On Advice, Or, Jackie’s Accidental Rant on Parenting Books

Think Kit, Day 14!! TK wants to know: Did you get any good advice or learn a valuable lesson this year? What was it?

Someone’s probably going to be mad at me in a second, because I’m about to say that I haven’t received any advice this year.

That’s PROBABLY not true, and the reason it’s likely not accurate is because people, more or less, have a default advice-giving mode. Got a problem? Find a human!–he or she will have something to suggest.

Why do we do this?–why do we advise? (Yes, we–I do it, too–I’m kind of doing it right now as I write this. Be ye warned.) I suspect much (if not ALL) of the advice offered on a day-to-day basis comes as a probably-unconscious attempt to justify our own actions, our own points of view. We want people to think about the same things we do, in the way we do, because if someone gets on board and takes our advice, we can feel good that our belief system about X is valuable and that we, by extension, are going about this whole business of living, at least in the realm of whatever advice we gave, in a smart and totally awesome way.


So where does that leave us? Unable to take any advice because we have to suspect it’s all been offered in a sort of self-serving way?






I’m going with “it depends.”

Let me give you an example: since becoming a parent, I have met many other moms, and some of these moms are plagued by the world of parenting books. These books have something to say about EVERYTHING. How to feed your baby. How to get your baby to sleep. How to conceptualize the whole of your child’s existence, and, boy, don’t fuck it up now because you’re probably going to raise a little ax murderer, or something. (This is the parenting book talking, not me–I don’t think you’re going to eff things up.)

It’s a nightmare, really. The books–the books are a nightmare.

REAL TRUE FACT: There’s no G(osh)D(arn) manual for kids. If there were, I’d expect it to be plastered to their backsides when they’re born, but I’ve birthed two kidbabies and I didn’t get a scrap of info either time.

Why am I so up in arms about this? Aren’t these books helpful? Don’t they give Clueless Parents (that is to say, All Parents) somewhere to start? 

Um, sure. I guess so. But this is what happens: a well-meaning mother picks up a parenting book or 20, reads said book(s) and is, for a moment, enriched and heartened by all the wonderful advice. BUT THEN: real life happens. And the unsuspecting baby–who has probably NOT been informed that Mommy had read the aforementioned parenting books and should therefore shape his existence and mannerisms in compliance with the child-rearing modality that Mommy has chosen–yes, this poor little kid does something to cause improper implementation of X modality, and suddenly Mommy (or Daddy, or whoever; I’m not here to be judgy) feels like a frigging failure.

A failure.

A failure at a thing that I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to fail at, provided you keep your kid alive and relatively well. There aren’t RULES. Parenthood isn’t a movie we’re all acting in (though I think it’s a hit TV show . . .)–they don’t hand you a script when you come to the hospital–there’s no nurse sneering at you, never deviate from these lines, or else. 

But that’s what parenting books–parenting advice–does. It makes perfectly wonderful mothers and fathers, who are doing the very best they can, feel like they haven’t met the standards of gosh knows who.

WHOSE STANDARDS ARE THESE, PEOPLE??! Let’s ask the question. Let’s examine who we’re letting tell us what’s what.

Let’s wrap up this, um, gosh, is this a rant? with a bit of Jackie-advice (if you’ll permit me): pick your people–your trusted advisors–ahead of time, before the advice rolls in. Back to my parenting example–I have a few folks that I go to if I need to kick something around–I don’t simply post my query to Facebook and let the ravenous crowd have at it. I would simply be unable and unwilling to make something from all the different types of feedback I would likely receive, and then I’m just wasting EVERYONE’S time.

We forget this sometimes–there’s a quality control process to advice-getting, and we advice-receivers have a role. Don’t forget your role. And, don’t forget your role isn’t advice-enacting-lacky. Unless you want it to be. Then it totally is your role. You have fun, you!

(Editor’s note: if you feel that for some reason you now hate Jackie, take a breather and please go enjoy yesterday’s post, which is centered on the topic of fun and lots of LOLz.)

3 Replies to “On Advice, Or, Jackie’s Accidental Rant on Parenting Books”

  1. I kind of read some of this. At least the first part. Not that I didn’t want to read the rest, but I have a hard time reading, especially once my mind is triggered with an idea of my own. I have untreated adult adhd. Anyway, I have to think that a lot of people probably give advice for the opposite reason. I often give advice to alienate or seperate myself from others. Knowing they will disapprove, and using it to create a social distance- often not even really believing in the advice I’ve given. Probably because I often don’t have any real advice to give on most topics. But I can think something up really quick! After all, every area is gray, so if we throw a little black advice at someone’s white thinking, or visa versa…it’s kinda harmless anyway. Plus, it kinda makes me feel snooty that I saw the grayness of the situation and they didn’t. Snootiness is cool. Also, hi-jacking someone else’s blog and using the comments section as your own mini-blog is also kinda cool.

    1. Ha. I don’t disagree completely, though I might not say I’m giving “advice” if I want to complicate someone’s perspective, and I definitely wouldn’t term it that I I was trying to create social distance, etc. So this leaves questions: can it only be termed “advice” if it is well-meant? What’s the term for it, if it’s not? Discussion? Argument? Back-handed advice?

      But then…can I really offer an answer to someone who admits he hasn’t read the ENTIRE post? 😉

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