenting advice - you know because we're all unique and different and on our own paths etc. etc. Not to mention that every child is also an individual with their own special needs and personalities.
And I mostly "get" and agree with statements like that one. Except when I don't. (I find that I can agree AND disagree with just about anything. I'm just cool like that.) Because even though we are unique, our basic CORE needs are very much the same. After our physical needs for clean air, water, food, safety and shelter are met, we are all seeking to belong somewhere - to feel love, accepted, and valued. We just happen to express this need in a million different ways.
Anyway, back to the idea of not taking any advice. Again, I agree... and I disagree. I agree with not just doing what any old person tells you to - whether that is a doctor, author, or an experienced parent with older children. One thing that really attracted me to attachment parenting and unschooling is that I was encouraged to listen to my own intuition AND my child.
That being said - I do think that we can learn from others. I know I have! We need to be discerning and wise, and not just "throw the (advice) baby out with the bathwater" (how many clichés can I throw into one post!) I recently found another great blog by a really interesting woman who is clearly a great mother and a very compelling writer. Her tagline is, "Join me in the fight against helpful parenting advice". Ha! Part of me really loves that - the rebellious, "don't tell me what to do", "who do you think you are??" "you don't know me!!" part of my ego. And then the softer, idealist, who wants to change the world, part wants to reach out to her and say - "Wait! I think there *are* things that we can learn from each other - things that will make our paths easier and more enjoyable - isn't that a good thing??" (One of her most recent popular posts is titled, "Hey, Hi. I want off your parenting team.")
Here are some questions to help weed out advice that may not be helpful: Is the advice being given because it's what "everyone" is doing? Is it reinforcing "conventional" wisdom or something that "everyone knows" but it feels wrong in your gut? Is it accompanied by reassurance such as, "you're a great mom/dad/caregiver - don't worry about x,y, or z so much." If any or all the above is true, then maybe you want to dig a little deeper - especially if what is being advised doesn't feel right to you.
The best advice I've ever been given or read has been that which invites critical thought. It's not advice so much as, "This is what works in our family and why..." It invites recipients to, "read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch." It never implies that there is only one answer to complicated questions. It values people, relationships, and joy.
Last year I was a bit hung up on the idea of whether this parenting gig is intrinsically difficult. My thoughts being - maybe our modern circumstances and ways of thinking are the main things making it feel so darn hard to people. Well, I'm kind of over that now - parenting is challenging, no use denying it. BUT, I still believe that many of us make it a lot more difficult and complicated than it needs to be. Because we're worried about doing it "right"; because we focus on changing our children instead of our own paradigms; because it's easier to keep believing what we've been conditioned to believe than it is to reject almost all of it and forge a new path.
But the truth is: People who will not receive any help are making life more difficult for themselves.
Most people want to cling to the idea that "no one has parenting figured out" - because it makes them feel better when they feel lost or confused or like they really SUCK at being a parent. I'm here to let you in on a secret: it's not really about parenting at all. "Parenting" is just part of Life. And Life is about doing our best. That's it. It's not about finding the "right answers" or about what to "do" - it's about how to "be". It's about striving to be the person you want to be. It's about your relationships with your loved ones. Sure, life (and parenting!) is going to throw all sorts of scenarios at you that you never dreamed of - and you aren't going to know what to do right away. That's why it's so important to have solid core principles that guide you. Because if you don't it will feel like you never know what to do. (You still will have times when you don't know what to do, but you will have faith and trust that you will find your way.) It's also important to surround yourself with people whom you trust and can be yourself.
I still don't believe offering unsolicited advice is the way to inspire change. (Here's a pretty benign example gone awry: I criticized my daughter-in-law's parenting, now what?) Often it will fall on deaf ears and there is a good chance higher walls will be erected. But if you are in the business of always trying to be better yourself I do "recommend" seeking out the opinions of those you respect. Keep an open mind and heart and you never know - these things called Life and Parenthood may start to be just a bit easier.