Growing up, my mom would always tell me that one day, when I had my own child, I would understand. Recently our cutie pie turned one, and my mom just told me, that one day, when I have grandchildren, I would understand. Will I? The student is never greater than the master, but we will still try to be.
As a way of helping or encouraging any parent or parent-to-be, I’d like to share with you my learnings throughout the whole year:
- You truly love them with all your heart. I don’t know how it happens or exactly when, but they are a literally and metaphorically a piece of you outside your body. For some it is instantaneous and for others it is a build up. As a result, it is so scary to have something so vulnerable grow to be independent from you and run the risk of harm! Yet this is the cycle of life that you and I have gone through, and so they shall.
- It is okay to have a bad day. Perfect parents do not exist, period, and those who want to pose as such, just exclude themselves from being relatable and trustful. You aren’t perfect, and the baby, in all cuteness, isn’t either. Thank goodness for the chance to start over tomorrow.
- On that same vein, a moment of tears here and there will most probably not mark them for life. I saw a skit from Saturday Night Live and a Pampers commercial where basically the kids are shown to not remember the bad days of their young life. If they cry for a little longer because you are in the bathroom or are taking a breather, they won’t be scarred with abandonment.
- Children bring you true joy. A smile on their faces makes your day. So cheesy but so true. Your happiness depends on theirs, because you want the best for them.
- They will act out, and that’s how you want it. My mother in law gave me some perspective on this. You want your child to express discomfort when they don’t like something because it shows that they are maturing. They start to recognize their surroundings and reacting to it. It might not be fun, but it is part of their growth.
- Most people don’t know what they are doing, but know that what babies need is love, food, and a fresh diaper. I was happy that even though we did not know what was coming, we knew that if we fed her and changed her, for the most part she would be fine. There were lots of snuggles and kisses too, for sure. There were days where the experiments of a swaddle or sleeping schedule would not be too successful, but the core will help keep some sort of structure and provide little victories.
- You are the parent, not the friend. You are the parent, and not your/his/her parents. You decide what goes. You are the best sponsor for your child. You know them better than anyone. Use your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right to you, or you can’t truly understand the benefit/need, don’t do it. You will have to find courage to stand up for your child and what you think is best. Sometimes it won’t be what you prefer, or what you originally thought of, or it will be controversial. You are the one responsible over your child.
- Parents need their boundaries in order to have healthy children. The world does not revolve around that little human, and if he or she needs to wait to be held because you are busy, it is fine. They need to know that others have needs too. You don’t spoil with love, but you spoil them by running to their every call and not giving them a chance to figure it out.
I also want to offer some “day in the field” advice:
- I don’t know how or why, but the crying-out method definitely works.
- Don’t be afraid to feed your baby real food when it is time to start eating. If it is soft enough to mush between your fingers, they will most probably not choke. Review first aid guidelines beforehand so you are ready for the worst, but note that babies gag regularly and you probably won’t need to use it.
- Put your baby on a routine schedule. This is not one led by an hour on the clock, but by the amount of time that has passed from the previous activity (check guidelines on how long a baby should stay up, per age, for help on this). Use eat-wake-sleep method to avoid a baby that only falls asleep with a bottle/breast.
- Don’t fall into the trap of marketing. Babies don’t need much. Onesies for the first few months and zip up pajamas for the night should be the majority of the wardrobe. A place to sleep, car seat, and baby jungle/activity mat to stare at things and later bop them will be enough for a newborn.
- Diapers are an amazing gift! Leave shyness away and put them on the registry (in different sizes) or if people ask what you need, give it as a suggestion.
- Babies are stronger than you think. They survived being squeezed out or pulled from their habitat. Don’t freak out over every little thing. Be careful with the important things and let the rest slip by.
- Never leave your baby alone in the bath. I never even filled her baby tub with water, but used a separate container for warm water and slowly poured that over her while the baby tub drain was open. Make sure to tell your partner this. Babies can drown even in an inch of water.
Just like growing up is a life-long process, so is parenting. We can lean on the experienced ones and also go on a limb with our intuition. As long as we realize that there is always something to learn, we will be alright. So don’t be too tough on yourself. Remember that there is always tomorrow to try again.