Recently, I ran into a pair of old friends that had just entered that supremely disorienting state of parenthood, with their newborn in tow. Now, I feel for new parents, not because the first few weeks/months of parenthood are extraordinarily difficult; no, more because of the riotous litany of advice foisted upon them is enough to make you want to bury your head in the sand. For me, the worst part of getting lots of unsolicited advice was not that it was confusing, but that it was so clichéd and had been long drained of any emotional truth. Directives and counsel that informed you to “just get some sleep”, or to try out some seemingly insane and counter-intuitive parenting maneuver because, as some like to insist, “no one ever died.”
So, in light of the advisory noise and my great regard and sympathy for new parents everywhere, I give you a few bits of sensible and honest advice (unsolicited, I admit), the kind of truth and advice that no one ever cares to tell you. Feel free to add to my humble list in the comments section with some of your sagely advice, truisms, and observations, just make them sincere and genuine. Here goes:
• The hours between 2 AM and 4 AM are potentially the darkest moments of your waking lives. These are the times in which you are routinely awoken out of a fitful slumber to soothe a crying child. Due to compounded sleep deprivation, you will likely be filled with thoughts of dread, remorse, and anxiety as you try to lull your unwitting child back to a comfortable state of repose. Just know, these are the “dark hours” and they too shall pass.
• All babies love (fill in the blank). Not true! Babies are truly unique beings; therefore they don’t all uniformly love or hate anything.
• Unsolicited advice from friends, family and complete strangers is the norm. Get used to it, or find a suitable way of deflecting it.
• Depending on your child and your respective situation, taking care of an infant is never quite as difficult as everyone likes to lead on. Day in and day out it is a formidable challenge, but reasonably doable. However, the cumulative effect is what becomes the most exhaustive and depleting factor.
• After you spend hours upon hours gazing into the eyes of your child, and then alternately watching them sleep peacefully, the head and physique of your average adult will appear grotesquely large and colossal. Be warned.
• Changing diapers is no big thing, until the baby starts consuming solids.
• Lots of babies love the Ramones just as much as they love Raffi.
• Feeding babies copious amounts of rice cereal doesn’t make them sleep through the night.
• As said best by multi-media artist Jenny Holzer, who became best known for her series of truisms, “Raise boys and girls the same.”
• After about a week or two, your baby’s skin will peel and molt like a reptile. It is totally natural but alarming nonetheless.
• Trust yourself above all else, because parental confidence is key. Your baby knows and you will soon find out.
• Choose carefully who you have to come for those premiere newborn visits. Ideally, you don’t want someone who could hold the baby for you (that is your job and privilege), you want someone who knows how to stock a fridge and mop a floor.
• Don’t panic if you don’t feel a significant bond within the first few days. Bonding is a gradual process that cannot be rushed and you will have plenty of time to make it happen.
• Babies are indifferent to material possessions; therefore it is unnecessary to stock your house with massive amounts of toys and miscellany. Babies don’t need much more than warmth, security and love.
Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.
Parenting at the Crossroads