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The best parenting advice you can get until something better comes along…

I’ve been asked to speak to various groups and organizations before, varying from retired teachers to service clubs and church groups. But the most unusual request I ever received was to speak to a parenting class.

I found this odd, as I am not a parent. What I know about parenting would fit handily inside a mouse’s thimble.

Thankfully, the woman who contacted me assured me that I was not expected to give parenting advice, but to simply share amusing family anecdotes from my own growing-up years. I did as instructed, sharing my kid’s-eye view of being the youngest girl in a family of five and making jokes about how much parenting has changed since my own prehistoric childhood. (Ladies: you have no idea how hard it was to ride a banana bike in the days before they discovered the wheel.)

But for a while afterward, I wondered what the group would have done if I stood up and started giving parenting advice. After all, no one knows more about parenting than someone who has never parented, right? I could even market myself as “The Backseat Parent,” now fortified with “more opinions and judgments than ever before!”

After all, I’m not completely clueless. I have babysat children for short periods of time. I have been an aunt. I have overheard enough parental conversations to know how to respond appropriately if I’m ever trapped at a PTA meeting. I diligently read Parenting magazine whenever it’s in the doctor’s office and the only other options are fishing magazines.

Maybe it could be a whole thing. I could be “The Expert Who Will Do Until You Can Find Someone Better.” I mean, it takes a village to raise a child, right? So maybe I could be the village idiot.

I could even write a book that wrapped up all my expertise on parenting. Well, technically it would be more like a pamphlet. Or possibly a tweet.

Not to give away too many of my valuable trade secrets, but it could go something like this:

“Most humans start out as babies. Babies are adorable, because they have fat cheeks and they make baby sounds and their eyes look huge because they are the same size as they are in adulthood. You must always support their heads. Always. You must never feed them water or peanut butter or let them operate heavy machinery.

“When I first started getting invited to baby showers, I always bought the expectant mom some exorbitant gift, like a tuxedo for a 6-month-old or a sequined ballgown with tiara for a baby girl. This is foolish, as the child will only get to wear it a couple of times, if at all. (Besides, think of the baby’s fragile neck… it is not built for supporting tiaras.)

“Just buy the mom a gross of diapers. Or better yet, buy a gross of diapers and fashion them into something adorable, like a baby elephant riding a hot air balloon. Pinterest will show you how to do it, and you will be the best thing to happen to that shower since the invention of the baby owl centerpiece.

“When babies get older, they will start walking and talking and, because they haven’t developed social skills yet, telling you that you look fat. At this age, it is best to feed them cookies and buy them noisy toys that they must ‘only play with at your parents’ house, because it would be such a shame if this all-in-one robotic bagpipe-drum machine got lost.’

“Later, they will be old enough to go to school. Today’s school-age children do not know how to write cursive, although they can program a fully functional robot out of Legos and the circuit board from your Roomba. They are also really good at doing the floss.

“Later, they will be high school students. High school students are like starter adults. They look mostly grown-up, but they may still text you multiple times a day to ask how to make a frozen pizza. Although this age group may sometimes seem worldly and mature, remember that they have never been exposed to some of the greater cultural icons of our time, such as VCRs, phone books or Hillary Duff.

“It is important that you have worked years to develop a close, trusting relationship with your child, because, by age 16, they will ignore you so they can stare at their phones and will want you to drop them off three blocks from school because they’re embarrassed that you wear jorts and drive a PT Cruiser with a dented door.”

So there it is. All I know about parenting. Hmmm. Maybe a tweet would have been enough.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com.

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