Well, hello there! Feeling a little TIRED, are we? Maybe a little RUN DOWN? Surely, it couldn’t have ANYTHING to do with that wondrous little miracle that the hospital made you bring home without the courtesy of providing any care instructions! After all, taking care of a new, incredibly fragile human being can’t possible be any harder than driving, can it? I mean, you have to have a license to drive. They let anyone who can properly install and strap a kid into a car seat take them home from the hospital!
Fear not, though! Your good friend Papa Cheeks (who you no doubt regard as a paragon of parenting by now) is here to share with you the five pieces of advice I wish someone had given me! Five pieces you absolutely NEED to start your parenting journey off right!
- Let people buy you stuff – Listen very carefully to me on this; THROW YOUR PRIDE OUT THE WINDOW. I know that having a child is the ultimate culmination of your journey to adulthood, and you MUST have planned for all of the expenses that were going to come with the child, but believe me when I say, you will be broke. It doesn’t matter how much you stashed aside in anticipation of this child, you will be broke. This kid will need EVERYTHING: doctor’s visits, clothes, toys, diapers, wipes, really awesome lullabies remixed from AC/DC songs, etc. Hell, you’ll even get a bill (if you haven’t already) just from them being BORN. Chuck the pride. If someone wants to buy you a stroller, let them. Someone wants to buy you a month’s worth of strained peas, let them. Grandma and Grandpa already saving for their college? LET THEM. You will NEVER STOP SPENDING MONEY ON THIS KID. If someone slips you a fifty as you’re hugging them goodbye, simply smile give them an even bigger hug, and TAKE IT. They know how broke you are. Besides, once things slow down, maybe you can return the favor. Probably not in money, but maybe in something else like:
- Let people let you sleep – I CANNOT stress this one enough. Your precious package came with an internal clock that was obviously put through a trash compactor. You should have picked up on this when it kept you and your partner up all damn night before it was even born. I know you thought it would get better with birth. WRONG. It will get far, far worse before it will get better. You see, children have a biological need to drive their parents to the point of exhaustion. It could be to test how dedicated you really are. It could be because it’s the only advantage they have over the giant servants that dwarf them physically. Whatever the case may be, that child will keep you up and moving ALL THE TIME. If someone taps you on the shoulder for a break, TAKE IT. Don’t catch up on laundry. Don’t pick that book you were reading before the delivery back up. Do nothing other than slip on a sleep mask, turn on the CD of AC/DC lullabies, and SLEEP. People will only make this offer for so long. You will never, ever catch up on the sleep you’re missing. It’s statistically impossible. Best you can hope for is to catch a couple of hours where you can. Trust me on this. My children haven’t let me sleep in five years.
- Let go of perfection – I know when you were reading the baby books and daydreaming about the little miracle that was about to join your family that you had this idea that it was going to be like some ABC Family sitcom. Spotless house, grateful, well-behaved children, wacky next door neighbor. Sorry to burst your bubble, but other than the questionable neighbor, you ain’t going to be living that dream. Children are MESSY. They are UNCOOPERATIVE. They are SUSPECT. Don’t kill yourself trying to live up to that dream. As long as the kid is relatively clean, has all the body parts he came out with, and seems to be developing new and more interesting ways to test you, you are doing your job. CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK. Stepford parents are the bane of existence, and there is a special place in hell for them. You’re better off with a messy house and a happy kid than the reverse. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
- Don’t give up you – You had a life before the child. While you may not have much of one afterwards, you still need to have a life. Why? Because a happier you means a happier kid. It may seem a bit self-centered, but if this is what I have to tell you to convince you, so be it. Your kid isn’t always going to be this small and needy. Eventually they’ll start wondering what’s going on with the world. This is when you get to the fun part of parenting – sharing with them. Showing them that you’re more than just a footman or maid, that you are, dare I say it, a real human being that has something to actually offer to the world, not just them. So keep up the hobbies, take time for date nights, and never forget that YOU also need to be taken care of occasionally. I suggest catching an AC/DC concert. I really like AC/DC. And last but not least:
- Be ready and able to ignore unsolicited advice – Seems a bit counterintuitive, doesn’t it? I mean, here I am laying down all this mad wisdom on you, just to say you should ignore it. What the hell am I thinking? I’m thinking that everyone’s experience is different and just because this is all the advice I wish I had gotten, doesn’t mean that this is what you need. Parents, as a rule, like to give out advice. To everyone – their kids, the mailman, and most especially, OTHER PARENTS. Know why? It makes us feel like we’re up on our game, like we actually know what we’re doing. It’s why we say things like, “oh just wait until the baby’s 15”, or “just wait until you have another one”, or “just wait until you find them building a makeshift cat trap”. As hard as you think you’ve got it, we’ve got it worse. So there.
In truth, though, the advice thing could go on forever. I can tell you all about what happens with a three-year old, but someone else can school me on dealing with a ten-year old. It goes on and on. So really, the most important thing you can do is smile, take the advice in the spirit in which its intended (other parents really do think they’re being helpful), and then completely ignore it. Why? Because no one on this planet will ever know or love your child the way you do. Love is an interesting thing. It makes you do all kinds of crazy stuff, like figure out how to deal with what is essentially a hairless kitten for the first couple months of its life. You’ll figure it out the same way all parents did. Trial and error, emphasis on the error. Lord knows that’s how I’ve been getting by.
You’re going to screw up. A lot. Just take comfort in the fact that this means you are trying and that you are learning. As long as the kid is healthy and happy (or unhappy when the case warrants it – discipline is key), you’re doing your job.
Oh, and the kid should also be listening to AC/DC.
I really like AC/DC.