If you need help determining why your kid’s fever is so high, a doctor can diagnose that ear infection. If you need to know why your perfectly healthy child gets upset every time daddy compliments mommy, well, who can say? Is she a.) Spoiled? b.) Hungry? c.) Tired? Or d.) an Aries?
I’m inclined to tell you after a couple years in the trenches that the answer might just as well be d.) Aries. Because after naps, food and rigorous selflessness training, a child still acts like how they act, because children are people and that’s what people do. Look around: Everyone you know is just a person being pathologically themselves. No amount of years on earth changed their personness, did it? And if you went back, you’d see it from day one.
And yet, I’ve read so many parenting books that treat kids like totally malleable lab experiments, blank slates to impart your values onto with a series of time-tested behaviors and correctives. They mean well, but they make it hard as hell to remember something pretty simple but essential: Your kid is a person. The personality is already there. You can’t change it. Better to work with it than against it. You got the kid you got. Deal.
It’s like my own kid, who, at 4 years old, is often eerily more mature than I am, said to me — a lesson she said her soccer coach taught her — “You get what you get and you don’t get upset, mommy.”
Touché. No to mention classic Aries leadership. I’m only half kidding, at least, now that I’ve read this new book Momstrology: The AstroTwins’ Guide to Parenting Your Little One by the Stars. Written by famous identical twins and astrology advice-givers Ophira and Tali Edut, it’s a book that guides mothers through parenting based not on a newfangled study that shows kids need 68 percent more discipline and 13 percent less fun, but something far more simple yet complex: Their horoscope sign.
They say kids don’t come with a set of instructions — the ASTROTWINS beg to differ! the back cover trumpets. Inside, you learn the sort of mother you are based on your sign, the sort of child you have, the kind of caregiver best for your kid, and a million other little tidbits about how to tackle parenting at different phases under these considerations. It’s basically a roadmap to navigating all your strengths and weaknesses based on you and your child’s unique way of relating, cosmically speaking.
So, I, for instance, as a Gemini, can join Angelina Jolie and Heidi Klum in knowing that my parenting strengths are my versatility, curiosity and open-mindedness (totally!), while my challenges will be impatience, lack of boundaries, and a tendency to contradict myself (er, guilty).
My Aries child, I learn, is actually super easy to spoil and loooooves attention. On the one hand: Pshaw, aren’t all children? On the other hand: no. I’ve seen kids who can be dropped at a new preschool day one like they own the place, who can play quietly in a corner for hours. Mine? It was a series of increased distances over weeks to work up to being totally cool to let go for school, and she loves nothing more than basking in the attention of her parents, or really, anyone.
For the record, I hold astrology in a kind of half-jokey/half-admiring regard. Like so many woo-woo things that aren’t supposed to do jack-shit yet have millions of swear-by advocates, it’s somehow simultaneously nonsensical and dead-on, and in a way that weirdly contradictory aspect of it earns my respect.
But as a lover of science (and especially soft science), as someone who reads all the things I can about all the things, I can tell you: Parenting is guesswork. If it weren’t, there wouldn’t be so many different approaches to raising kids out there, there would be just one called Nailed It!: The Definitive Guide to Parenting That Answers All Questions and Addresses All Possible Scenarios With Utter Certainty and Correctness.
But in my experience, most parents I’m around seem to realize the sooner they figure out what their kid responds to, the better. This idea is rooted in parenting the kid you’ve got, not the one you want. And there is a book like that out now, called Raise the Child You’ve Got, Not the One You Want, which stresses that you can cut out an enormous amount of parenting frustration by accepting your kid’s personality instead of constantly forcing your kid into some preconceived parameters about who you want them to be.
Viewed in this light, Momstrology is peddling solid, practical, reasonable advice: Your kid has a personality. Pay attention. Deal. It wouldn’t dream of telling you how to quash your Leo’s inevitable rebellion, but rather, how to embrace it.
Why don’t more books do that? Maybe because we really do think we are playing God when we have children, and we really think we have a greater hand in the outcome of their personality than we actually do, when in actuality we might be better off being told first and foremost, Congratulations, parent! You now have a kid with her own personality that you can’t alter.
You get what you get and you don’t get upset.
All I know is that I have a kid that needs attention. I can work my ass off to encourage autonomy in her, but it seems like our world is best and most frictionless when I engage her when she needs it first, because then she can go off and play contentedly on her own. As she gets older, I can reason more with her, but more often than not, giving her attention is what works.
So when I read that the Aries’ child’s dislikes include “Being left alone too long,” that resonates. When it says helping Aries overcome shyness involves helping her find an entry point to break the ice — I recognize the same solution that worked for us as she got used to her new school: making a connection with a teacher first thing to feel at ease.
Instead there’s a billion prescriptions about how you as a parent should act, nevermind whether your kid will actually respond to it. If what you’re doing doesn’t work? Try again. Shows like “Supernanny” reinforce this writ large: It’s the method of parenting you’ve got to get down to make your kid act right, it has nothing to do with the kid, who just needs a special combination of moves and tones to be unlocked and controlled.
While many of these Momstrology suggestions could work for any kid — physical activity, for instance, will alleviate a bad mood for more kids than just those with Zodiacs ruled by Mars — it’s still this really no-bullshit reminder that the your kid is a person who deserves all the same considerations and respect you do.
After all, parenting is just one bigger, more (allegedly) grownup personality bringing a smaller, less grownup personality along into the world. That may have literally nothing to do with where the stars were when you were born, but for fun, it’s as good a start as any to accepting your kid as an individual.