On Saturday Gordon and I went to a parenting conference. This made us feel so very Docker-worthy, though perhaps not minivan-tastic. It had been a couple of years since our last parenting conference, where a woman with perfect teeth and a perfect body taught us how to perform a perfect timeout on our 2-year-old. We felt very smug and awesome for about 20 minutes afterwards, and then started researching more conferences in the car as Thing One screamed demonically in the back seat. It’s hard to recapture that elusive bagel bar glow.I held onto that impeccable woman for a long time. I figured that if she can raise three children into tweendom and not die a gruesome death — while looking fantabulous — then I could manage a piddly two-year-old and sometimes feel unfrumpulous.Then Madeline was born.So we went on Saturday.I think there are some social rules of Parent Conference attending, ones you should consider when entering this delicate egosystem; er, ecosystem.Maybe you could add a few of your own:1. If you are grandparents, and are at the conference specifically for grandparent knowledge, be sure to begin every sentence with some inclusion of that fact. Otherwise, people might think you are the freaky 50-year-old parents who have just moved to Texas from Sherman Oaks with your baby that was born of a non-shaving surrogate. There might be nothing worse in this life. Even being repetitive in conversation. Did I mention we are grandparents?
2. Drink coffee. It shows you are serious and that you intend to stay a while. It’s also a sign of maturity, and we all must be grown-ups today. Coffee is also the ceremonial drink of preschooler/baby parents and must be consumed as a sacrament on this, the high and holy day of Parenthood.
3. Get your self-deprecation warmed up. There is nothing, NOTHING worse than a fellow conference attendee who has come not for his or her benefit, but so others may walk in their Cleaver-shaped shadow. They have come not for answers, but to be held up as a trophy of tot-wrangling genius. Light pours forth, apparently, both from their loins (which resulted in their glorious offspring), and also from their wise, wise words. We all want them dead.
4. Get to gigglin’. We parents are serious people. We have brought life into this world and have kept it going for some amount of time. But that doesn’t mean poop isn’t still hilarious. And we live in a poopy, poopy world. Let’s not forget this at the round table discussion, m’kay? People get so EARNEST at these things, like we have people to raise, or some such silliness.
5. Ask a real question. I have met mothers so “obsessed” with which is the right baby Bible to buy – picture book? pocket-size? NIV? – and “love” to talk about it. Are you really that obsessed? Do you really love this topic of conversation? I dare you to ask a real question. Like, “I’m afraid my child won’t be interested in spiritual things because of my divorce.” Or, “I want to know if it’s possible to overcome my bad temper before my child will remember it?”I double-dog dare you.Parenting conferences are great. I think their biggest benefit lies in having taken a few hours out of potty training or disciplining or pancake-making to acknowledge that you really are doing something very important, and that you need some help. Because it is, and you do. If you have taken any time at all recently to read a book, read a blog, attend a workshop, sit down with your child’s teacher or study your child like the rare stink beetle they are, congrats. You may not be doing everything right, but you are, at very least, approaching Docker-worthiness.And those are some pretty big pleats to fill.