Information: Friend or Foe?

By Melissa Stefanec

Parents today have access to so much information. Generations before us had to rely on a combination of people, books, magazines and wholesome television or radio shows to get parenting information.

Those of us who became parents in the digital age are suffering from information overload.

It’s not all bad. A lot of this information is valuable. Some of it is complete garbage. However, even the good information has it downside.

Living with so much mental stimuli has some nasty side effects. Today’s parents can be better informed than any generation before us, but we also have more priorities and expectations. Having insights into all the things we should be doing inevitably shines a spotlight on all the things we aren’t doing right. If you read enough articles, listen to enough podcasts and talk to the wrong kinds of people, the information overload and the demands it encompasses can leave you feeling like a total failure. It can make you feel like everyone else has their act together while you alone are fumbling.

Here’s a little secret: we are all fumbling. When I am lucky enough to find an honest and frank parent, the stories they share with me are so similar to my own. Just like me, they are struggling, giving it their all and in love with their parenting journey.

So, to prove that none of us is a perfect parent, I am going to share some solid parenting recommendations that I am in the habit of flouting. I think most of these items help raise happy and healthy kids, but, because of various circumstances, I’m not pulling them off.

Supposed to: Eat family dinners

Most nights of the week, my family is not together for dinner. Between me and my husband’s work schedules and other obligations, my family of four often sits down as a family of three. I think a family dinner every night is a great idea, but it’s also not attainable for many people for a variety of factors. I put this recommendation on the nice-to-have list and find special joy in the times everyone is there for dinner, which is three times a week at best.

• Supposed to: Skip sweets

On numerous occasions, I’ve fed my children the following items for breakfast: cookies, pie, cake, doughnuts, chocolate croissants, sugary cereals, ice cream and (god forgive me) whipped mascarpone. My kids are lucky to be in the third percentile for weight and height, so I just want them to eat something, even if that something isn’t the “right” thing. As long as they keep devouring their vegetables, I give them sweets.

• Supposed to: Go a whole day without yelling

When I am my best self, I rarely yell. When I am over-extended and over-challenged by work and tantrums, I yell. I know yelling isn’t good. I know it has a lot of negative sides effects. However, there are days when I can’t say, “please put your boots on so we can get to daycare” in a Mary-Poppins tone seven times in a row. I do often apologize when I yell. When I calm down, I find a way to convey my frustration in my normal voice instead of my kraken voice.

• Supposed to: Not say anything inappropriate around my kids

Once in a while, I say stuff I shouldn’t around my kids. With all of the world events, bad drivers, politics and my unusual sense of humor, inappropriate stuff slips through my lips. My most-frequent offenses come when I am on Bluetooth in someone’s car and don’t know there are children present. When I say something I shouldn’t, I recognize that and self-correct, hoping the wee bystanders will learn the same ‘grace.’

• Supposed to: Listen to Disney Radio and Kidz Bop

I know kids love kid’s songs. I know they help their development, but I refuse to believe Kidz Bop is the mother goose of the 21st century. Until my kids demand otherwise, I am rocking music I can stand to listen to and, heaven-forbid, enjoy. There will likely come a day when the soundtrack of my life is peppered with songs I want to avoid, but that day is not now. My kids get enough Kidz Bop at school.

• Supposed to: Fundraise at work

All the causes are great, and I should be doing my part for them. The thing is, kids aren’t really allowed to sell door-to-door anymore, so there is an expectation that parents become wrapping-paper pushers at their day jobs. However, I’ve been getting the vibe that bringing in order forms for the latest candles or frozen cookie dough is more and more unwelcomed around the office. Thus, I order stuff myself, give most of it as gifts, and make sure to support other, non-commercial fundraisers throughout the year.

This list is hardly all-encompassing, but I hope it makes someone out there feel less alone. There’s a fine line between keeping yourself informed and keeping yourself insecure. I recommend taking each piece of parenting information in moderation. Don’t expect too much of yourself, don’t label yourself as a failure and try to let the information you get be guidance instead of gospel.