Crisp bindings. Colorful covers. Promises like sanity, organization, time, discipline, or even miracles, like "toilet training in one day!" or "tantrum-free excursions!" The voices are nurturing, friendly, and cozy, and when you read the right parenting book, you feel like you've hung out with a really smart friend who's sharing all their secrets, and now, you will definitely be supermom (or dad) because you have been lucky enough to hear these words of wisdom.
Except. Except these authors leave some stuff out. Here's what they don't say:
1. They lose it too. Every parent loses her cool sometimes. It's impossible to stay calm for the 18 years it takes to raise a child. You will yell. You will possibly scream. You will not do the right thing, you will mismanage your toddler, and you will provoke a meltdown. You cannot do everything right all the time. Forgive yourself. There will be moments when you feel like you totally rocked it, and others when you just want to hide under a rock. High-five your kids when it goes well and apologize when it doesn't. They'll forgive you as long as you try to do better next time.
2. As my mother-in-law always reminds me, "Two steps forward and one step back." Be proud of your child's new achievements, but don't get too arrogant, because gaining in one aspect of development usually means backtracking in another. Remember when your infant learned how to pull herself to standing and then stopped sleeping so she could practice? All night? Yeah. One step forward and two steps back.
3. Make time for your marriage. Or your friendships. Or yourself. Do not lose yourself in this competitive, guilt-ridden parenting culture of ours that encourages parents to make life so much about kids that you forget who you are, why you love your husband, or what you enjoy so much about your best friend. It is not a competition on who can spend so much time and energy on their children that they do nothing else. It's awesome if you can bake the frosted cookies, clean your house, cook organic meals, and play dinosaurs with your toddler. Do as much as you can, of course. Enjoy and love and play. But you were a whole person before your children, and you will be again once they are grown. So nurture yourself too. Parenting is a two-way relationship. Make sure both people are cared for and loved.
Sarahlynne loves writing for Shine as a Parenting Guru. Her parenting book, "Making Kid Time Count: Ages 0-3: The Attentive Parent Advantage" is coming to Barnes and Noble and Amazon on Oct. 1. She's also the co-creator of merelymothers.com, a website that discusses and debates all things parenting.