Saturday, December 10, 2011
New Parent? Come On In!
Somehow I won this parenting blog award from www.ecollegefinder.org, and since I am always desperately in need of validation, I humbly accepted. In my opinion, there just isn't enough education in this world, which explains the current Congress(those children should have been left behind), and it is a fact that the more educated you are, the more money you make over your lifetime. Really--go look it up.
As a consequence of winning this award, I feel that I should at least address some small part of what I have learned over the last four years of being a parent. In my case, absolutely NOTHING happened like it does in the movies! Well, except that my OB-Gyn sort of looks like Oliver Platt. Anyway, here's my two cents, adjusted for inflation.
Congratulations, new parent! You've brought your progeny home from the hospital or from the adoption agency. This most precious creation now lies safely sleeping in the correct position in their crib, while you and your spouse gaze at them in wonder. At this point, you should be terrified.
This is normal. The people who tell you that being a parent is easy are either high or selling something. Being a parent is the hardest job on the planet. It takes courage to be a parent. It is not for the weak-minded or the frivolous.
If you get to be a parent, there are a lifetime of challenges ahead, true. There are a lot of heartbreaks ahead, too. There is also a lifetime of success and joy and happiness ahead that will light your heart up with warm and fuzzy for the rest of your life. Being a parent is hard, but the rewards make up for that. Without further ado, here is my advice to new parents, based upon my four fabulous years of experience.
1. You are the role model for your child. Whatever you do, from now on, that little face is going to be looking to see how you handle what life throws at you. Think about how EVERYTHING that you do looks from the eyes of your child. It is an exceptionally humbling exercise. If you do it or say it, expect your child to do it or say it. Behave accordingly.
2. You are never going to parent as well as the next person, because that parent is not you. The sooner you get over that, the better. It used to keep me up nights thinking about all the things that I wasn't doing "right", and I'll never get that sleep back(Sleep is GOLD to a new parent. GOLD). Your child is unique; you are unique. Your parent-child relationship is unique. There is no "one size fits all" kid, so why expect to be that kind of parent?
3. A parenting book can be a helpful reference, but it is not the Bible. I am partial to Dr. Spock, but a number of people like those "What to Expect books". Each parenting book out there says the same thing, except when they don't. One book may say that it is okay to let your baby cry for hours. Another book threatens to call CPS if you ever let your child cry for longer than twenty seconds. You can go crazy. Choose one book to use as a reference, in case you get stuck. Don't even open any other parenting book, for sanity's sake.
4. Loving your child is not the same as letting them do whatever they want. Nobody likes a spoiled brat; there's enough of those in Congress. Boundaries make a child feel safe, and that's a stone cold fact. Sometimes that means telling them 'no'. You are not your child's friend, you are their parent. Your child needs to trust you to protect them, even from themselves.
5. Once you become a parent, there is no going back to the life you had before. It is very easy to become frustrated as a new parent. Real life experiences can be scary. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you need help. If you don't have family members who can give you a couple of hours respite here and there, check with local churches, community groups, Any Baby Can, etc. This is especially true if you have a special needs child. Even God rested on the seventh day.
Dearest readers, do you have any advice for first time parents? Do tell--my kid is only four, so I have years of stuff to learn!