Before I had a child, I couldn't imagine giving birth to a child who was not me. I knew it was theoretically possible, of course, but was pretty sure that the kid I popped out would look like me, want to do what I want to do, and be utterly delightful. Kid #1 is utterly delightful, and sort of looks like me if you factor in that I'm 36 years older and he's so good-looking that he stops traffic. Let's just call it vague family resemblance. But he couldn't be less like me in most ways.
Then I had a second child. I couldn't imagine that Kid #2 would be any different from child #1. Certainly at least the two of them would be alike. Wrong. For starters, Kid #2 is a girl. And she doesn't look like me at all, but is interested in many of the same things I am. Her temperament is more like mine. We are both made of music.
As I watch the parents around me do their very best job to parent their children, I see them struggling: children on the autism spectrum, kids with gender confusion, vision problems, dyslexia, focus issues, attention-deficit disorder, mental illness of many types, attachment disorders, adoption issues, linding brilliance and slow processing, children who are afraid to not be perfect, brain tumors, premature-birth delays, sensory-defensiveness, lack of social skills, lack of spatial awareness, and plain old kids-will-be-kids things like grumpy teenagers and demanding three-year-olds.
I also watch these parents scrambling to pay the bills, struggling to save their marriages while wondering whether they're worth saving.
If I could give one piece of advice to the parents in turmoil around me, it would be this: keep your knees bent. Some of you who may interpret that to mean I'm advising you to be in a constant state of bended-knee-prayer. That may help as well. But I'm talking about the "keep your knees bent while we ski down this field of moguls because we don't know which ones are big and which ones are small and the only safe position is one which is completely, totally flexible and ready-for-anything and just because it's a quiet moment doesn't mean that the next bump won't be bigger so relax a little while maintaining this ready-for-anything posture."
Substituting parenting jargon for skiing jargon, I suggest:
"Before you begin to face a parenting challenge, it's essential that you have the right body position: that means your arms and your hips forward, your eyes looking three bumps in front of you and your chest up. Most importantly, you should be able to feel your shins crushing against the front of your boots. (You don't know whether this one's a big one or not. Prepare emotionally and physically for anything.) When approaching a bump at any speed, it's important to start your absorption early. Begin your absorption when you first sense a problem coming your way. When absorbing, bend your knees and pull up your legs against your chest. Make sure that your knees are coming up and that your chest is not dropping down. (You're as flexible as a coiled spring. Do not lose heart!) Also, during absorption, be sure sure to drive yourself down the bump and stay front seat, (don't waste time patting yourself on the back for getting the worst behind you - you know not what waits ahead...) while not letting your feet get out in front of you. Once your feet get over the highest part you need to drive yourself down the back side of the bump and extend your legs. Once you're fully extended you're ready to absorb the next bump. With some practice and hard work, you'll soon find out that that absorbing the bumps is actually quite easy. Good luck!"
Watch this and imagine you are the skier: coping brilliantly with each challenge while maintaining the perfect trajectory. Just keep your knees bent. Oh, and also you might need to fly into the air now and then. Parenting means being ready for anything.