Two friends of mine (well, I guess four friends of mine) just had children of their own in the last month or so. Congrats to Sev and Colleen on their daughter Carolyn (Mabel’s future play date), and congrats to Leigh and Craig on their son Kai (Mabel’s future boyfriend). Because I’m such a great role model as a father, Leigh asked me to put together a list of things that she should know that might not be in the average parenting book (Ed note: That’s not exactly what she said. What she said was closer to “Hey Dustin. I’m pregnant”)
Seeing as how I didn’t read any books except Alternadad by Neal Pollack and Babyhood by Paul Reiser – which aren’t exactly how-to books on parenting – I couldn’t promise anything regarding that last caveat. But I was happy to oblige my version of what I thought she said. So here are some of the things we learned along the way that weren’t immediately prevalent in those two memoirs:
- Steal everything you can from the hospital. Swaddles, diapers, morphine, everything. Like an expensive hotel. Take the towels if you have room. And if you get this message too late, go back. Sneak in if you have to.
- Use the lactation consultant. To my knowledge, there is no professional in either of your houses to tell you how to get a baby to breast feed. And googling info on how to get a baby to take to the nipple is not as easy as trying to find the best way to unclog a drain (a closet auger). It may seem annoying, but it’s important. Bring her in there every couple hours if you have to. Jenn got a lot of important info from being annoying. Still does (bazinga!). Maybe you can talk to the consultant when you go back to steal the towels.
- Get those long sleeve onesies with the hand covers. Onsies, sleepers, shirts, whatever the freak they’re called – get the things that cover her hands and put them on at night or you will have a baby with Nightmare on Elm Street looking claw marks on his or her face every morning. Babies apparently don’t get the causal relationship between clawing themselves and getting clawed just yet. And you can’t file their nails because they’re too small and you’d need to cut them every day. It’s not worth it. They’ll miss their little friends at night, but it’s worth it. Note: You can put socks on their hands instead, but they’ll usually find a way to Houdini them off.
- Never wake a sleeping baby. This should have been #1, but I figure all four of you have figured this out by now. If the baby falls asleep on your chest, screw whatever you thought you were going to do for the next couple hours. This is what you’re doing. If you’re lucky, the remote control is within reach and you enjoy watching TV without sound.
- Learn words to songs. You’ll be surprised how few songs you actually know when you try to sing to your baby. I would have sworn I could sing all 273 Bill Joel songs in a row until I had to calm my baby. Turns out, I know most of Zanzibar and miraculously all of We Didn’t Start the Fire, neither of which calmed Mabel down. Grasping for anything I could get my hands on, I sang Christmas carols. I’m not proud of that, but it seemed to do the trick. Also, it’s hard to sing to an audience who is screaming directly at you. Now I know how Justin Bieber feels.
- Babies don’t like to be thrown in the air just yet. I was throwing Mabel up in the air at a month old. That’s too early. She didn’t like it. Had a look of terror on her face the whole time. Wait another 3 months or so.
- Pacify the house. Buy 20 pacifiers and throw them around the house, the car, the beach house, your jacket pockets, etc. We tried to live differently and having said the words “Have you seen the pacifier” once too often, we just decided to play a zone offense. Unless of course, you’ve decided to raise your child without pacifiers, in which case disregard everything I’ve said. You’re better people than us.
- You’re not doing it wrong. Every parent thinks they’re doing it wrong in the beginning. At least I assume they do because I did and I’m pretty arrogant. Everything I was doing in the beginning felt wrong. Should I be supporting her head more? Or less? Should I being throwing her up in the air like this? Don’t freak out if you put a diaper on backwards. They’ll live. Just do your best not to hit them in the head with the TV remote.
There are many other things I’m sure I could tell you. But my wife is asleep right now and not able to tell me what they are. We really didn’t read any books at all. We get most of our information from Babycenter articles and phone calls to trusted parents. And we have arguably the greatest baby to have ever lived. So I guess I’ll end with an aspiring writer telling you not to read books because that’s what parenting does to your brain after a year. Good luck. Call anytime.