On Giving Advice – New Parent Edition

I have been directly involved in the raising of two children and  – more importantly – been a silent judge on how many many other children have been parented. This solid background, combined with a soapbox provided for me by a free Internet blog site, gives me enough of a background to act as a solid adviser to you, newest of parents.

So, as you were kind enough not to ask, this is what I know.

If you’re of the tl;dr generation, then just keep this main point: do everything your doctor tells you to do. Turn up for appointments, get the immunizations, follow the feeding guidelines. If you need one go-to source of advice, choose a doctor with a good reputation in your area and follow his or her recommendations to the letter.

There: that was easy.

For everyone else, consider this.

Aside from medical advice, no one knows anything about raising your child. No one has ever done that before. Your child is unique (yes, just like everyone else) and the one who is mostly likely to become expert at raising him or her is going to be you.

Your grandparents and parents – even if they were awesome – raised their kids (including you) in a world that no longer exists. My first child was born when the Internet was an interesting novelty, while the other one was brought up knowing no other world than a fully wired one. And they’re only 8 years apart. As far as child #2 is concerned, child #1 was born in the Dark Ages.

The people who birthed and raised you and your siblings are unlikely to understand what it’s like to be a parent, or a child, in this world. I’m not suggesting for one second that they won’t have any good advice in your moments of need; hopefully they will. But they’re not going to be experts at raising your child in this era. So, caveat emptor.

You know who else are also not guaranteed to be experts? Your friends. I’m just guessing, but you didn’t end up spending a lot of time with Helena and Marco because they seemed like level-headed and compassionate nurturers with a solid plan for the future, furniture with no pointy bits to run into, and a healthy 401K. And if it was, then you’re a weirdo.

Friends-with-kids are more likely to appreciate what you’re going through because they’ve done it themselves – relatively recently. But again, they’re going to be mostly broad-strokes advisers.

If Helena never had to deal with a baby with Olympic-level teething issues, she’s not going to be any more than moral support when that particular delight hits your little bundle of noise. Or maybe Marco is a father of boys and you have a girl (you may not want to treat each gender differently, but society will, and that matters); Helena’s kids never had a tantrum in a grocery store, never wet the bed in primary school, never ran away from home, never developed food allergies or asthma, never wanted to marry a walking beard who calls himself “Lucifer”…so how can they advise you when all this particular excrement hits your fan?

(Also, fictional reader, I’m sorry your parenting experience is so crappy. You probably need a good long holiday now, or at least a long sleep in a darkened, sound-proofed room. You have my complete virtual sympathy for your imaginary plight.)

Friends and family are there for support. They’re there to take a shift when you’re exhausted, to cook and clean so you get to actually have a shower. They’re vacation locations for kids in the long summer breaks, and sources of cool but really unsuitable presents at birthdays and Xmas time. And good for the odd pearl of wisdom from a life of guessing at what was going to work and learning through hard experience what didn’t – for them.

Your job, among everything else you have to adapt to as a new parent, is to listen to all the advice family, close friends, distant acquaintances, and intrusive strangers in the checkout line are all-too-happy to give out, and pick through it for anything that’s useful to your own unique experience. And then feel OK about disregarding the rest. And then have a trusted network to lean on when the times get tough. Because they always will – but they’re never impossible times if you can rely on the strength, love, and compassion of those around you. So, take all the help your network offers. And then, do the same for them when the time comes.

But most important of all, keep those appointments with your doctor.

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