By David Joel Miller.
Did you get your life’s instruction book?
With most important things, when you make the purchase you get an instruction book. When you buy a new mower, you get a book. When you buy a barbecue, you get a book. When I came home from the hospital I don’t think I got a book.
It would have been nice to get an instruction manual for life when I was born. How about you? Did you get an instruction book that told you what to do and where to go? Wouldn’t that have been helpful?
Such a book should include warnings – don’t do that with your life, it can be painful.
So often I feel like I am making this life up as I go along. You would think the instructions would have been clearer. Should I move here or there? Which relationships should I get into and which should I avoid. It would be nice to have instructions to known about the warnings without having to make the mistakes and suffer the pain of yet another learning experience.
Some hospitals used to give out books to new parents, what to do and not do to be a good parent. Most of those books described the “typical” child and the “average” parent. “Typical” and “average” are rare things – almost as rare as those elusive “normal” people.
People who were given those baby raising books, or bought one, report that the books were only marginally helpful. Not that you should do without one. If by some chance of luck you get a book that tells you how to raise a child and the system works, cherish that book. Just most of the time the book describes things that don’t happen, and your child is doing things that don’t sound like anything in the book.
Think of those baby raising books more like field guides to the fauna of childhood than any accurate plan for raising your child right. Books that describe developmentally appropriate parenting and life stages give you a guide to things some or many children a certain age do or should be able to do. As for your child, the writer of that book knows no more than the child does about how he may act tomorrow.
Which should you spring for, sports equipment, music lessons or tutoring in algebra? Do everything right and your child may become famous for something you forgot to provide for him and may fail at the thing you put all that time and effort into. Kids are like that, so are adults.
The older the child gets, the less helpful the book becomes. Give that child a year, and just as you get them figured out they will have changed.
By the time you child is grown the book is hopelessly out of date, or the child is.
Most of the people who come to see me for counseling report they not only didn’t they get a book on how to be a parent they got even less information on how to grow up. So we teach our kids the lessons we learned from them about being a parent and leave the how to grow up and have a happy life for them to figure out.
Despite all the books out there on how to live and how to have a happy life we still all need to live, make choices and learn from our mistakes as well as our successes.
So consider all those self-help books – mine included, as books of suggestions. Try on the things that are suggested but feel free to discard anything that doesn’t work.
So many of my plans for a great life didn’t work out the way I planned them. I think that may be why the hospital neglected to give me that instruction book for my life. The full instructions are still being tested and improved.
Hope you are successful at designing and constructing a happy life for yourself. Remember there is time to write another chapter right up till the Great Editor adds the “The end.”
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books