Sunday, July 31, 2011

Parenting Experts?

I have been parenting since before that was even a verb. We didn't parent 20 years ago, we just had kids and took care of them. Parent was a noun. Because we had no internet and no cell phones when my daughter was born, I relied on plenty of experts when I faced troubles. Baby couldn't sleep? Read T. Berry Brazelton. Nursing troubles? Call the hospital's nursery hotline. Locating an expert often involved a trip to the library, questions of the research librarian, perusal of periodicals and sometimes long distance phone calls. It sounds so romantic and quaint now but it was terribly time consuming.

With newer and faster technology came the ability to retrieve information instantly. And there were loads of people lined up to provide this information. Gone were the days of requiring old-fashioned things like "credentials" and "education." The anonymity of the internet, and the change from books to inexpensive e-publishing contributed to today's new parenting experts. Today, anyone with a keyboard and internet access can call himself an expert. Turning expertise completely upside down, it is the act of writing a book which creates an expert, rather than the other way around.

Among some of the newest experts on the topic of raising children are Alex and Simon (Silex) of Real Housewives of New York infamy. According to Simon's website, their brand new book is a he said/she said look at how these Brooklyn parents are raising their two boys. I have seen several episodes of this reality television show and not once have I thought to myself "Wow, those two are super parents. I hope they write a book." Watch for yourself and see. Never mind that neither parent has any background in child development, yet they published with confidence a book about raising children. In an interview with Time Out magazine, Alex was quoted as saying,

"I don’t think anyone out there is a parenting expert. Nobody’s got all the answers and it’s silly to pretend that anyone does."

Just because someone doesn't believe in experts doesn't mean they don't exist. To paraphrase a line from the film The Santa Clause, you may never have seen a million dollars but you know that it exists. Of course, I don't pretend to be a million dollars just because you may not know what it looks like. defines expert as "a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority." The term expert does not imply that one possesses all of the answers to life's questions. Skills, knowledge, and even experience used to contribute to expertise. Is this no longer true? I long for the days when authorities read books and studied a topic.

I recently attended a workshop about parenting vegan kids, which was right up my alley! I hoped to pick up some tips, ideas, new recipes for my 12 and 15 year olds. The two sweet and lovely speakers each had only one child: one four year old and one infant! A parent of one breastfeeding baby was acting as an authority on vegan parenting. One year olds can't even say no. I actually found the advice adorable, in the same way I chuckled when I heard the mom of a toddler exasperatedly sigh "Potty training is the hardest part of parenting." Any parent who has raised children through best friend breakups, first loves, learning to drive, and college admission may think that bigger challenges lie ahead.

And while I'm on the subject of parenting challenges, I am wary of mommies carrying babes-in-slings spouting their homeschool philosophies. Not that they aren't entitled to have such philosophies, but until their children reach (at minimum) school age, their opinions are best kept quiet. As a homeschooler of 4 entering my 15th year, I just roll my eyes childishly when I hear a mom of a toddler lecture others about the best educational method.

Ah, but those good old days. Just remembering all those quaint styles of the late last century, such as grunge music, Thelma and Louise, and Bruce Willis with hair makes me nostalgic. But I suppose there's no turning back time. Just this week, scientists (experts in the field of science) proved that time travel is in fact impossible. So I must learn to live in this century of self-proclaimed parenting experts who have almost ONE entire year of experience. I can only hope that I don't run into any parenting issues more difficult than potty training.

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