Listening to the Experts - Ourselves

Though it was long ago, I still remember the time we saw green on the potatoes and I told a friend that those parts were poisonous. He asked where I'd heard that and I replied that my grandmother had told me. Hearing the source, he sounded skeptical, to say the least. Some time later, however, he announced that he'd discovered that the green really was poisonous. How did he know? He'd read a study written by an expert (male, of course) in a scientific journal.

I was incensed. Thinking about it now, I am still incensed. My grandmother had known this long before he was born, yet her knowing didn't count. It took an expert, a degree, a written study in a journal before he would accept it as true.

Which brings me to parenting, and experts. Now it's true that we can use help here. Many of us had no training for this work at all--and where could you find a more complex, multi-dimensional and demanding job? It's also probably true that our grandmothers can't teach us all we need to know on this subject. And the fact that more and more people are wanting to be helpful to parents has to be a good thing.

But the experts are multiplying like flies, and bombarding us from all sides with a dizzying barrage of studies, articles, products, advice columns, sign posts for child development, etc., etc., etc.. We, in turn, find ourselves incredibly vulnerable in the face of all this expertise. We want, more than anything else in the world, to do well by our children. And, if we have any perspective, we'll realize that we could use some help in doing this job well. And the experts sure sound like they know what they're talking about--after all, they have all those credentials.

So, if we read somewhere that a normal three-year-old should be exhibiting the following thus-and-such behaviors, and our three-year-old, horror of horrors, is not, then where are we left? Do we hunt down yet more experts to try to track down the cause and cure for our child's problematic abnormality (which will undoubtedly result in even more confusing, contradictory and guilt-inducing advice)? Do we do nothing at all, horribly conscious at every moment that this inaction may be ruining our child for life? Do we dare risk the possibility that he or she is actually fine?

To stay on solid ground amid this whirl of advice and expertise, it will help to remember that we are the experts on our children. We know them the best and we know ourselves the best. This doesn't mean that we have to give up all hope of help and go it entirely alone. But we get to choose our help. Amid all the studies and articles and advice columns (and relatives and friends) we can choose the help that takes into consideration our own unique situation, respects our intelligence and our caring, speaks directly to questions that we are asking and rings true in our hearts.

A lot of experts may have a lot to say about three-year-olds and thus-and-such behavior. And one of them may say exactly what we've been needing to hear. But, if secretly, in our heart of hearts we believe that our three-year-old is fine, then that is the expert to listen to.

We cannot be someone else's idea of what a good parent should be. If we tried to follow all the advice of the experts, we'd be nervous wrecks and our children would be too. Perhaps we can learn from them. But to be our best, we have to be the best of ourselves, not of anybody else.

I think of my grandmother. She just knew about those potatoes. We need the same confidence in ourselves as parents.