I’m thirty-four weeks pregnant with child number four, and I’ve spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices lately. This means that I have read and reread my doctor’s stash of parenting and baby magazines, mostly out of boredom. When I was expecting my oldest, I devoured these. I mined them for ideas, making mental notes on how to identify and sooth colic, and the proper age to introduce solid foods. I examined the ads carefully too: which products did I need, what would ease my transition from clueless to savvy?
But I went beyond the magazines. I bought my own stash of pregnancy and baby books: the venerable What to Expect series, Your Pregnancy Week by Week, the slightly naughty Girlfriend’s Guide books, a breastfeeding tome entitled So That’s What They’re For. In the course of my parenting I have purchased books on coping with picky eaters, getting my child to sleep, disciplining preschoolers, making your own Super Baby Food, and no less than four books on How To Potty Train.
Sometimes I think I’ve tried to find validation in my shelf of parenting books, as if knowing that I followed this method for sleep or that method for potty training made me a better mother. Like writing a research paper and having a large Works Cited pages: proof I did my parenting homework and was well qualified.
But no book I’ve ever read has really made me feel qualified and knowledgable. I haven’t opened most of the books on my parenting shelf in years. There are a couple I plan to refer to for specific things: the Love and Logic discipline series, or my favorite baby sleep book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. But there’s just too much information for my little brain to process and apply. And ultimately I have to strike out on my own, making choices for my family and owning my decisions. I need to make my own Works Cited page, composed not of Experts, but of life experience.
Part of me is always wondering, though, if that shiny new parenting book will have the magic key that makes everything run smoothly in our home. I have not, for instance, read any book that talks extensively about how to integrate a fourth baby into your family (it’s always “what to do when baby number two comes along.” Possibly three. Do they think we’ve got it all figured out by four, or am I in a rare enough demographic that no one writes articles for us?).
Is there a magic method that fixes everything? How do you feel about parenting books and advice articles? What’s on your parenting Works Cited list?