I like experts and have relied on them many a time over the course of my life for various matters, parenting included. As a society, we need them. But sometimes it’s refreshing to bring it down to us commoners who are the non-experts, as long as we are willing to admit as much. So, for the purposes of this article, I hereby declare myself a non-expert in the subject of parenting.
Seriously, I’m the first to say, “Hey! I have no idea what I’m doing over here”. But! I’m 11 years into the parenting game, so I wouldn’t consider myself a complete novice either. I’d say I’m more mid-career level.
Throughout the years, I’ve talked to a LOT of parents…at swimming lessons, ballet class, at the playground, at the bar, at Starbucks, on social media…you get the picture.
My experience combined with the abundance of conversations with all the mamas and some of the papas has given me fuel to say, “you know, I have some tips worth sharing”.
So without further adieu…
5 Tips on Parenting by a Non-Expert
1. Be Gentle On Yourself
I frequently say that I have “decision fatigue”. And it’s true. I do. You probably do, too. We are faced with hundreds of decisions a day. Simple ones like, “what kind of sandwich should I make for my kid’s lunch?” to more existential ones like, “what am I doing with my life?”. Because of the rapid-fire Q&A session constantly running through our minds like the Times Square News Ticker, we WILL make decisions often that are not perfect. This is real news. Expecting yourself to make the right choice in every scenario is impossible. Therefore, please BE GENTLE ON YOURSELF.
2. Laugh Often
Laugh with your kids, laugh at your kids, laugh with your friends, laugh by yourself, laugh at yourself. Laugh often. Laugh when funny things happen and when things go awry. Because if you don’t laugh, you might…
Yeah, I said it. CRY. Or as my sister says to me when my tears come pouring, “let it out, girl”. PRO-TIP: it’s OK to cry in front of your kid. It happens, and when it does I follow tip #1 listed above, “be gentle on yourself”. We are human after all. Don’t we want to show our children the fullness of what that means? If they only see us “happy”, then they’ll have a difficult time processing their own array of feelings.
Crying tears of pain, anger, sadness, or joy in front of your kids doesn’t mean you have to tell them all the gory details of the source wound. Do what feels right in the moment, but when at a loss, I go with “I’m having a hard time and just need to cry for a few minutes”. They’ll likely handle it better than you think. Remember, crying isn’t a sign of weakness. Rather, I think it’s a sign of strength. You are feeling your feelings so they don’t get stuck and you can move on. So don’t be afraid to let those tears flow in front of your littles. It’s kind of a beautiful thing.
4. Talk to Others
Remember how in Tip #3 I mentioned that we are all human after all? Well…in my opinion, one of the most human things we can do is to share our stories with others. Big stories and small ones alike. Stories ranging in severity from “my 11 year old just rolled her eyes at me because I asked her about her crush” to “I’m getting a divorce.” No, this is easy for me to say because I consider myself an over-sharer.
Sharing comes naturally to me, and therefore I forget that it’s not everyone’s jam. And of course there is an art to it, and a time and place for certain types of sharing. But in a broad sense, the more we share, the more it encourages others to share, and the result is something magical… we stop feeling alone on an island. We realize that we aren’t the only ones whose kids roll their eyes at parents, or who are getting a divorce. Sharing begets sharing, which leads to an overall better understanding of all of our human experiences.
5. Be Gentle On Yourself
No, you’re not seeing double. Yes, this is a repeat of Tip #1. Because it’s that important. It’s all fine and good to hold ourselves to high standards. We should do that. But remember, YOLO. Really. You only live once. Do not let this one beautiful life you’ve been given be spent fretting about things you should’ve, could’ve, didn’t do. Just do. Be. Breathe. And be gentle on yourself.
I’m not saying I’m crushing this advice I just laid out all day every day… in fact, I’m in-part writing these tips to myself. But I did breeze through all five this past Halloween, so let me end with sharing this brief story to let you know how easy they CAN be to follow…
How I Followed my 5 Tips on Parenting by a Non-Expert
SCENE: Halloween Neighborhood Potluck
MOOD: Tense (my mood, specifically)
It’s T minus 30 min from trick-or-treating, and I’ve unintentionally shown up late for the socializing portion of the evening. I attempt to make a “taco in a cup” for my children from the food table because it’s easy, available, and delicious (and genius Halloween Night Meal, amirite?!). My 11 yr old, while wiping cookie crumbs off her face, refuses to eat the dinner citing lack of hunger. It quickly escalates, and I threaten to take her home and revoke impending trick-or-treating privileges if she doesn’t get herself together and eat. the. TACO IN A CUP. She refuses again. I start fuming and am not my best self. At all. I know that I have now dealt an empty threat, because I’m not cancelling Halloween for this nonsense.
Mad at myself and her, I dish her up and pull her inside where I give her one more chance like Biggie Smalls. Not without a fight, she finally takes me up on it, then throws in a subsequent guilt trip when I don’t figuratively send her flowers immediately after she apologizes.
My Friend Encounter and Affirmations
We move on, she kind of eats the taco cup and I make myself one, at which point a friend and fellow neighbor approaches me, says hello, and asks me how I’m doing. I say hello back and then right on cue begin to weep. I tell her I’m not crying over the tacos. Well, maybe a little. Rather, it was the battle of wills with my child, the lack of time in getting what I wanted finished earlier in the day, anger at myself for not managing my time better, etc., etc., and so on and so forth rinse and repeat forevermore. I mean, are the tears ever just about the tacos? No – they’re about all the things.
Did this friend stand aghast watching me in tears inhaling my taco cup? No. Did she laugh at me or throw shade or judgement in any way? No. Instead, she gave me a hug, told me she was sorry, validated the mess out of me, and shared her woes of the day. We chatted for another 5 minutes, laughed and hugged again before parting ways to take our tiny humans trick-or-treating.
It was just what I needed, and hopefully it was a helpful interaction for her in some way too.
It’s that simple. Let’s normalize the waves of emotions it takes to parent, stand in solidarity together, give ourselves and others grace, and follow these tips as often as we can. I hope these 5 tips on parenting by a non-expert helps you in your parenting journey.