Stumbling toward knowing best

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Pediatricians, therapists, academics, your in-laws, your friends and the tight-lipped lady in the grocery line have plenty of opinions about how to parent “correctly,” but you know your child best.

Right? I mean, yes! I do know my child best. He is of my loins. Of course I know him best.

I think.

It’s a grand irony that the biggest concession made by the “expert parenting industry” — that parents best understand the quirks and particulars of their own kids — has sometimes left me as bewildered as the more bald-faced judgements that I’m doing it all wrong.

Because, if I know my kid best, why so often do I feel unsure about my parenting choices?

“Knowing best,” in the parenting sense of the phrase, is misleading, because it feels nothing like knowing other things best. For example, I know pie. I’ve eaten a lot of pie, I love pie, I have opinions about pie, and I can confidently say: I know my pie preferences best.

If I know my kid best, why so often do I feel unsure about my parenting choices?

But as a parent, even my strongly-held beliefs and values get called into question. I may think I know something — about getting my kid to sleep, or teaching responsibility and empathy, say — but then life comes along and toys with my confidence.

For me as a parent, “knowing best” isn’t bolt-out-of-the-blue self-assurance. It’s a slow process of coming-into-focus that often starts at complete and utter cluelessness. But it’s a process that can be trusted if you approach it with open eyes and an open mind.

If you find yourself wondering why you don’t radiate parenting confidence even though you supposedly “know your child best,” remember that you’re getting to know your child at the same time she’s coming to know herself. And that every child is like the proverbial river into which you can never step twice…they grow and learn so much and so quickly that “knowing” them is as much a journey as it is a destination.

This post originally appeared on my Babble Voices blog, The Accidental Expert.

Photo credit: Nick de Partee on Unsplash

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