How do you know what you’re, like, DOING?

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I know I’ve written here a million and forty times about how parenting is like a new fuller-than-full-time job, only one you’re not prepared for at ALL, and how collaborating with your partner or spouse on everything from sleep to potty training to WHERE WILL MY KID GO TO SCHOOL is like working with a co-founder you may or may not have ever actively wanted to start a company with. But, again, because I love being a broken record, I will bring up this question of: HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING?

I’ve met a whole bunch of parents over these past two years who seem to just BAM!, out of the gate, have some very strong opinions about discipline and like, raising their kid, whereas I find myself constantly wondering whether, in any given moment, I should be more strict or less (the answer is never that I should be less, just FYI. I am definitely one of those parents who’s kind of like, well, he ate ENOUGH avocado, let the poor kid go play! which I am pretty sure is a parenting fail).

But seriously. How does everyone else come up with all the rules they follow (whether it’s dinner before playtime, or pick up your toys twice a day, or don’t bite people, though that one admittedly seems obvious)? When it’s your first kid, how do you KNOW whether a 2-year-old can be expected to sit through an entire opera? Or even whether YOUR KID can sit through an entire opera? Because I am pretty sure Ethan has trouble sitting through an entire opera, which means Leo doesn’t stand a chance. (For the record, I wouldn’t even attempt to make Leo sit through ANY opera. We are still working on sitting through dinner. Which, to be fair, is also hard to do, I mean, BUTTONS! But I digress).

If you didn’t babysit or have a boatload of younger siblings, and you don’t have nieces or nephews, and you haven’t read every parenting book ever written (is that the secret? Books? Have all those other parents read ALL THE BOOKS?), then HOW DO YOU KNOW? Because I never imagined picking up a piece of food off the floor and declaring the five-second-rule alive and well in our house, BUT LET ME TELL YOU, I’VE DONE THAT. Pre-kid, I had no idea what raising a toddler would actually be like, which means I couldn’t have prepared for it. Which means I am highly doubtful that anyone else is that much more prepared unless they were a nanny or a lion tamer before becoming a mom or dad. Which must mean they have all developed extremely specific parenting philosophies in a very short time… or they are totally and completely faking it. Either way, I want to learn how! So leave me tips below, please. Thanks in advance.

Would you say that you have a specific parenting philosophy, when it comes to discipline and behavior and routine? If so, how did you develop it? Do you feel like, by kid #2 or 3 or 4, that philosophy became much more crystalized  — or did you just get more confused with each subsequent kiddo? What do you do when your 2yo wants to sit on his new potty over and over again and pretend to wipe, which is simultaneously the cutest thing you’ve ever seen and also IT’S TIME TO GET THE HELL OUT OF THIS BATHROOM?