When my wife and I first found out that we were going to have a kid, we instantly became aware of the “parenting class” industry that had existed in our community for years without ever attracting our attention. Suddenly, there were all of these flyers, newspapers ads, and emails, offering us practical parenting instruction in friendly classroom settings.
And, as new parents-to-be, we were game for them. Almost immediately, we signed up for the childbirth class, the baby care and CPR class, the “how to install a car seat” class, the breastfeeding class, you name it.
(The only classes I remember us opting out of were the “baby massage” class and the “parenting for dads” class, which I found more than a little insulting.)
For the most part, the classes were all fairly valuable. We got some good tips. The classrooms were safe places to ask seemingly dumb questions. It was time well spent. However, as I enter my sixth year as a parent, I find myself wishing that there were more of those kinds of classes offered for moms and dads. The majority of parenting classes are essentially all about “how to deal with a baby”, but there is so much more to parenting than just keeping your kid alive (granted, that IS the #1 responsibility of being a parent, but…you get my point). Should there be continuing education classes available for parents? I say YES. And here are my suggestions for five parenting classes that I really wish were available today:
Pokemon for Parents
Pokemon is huge at my kid’s elementary school right now and, as the hot intellectual property du jour, it fascinates my daughter to no end. But now my kid wants to actually play Pokemon and, I’m ashamed to admit, I have no freakin’ idea how to do it. I’ve poured over websites, I’ve studied those stupid cards, but it’s like trying to read Chinese translated into Russian and then dropped into a paper shredder. I just can’t decipher it. I don’t know why Audino has 80 HP (hit points?), I don’t know what an energy card does, I have no idea what Chansey’s double tackle does…it’s driving me nuts. I like that my daughter is interested in learning a complex and engrossing role-playing game, but I hate that she’s looking to me to teach her how to play and I just can’t figure it out to save my life.
I’ve Googled “How to Play Pokemon” and “Pokemon for Dummies”, but I have yet to find anything useful or that really speaks to a complete Pokemon laymen. There is an official “parents” page on Pokemon.com – http://www.pokemon.com/us/parents/- but it’s all about the history of the game. It doesn’t actually tell you how to play the damn thing. Someone needs to capitalize on this and start an online “Pokemon for Parents” course. Get some Pokemon experts who can speak to pure novices and have them start from the beginning. Assume nothing. Explain every aspect of the cards. Start a Google Hangout where the instructor leads small groups through very basic Pokemon games. Create friendly forums where parents can ask completely simplistic questions without Poke-masters mocking them endlessly and calling them “noobs.” If I could easily learn how to play it, I’d happy install Pokemon as a fixture on family game night. But, at the moment, in our house at least, they’re just odd monster trading cards covered in unintelligible writing.
Intro to Sports for Parents Who Never Played Sports Before
I can’t be the only parent who’s going through this. My kid started in a youth soccer league and asked me to explain the rules of the game to her. I immediately froze up because I HAD NO IDEA. I played soccer as a kid for one season, but I can’t remember anything beyond “don’t use your hands” and “don’t kick it on your own goal.” I don’t know what the lines on the field mean. I don’t know the difference between a yellow card and a red card. And I don’t know what I should do to help her practice at home beyond… “kicking.” Yes, the coach handles a lot of the instruction for the kids, but, as a parent, I feel like I should be reinforcing the coach’s lessons at home and I can’t just walk up to the coach with a notepad and say, “So, what are the rules again?”
And then there’s this:
Personally, I’d love it if schools or community leagues would host orientation nights specifically for parents who don’t know diddily about the sport their kid is playing. Talk about the rules. Offer some resources. Give some advice on how the parent can help the kid practice at home. Create a safe place for parents to ask stupid questions – this is going to be a recurring theme on this list. Parents NEED to be able to admit their ignorance and request additional knowledge without having to fear being judged by other parents. Because, really, what parent is going to be comfortable walking onto a field filled with soccer moms and sweat-suited dads and admit that they have no idea what’s going on?
A Dad’s Guide to How to Style Girls’ Hair
This is one of the few classes that I think could be parent-gender specific, though I’m sure there probably are some moms out there who might benefit from this too. Once my daughter’s hair got to a certain length when she was younger, we had to do SOMETHING to keep it out of her face or, at the very least, out of her food. So my wife looked at me and said, “Just put it into a ponytail.” And I had to admit – I had NO idea how one would do that. I think this is a really common problem for fathers. Most of us – Fabio and rock stars aside – do not have shoulder length hair. And, even those of us who do have long, luscious locks probably don’t normally French braid it or tie it up in a bun.
When I have to “do” my daughter’s hair, I have one move – the ponytail. And I got that “one move” only after I made my wife let me practice giving her ponytails for a week before I even attempted trying one on our kid. To this day, I have no idea how to braid, bun, or style my daughter’s hair, which is particularly a big pain when my wife goes out of town. I would love it if a local cosmetology school would host a weekend workshop where ignorant dads could bring in their daughters and have some professionals show them how to handle their hair. It would just be nice to get some advice and practice in a controlled setting without having to stress out my wife or accidentally tear out clumps of my poor kid’s Rapunzel-esque hair.
How to Road Trip with Your Kids
We road-trip a lot as a family and, every time we hit the highway, I feel like I learn something new. There’s something really daunting about packing your family into the car and spending a few hours (or days) on the open road, particularly for new parents, and I think it would be really valuable to have a forum where experienced road-trippers could pass on their knowledge. The first time we road-tripped with our baby, we packed like we were preparing to invade Normandy. And, not only was 80% of that stuff useless, but we also ended up not bringing most of the items that actually would’ve been really useful.
Yes, it’s lovely that my local firemen can teach me exactly how to install a car seat, but why can’t someone teach me the best and worst kids’ snacks for a long car ride? Or which restaurant franchises have the cleanest bathrooms? (My vote is for Panera and Starbucks.) Or how you can use the hot water in gas station coffee machines to warm a bottle? Or the pros and cons of letting your kid eat in the car? Or why you always, ALWAYS should pack Ziploc bags, paper towels, and Febreeze on every trip? There are so many basic practical planning and supply issues that any parent preparing for a car trip should know about and, personally, I think a lot of moms and dads would jump at a chance to attend a “road trips for beginners” class before they head out for their first voyage in the family roadster across the country to WallyWorld.
How to Teach Your Kids Math
This would essentially be a teacher teaching parents how to be teachers themselves, but I think it could bring a ton of value to parents with elementary-aged kids and older. My daughter is currently learning basic math in first grade and I’m trying to help her as best as I can. And it’s not that I don’t understand first-grade math. I do (really, I do). I can add, subtract, tell time, measure things, etc. However, if there’s an area where I’m weak, it’s probably in my ability to explain those concepts coherently to my kid. When I help my daughter add things, I often find myself using my fingers as examples. But is that a good thing? Should I be teaching her to rely on her fingers? I’m not a teacher, so I don’t know what the preferred methodology is. Should I be telling her to imagine a number line? Should I just be pushing her to memorize common addition and subtraction problems? I have no idea.
I want to help my kid learn math in the best, most efficient way possible, but I’m not an educator. Like most parents, I’m making it up as I go – which works fine 99% of the time – but, if it was available, if there was a class or a short workshop where teachers could instruct parents in effective ways to demonstrate math concepts to kids, I’d sign up faster than a southbound train leaving Detroit at 7:00 pm to Chicago at 75 mph and…crap, I can’t even make up a hypothetical question.
I need help.