As soon as the pregnancy is announced the parenting advice begins flowing in-sometimes without our seeking it. Most of what others share with us is well intended and helpful, but at times it can feel less positive than that. Sometimes others suggest we're doing it wrong, or leave us feeling that they are doing a better job of parenting than we are. The vulnerability we face when others evaluate our parenting comes from how deeply we want to succeed at parenting. We want to improve on our past and create a future that is bright, healthy, and happy for our children.
Parenting is the process of raising and educating a child from birth until adulthood. During pregnancy the unborn child is affected by many decisions his or her parents make, particularly choices linked to their lifestyle. The health and diet decisions of the mother can have either a positive or negative impact on the child.
Many people believe that parenting begins with birth, but the mother begins raising and nurturing a child well before birth. Scientific evidence indicates that from the fifth month on, the unborn baby is able to hear sound, be aware of motion, and possibly exhibit short-term memory. Several studies show evidence that the unborn baby can become familiar with his or her parents' voices. Other research indicates that by the seventh month, external schedule cues influence the unborn baby's sleep habits.
Many Americans hold similar views on the importance of public policies that encourage marriage and the formation of two-parent families. As scholars from the Progressive Policy Institute and the Brookings Institution of the United States have suggested, the United States must “reform policies that inadvertently promote divorce and out-of-wedlock births or discourage marriage in favor of single parenthood or cohabitation.” While policy reform is easier said than done, a critical first step is recognizing that healthy marriages matter to children and adults.
There are a number of guidelines that can inform government support for marriage. One is that healthy marriages are good for children; dysfunctional and abusive marriages are not. Hence, as a strategy for improving the well-being of children, government should promote healthy marriages.
Government should also not merely seek to be neutral about marriage. In a liberal democracy such as that found in the United States, government is – and should be – neutral about many things. Alternatively, the U.S. government is not neutral about some things like home ownership or charitable giving precisely because it can be shown that home ownership and charitable giving contribute to the common good. Similarly, while never pressuring any individual to marry, government can and should provide support for healthy marriages, because it can be shown that healthy marriages contribute to the common good. As such, removing disincentives for marriage is warranted – but that would only achieve neutrality. When it comes to something as important to society as healthy marriages, government cannot afford to simply be neutral.
Parenting actually begins well before birth. Preparation for parenthood is not just a matter of reading books and decorating the nursery. Expectant parents need to prepare themselves for the real-life experience of being a mother or father.
Women: to prepare for maternity, put on a dressing gown and stick a beanbag down the front. Leave it there for 9 months. After 9 months, take out 10% of the beans. Men: to prepare for paternity, go to the local drugstore, tip the contents of your wallet on the counter, and tell the pharmacist to help himself. Then go to the supermarket. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office. Go home. Pick up the paper. Read it for the last time.
Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels, and how they have allowed their children to run riot. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners and overall behavior. Enjoy it - it'll be the last time in your life that you will have all the answers.
To discover how the nights will feel, walk around the living room from 5pm to 10pm carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12 lbs. At 10pm put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep. Get up at 12 and walk around the living room again, with the bag, till 1am. Put the alarm on for 3am. As you can't get back to sleep get up at 2am and make a drink. Go to bed at 2:45am. Get up again at 3am when the alarm goes off. Sing songs in the dark until 4am. Put the alarm on for 5am. Get up. Make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.
Can you stand the mess children make? To find out, smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains. Hide a fish finger behind the stereo and leave it there all summer. Stick your fingers in the flower beds then rub them on the clean walls. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?
Kids get rumpled and messy - it's unavoidable. They should, however, begin their day looking clean, tidy and cared for. Kids will be kids, so dress them comfortably and in clothes that you don't have to worry about them ruining. Just make sure they are clean in the morning. Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems: first buy an octopus and a string bag. Attempt to put the octopus into the string bag so that none of the arms hang out. Time allowed for this: all morning.
Take an egg carton. Using a pair of scissors and a pot of paint turn it into an alligator. Now take a toilet tube. Using only scotch tape and a piece of foil, turn it into a Christmas cracker. Last, take a milk container, a ping pong ball, and an empty packet of Coco Pops and make an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower. Congratulations. You have just qualified for a place on the play group committee.
Forget the Miata and buy a Taurus. And don't think you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don't look like that. Buy a chocolate ice cream bar and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there. Get a quarter. Stick it in the cassette player. Take a family-size packet of chocolate cookies. Mash them down the back seats. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car. There. Perfect.
Get ready to go out. Wait outside the toilet for half an hour. Go out the front door. Come in again. Go out. Come back in. Go out again. Walk down the front path. Walk back up it. Walk down it again. Walk very slowly down the road for 5 minutes. Stop to inspect minutely every cigarette end, piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue and dead insect along the way. Retrace your steps. Scream that you've had as much as you can stand, until the neighbors come out and stare at you. Give up and go back into the house. You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.
Go to your local supermarket. Take with you the nearest thing you can find to a pre-school child - a fully grown goat is excellent. If you intend to have more than one child, take more than one goat. Buy your week's groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goats eat or destroy. Until you can easily accomplish this do not even contemplate having children.
Hollow out a melon. Make a small hole in the side. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side. Now get a bowl of soggy Weetabix and attempt to spoon it into the swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane. Continue until half the Weetabix is gone. Tip the rest into your lap, making sure that a lot of it falls on the floor. You are now ready to feed a 12-month-old baby.
Finally, always repeat everything you say at least five times. Learn the names of every character from Postman Pat, Fireman Sam and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When you find yourself singing "Postman Pat" at work, you finally qualify as a parent.
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