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Our Parents Actually Didn’t Know Jack

Parents have a lot of wisdom … it’s true. They have 20, 30, 40 years more experience than you, their children, so you should listen to their advice and guidance. You should trust them. Momma’s always right. And Father knows best.

memphis mom collective mom bw daughter with her parents

I don’t disagree with these sentiments, but I’m also finding a lot of holes in them as I parent my own children. I’m finding, as I navigate through parenthood, that our parents actually didn’t know a thing – they didn’t know jack.

When you’re a little kid, it’s hard to see how your parents struggle with choosing the right schools and planning the right activities. It’s difficult to notice them second-guessing their approaches to discipline and the rules they lay down as law. Children don’t know the weight their parents are carrying day in and day out – the weight of every little child-rearing decision bearing down on them. It’s a lot of pressure.

But, now, as a parent, I get it.

I feel it as I try to prepare my child for kindergarten. Do I have him in the right therapies with the right therapists? Do I have him in the right activities? Or the right amount of activities, for that matter? Am I doing enough with him outside of preschool to augment what he’s learning? I really have no clue.

I feel it as I witness my child suffer from an ache or a pain. Do I take him to the doctor now or am I over-reacting? Did I “present” his symptoms adequately to the nurse or did I leave something out that could possibly bring about a misdiagnosis? And, post-pandemic, it’s a whole new set of questions. Should he be vaccinated? Do I agree with my school’s quarantine rules? And how do I even explain masks to him, especially when the rules are still fluctuating?

I feel it as I try to discipline my child. Did I yell too much just then? Why won’t he respond to me? Why does this tactic not work anymore? Am I going to be able to teach him respect? Manners? Will I be able to instill confidence and humility simultaneously? Will I be able to get him to understand that the world has rules, but that some “rules” are made to be broken? Ugh…I could go on forever.

The point is that I now know that I know nothing. And that my parents knew nothing. I know now that they were struggling with the ins and outs of parenting too. That they were questioning every move that they made. That they were muddling through, just like my husband and I are doing today.

memphis mom collective dad bw

And then I’m also reminded of how many tools we have today that our parents did not. We now have the luxury of video monitors where many of our parents pre-dated even audio monitors. We now have automated swings and rockers to give us a moment of peace during those hectic baby years. We now have cell phones we can use to track our teenager’s every move…not to mention what we can learn about them -- and their friends -- on social media. And, Lord have mercy, what did our parents do without Google? Oh, how I have Googled until the wee hours of the morning, just trying to figure this whole parenting thing out.

So, parents, just remember you’re not alone. There are millions of parents out there who are struggling through this parenthood thing just like you. And millions upon millions who have come before us. And while you might have thought that your parents were geniuses, that they were oh so wise, and that they held the proverbial keys to the universe, just remember – they actually didn’t know jack.

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