Digging into Paper: creating my own parenting handbook with care

I'm writing my first blog of 2012 in bed this morning (decadent!), while my husband Matt plays "chef in slippers" with our 15-month old son. Nigel is banging tiny pots and pans, wearing a tiny apron and bright yellow slippers. What a sunny, hilarity-filled morning.

While the boys wax eccentric, it strikes me that Blogging about parenting is also an eccentric, absurd endeavor. Because even though it may be fun and helpful for me to share ideas about equal parenting, music for kids and wrinkles, at the end of the day, we all need to just sit down on the ground and play with blocks.
 
Online learning and info gathering is an amazing tool, right? For me, reading parenting blogs is armchair fieldwork. It offers fodder for on-the-spot problem solving (like, when my kid is hitting his head against the floor because he is so frustrated that I don't understand what he wants because, really, he's been CLEARLY yelling for "glaaaaaaack!" for 5 minutes now. Duh!)

So I move from the detective work of reading blogs to the business of actually going out into the world and developing a style and a repertoire of techniques that fits with Nigel and his unique personality and preferences. Going back to the online posts allows me to find meaning in the process of trying, failing (aka learning), and trying again. Reading and writing help me find the beauty in "earning" effective parenting methods.

Eric Larson mused about this process in his source notes of "The Devil in the White City," his outstanding book about the building of the Chicago World's Fair (with a grisly subplot about a serial killer, doing his dastardly deeds in Chicago at the same time):

"I do not employ researchers, nor did I conduct any primary research using the Internet. I need physical contact with my sources, and there's only one way to get it. To me every trip to a library or archive is like a small detective story. There are always little moments on such trips when the past flares to life, like a match in the darkness. On one visit to the Chicago Historical Society, I found the actual notes that Prendergast sent to Alfred Trude. I saw how deeply the pencil dug into the paper."

Unlike Larson, I am keen to use the Internet for helpful ideas. But I am inspired by his appreciation of the discovery process.

And I am still trying to discover what Nigel wants when he pleads for "Glaaaaaaaaaaack!!"

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