I still read parenting and schooling books whenever I can. But I've begun to read them more like a frustrated grad student than an interested mother. I read the first three chapters, and then the conclusion to make sure there wasn’t a good part I missed. While I come across an occasional gem, many parenting books are a mirage and I walk away with a few pennies instead of a jackpot. Instead of discovering something new or different, it is just more of the same, except more diluted, watered down, and unspecific. Again and again I hit against the same wall, the truth that parenting is less of a science than art, and less of an art than toiling in the hot, dry soil hoping that something will grow.
Though I keep looking for the secret formula, I am beginning to realize that it does not matter so much what I do as a mom, as long as I have the basics down. What matters more is how present, patient, and mindful I am with my children and how much time I spend in thoughtful engagement as opposed to a reaction mode. The theory is maybe 30% and the other 70% is just old-fashioned hard work and plain old patience. I may know what I need to do, but do I have the perseverance and courage to do it? In the end, it will be the hard work and sweat that will count, not the innovative parenting shortcut. While parenting techniques can be extremely effective to a mother who is applying herself, they will not make much of a difference for a mother who does not work hard at it.
I am a great parent—in theory. But what it comes down to is this: if I cannot “pull myself up by the bootstraps”, as the companions used to say using a similar analogy, all the theories and ideas and awesome parenting techniques will just be icing on a dry cake. I am suddenly filled with respect for all the mothers of the previous generation, our mothers. Although we can point to the things we will do differently, one thing they had down right was the effort and striving they put into their children. I hope someday I can work up to that same level of dedication.