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Parenting Advice, a Guide or How to Manual?

Written by Melissa Arca MD

Driving through narrow, winding roads on a wet and cold afternoon, I wonder (silently) if we are going the right way. After our second near miss of a head on collision, I speak up. “This doesn’t seem right”, I finally say, more than a little perturbed.

“I know, but the GPS says we’re almost there.”

I want to shout out about how dumb the GPS must be and that we could clearly have been there already if we had just looked out our window, used our common sense, and followed the signs. I know I don’t need to speak the obvious. He already knows what I’m thinking. I’m certain he is thinking the same thing.

Then it hits me, right there on that narrow, winding road, how much parenting advice is like this GPS. As parents we want to do things “right” by our children. We seek out advice from books, from experts, from google, and from friends. And, while that advice can be helpful and much needed at times, we have to remember that parenting advice is meant to be a guide, not a how to manual.

I’ve definitely been led astray myself when I felt compelled to do things by the book. I was certain that if I just followed the steps laid out before me, my child would be sleeping through the night, using the potty, and eating a variety of healthy foods.

In my quest for finding the “right way”, I got lost. I forgot to look at my child, use my common sense, and follow my motherly instincts. I forgot to read the signs that my child was giving me. Now, I know a little better. I know that there are many paths to take in this parenting journey. Some roads might be narrow and winding and perhaps not the best way for my child. Others may be smooth and straight, with only a few bumps along the way.

My job as mom is to figure out the best road to take for my own child. To remember to look up from my book, magazine, or computer and see the signs right in front of me. The ones that will ultimately lead me in the right direction because they are the ones given to me by my child.

Dr. Arca is a pediatrician. She works part-time while raising her two young children, Big Brother (age 6) and Little Sister (age 3). She is passionate about writing and writing about motherhood, parenting, and children’s health is what she does best. Dr. Arca blogs regularly at Confessions of a Dr. Mom