Eight years and eight months. That's how long I've been a parent. It's longer than I've been a doctor. Longer than I was in college. Longer than I've known about sudoku or blogging.
And yet, it's the one thing that I feel the most underqualified to do.
Maybe it's because my children are so different. What I thought I had learned with one didn't ever seem to apply to the other. One doesn't sleep through the night so I study sleep techniques. I'm all prepared for next time, only to have a baby that sleeps just fine, but doesn't eat.
Maybe it's because at my children keep changing. I finally figure out how to keep a 2 year old occuppied, only to realize that I don't have a 2 year old anymore, I've got a 3 year old, and the games and books that used to work are of no interest whatsoever.
Whatever it is, despite my eight years of "experience," I in no way consider myself an expert on parenting.
One of the things that sometimes fuels my insecurity with parenting is that fact that everyone else seems to be an expert. Everywhere I turn, there is advice on parenting. Magazines, blogs, books. The sources of advice is endless. Most the advice comes from people who seem to have no further credentials that "parent of two, ages 4 and 2" or "raised 3 children." And most the time, I feel like the advice is great! But if these people have gained enough experience in sometimes as little as 4 years to spread along the wealth, it makes me wonder what's wrong with me. Eight years into this, I feel like I don't have the right to hand out a single word of advice. I can offer sympathy, empathy, and understanding, because I've gone through sleepness nights with a newborn, potty training, and temper tantrums. But do I have any suggestions about what to do about those? None whatsoever.
When does it happen? When do I get my "Expert Parent" badge so that I can start passing out the advice?
I'm not an expert parent. I don't know how to help you cope with your child's fights at school or how to make transitions easier or how to potty train.
There is only one thing that I'm an expert at, and that's my family. I know what works for us. Our bedtime rituals, our morning routine, our weekend plans: I know they wouldn't work for anyone else. But the point of my parenting was not to determine what worked for everyone else. It was only to figure out what worked for us.
However, I'm only an expert on my family at this moment. Tomorrow, things may be different, and then the learning starts all over again.