It seems that everyone has an opinion on parenting and many people want to share those opinions with you, even if you have not expressed any interest in that particular topic.
(Even if you are, say, in the middle of wrangling out of a maternity dress in the Target fitting room. Thank you, kind lady who stood outside of my fitting room door and extolled the virtues of making your own baby food. I appreciate you.)
From earnest co-workers to sage family members to random women in line next to me in the grocery store to the guy changing the oil on my car (seriously), I have heard it all.
It is always super helpful and never at all contradictory.
Except the opposite of that.
“Sleep training is the BEST thing you can do for your child. If you don’t sleep train, your child will never learn boundaries and turn into a juvenile delinquent.”
“Sleep training is the WORST thing you can do to your child. If you sleep train, your child will never bond with you and turn into a juvenile delinquent.”
In the five years that I have been sorting through parenting advice there have been two pieces passed on to me that have made an incredible difference in my life, the first being Always Park Next To The Shopping Cart Corral.
I realize this seems counter-intuitive. You’re thinking to yourself “Self, doesn’t it make more sense to park as close to the front of the store as possible?” And I get it. I thought the same thing when said advice was offered to me. I was once that same, naive girl who circled the Target parking lot with my infant child, trying to score the closest parking spot to the door.
And then I’d go in and lose track of time on account of the glittery lure of the dollar spot because who doesn’t need decorative Valentine’s Day garland for a dollar?
I would head back out to my car feeling all giddy about my deal-finding skills only to see rain falling and my spirits along with it because now I had to navigate the tricky situation of Keeping The Baby Dry While Loading Up The Groceries, like:
“Do I put the baby in the car and then leave her there while I dash across the parking lot to return the cart? Is this negligent of me? I feel very anxious about this. Do I keep the baby with me so that no one steals her precious, darling little self? That’s kind of complicated to manage on account of how heavy this carseat carrier is. Also, she might get rained on and my grandmother says that is a surefire way to get pneumonia. I feel very anxious about this.”
So now what I do is, I park next to the cart return station.
Boom. I can unload the groceries. I can see the baby. I do not feel anxious about this. I feel amazing.
I told you.
Marie Kondo has nothing on me.
And the second piece of advice that has made an actionable difference in my life as a mom came from a friend who casually mentioned that when her girls were in preschool she used the time spent sitting in the morning carline drop off to pray with them about their day.
At the time my daughter was three years old and I typically spent morning carline listening to a non-sensical kiddie song about rocketships on repeat while scrounging around the car trying to find something that I could convince her was acceptable for show-and-tell, like “Of course this is a ball! It just LOOKS like a dried up piece of fruit. Mommy didn’t forget. She just is very creative!”
And so the prayer thing seemed like a way better use of my time.
And the next morning, I turned down the radio, reached for her tiny hand, and said a little prayer for the day.
Until that moment, I didn’t realize that I spent the earliest hours of our days feeling a bit unmoored.
Praying with my daughter in the mornings has been the thing that has anchored me in my motherhood.
Now she is five years old and she reaches for my hand and it is a privilege.
As the years have passed I have watched as her prayers have grown - from simply mimicking mine, to the sweet toddler request for God to help her “be very good at coloring today”, to the more nuanced prayers that reflect her hopes and dreams and fears.
The ones that cheerfully hope for her daddy to have a good day at work and for there to be no rain because she likes the playground better than the gym.
The ones that break my heart when a girl at school is mean to her and break it beautifully again when she asks God to help her love that girl anyway.
I thought I was teaching her but I am witness to her childlike faith and it is a constant reminder to me of the essence of what it is that I believe in.
When we started it was mostly me just modeling prayer for her, a simplistic thank you and blessing.
Now it is our benediction.