Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Get in the Game

I heard an item on the news the other night about a new trend in parenting. It's called "Parent Coaches" and, because this is America, you find these people by hiring them. I kid you not. To quote the Parent Coaching Institute: Parent coaching is a compassionate, collaborative way to help parents identify priorities and make clear choices based on what is most optimal for themselves and their children. All I can say is, what the hell is wrong with us as parents?

I'm not saying that the goals of Parent Coaches are wrong, but haven't we taken this strive to become better parents just a smidge too far? Sure, I could use help identifying my priorities and sometimes I wonder if I'm making the best choices for me and my kids. But the point is that I'm making the choices. Right or wrong, true or misguided, I'm making the mistakes and learning from them. Not to mention that my kids are watching me and taking mental notes of what to do or not to do when they have their own families. The point is to participate, not to hire out the experience.

Apparently, one of the things that a Parent Coach can do is teach your kids to learn to ride a two-wheeler bike. Look, I know that this is a daunting task. I'd go so far as to say that it was not one of my fondest memories as a parent. It involved crying, screaming, frustration, falling and generally countless attempts until success was achieved. But eventually it was achieved and I was glad to be a part of it. I can't imagine saying to my child: "Do you remember when you told me about how you learned to ride a two-wheeler and Mr. Smith kept picking you up from the concrete?"

I admit that there are times when I could have used a sounding board or perhaps a shoulder to cry on. My husband was always very supportive but sometimes a third-party can give you non-partisan advice that you won't resent. On the other hand, when I was about to lose my mind, I usually figured out some kind of wacky solution that got me through the crisis. If I had called a Parent Coach, would I ever have developed the skills that I probably used later on with some other issue?

The question is whether this is just another way that we're pawning off our responsibilities on other people? I'm not talking about day care or education or sports. What I mean is: what are we teaching our kids by hiring Parent Coaches? That when the going gets tough, the tough hire out? And what about the people that can't afford Parent Coaches at $75 an hour? Are they bad parents? I don't think so.

I don't doubt that these Parent Coaches have great advice. Perhaps they've encountered exactly the problems that I might face in the coming year. But what will I learn by leaning on them instead of figuring it out on my own? Is this much different than somebody else writing my kid's term paper? It just doesn't seem right. I'm not saying it's unethical, I just don't think it's a wise idea.

On the other hand, maybe there is a place for these newfound professionals - let's hook them up with teen parents. These are the people that really need their help because they're hardly adults themselves. Why is it that in America you need a license to drive a car or pull a fish out of a lake but you only need a sex drive and fertility to become a parent? Let's take these Parent Coaches and send them out on tour and force every teenager to attend a gathering called "Mamapalooza" where Parent Coaches share the ugly truth about parenthood - it's hard. Can you think of a better form of teen birth control?

Parenthood is like marriage - it's for better or for worse. And if it's not both, then it's not real. If a hired "professional" walks you through it, are you really participating? At my son's graduation, one of the speakers, who happened to be the football coach, talked about life being a game and we all play a position in it. Sure, as parents we're going to strike out, get tackled, miss a goal and drop the ball, but that's what makes the game exciting. Because you never know when you're going to hit a home run or score a touchdown. Or think of it this way: Some of the greatest sports stories of all time, such as Rudy or Hoosiers, are about underdogs - people who overcame great odds to succeed. Isn't that exactly how you feel some days as a parent?


At 11:29 AM , Blogger Robin said...

Oh, I so agree with you on this...

Part of the joy of parenting is being able to participate in the immense successes of our children's lives. This helps ease the countless frustrations that lead up to those points. And I agree with what you say about being the decision makers, good or bad. Even the bad decisions help shape us as parents and people, as well as provide fodder for our children's therapy sessions down the line.


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