Friday, August 14, 2009

My Take on New Mothers and Parenthood (abridged)

“Look! He’s smiling,” the new mother says to you.
“I think it’s just gas,” you say and you know it is.
“No. I was tickling him like this….and he smiled at me!”
Then you smell it and you know she has to smell it too, but instead of saying, “I told you so,” you say, “Well, maybe he did,” and leave it at that. After all, he probably did produce a smile as you yourself have been known to do at a good bit of flatulence. Later you hear her on the phone with her mother telling about this milestone moment that, according to the What to Expect book, wasn’t due to occur for three more weeks.

I like watching new parents delight in the developmental milestones of their kids. Even the ones they make up. The first year of our children’s lives we get excited about everything. Blogs and photo albums document baby’s first smiles (when the real deal comes you know it isn’t gas), rolling over, first cereal, first steps, and first words. I remember the wife of a friend (a TOTP subscriber) talking excitedly about her kid bringing his hands to midline. Looked like clapping to me.
I sometimes catch myself thinking disparagingly, “Good grief, woman, don’t you know they’re supposed to be doing that. It’s normal! Your kid is just normal! Maybe even a month or so behind on that one.” Then I realize that I get excited over my kids normal stuff too. It is as it should be. Some parents don’t, and that is sad.

“Hey, Mom, what should I do when……?”
“I don’t know. Is that normal? What do you think?”
“I don’t know, Mom! That’s why I called you!

“Hey, Mom, what did you do when I…..?”
“I don’t remember. That was a long time ago.”

“Mom, don’t lay her down on her tummy! SIDS, Mom!!! SIDS!!!”
“Oh. Well. That’s the way you slept. What’s a sid? I don’t think we had those when you were a baby.”
“I don’t know how I survived to adulthood! But just so you know, they say you should only lay them on their backs to sleep.”
“But, what if she spits up in her sleep and chokes on it?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t think about that. Maybe I should just stay up and hold her while she sleeps.”

I realized after I became a father that my mother and my mother-in-law had raised two kids each and that all four had turned out okay, but that of the billions of children in the history of humanity they had only raised four of them; That though they had over 55 years of combined parenting experience they only had a few weeks of newborn parent experience; That a lot of what were “dos” during the late 1970’s were “don’ts” in the mid 2000’s.
I remember being at the Walgreen’s with Leslie’s mom just before we were to go home with Jonesy when she said, “Don’t you think you need some nursery water?” I’d only known the woman for a couple of years, but I knew her well enough to know that her commands were issued in the form of questions.
“Umm. Okay,” I said as I picked up a gallon. I wasn’t sure what it was for, but I was sure that she must know since she suggested it. I checked the ingredients label and it was just high priced water. She never got around to telling me what to do with it so it just sat in the pantry for a few months and then I made high priced ice out of it.
The thing to do is just do it like Christy Lane, one day at a time sweet Jesus. Learn as you go. By the time you get something figured out the child is out of that phase and into the next. The best you can do is try to remember what you learned when the next one comes.

A new mom is a sucker for good marketing. For $8.29 she can buy a plastic duck that holds rolls of blue plastic bags ($4.59 on the same shelf) for disposing of stinky diapers. So handy when you are on the go and the duck is so cute! By the time the kid gets big enough to dig in the diaper bag and unroll the deadly blue bags (suffocation hazard) all over the place she realizes that the duck isn’t really that cute and that the same Wal-Mart that sold her the duck gives away free plastic bags with every purchase.
Like a lot of new parents, we received lots of great things as gifts and were grateful for them, but Leslie and I kept in mind what Dr. Furman said at our last appointment before Jonesy was born: “Don’t worry about it. All you need is diapers and Desitin. The rest is just fluff.”
Well, we tried to keep it in mind. Now we mostly keep it in floor. I trip over lots of fluff everyday.
I’ve leaned a few things though…..
A hand-me-down crib sleeps the same as a $100 one, and a $1000 one.
Shoes on a newborn are non-functional, but new mothers insist on them and get upset when one goes missing.
New moms are convinced that Mozart will make their kid a math whiz. The truth is that he wrote some good stuff, but BabyEinstein is making more money off of it than Wolfgang ever did.
New moms complain about no sleep, but won’t sleep when they can. Why spend all of that time, money, and energy fixing up the nursery if you aren’t going to let the kid sleep in there? Wouldn’t you like to make more?

I’m not an expert, but neither are most of the contributors to Parent’s Magazine, so I’ll conclude with my own list of sound advice for new mothers and fathers. Most of it is commonsensical, but like golf and rock climbing, parenting is not complicated just difficult.

•He’ll eat when he gets hungry.
•Let her cry it out.
•You can take him to the pediatrician to get a prescription and it will clear up in about a week, or you can let it run its course and it will clear up in about a week.
•Leave him alone and let him figure it out.
•Don’t pick her up every time she falls.
•Not only spanking, but a busted lip, shots, and saying no to McDonald’s are harder on you than they are on the kid.
•Kids are so called because, like goats, they will put anything in their mouths and try to eat it. Don’t let it surprise you.
•You can’t use logic to reason with or persuade someone who is being illogical. Toddlers are never logical. Neither are women 72% of the time.
•Lots of things could harm or even be deadly to your child, but it’s pretty unlikely that the things you worry most about will hurt them.
•Instead of crying because your baby girl keeps pulling her bows out of her hair, just dress her in pink and most folks will assume that she’s a she.
•Instead of emasculating him by making him squat and instead of crying because your little boy pisses all over the floor and walls of the bathroom, send him outside and let him work on his aim.


Dave and Lisa said...

Hi Les,
We will be in Texas next Friday afternoon through the following Thursday, but we'll only be in Amarillo. I think we missed you! That is a bummer, but I am glad you enjoyed your Amarillo visit a few weeks ago.
Love you guys,

The Northrups said...

Whew! Glad to see I wasn't mentioned by name ;-)

Anonymous said...

Justin, I LOVED this post! You really have to write a book someday! :)

Noel Green said...

Thanks, Justin!
Hey, when are you all coming to ABQ?

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