It's often said that having children is so important that we should get a manual when they arrive. This hints at not just the hard physical and emotional work that parenting involves but also the skills and knowledge we need to undertake the parenting role.
Of course we have lots of places where we can seek this knowledge from. Importantly, we all have had experiences of being children, so we have grown up with adults in our lives and experienced parenting firsthand. There are many different experiences we may have had as children growing up though. We may have been lucky and grew up in a loving home with parents that were available and coping well with life, well supported in their parenting and capable of parenting well. Many people don't have this experience of course. For some people their experience of being parented was not so positive. They may have had parents who were not so available, not able for whatever reason to provide what they needed. So we can't always rely on our experiences as children to guide our own experience of being a parent.
Society also changes over time so the trends and patterns that were most appropriate during our childhoods may have gone out of favor or been proven ineffective by the time we become parents. Smacking is one good example of this. We now know that smacking children is not only pretty ineffectual but when we think it through also teaches kids some values that we probably don't want to promote. Children do need boundaries and to be kept safe so as parents we need to find the best ways to do this.
Issues parents face change over the years as well. When we were children the most technology we had was the television and telephone, the "on the wall with a cord" variety. Now children are exposed from birth to many technological devices which take them in an instant outside of the family home to a virtual world. As we learn more about the needs of children we risk feeling overwhelmed and fearful about the world around us. This can't help but affect our parenting style and our capacity to give children space and develop trust in society.
Then of course each child brings with them their own personality and temperament. This intersects with our own and with other family members to create a very particular and unique dynamic. We don't always notice or easily understand this because we are so close to it, we are part of it.
So a manual could really help us as parents to understand the parenting role, give us some pointers and feel more confident. But it would need to be a very special manual, one that takes into account who we are, who are children are, the changing world around us and keeps up with the latest evidence.
Perhaps as parents we are better to engage with and support each other and really work on being fully present to understand ourselves, our children and the world around us, developing our parenting skills as we go. In that way we might just be able to develop our own parenting manual over time that works best for us and our families.