Sep 28, 2010


Romantic Comedy. Drama. Bromance. Horror. Thriller. Sci-Fi. Action. Adventure. Mystery.

If parenthood was a movie on Netflix it could fall under any of these headings depending on the day (and sometimes depending on the hour or even the minute).

On a good day, it’s a Romantic Comedy: birds are singing, dogs are wagging their tails, parents are happily reading “Goodnight Moon” for the hundredth time, the baby chuckles at mommy’s tickles and then goes to sleep easily, curled up in his crib with his little bum up in the air and his legs tucked under his tummy. And everyone lives Happily Ever After.

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On a bad day, parenthood falls right into the Horror genre: exhausted parents, screaming babies, poop and/or puke everywhere, perhaps even some blood to round out the color palette. Toys strewn about, pages ripped out of books, and at least one person in the house yelling with rage and frustration.

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Often it’s a Mystery, as the parents question what the heck they’re doing: “Did baby have enough to eat? Too much? Should we have given him something different? Should we let him cry it out? Pick him up? Rock him but without making eye contact?”

And it’s definitely, always, and without a doubt, an Adventure.

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If parenthood was a book with a Dewey Decimal number it could be on a shelf in the Biography section, the Self-help section, and even sometimes the Fiction section (for those parents who act as though everything is always perfect and pretend that they don’t mind answering a thousand “whys?” or picking Cheerios up off the floor).

It could be found with the Cookbooks, the Economics books, or even Pyschology.

There’s one more literary genre though, one that saw its hey-day in the late eighties and early nineties, that Parenthood falls into the majority of the time: the Choose Your Own Adventure genre. Because that’s really what being a parent is- every day you’re making decisions that are going to affect (either a little or a lot) the type of person your child is going to become. Some decisions are small: juice or milk? This book or that book? And some are big: public school or homeschool? Vaccinations or not? And each of these decisions, whether they seem to or not, lead to other decisions. If baby had juice with lunch then at dinner there’s milk, and so on.

Every day as a parent we’re faced with thousands of these decisions and as our children get older our job is not just to make the choices FOR our child but to help them make these decisions themselves. Blue socks or red socks? Strawberries or banana? By teaching our children to make good SMALL decisions now, we’re helping to ensure that they’ll be able to make good BIG decisions later. Or at least that’s the plan. Because right now, while our children are young, it’s the parents who are in charge of “Choosing our Own Adventure.” We have the final say in the things that matter when it comes to the choices our children make. But eventually what we call “Our Adventure” will become “Their Adventure” and we need to make sure that our kids are well-equipped for the life ahead of them.

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So we’re starting out small. Little Paul is too young to make any big choices but he can certainly choose between his Elmo socks or his Cookie Monster socks, between reading a Thomas the Train book before bed or a Curious George, and between having apple juice or berry juice with his lunch. And hopefully, with some guidance and support and a little help from Mom and Dad when it comes time for him to “Choose His Own Adventure” he’ll be ready. He’ll understand that his decisions will have outcomes and consequences. He’ll be able to make good choices for the most part and will “Choose his Own Adventure” wisely. And while every day I wish LP could stay little forever and never grow up and leave his Mommy I can’t wait to see who he becomes, what kind of man he will be, what kind of life he will lead. I feel so lucky that Paul and I are blessed with the opportunity to have a part in shaping the kind of person our son is going to grow into. With lots of work and lots of love we’re going to make sure that we’re setting him off on his adventure with the best luggage possible: suitcases full of confidence, talent, resourcefulness, and kindness (and probably with some heavier baggage too!) and with the skills he’ll need to survive and thrive in this world.

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