How To Parent When You’re Clueless

Are you a clueless parent? Here's my #1 Parenting Tip.

By: Amy Dalke

I originally wrote this post as a guest blogger for Made to Mother, a blog with stories by moms about motherhood. But I wanted to share it with you all today, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how thankful I am to raise Luke in a Jesus-loving, church family. There’s nothing better than having a group of people who support you, and love you, and sharpen you as a parent. Especially if you started off as a totally clueless parent like I did. Especially if you still feel clueless.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I stared blankly back at the newborn nurse, who held a tiny diaper out for me; and it took her a moment to register that I didn’t have the slightest clue how to perform the task that she asked of me.

“Um, I don’t know how to do that, ma’am. Could you show me?”

So with a pitiful look of disgust, she taught this 27-year old how to change a diaper.

Welcome to parenthood, people.

Clueless doesn’t sufficiently describe my entrance into this parenting thing. Frankly, I wasn’t one of those girls who grew up dreaming of motherhood. In fact, I would have called that kind of dream a nightmare.

From my perspective, babies were too needy, and toddlers just threw tantrums. Why would I want one of those?

Once (once) when I was a freshman in high school, I was asked to babysit for a 7 year old boy, a 5-ish year old girl, and their 18 month old baby brother.

Poor family.

Looking back, I’m sad that they had no idea that they were leaving their most precious treasures in the hands of a unskilled laborer. They evidently missed the look of horror etched across my face as they strolled out the front door for the evening.

And I’ve suppressed much of that evening to the dark recesses of my traumatic memory bank, except I do remember the part where I had to clean poop off the walls. That happened because I asked the 7 year old to change the baby’s diaper since I was too afraid to do it myself. (Basically, not awesome.)

When the dad drove me home later that night, a ripe odor lingered in the car. I thought he had a stomachache or something. Until I realized once I got home and changed clothes that my shirt sported leftovers from the disaster I had cleaned off the bathroom wallpaper. (And good times were had by all.)

They must have lost my number, because they didn’t call me to babysit again. (Thank you, Jesus.) And I vowed to never-ever pursue a career as an au pair. Thus, that was the last taste of childcare that I experienced before my son was born thirteen years later.

When my friends had babies, I pretty much avoided them until their children were old enough to use complete sentences. Frankly, the dependance and vulnerability of a small child terrified me. And I knew enough from my babysitting failure that I was not cut out to be responsible for the welfare of a tiny human being.

Which explains why, years later, I burst into panic-stricken tears when the labor and delivery nurse told me it was time check out of the hospital. Because, hello reality. Apparently they also wanted us to take this baby boy home. With us. For good. For…ever. With no nursery staff to hold my hand and tell me how to do it.

I cannot even describe the holy fear that filled our vehicle on the 10 mile drive home from the hospital. All the how-to-parent books and magazine articles I had read over the last few months were a jumbled blur in my hormone-drunk brain.

The only preparedness I felt had to do with the organization of all our baby supplies. But  then again, what good are diapers when you don’t know how to work them? (Seriously, bless my heart.)

Because when you don't have a clue, prayer is your best bet. (Every time.)

Luke turned 9 years old in December, and I still have a holy fear when it comes to parenting. Mostly because I don’t carry an ounce of natural parenting wisdom within me. Sure, I picked up the diapering skills pretty quickly; and I mastered the art of “No-no” when he toddled through the house like a tornado. But parenting is so much easier when they can’t talk back.

So like those sweet infants who once scared the living daylights out of me, I’m desperately dependent on God to provide everything I need to mother this child he gave to me. I don’t know that I will ever be able to spell out 5 Perfect Parenting Tips.

But if there’s been one single, tried-and-true, cost-effective method that saves the day every single time, it is prayer.

It’s a mother on her knees because she has no clue how to do this thing. Luke’s diet might not be preservative-free and nutrient dense, but he is definitely drenched in prayer. (I basically pray a lot that God will turn the pop-tarts into the vitamin equivalent of a spinach omelet.) (I’m only half-kidding.)

Sometimes I wish I approached all of life like I approach parenting. Because I’m wise enough to know that I am unsuited to do this mothering business on my own. So I do it with my face buried in the carpet as pleas fly up to heaven.

I’ve clearly made a strong case for you to consider me a parenting expert…so I’ll refrain from offering you any practical recommendations on how to deal with picky eaters or something. (I mean, pop-tarts and all…). Instead, I hope you will forever hold the image of a determined mother parenting on her knees; and my prayer is that you will parent with a holy wonder, steeped in awareness that you don’t have a clue…and that’s the best place to be.

Amy