The uncertainty of parenting

10 Oct

One of the most difficult and ongoing challenges I feel as a father (and which I know baby mama feels as a mother) is the uncertainty over how to teach and manage baby. This is something of a modern problem and, I would suggest, something of a class-specific problem. Or at least a problem most closely associated with intensive parenting.

In another world, with stronger extended family ties, stronger religious beliefs and instruction, less deliberation over every single thing, you just, well, parent.

Not us. Baby, for instance, likes to put his feet up on the table while eating dinner. There are a wide range of responses to this behavior, from not caring, to punishment, to incentivizing behaviors, verbal scolding. Fwapping his little feet feet with a metal ruler, the way my 5th grade teacher used to do to our fingers when you would stop paying attention in class.

What we want is a rule-book, preferably an evidence-based set of best practices. This was, historically, um, the bible/Torah/Koran, etc. at least for many. Or tacit knowledge passed from generation to generation. Now, we have anecdata from friends, Facebook groups, and expert literatures. But the expert literature overstates its effectiveness while way too often way way understating culture, class, or individual differences (though these are actually very different problems. Baby books and parenting tiger mother French mother whatever mothers nevertheless hit them all).

So we just kind of do stuff, hope it’s reasonable, and move on. The scientist in me wishes we were at least learning inductively from our adventures, but sometimes I’m not even certain of that!

An for what it’s worth, we now pug him back from the table when he puts his feet up, and he complains: closer? Closer? Closer! Yep. Top shelf parenting for you.


4 Responses to “The uncertainty of parenting”

  1. Erica Goldman October 10, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    Amen! Where’s the guidebook I was promised??

  2. Peter October 10, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    Sadly, this blog is it. Unless you want to see what the Torah says about disrespecting your parents wishes. We could stone him?

    Also, what do you think about just shaking the baby?

  3. Davin October 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    As your physician friend, I’m going to go ahead and green-light a trial of shaking every four hours as needed to keep the little feet feet off the table.

    BTW you didn’t mention the bonus conflict generated by having both parents feeling justified in their own opinions. Things were probably a lot simpler when there was a single “head of household”, no questions asked.

  4. Peter October 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Yes, bonus conflict. We call that the “‘hey baby, want a cracker or some applesauce?’ as I am walking out the door with him” (technically, the HBWACOSA) effect, causing him to cry ‘cracker?! Cracker!! CRACKER!!!’ as I suddenly-helplessly trundle him down the street.

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