The Parenting Manual 

“It must be true, it’s on the internet”- Man circa 2017

Hours before my eyes were glued to a heart rate monitor. A tiny heart beat fast, then slow, then fast again. The events that day led me on a rollercoaster ride of fear, anxiety, happiness, dread and back to happiness.  It’s heavy man, let me tell you. If you don’t feel the gravity of the situation here, then I ask you to check your pulse and brain waves.

Directions Not Included

The realization that I was now a father came slowly, as I stared into my son’s newly-opened eyes. “Awe” seems too light a word to describe the feeling. What followed was a sense of “what the hell am I doing?” after our arrival home with a new human being!! I searched desperately for the owner’s manual but it was nowhere to be found. It appears the manual was never written nor included with a new child.

The Advice Pours In

Immediately upon the birth of my son, the rules poured in. From nap schedules to feeding tips. Sometimes the advice was warranted, other times, not so much. Some of that advice worked and others fell into the “what was I thinking” category.

Of course peanut butter is bad for your kids. Toy guns are frowned upon. Remember to limit screen time. Don’t let your kids drink Kool-Aid. Organic diapers are a must. Vaccines are bad. The amount of do’s and don’t’s appear limitless. The “new wave” parent is more informed than ever. Quick to make decisions based on information vetted by….. well, who the hell knows. But, it’s gotta be true. It’s on the internet.

The effectiveness of your parenting may be the topic of silent whispers at the park, while your two-year-old bites the seat of the swing like a rabid puppy.

So, where is this owner’s manual? Is the manual found online, in the depths of blogs, forums, and social media posts? Who holds the key? All the answers? Who really knows what the hell they are doing here? Is it MOMMY1989 blasting you for the picture of your kid eating a cup cake?

I Turned Out Pretty Good, Right?

Maybe I was raised a barbarian. A savage boy reared by a pack of wolves. I napped under card tables as an intense game of black jack roared above. I ate dirt and collected shards of glass in belief they were crystals. I chugged Sunny D on a hot summers day. Consumed a pound of gummy bears, stolen from the pantry. I helped myself to many a cookie produced in a facility that also processes nuts. Seems the rules and regulations seen today were MIA. Statistically speaking, I should be a victim of my environment, my diet, maybe even my choice in light up footwear. But, I turned out pretty decent, right?

So what’s the matrix that produces great kids? Should I have my boys nap under a card table ? Introduce them to Sunny D? Well, not necessarily.

How Badly Can We Mess Up?

We live in the safest era of our country, yet it seems like there is a barrage of ways to screw up our kids. From what music they listened to in the womb to what preschool they attend. No matter what, there is a new-wave opinion guaranteed to make you doubt your fathering skills. The toughest part here is that you want to do the best for your kids. Who doesn’t? So here we have it—a “blank slate” that can be molded by our genetics and environment. We can’t do much about the genetics, but the environment, that is where our challenge lies.

Fathering Level: Expert

Truth is, there is no manual. No hard facts to drive your fathering to level expert. And, if someone claims to have that answer, they are selling something. We operate in the gray. The very deep gray. No set rule or theory applies to these little monsters we call our children. The truth is, your action is based completely on what works for your kid and your family. Keep your kids safe, provide opportunities for them to thrive, and give them challenges to overcome. The manual we have is written as we go, we are the authors. No one ever truly gets it perfect and we aren’t supposed to.

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Efren is the Father of two boys. He is a police officer outside of Chicago and a certified personal trainer.

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