by Sarah Michaelis Tuesday October 2, 2007

Since I’ve spent the better part of the last decade interviewing parenting experts, I consider myself well-honed in the area of child rearing.

Of course if you told my daughter that she’d guffaw. “Her? Yah right!”

You see, the thing is, the parenting gurus will calmly tell you what to do for any given situation in their breathless, airy way that makes you think of clean laundry, sunny days and chocolate chip cookies. You just KNOW that their kids say "please" and "thank you" and there’s no dust build-up or baskets of unfolded laundry in their homes. They exude confidence and they make parenting sound easy, effortless—the stuff of common sense.

Talking to them can make you feel inspired, fresh-faced and determined to keep it together no matter the circumstances. You will respond calmly and rationally in all situations, dispensing sage advice as you proudly guide your progeny to adulthood.

Then reality smacks you in the face with the force of a drunken bull moose. Before you can utter your words of wisdom, your progeny, high on sugar, smears lipstick on your white couch and has forced the cat into a semi-catatonic state after being dragged around the house on a leash and forced to marry the gerbil.

With the words of the guru still ringing in your head, you smile gently, get your child to help clean up the mess and slip the cat a Prozac. You can handle this; you’re a good parent.

Then your child grows older. Gone are the quaint antics of a toddler and silly pranks of childhood. As adolescence approaches, your progeny, on occasion, morphs into a seething beast out for parental blood. Then they’ll ask you to braid their hair.

The gurus never mentioned this. Two words can get you a “you SO don’t know anything, do you mom?” or an eye roll. Sometimes you get an eye roll with a sigh which is code for “you are such a loser.” The sage advice rolls off the beast’s back as it stomps upstairs and slams the door.

What the gurus fail to say is, by the time your kids reach grade five, they’ve had a good ten years to watch you and figure out what makes you tick. They know exactly what to do to drive you completely up the wall because they know you better than you know yourself. You can start to feel like the puppet of a twisted puppet master.

Parenting isn’t easy. It isn’t common sense at all. It would be easier to figure out quantum physics than it is to figure out my child sometimes.

But occasionally, I catch a glimmer of the child of the past and the adult to come. Something behind the eyes when their guard is down tells me that I’m doing okay. Some of that advice has cracked the veneer and I know underneath, maybe due in part to the gurus, there’s a good person. And that’s what we all want in the end.