Weekly Column: I don’t know much…

©Stephenie Freeman

It’s time for me to go back to school.

Almost every job requires you to continue your professional education.  There are conferences for accountants, seminars for bankers, and classes for teachers.  If you want to keep your job, if you want to see that annual bump in your paycheck, then mostly likely you’ll find yourself working to improve your craft.

Parents need to continue their education too.  But instead of a boss telling you that you need to fly to San Diego for a 3-day conference, there’s a 4-year-old sitting in your lap informing you that your attitude toward your job could use a little adjusting.

“Why you have those red lines in your eyes?  Are those what make you so cranky?”

When your small children start using words and phrases like “cranky” and “frustrated” and “driving me nuts,” you know that it’s time to stop and refresh your skills.

Like any job, in parenting there are moments when nothing seems to be going right.  Parents have it even worse since the people that you are working for are constantly finding new ways to make your job more challenging.  Just like any professional, we parents need a moment to stop, regroup, and discover new and creative solutions to our daily dilemmas so we can walk back into our workplace on Monday morning with a renewed energy and excitement for the job.

However, unlike other professions, continuing education for parenting isn’t something that is readily available.  Personally, I’d like to refresh my batteries at the local wine bar on the weekends, but it’s hard to learn many new parenting techniques when you’re knee deep in a good Cabernet.  Most of the time, you have to really get creative when it comes to refining your parenting know-how.        

Play groups are a good way to enhance your parenting expertise.  At one of the first play groups that I ever attended, I watched as all of the other mommies whipped out Sippy cups filled with juice and baggies full of Cheerios for snack time.  My son toddled over to me expecting me to produce the same yummy snacks as all of the other mommies had. 

I stared at my hungry little son and tried to ignore the stares from the other mommies.  Truthfully, I had no idea that we were supposed to have snacks.  In all of the parenting books that I’d ever read, I had never read anything describing the do’s and don’ts of playgroup snack time.  Apparently, handing your child a box of Tic Tacs to eat is a definite “don’t.”

Of course books are always a constant source of parental wisdom.  I’ve bought every parenting book known to man just in case there’s something that I might be missing, as if I’d finally find the answer that I’ve always been looking for deep inside the pages of “Parenting for Dummies.”

In desperation once, I bought a book that encouraged spanking.  Sparing the rod, spoiling the child—that whole deal.  The book kept it all simple and straight forward: never spank in anger, never spank with your bare hand, etc.  So at the grocery store, I picked up a fly swatter to use as our family spanker and strategically placed it in our kitchen for all eyes to see. 

I have to admit, that fly swatter has been getting a lot of use at our house.  Apparently, it makes a perfect sword when fighting the bad guys.

Afterschool practices are another great way to continue to educate yourself or at least find out the latest parenting scoop while hanging out with all of the other parents.  I’ve learned about who the best teachers are at our school.  I’ve learned about piano lessons that don’t cost a fortune and swimming lessons with some woman that everyone calls “The Swim Nazi.”  I’ve learned about when I should buy my child a cell phone and how much I should savor these years when my kids still ask to sit in my lap.

And through all of my continuing parental education, there’s one thing that I’ve learned over and over again.  I’ve still got a lot to learn.

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