Sunday, November 21, 2010

Advice to new parents (as though I'm some kind of expert)

Recently many of my friends have welcomed new additions into their families.  Some were the first tiny ones to amaze and delight their parents,  others had older siblings awaiting their arrival.  I have been watching their facebook pages update with tales of the first smiles, diaper blow outs and in the case of one mom, the first time she was peed on by her newborn son.  And I know they're being flooded with advice.  In fact, I see it in the comments for these momentous events.  Do this, don't do that, read this, ignore that.  I remember being flooded with the advice of the well meaning and I remember feeling overwhelmed and second guessed.  Mostly I wanted them to shut up unless I asked- and even sometimes then.  Since I've been trying to refrain from any advice giving, apart from my "It gets easier and a lot more fun" to new moms and dads, I'm going to have to vent it here.  So here it goes...

Laura's Advice to New Parents:

Don't try to shield your child from everything.  It's tempting, but a life lived in bubble wrap is awfully constricting.  Take them out into the world as soon as you are ready, because you need it and they tolerate it much better than you may expect.  Don't obsess over the germs.  They are everywhere and trying to win the war against the common cold is crazy making.  If your baby gets sick, in all likelihood you'll both survive.  And it is perfectly ok to call the advice nurse multiple times in one night if you're worried.  Trust me, they're used to it.  I warmed them up for you.  You can thank me later.

Don't obsess about the milestones.  They'll come when your child is ready, and if there is a serious delay you'll know.  You won't be guessing.  Babies will roll over, lift their head and stand on their own schedule.  You may think you want them to walk early, but you probably really don't, and I don't know one single adult who is physically capable of walking who is not up and around by the time they reach adulthood.  Same goes for potty training.

Don't try to train them, they aren't pets.  Don't rely too heavily on the "experts" and those who tell you that your method is a recipe for failure.  They know what works for them, but nothing is universal.  Some babies are good sleepers, others are great eaters, some are fussy, some are not.  Every child is its own individual bundle of traits.  Even those of us who have welcomed a second child have been repeatedly surprised by the unique qualities of that new little person, by just how distinctly individual such a wee person can be.  Don't let an outsider guilt you about choices you have made that work for your family and don't feel that you need to explain those choices in order for them to be "right."

Don't worry if you don't do all of the stuff.  Skipping tummy time is not going to deprive your child of proper development any more than skipping the occasional bath.  They are fantastically resilient and will develop despite anything you may or may not do.  And don't blame yourself for every little bump along the way.

So what should you do?  Love them.  Hold them and do that instinctive swaying every person who lovingly holds a newborn seems to do upon contact.  Gaze at their tiny feet, kiss their silky scalp, marvel at their razor sharp fingernails that grow at alarming rates.  Gulp in giant breaths of that sweet baby smell that disappears long before it should.  Talk to them, tell them you love them hundreds of times a day.  Sing to them, even if your singing voice torments the neighborhood dogs.  Drink them in just loving their unrestrained newness and know that this is your most important task.  You are a parent now.  Welcome to the club.

And feel free to ignore any advice, even mine.


geekymummy said...

excellent advice, and yes, you are an expert!

dana, college planning said...

Shielding our children from everything is exactly how we all start off. We erroneously believe that's what perfect parenting is. I remember a side thought emerging at times - maybe I should let my kid experience life a little more. I would push it away, thinking - there will be time for that, at least his childhood should be totally carefree. Now I know how wrong I was.

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