Recently Suppernanny aired its 100th episode. The show got its start in the U.K. in 2004, the year my daughter was born. It hit the U.S. the following year, and I quickly became an addict.
To my detriment.
I really like Jo Frost, the show's resident nanny. I did, in fact, learn from her to first look at my child's physical and mental state before disciplining. Once I learned to anticipate my daughter's hunger and energy levels, many tantrums were avoided with a cracker or some down time before she had the chance to hit fever pitch.
But the show also made me feel like hell with almost every episode.
Her sleep techniques didn't work on my child. I tried Supernanny's techniques for more than a month solid when my daughter was going through her refuse-to-sleep stage in 2005. My daughter stayed awake for 45 minutes to two hours every night. The amount of time never decreased. I worked my zombied self from her bed to the hall diligently, but it never, ever worked. Watching it work episode after episode for all those other families made me insane, and it also caused me to doubt myself.
My insecurity isn't Jo's fault, but I wish the show would've shown her throwing up her hands in despair over some non-sleeping kid just like mine just once. Or chalk a child's behavior up to a phase or a stage or a sensitive kid or anything other than the parent.
After my sleeping nightmare ended when my daughter was three, I realize it might have been just a phase. Seriously.
And really, the same could go for some other "behavioral" problems -- some kids are more sensitive to noise and chaos than others. Some kids crave parental attention more than other kids do -- and sometimes more than the parent can give and still care for other children, keep a sanitary house, bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. Once -- just once in that two-year period when I religiously watched the show -- I would have liked to have seen Jo say, "You know, just get through it. It's not you."
The children featured on her show terrified me. I know that is the point -- otherwise it wouldn't be good TV, right? But something about the way every single parent featured said, "I have no idea how this happened," convinced sleep-deprived me that one day my nonsleeping-but-otherwise-wonderful 18-month-old could turn into a kicking, punching, swearing asshole. And would -- if I did not remain diligent every moment of every day for the rest of her childhood. After all, parents falling asleep at the wheel was what created those little monsters, right?
I don't remember exactly when I stopped watching that show, but it was around the same time I freaked out and abandoned every parenting magazine and Web site subscription for about a year. I got really selfish and decided that if none of the "proven" sleep techniques were working, I'd make myself as comfortable as possible while trying to bend my daughter to my will. I ditched advice, but I kept reading blogs.
Blogs, I found, revealed a truth I'd hoped for: This crap happens to everyone. No matter how hard you try to be the perfect parent, your daughter will still refuse to sleep for six months or your son will refuse to eat anything but pasta for two years, and it will have absolutely nothing to do with you and everything to do with that little creature's personality. And then, most of the time, these children grow out of their quirks and pick up new ones, which will again make you wonder dramatically where did I go wrong? What did I say that made her decide to paint her room black and spend all her babysitting money on Peruvian crystal skull earrings? And the answer might be: Nothing. She just likes skulls.
I learned parenting, alas, on the job, and I'm not done yet. It took me a lot longer than some of my friends to get that moderation is key, and that moderation includes focusing on your parenting. The more I focus on it, in fact, the more it seems to suffer. Parenting is work, sure -- I'd love to let my kid do anything she wanted, because she'd scream and storm and give me the mad eyes a lot less -- but it shouldn't feel like work every minute. If I concentrate on whether I'm doing it right, all the joy goes out of it.
And childhood just doesn't last long enough to miss all the joy.Related Supernanny Blogging:
The Good -- Unemployed Mom has had great luck with the naughty corner:
This past week, I introduced my toddler to the “naughty corner”. This was a technique I learned from watching Super Nanny and so far, it seems to work. When he is engaged in a bad behavior I will either put him in the corner or tell him to put himself there. It’s funny, the instance he is in the corner, he stops acting like a crazy person and calms down. I leave him there for a few seconds then release him by asking “are you going to be a good boy?”. Once he nods yes and the punishment is over, I open my arms wide and he runs and gives me a hug. I then explain to him why he was put in the corner and that he shouldn’t behave that way.
The Bad -- Mum Versus Kids -- who likes most of Supernanny's techniques -- had this to say about one of her biggest problems:
She also glosses over the “regression” stage that most of us face when we have a second child, even though this has perhaps been the most difficult issue for many of us. If M was previously able to eat perfectly well by herself (and still does at nursery and at Nana’s), but with Mummy she wants to be fed, I can understand the emotional importance of letting M feel like she is my baby again, but I want some clear guidance on what to do at mealtimes. Does refusing to feed herself count as unacceptable behaviour, or do I just roll with it and hope that one day she’s want to be independent again? At what point does it stop being an emotional need and start being her way of manipulating me at mealtimes?
The Ugly -- The blogger at The Enchantment Of ... writes of her fear of the children featured on the show:
How are these children created, and more importantly how do I make sure this doesn't happen to mine? I don't want a child who throws bricks at my head and calls me a whore, or a child who drinks from the toilet and injures small pets and other outdoor animals.
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