I started writing A is for Advice because I felt that, as a maternity care provider, I saw so much anxiety about pregnancy, birth, and parenthood among my clients, and so much self-inflicted pressure to achieve some kind of ideal birth or status as a parent. So ultimately, I wanted a book that said, hey, labor can be hard, parenting is definitely hard, but you’ll do your best and that’s going to be absolutely enough—trust yourself, and be gentle with yourself.
My brothers and I spent countless Saturdays exploring in the Adventures In Odyssey wonderland while my parents steeped themselves in Dobson’s philosophy. His empire pumped out radio programs, magazines, and parenting books that explained how our “sin natures” caused us to misbehave and directed parents to set firm boundaries via physical punishment and authoritarian shaming to help children understand the dire consequences of their sins.
Before our son was born, my wife and I agreed that we would keep him away from screens for as long as possible, mostly because this is what’s recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians. Their guideline is clear enough: “For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.”
When I think about my experiences as a child, I remember the fear that grew up every Sunday, when our pastor began the altar call. We would sing “Just as I Am” and he would tell us that God wanted to save us from hell. I would whisper the Sinner’s Prayer, in the hopes that I would avoid it. I wouldn’t go up to the altar, because I didn’t want to make a scene every Sunday, but I was scared that I somehow lost my salvation, or that I didn’t have it in the first place. A stark panic rose up and I would plead with God to save me from the fires of damnation.