So, here's the deal. There's something that's been bothering me for quite some time now, and I just don't think I can sit silently anymore. A question is boiling up that I just can't keep ignoring. I mean this in the nicest way possible, but how on earth can anyone call him or herself a "Parenting Expert?" The term is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. It's almost like telling someone you've memorized the way a specific pile of leaves appears. Sure, it may look a certain way now, but at any given moment, a gust of wind will completely change that, and you'll be back at square one.
Enter my gust of wind. My little, adorable, 9-month-old gust of wind (although some days, it's more of a tornado). She is my first and only child thus far, and I can confidently say I am learning as I go. But I know MY child pretty well by now, and it's caused me to come to this conclusion: There is no such thing as a Parenting Expert.
I am not discounting those who have written books, conducted field studies or have done countless hours of research on the topic of parenting. I admire them, and God knows I've read their books, tried their methods and followed their advice as if it was the gospel. I wholeheartedly respect their efforts.
But after nine months, I know this much: Each baby is different. My child is different from those her age, those who have come before her and those who have come after her. Heck, she's a different baby today than she was yesterday, and don't get me started on who she was a few short months ago. Each day has brought new challenges, new accomplishments and new milestones. What works one day to entertain her is not guaranteed to work the next. What we might consider a favorite food one day, she will undoubtedly refuse to eat the next. The saying, "you can never step in the same river twice," best sums up the past few months. There is no rhyme or reason to her preferences, her actions or her reactions. While she is generally a happy, giggly baby, there are days when something I would have never imagined to set her off, causes her to be upset. I would even go as far to assume that any expert wouldn't be able to predict her behavior one day to the next. In fact, the picture below is her reaction to the same toy just a few weeks apart. Apparently, her hatred towards the singing bear has somewhat turned into an obsession. I put the bear away after her immediate reaction and swore never to bring it out. It was actually my niece and mother-in-law who brought it out when I wasn't looking, and you can imagine my shock when she loved it.
Her unpredictability, while extremely frustrating at times, has forced me to constantly be on top of my game. I'm prepared for any situation (or at least I try my hardest to be), and my overflowing diaper bag is a testament to that. I consider myself an expert on my own daughter, but am hesitant to give advice to other mothers. I know the difference in how she behaves when she is upset or just testing me, but I would never attempt to read someone else's baby. This, of course, does not keep others from doling out unsolicited advice, but that's neither here nor there.
I don't think I ever truly understood what it meant to trust your gut until I became a mother, but apparently this gut seems to know what its doing, even when I don't. If there is a such thing as a "Parenting Expert," a parent's gut intuition may be the only one worthy of that title.
The best we can do is become experts on our own children, give the best advice we can when asked (while being careful to not offend anyone) and take other's advice with a grain of salt.