Three and a Half Parenting Advice Rebuttals

Just drive the baby around, they’ll be sure to fall asleep that way!

Noooope.  This was not my experience; try replacing “fall asleep” with “scream endlessly” and you’ll get a little closer to the mark.  Maybe it works for some babies (I know this is true!) but there are plenty of infants who are not fans of the automobile industry, and you can pick them out by the slightly unhinged eyebrow waggling that probably happens to the parent’s face when the “pop them in the car” suggestion comes up.

A calming lavender bath will help baby fall right to sleep


[deep breath]


If you feed them a wide variety of foods, they’ll keep expanding their palate from there. 

This might be true of some kids, but kids are people with likes and dislikes, and the idea that we can program behaviors and traits that we don’t like out of them early by what we offer them seems so limiting.  It would be fantastic if kids ate everything they were offered and were all adventurous eaters, but people are just different, man.  A kid can be fed all the variety in the world, and still end up liking a very small number of things — not because they’re trying to be difficult, but because they’re a full person.

And the whole food theory above kind of brings me to my larger thought about all that kind of advice about fine-tuning the perfect childhood: I think it’s futile.  Children are whole people, who will sometimes dance in our metaphorical shadows, and other times, they won’t; they’ll cast strange shadows we don’t recognize, illuminating their whole personalities in dazzling ways.  But it means that while we can give them opportunities to figure out who they are and what they like, engineering their habits and choices and whittling things down in an effort to mold the habits we want or the future we envision for them — however good! — seems to miss the serendipity of discovery — of discovering the love of a sport not because a parent’s enrolled them in a class, but because a picture book showed it, or a friend’s cousin introduced it at a gathering.  There’s something to be said for being out in the world as a child, seeing something you like for no real reason other than it calls to you, and wanting to take a go at it, rather than being carefully guided towards that path.

I’m sure after writing this post, I’ll still insist my daughter try eggplant parmesan; I’m sure I’ll still enroll her in ballet or violin at some point.  But I like to think that I’m not envisioning some future for her around those things, any more than I’d envision a future for her around eggplant parmesan.

I’m interested to see what she falls into naturally on her own, without my flashlight shining the way on her life’s little path.

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