Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Advice for the First Time Parent

A local parenting website posted the question "What is your best advice for new parents?", and received the typical responses. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Enjoy them when they're little. They grow up so fast! But no one hit on the really important things, the things that, when you're pacing the living room at 3 a.m. with a screaming baby, you think "Why the hell didn't anyone tell me this?".

And since there are few things I like more than giving unsolicited advice (you may remember my Advice for the New Father), I'll add to the list.

1. No one thinks your baby is as special as you do. Really. He's cute, he's snuggly, he's shoots magical rainbow poo poos out of his butt. But don't get upset if your friends hide you on Facebook after your umpteenth "Junior had a big stinky!" status update.

2. Everyone is an expert. They all have an opinion on everything, from how you feed your baby to how you diaper them, to how to get them to sleep. Smile graciously, say "Thank you so much." and then go form your own opinion. Sometimes people are right, sometimes they're wrong. You'll figure it out.

3. Your mom doesn't remember as much as she thinks. When is the last time she took care of a baby? 25, 30 years ago? Our parents are great resources, and grandparents are such a special part of a child's life, but old people have bad memories. So when your mom starts saying stuff like "You potty trained at 5 months old!" and "You ate pureed hot wings out of your bottle!", see #2.

4. Things will never get back to normal. Because there's a new normal, and you'd better get used to it.

5. You can't spoil a baby. Period.

6. Leave the house, often, with and without your baby. Go on walks. Go to the store. Go visit a friend. Go to a playgroup (and when they're little, the playgroup is totally for you. Everyone there understands.)

7. Research everything, write down a detailed plan, then set it on fire, because it is completely useless. Just when you think you have it figured out, your kid will pull some Jedi mind trick bullshit and you'll have to rethink everything. This is true times a million with subsequent children.

8. Be kind to your partner. It's not easy for them, they don't know what they're doing any more than you do, and you're probably making them feel like a real dumbass. This seems to be especially true of mothers towards fathers, as our natural instincts kick in. As our natural instinct is to think that new fathers are dumbasses.

9.  This is as easy as parenting will ever get. The sleepless nights, body issues, no time for intimacy, postpartum emotions, nipples of fire, overwhelming dread for the future - this is a piece of cake. That's fucked, right?

10. Recognize that all the cliches are true. You used to roll your eyes when people said it's like walking around with your heart on the outside, and now you get all lumpy throated and croak out "It's true!". Resist the temptation to buy inspirational posters featuring kitties.

But mostly, chill out. You are going to screw up so bad, so many times. Everyone does. Our best hope as parents should be to raise children that are loved and cherished, kind and compassionate, thoughtful and considerate. No pressure, though.

Good luck to us all.


  1. Really, would you like to adopt a 34 year old (35 in Oct.) I totally don't puke on furniture... usually.

  2. Well, it's true that you ate pureed hot wings out of your bottle, how else do you think you could shoot magical rainbow poo poos out of your butt!!!