Parenting Advice: Don’t Ask Me. I’m just winging it.
Someone recently was asking for parenting advice because a first baby was about to arrive. Specifically, he asked What one piece of parenting advice would you give?
Now I know that I have no business handing out parenting advice. In addition to the fact that I am no expert, giving parenting advice is a guarantee that you will be falling on your face as a parent in the very next hour.
But I decided to share a few things about what I thought I knew as a young mother.
Like most young pregnant twenty-somethings, I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, quickly followed by What to Expect: The First Year.
I did not just read those books. I highlighted and tabbed the important sections.
I became so ludicrously obsessed with figuring out how to follow EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF INSTRUCTION within these books that I made myself (and my family) crazy.
A few examples:
I denied my first child the comfort of a pacifier because of a little figment of someone’s imagination called nipple confusion. Instead I listened to him cry nonstop for the first six weeks of his life and nursed him every thirty minutes trying to pacify him that way, lest he become confused. Of course I can prove to you that I am not exaggerating about how much I nursed him because I KEPT A WRITTEN RECORD of every feeding, diaper change and nap per the HELPFUL advice of these same books. (I still have the written record in case my family needs some evidence when it’s time to lock me up.)
I also gave Cole his first bath holding open the What to Expect book to the Bathing Your Baby instructions and illustrations with my elbow. I followed the instructions step by step, reading it all carefully while Cole screamed his head off because the bath was turning cold while I was reading. I did this with my mother present in the apartment, my BRILLIANT MOTHER WHO HAD SUCCESSFULLY RAISED THREE CHILDREN!
And why did my mother not say the following words to me?
Um, honey, I’m pretty sure I can just walk you through this.
Because you can’t talk to a mom who has just given birth and is CRAZY! My mother had never even heard of the What to Expect books, and my Grandmother was making insane suggestions like crumbling up vanilla wafers into a bottle of formula. THESE PEOPLE COULD NOT BE TRUSTED.
My final act as an insanely addicted to THE MANUAL mother was to prepare the SUGAR FREE CARROT CAKE listed in the book for Cole’s first birthday. The sad part of that story is that I really love to bake. I still cannot believe I wasted a baking opportunity on such a sorry excuse for a dessert. And while I don’t advocate filling up the bottles with soda pop, I think a real cake on a child’s first birthday isn’t anything to get all worked up about.
I will admit that the What to Expect books were truly helpful for looking up questions like, At what point do you take your baby to the emergency room? But I have to wonder if people are still using them today for looking up childhood illnesses.
Because since I had my first baby in 1997, they have invented this really helpful thing called GOOGLE.
(That being said. DON’T GO THERE. It’s dangerous to Google ALL THE THINGS.)
So here’s my parenting advice:
Throw away all the What to Expect books.
Expect that there really isn’t any way to know what to expect, and enjoy the ride.