To get a driver’s license, you have to take a course and pass two tests, one written and one practical. To be a teacher, you need a master’s degree and years of specialized training, academic and on-the-job. To do the hardest, most important job on the planet — parenting — there are no requirements. None. Zip. No required preparation of any kind. No training. No test. You’re on your own. The first time I ever held a baby, I was six months pregnant with my first child.

Last year I spent time with family in a house with a young mom, Jennifer, her eight-year-old daughter Jayda, and her two-year-old son Jase. I saw firsthand the tremendous advantage of training for parenthood. Jennifer had been a grade school teacher, trained in early childhood behavior and education. She is now a principal in an elementary school.

She was the best parent I’ve ever seen. She had mad skills!


Jennifer had clearly studied child development and the best ways to handle young kids. She stayed mellow whatever was going on, so she was able to use her knowledge. In nearly three days, I never saw her lose her temper — or even her cool.

She was amazingly consistent with both children. Consistency is critical and was something I could never achieve. Every time Jase did something he wasn’t supposed to, like throwing something, he got a matter of fact, short time out. No drama, no anger. When told he needed a time out, he said “Yes, Mama” and went quietly.


Jennifer knew how to distract and redirect a hyper-active and sometimes antsy toddler. Jase never reached the point of meltdown and neither did anyone else. He went down for naps and to bed without fuss because Mom was gentle but firm. She made it clear that there was no negotiation possible.

She also managed to spend time with Jayda. She got the two kids to interact peacefully. There was no sibling rivalry or fights for Mom’s attention. Peace reigned for more than 48 straight hours with only a few short bouts of toddler tears. In defense of all other mothers reading this, this child was an angel with a wonderful, happy disposition. He also had other relatives around to help entertain him.

But I could see in Jennifer’s actions textbook child-rearing techniques I’d read about. I believe those techniques and knowledge let Jennifer feel confident and in control. This, in turn, allowed her to stay calm and handle situations rationally and intelligently. She spread the calm to her kids. It was awesome. Humbling to watch.


I was a good parent but I had an ideal in my head to which I was never able to attain. Jennifer embodied that ideal. I’m sure she has the innate temperament to be a wonderful mother. But I’m also sure she was helped by the practical tools her training gave her. They made it possible for her to reach the goal of most parents: to be the best parent we can be.

We can all use all the help we can get!


  1. In earlier days society was different. We did not expect, realistically, a woman to be left alone with a newborn child for any length of time. When her time was near female relatives would begin arriving, to stay, in many cases, until the baby was maybe 4 or 5 months old. A new mother learned from her own mother, and her married sisters, how to tend a child.

    The fact that we now bundle up a 20 year old girl and her two day old baby and send them home from the hospital with her terrified husband, is appalling. She will be given a very short time (if she works) for maternity leave, he gets none. Her mother lives 500 miles away. She has to hire a nanny which she can ill afford, or quit her job. and she does all this on three or four hours sleep a night.


    • My mother stayed for a week when she realized how completely lost I was. It wasn’t nearly long enough, but it helped and it was nice to not be so completely ALONE. I don’t mind being alone, but being alone with a new baby — and I had read all the books, too but this was one of those times when books didn’t help much — was the most terrifying time in my life. I’ve been less frightened finding myself in the middle of a minor Arab revolt in Ramallah. That small, helpless creature NEEDED me and I wasn’t at all sure what he needed!


    • It’s pretty difficult for young parents today. It was much easier when family gathered around to help young mothers and teach her the ropes. Today, you’re on your own to lfigure things out. I used the friends I met with kids my son’s age as resources. We helped each other figure things out.


  2. When Owen was born and I brought him home, I remember Jeff and I standing in front of him. We looked at each other. “What,” I asked, “do we do now?” We figured it out, but we had NO idea what to do. None at all.


    • The first time I ever held a baby, I was 30 and 6 months pregnant! No clue about babies. My son was 2 months premature and I spent 6 weeks in a preemie unit learning from the nurses. I was an expert by the time I got my son home!


  3. You’re absolutely right Ellin. It is the most difficult undertaking in the world and there’s so little preparation for it. In fact, I don’t know how young people do it. They often have one or two jobs and by the time they are with their children they are exhausted.


    • I know. Most parents today don’t spend that much time with their kids, which makes it harder to establish routines and rhythms. Plus the exhaustion factor is critical. You can’t have a lot of patience when you’re Stressed and exhausted from work. And kids are tired and cranky too at the end of the day. So it doesn’t sound like most families have an optimum opportunity to bond positively.

      Liked by 1 person

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