I’m not around many soon-to-be or completely new parents much. Although our neighborhood is filling fast with young families, by the time they move to the ‘burbs they usually have at least one preschool or school aged kid in tow. But today I got a peek into the mind of a soon to be new parent when my dentist told me about his plans for his new role as a dad.
He knows I write this blog so he asked me what advice I would give him. At the time nothing really important came to mind. To be fair I was also drooling a bit and I’m not sure when I spoke that I was actually articulating words since my mouth was so numb but I did come up with one piece of advice – when you change your newborn boy’s diaper make sure you cover his penis or you will get sprayed.
I thought that was pretty useful information!
But now, several hours later (although still numb and drooling) I’ve come up with a few more the things that I wish I knew when my oldest was a newborn. To be fair, I probably knew all of this – I’m sure some well-meaning parent told me but I either forgot what they said, I thought I knew better, or I didn’t believe them.
Just in case my dentist wants to know, though, here is my list of the top five things I wish I knew when my kids were babies.
- You will not consistently sleep through the night while you have kids living in your home. I knew the first few months would be tough but eventually we would reach that magical point when the baby would “sleep through the night.” Well, yea, he slept through the night.
And then he didn’t.
There were nights when he was teething, or stuffy, or scared or just wide awake for no apparent reason at 3 am. And then they become teenagers. Not to freak you new parents out but I don’t remember what it’s like to fall asleep and wake up in the morning without interruption – and my youngest is 15.
- If you are a type “A” kind of person, learn to let go. You cannot control what happens with a baby (see teething, stuffy, scared above). I did not know this. I like to control things. I was positive that I knew best and I could get my kid to comply.
I was wrong.
For instance, I thought my kid should sleep because I said so:
Me (to Baby #1 at 8-months-old who is awake at 2 am): Shhh! Go to sleep.
Baby #1: bursts into fits of giggles
Me: (sobbing) This is not funny! It’s dark out! It’s time to sleep!
Baby #1: giggles more
And then I had my second kid:
Me (to Baby #2 at 8-months-old who is awake at 2 am): I’m just going to sleep on your floor with my earplugs in. You do whatever you want in your crib.
Baby #2: bursts into a fit of giggles
Me: (curled up on the floor) zzzzzzz
- Which brings me to my next point: your first kid is like an experiment. You won’t know what you are doing. No matter how many babies you have been around you will not know what you are doing with your first child. BUT, you will figure it out…eventually. This will only become apparent if you have another kid or two.
- Don’t read too many books or consult too many websites. Even if you don’t know what you are doing, too much information can make you crazy. I had to laugh when my dentist mentioned that he needed to get another book to read for the weekend because he just finished his copy of If You Read This You Will Be the Perfect Parent or something with a similar title because really, the only reason you read these books is because you want to know everything before the baby comes. You truly believe that armed with ALL of this parenting knowledge you will be able to deftly handle every situation that comes up and you will be the “Perfect Parent.”
Sure, I read What to Expect When You are Expecting and What to Expect the First Year. I considered the latter my “bible” and consulted it for everything from the step-by-step instructions on how to bathe the baby (this made my mother laugh so hard she actually left my house) to what a normal baby’s temperature is (hmm, same as an adult’s). The more I read the more I thought I was doing something wrong. I found, after the fact, that the best books to read were the ones that were humorous. Like The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy and Go the F**k to Sleep.
- Parenting requires humor. Sure, parenting is serious business. But it’s also not. Watching your toddler walk the dog (or the dog walk your kid) is funny. So is your 5-year-old making you breakfast or your 7-year-old singing like Justin Timberlake. Even tantrums are funny (really, they are, especially if you join in and act like a toddler, too). Just remember: if you don’ t have a sense of humor you will never survive the teenage years…
What would you add to the list? What do you know now that you wish you knew when your first kid was a newborn?