Do we really need a class teaching us how to “underparent”? New York Magazine just ran a blogpost on a new class offered in Manhattan and Los Angeles which combats “helicopter” overly-doting parenting with tutorials in underparenting, i.e. how not to immediately respond to your child’s every whimper. The very fact that this class even exists is nearly satirical–and just goes to show that the market for baby-oriented classes is as bottomless as our own insecurities.
I mean, look at the underlying equation: clueless never-been-parents, plus endless founts of “expert” wisdom. It all adds up to an extremely lucrative market for said never-beens and grandparents-to-be to spend themselves into oblivion.
Before my first son was born, I too fell into the trap. I took a “baby care” class at the local JCC, where I, along with 40 upper middle-class, educated, and articulate professionals, were taught by an “expert” how to put a diaper on a baby.
In retrospect, and with the rationality that comes from being pregnant with my fourth child, I can tell you that putting a diaper on a baby is not in the same league as making your own wheat-based beer at home, or learning to speak Taiwanese. It’s fairly intuitive, even for a first-timer. Even if you never figured out the complex nuances of how to make paper airplanes in elementary school, I think there’s a convincing argument to be made that you can figure out how to put a diaper on your baby simply by looking at the diagram on the box.
While I don’t remember exactly, I’m pretty sure I spent around $50 on that hour and a half long class, a half hour of which was spent putting diapers on dolls. Honestly.
Before Z was born, I also took a birthing class at a local hospital. I figured this was something that you “had to” do. This was before I realized that actually, you don’t “have to” do anything other than be a responsible and loving parent to your child. The birthing class was educational, but I’d also argue that there was nothing in that class that I couldn’t have learned from a quick surf through the book What To Expect When You’re Expecting.
The main thing I learned from that class, though, was that if that class’s small sampling was any indication, my fellow parents-to-be were absolutely bonkers. Each one of them seemed to have elaborate plans, down to the minute, for every element of their labor and the baby’s birth. One woman read off, song by song, the mix she had compiled for her labor and planned water birth. Another woman held her husband’s hand lovingly and spoke about their plans to eat part of the placenta together, and then to plant part of it beneath a tree in their neighbor’s backyard. Poor neighbor. One father-to-be expressed his deepest fear about his wife giving birth: that her water would break in his new car, ruining the seats (the instructor recommended that he spread a shower curtain over the car seat just in case).
People who are about to have kids for the first time are nervous and scared–and they’re right to be nervous and scared. But while there are infinite parenting resources out there, there are also infinite people who would happily prey upon your ignorance and your wallets by conveying the idea that in order to be a great parent, you “need” to take a class to do so.
You don’t. You don’t need a “diaper-putting-on” class. You also don’t need a class teaching you the latest fad, how to “underparent”–how to relax when your child bumps himself while crawling, etc.
If you find that these classes make you feel less insecure about parenting, I suppose there is value in that, but I’d argue that parenting is like riding a bike: you’re going to get more confident in the way you do it the more that you actually do it yourself. And if anything, watching too many films or classes on how to ride a bike will make you overthink the bike riding, making you more nervous and more likely to fall than you would have been otherwise.
Really, you don’t NEED any of these classes. What you need is a willingness to learn from other people who have done it before (i.e. a lot of the world), an open-minded attitude (you may not have the birth you envisioned: que sera, sera), and a shitload (literally) of diapers in your home.
Everything’s gonna be all right. Because believe it or not, one day not so far from now, YOU will be the “expert.”
That will be $50, please.