Monday, September 23, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure Parenting

Wouldn't it be nice if parenting approaches could occasionally be chosen like choose-your-own adventure novels:

If you are going to "drop the hammer" and issue a consequence, turn to page 8.

If you are going to overlook this mistake and use humor to diffuse the situation, turn to page 12.

Just like I did with choose-your-own adventure books, I'd want to read up on each outcome before committing, to see which one I liked better.

Page 8 might say, "Bravo! Your child learned the seriousness of the situation and was spared greater harm later." But if it said, "Nice going, control freak!  Your heavy-handed approach alienated your child and constructed walls that your little hammer is no match for now." I would go straight to page 12 that says, "While surprised and grateful you didn't "lose" it, your kid knows you mean business and won't be going that way again. Win-win. Well done."

But in parenting, we're not reading the story.  We're writing it.

That's not even right.  It's more like we are dictating it stream-of-consciousness into a mini recorder for someone (a therapist in twenty years?) to have to sort out.

If I submitted our parenting narrative to an editor they would have to wonder, "What were you trying to do with the mom character here?"

Here she's laughing about his random use of the word poopie butt, and over here she's doling out consequences for his refusal to leave potty talk in the bathroom.

In this chapter she lets him leave her home with pants on backwards, in a too-small shirt and sandals with black socks blithely saying, "Pick your battles," but over in this chapter she's making her whole family late for church by insisting that he change into something nicer.

In this part she seems perfectly content to let him pour his own breakfast milk and cereal, but several pages on seems to find it intolerable that ice would fall all over the floor when he attempts to use the external fridge dispenser to put ice in a water bottle.

Here is the letter I would receive after they read a manuscript that covers even a month of my parenting story:

Dear Ms. Brown,

Thank you for submitting your novel, Where's the Mom? for consideration.  We are unable to publish it because we feel that the mom character is not believable enough.  She seems more like an amalgamation of many moms you may have known, instead of one person with a consistent outlook and predictable response pattern.  How will your readers learn to love her if they can't ever be certain which direction her character is going?

How, indeed?

Back to why I think my parenting narrative would only work for a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel.  And even then, a lot of the outcomes may be less than satisfying.

I guess the word I'm going to hang my hat on is "Adventure" and enjoy it for what it is: a real, true, messy, beautiful, mixed-up, wonderful life.  That I get to choose.  My own parenting adventure that I'm making up as I go along.

If you agree, turn to page nine.

Just kidding.


  1. Did you leave page 9 out of the book on purpose. I don't find that very amusing... IN FACT, I'm rather upset about it. I was absolutely certain it would tell me where I'd gone wrong! Oh wait. Mine are all grown up, still alive, and not messed up too bad... Well, except that they all walk funny and sing soprano or baritone, depending on how big a bunch their undies are in...

    And that potty talk thing... Remind me. This can't be written down. Can't. Be.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Well, that wasn't funny. First I'm admin, then it signs me in with Sean's gmail. I'm sure he'll appreciate that. 3rd time is a charm, right!

    3. What a whirlwind. I love "watching" your mind process and draw conclusions. Your posts make me contemplate queries I never would have considered on my own. Thanks for the boost.