Parenting is really fucking* hard.
*We searched for a different adjective, but sometimes the F-bomb is the most accurate. There may be a few sprinkled in here and there, but we did our best to keep this thing PG-13.
- Parenting is hard because there’s no user manual. No “one thing” to turn to for help. Instead, there’s a plethora of so-called experts, each spouting the TOP 10 THINGS EVERY PARENT NEEDS TO DO. And it’s usually the complete opposite of the other expert’s list.
- Parenting is hard because no two kids are the same. Even twins, who you’d expect to be close in temperament, can be radically different from each other. No two kids are the same, and as a parent you don’t parent kids in the same way. First borns get a very different experience of their parents than the kids who follow, and the lessons learned with one kid necessarily mean that the next in line gets a slightly different version of parenting.
- Parenting is hard because it’s stressful. And if it’s not stressful, you’re probably doing something wrong. The sheer fact that you’re ultimately responsible for not just the basic needs of small humans (food, water, shelter), but also responsible for growing them into functioning, competent adults is mind boggling. Most of the time it feels like shooting in the dark. What does my 5 year old need to learn and experience now in order to be a functioning 7 year old? Is this normal teenage behaviour? How will I know if I’m doing a good job?
- Parenting is hard because we’re making it up as we go. We see our friends and families leading seemingly perfect lives on Facebook, a highlight reel of trips and shared experiences, holiday crafts and matching sweaters. And we think sometimes that we’re screwing it up because our life is a little bit more “can’t find the matching socks” and a lot less “let’s wear matching sweaters
- Parenting is hard because we don’t see that everyone else is struggling with it. That no one has it totally figured out. That we’re all shooting in the dark. That some days it’s a miracle that everyone gets fed and bedtime stories read in between the chaos of work, school, walking the dogs and extracurricular activities.
This manifesto is our attempt, between two fathers (one a psychologist, the other not) to break down some of the myths and misunderstandings of parenting and, most importantly, give you something to hold on to. A handrail on a steep set of stairs. A flashlight in the dark.
This manifesto is based on our decade of working together with some of the most vulnerable and at risk youth & families in society, those experiencing the harmful effects of substance use and addiction. It’s also based on leading research in child development and neurobiology (and some other fields), with the recognition that no one’s got time to read that shit, except if they’re getting paid for it! There are things we now know about us (humans) and how we learn that could fundamentally change the paradigm of parenting.
This manifesto is not about parenting hacks, the 7 essential strategies for whatever, or some kind of guaranteed path to parenting success. It’s based on principles of parenting, not necessarily strategies or tactics. Should you give your kid an allowance? Who the hell are we to say yes or no?
Above all, this manifesto is meant to be useful and practical. Wherever possible we cut to the chase, distill the science and give as clear a path forward as possible, knowing that we’re not trying to be the experts, just two dad’s simultaneously raising our own kids and helping others do the same.
We hope that some of our learning and ideas on this thing called “parenting” can help you on your journey.
Jeff & Kelly