Sure, there's plenty of advice out there if you look for it. Actually, you may get it without asking, as people you don't know tend to do when they see your baby bump or screaming toddler in a supermarket. You've got your own parents at the ready, willing to share unwanted advice, and you've got parenting classes and a multitude of books written by "experts" who want to tell you what to do but you're open to it because they're not your parents.
The book I've consulted most is the ever popular "What to Expect When You're Expecting," then "What to Expect: The First Year" and now "What to Expect: The Toddler Years." I'm sure one day I'll be reading "What to Expect: The 'I Hate You' Years." These books have been helpful at times, particularly while I was pregnant, but now I just find them annoying. For every problem, their answer is the same -- it's okay. It's okay that your child isn't eating much, don't worry, it's normal. It's okay that you took your baby out shopping all day and she didn't get to nap. It's o-kay. It's not just these books; it's everything I read these days from parenting magazines to experts' websites. Motherhood is hard, they seem to be saying. You're excused from flying into that rage at your toddler for taking a magic marker to your sofa because mommies have feelings too and it's okay to trip up every now and then. Really?
Which leads me to a young mommy I saw on my flight back from Austin last weekend. She's no doubt been reading all of this literature and just letting it fly. It started when she hit me in the security line with her stroller, but that's beside the point. She tried to put her two-year-old into an open seat without her having a separate ticket, then caused a scene with the flight attendant for following the rules. This caused our takeoff to be delayed. The child screamed throughout the flight and this mother, I believe, was only making it worse. She jerked the little girl out of her seat, hitting her head on the overhead bin, kept yelling at her to be quiet and generally ignoring the girl's needs. After landing, she apologized out loud to the entire plane for her daughter, who was simply acting like a normal two-year-old. All I could do was feel for that child and how bad her mom was making her feel.
A bunch of us waited for our checked-in carry-on luggage to be brought out, including this mom. She sat the squirming girl on the ground, pointed her finger and said, "Sit!" as if she was a dog. Of course, she didn't. The mom continued out loud to everyone, "I'm not having another kid. My husband wants one but I said no way, I'm not going through this (re: her daughter) again." "This is reason for birth control right here." I couldn't take it anymore. I walked over and struck up a conversation just to shut her up. I even offered to watch her daughter for a minute while she grabbed her bag and stroller. Help a fellow mommy out, I thought. But it was as if she couldn't hear me. Or maybe didn't want to. And just went on complaining. I offered one last time, got my bag and left. I felt bad for that mom, but what I really felt bad about what that poor child.
I never want to make my child feel that way. No matter how overstressed I may get, no matter how many articles in parenting magazines say it's okay, I know better. I came home and hugged LO and promised her quietly to always put her first and she said..."Okay."