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Perspective on Parenting: 10 Points

With due respect to Dr. Spock, Dr. Brazelton and now Dr. Sears, no one has figured out a fool-proof method of raising perfect children; it's a daily pop quiz that requires learning on the fly.
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Everyone has talked about it, argued about it, written about it, parodied it -- to the point that there's nothing left to add to the conversation.

But I'm doing it anyway.

I can't resist adding my two cents. Or sense. Or common sense.

The TIME cover is meant to get attention and sell magazines; that's clear. Less clear is the debate it's stirred up -- about making the right choices as mothers.

As if there are any.

As if decisions on where your child sleeps and how long you breastfeed will turn them into superior adults. As if these choices should not be unique to every mother and every child.

The maternal instinct is so deep in our DNA, being a mom used to be thought of as something that came naturally. It must have been so much easier raising children when mother -- and father -- knew best.

This flap over the TIME cover illustrates how much things have changed. Today, parenting is a minefield; a test we all want to ace -- and endless people are ready, willing and entirely unqualified to tell parents what they should do with, for and about their kids. Do you really want to take parenting advice from celebrities?

With due respect to Dr. Spock, Dr. Brazelton and now Dr. Sears, no one has figured out a fool-proof method of raising perfect children. Besides, there are no perfect children; or all children are perfect -- depending on whether you view the glass half full or half empty.

When it comes to parenting advice, I think some perspective is essential -- (which I have because I'm OLD.) I can point to my kids as examples of what a great job I did. Though I'm willing to take credit, truthfully it's their choices -- not mine -- that have made them into the people they are.

That realization comes from perspective. I had dutifully read a stack of parenting books before I gave birth, yet I still remember wondering how they could allow me to take an innocent baby home from the hospital when I had no idea what I was doing. Maybe the smartest thing I ever did was to stop reading parenting books and learn by instinct -- and by observing my children.

Motherhood is a journey, a daily pop quiz, a constantly changing curriculum that requires learning on the fly year by year, minute by minute.

So from my perspective, here's 10 points I've learned -- so far:

1. Believe in your instinct and your ability to make good choices.

2. You will make bad choices. Get over it. They will. Kids are far more resilient than we are.

3. You know your child better than anyone else.

4. Just when you have completely figured them out, they will completely surprise you.

5. The older they get, the less they think you know. The older you get, the less YOU think you know. (This is one of the few issues on which you and your child will agree.)

6. Your influence is essential but not everything. It's not always about you. (They might wind up on the couch, anyway.)

7. Most clichés about parenting turn out to be true. You know what they say: Bigger kids, bigger problems? They aren't kidding.

8. I found this mantra helpful to repeat to myself: You did the best you could at the time. (This works best at least five years in retrospect.)

9. Most of the time they won't listen to you. But you should still listen to them.

10. If you want straight A's as a parent, here are straight A's: Accept. Appreciate. Applaud.

Though I didn't put it on the list, this is what I'd put at the top: Have a sense of humor. By the time she's my age, hopefully the mom and her son on the TIMEcover will have a great laugh about it.