Recently I met a married woman who wants to write a book about Christian singleness. And as a single woman I smiled and said, “You might find this shocking but nothing could make me happier!”
No. No, I didn’t. Actually, the thought made me throw up in my mouth a little.
But her comment did make me decide to write about Christian parenting as a single, childless person. Yes, you heard that right, parenting. I myself was a child for eighteen years (longer, if you ask my dad). Also, I have cats and plants, and this mug told me they are babies. So here we go.
A well-timed treat can make all the difference.
I have a cat named Scully whom I have had to parent for the last two years. If you don’t think taking care of Scully is the same as having a human child, check out the mug. Anyway, I have it harder than parents of humans because I bet your toddler at least knows her name!
But I’ve used a gentle tone of voice and called my cat “sofa” and “beef jerky” and she still answers. See how hard my life is? Sometimes Scully won’t come to me, even when I use my softest tone of voice to beckon her.
So now I pull out a treat and call her name, and she comes immediately. Teaching children is that simple. You just need to condition them to respond to a treat. My friend Ruthie says that her dog Louie sits, speaks (with an inside voice or outside voice) and will wait at the door if she asks. Shouldn’t your child be able to do things on cue? A simple command of “no”, “stop”, “come” or “wait” should be sufficient. It just takes a little discipline and consistency.
Are they sticking their fingers in a socket? Offer an M&M! Are they peeing on the floor? Temper tantrum? Have some fruit snacks! Give them a cookie! Who said obesity is a problem or that bribery isn’t great? It’s motivational learning.
Potty train your baby from birth.
Now, I know you are probably skeptical of this counsel. God told me you would be (I’m very in tune with the Holy Spirit). But when I brought Scully home from the shelter, I immediately put her in a litter box in the basement. Ever since then, she has always used it to go to the bathroom. Why are you wasting all that good money on diapers? Not only is it a waste of money, but isn’t your time more valuable to you? The time you spend changing a diaper could be spent on more profitable things, like writing snarky blog posts. Teach your kids about the litter box from the moment they come home from the hospital.
A little water goes a long way.
I know you will think me a parenting genius with this one, but I don’t give any of my babies soda, milk or juice. They only drink water, which is basically free.
I’ve taken care of multiple plant babies at the same time–I’m sure it’s just like having triplets or quintuplets–and have managed to keep them happy and alive with just water and a little sunshine. Parents of multiples often complain about the work and exhaustion of child care, and I’m sure they assume I have live in help or a plant-care service that supports me, but I promise you that I do it all on my own with just some water and a tiny bit of effort. Don’t make parenting harder than it has to be, friends. You’re overthinking it.
The TV is your friend.
As busy as my plants and cat have kept me, I have sometimes managed to babysit actual human children. You may be wondering how I do it all; well, the TV helps a lot. Place your children in front of it and walk away.
Not too long ago I babysat my nieces for four days (4!!). When they woke up early on Saturday morning and wanted breakfast, I instructed them to turn on the TV. As soon as Elena of Avalor came on the screen, they forgot all about their hungry bellies, and I got three more hours of sleep. TV and other screens get a bad rap these days, but they keep children happily occupied, and isn’t our goal to raise happy children?
I remember how unhappy I was when my mom made me turn off the TV as a child, so the children I babysit get lots of joyful TV and that creates space and time for me to focus on my own spiritual growth. I often hear parents complain about lack of time to spend with God, but you’ll find that you have more time than you knew for your devotions, if you’ll just accept support from your friend, the TV.
Snail mail is the key to your children’s spiritual formation.
Amazon can raise up your children in the way they should go, and you don’t have to do a thing except pay for the books (and I recommend paying for Prime, too).
Last year my niece Anya asked me a question about how God made us. With my seminary education I could have launched into an entire lecture about Genesis and the creation story, but we were talking on FaceTime, and I had was meeting a friend for dinner soon. So I sent Anya an excellent book on the subject via Amazon.
I’m sure it did the trick although I haven’t been able to confirm that because I keep forgetting to ask her about it. I hear there are entire books dedicated to instructing parents on spiritual formation, but it’s really very easy to accomplish as I have learned from the many children’s addresses saved in my Amazon checkout.
Child raised. You’re welcome!
Us single people may not have children, but we’ve been witnesses to tantrums at Target, unruly children at a restaurant, and loud toddlers in church. Our experience has no doubt made us experts.
I’m sure you’ll agree.