Words of Wisdom
I wasn’t sure how to title this nor, really, how to begin. Still, it’s been mulling around in my mind for a wee while now and figured if I don’t start committing something into writing soon I’d probably forget to write it altogether. The genesis of this post all started with a question from someone who is soon to be a new parent and it was along the lines of “if you have any advice..”
I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Partly because despite being a father to two young girls and therefore perhaps somewhat worldly in the life of a parent, I’m never quite sure what’s useful advice and what is, quite frankly, useless. I was also hesitant to answer as, once you are a parent, you realise that you could have all the collective parenting knowledge of the world and still your child will provide you with unique challenges with solutions that perhaps defy what the experts say.
At the same time though, I did start a mental list of things that, as a new dad, I would have liked to have known when our eldest was born and figured it would be an interesting exercise writing a few of them down. They may or may not be words of wisdom but I hope that someone somewhere finds them useful or informative.
Trust Your Gut
Despite any advice or words that follow the biggest and most important piece of advice I would impart on any parent, is to trust your gut. Of all the people in the world, you know your child the best. You know what they like, what they don’t like and you’ll also develop an inkling to how they’re feeling based up on the many and varied reactions they will give. This is especially true when they’re very small and crying is the only way they can communicate and try to pass on what’s upsetting them.
It’s likely you’ll figure out the distinction between a cry for food and a cry indicating that they need a nappy change. It takes time and it comes, but it’s things like this that ultimately means you are the world’s expert on your child. Don’t get me wrong, the advice is great and the parenting books and fellow parents are awesome when you’re trying to figure something out. The key, however, is to work this into what you know what works for your child. It’s important to remember that as long as your child isn’t any immediate danger or risk of harm if it works, it works and you keep doing it.
There’s often a temptation to stop doing something if others remark on its unsuitability but if it’s working stick with it. I’m sure there’s a heap of things that I do when I’m with my kids that other parents would balk at but they are and we are happy. Just keep reminding yourself that no-one else is in your situation with your child and that your opinion and your feelings matter and should be listened to. This is most important when it comes to anything medical as, in my mind, if you’re in any way concerned about something trust your gut and get it checked.
They’re Just Little Things
I don’t know about you but I have a few pet hates, things that really get under my skin and can sometimes make me irritable. One example is open mouth chewing, the sound grates and it’s something I found difficult tuning out. That was until our eldest started eating for the first time and, well, eating with your mouth closed isn’t an easy thing to advise on.
So I decided that in all seriousness it was a little thing and it’s unfair to expect a small child to realise and understand why what they’re doing is annoying. Kids scream, they shout they do all manner of things which can really get to you but it’s at those points where it’s useful to remind yourself it’s just a little thing. As they grow up they’ll either grow out of it or reach a point of maturity where you can discuss it.
It’s not easy, in fact, it’s far from it, but trying to remind yourself that in the grand scheme of things the fact that your mini-human grinds their teeth or some such is something that will disappear in time. I’ve certainly found that for the most part, I’m able to ignore such things a bit better. I’m not perfect but I’ve certainly gotten better and ignoring such things and moving on which has also been rather useful just in general.
Try To Stay Calm
This is probably one of the hardest things to achieve. Kids feed on your own emotions, so if you’re anxious then they’ll mirror you. Like anything no-one’s perfect and no-one can do this all of the time unless you’re a Zen master. However, the more you’re able to stay calm and approach situations with a gentleness the more likely things pass without too much confrontation. This especially rings true when they’re very small and need a calm vibe to help them calm down too. I know we all have our breaking points and we’re all human but trust me, the more times you can stay calm, hopefully, the easier situations become.
Do The Dirty Work
I think actor Ryan Reynolds said it best when he told the world’s men to do the “dirty work.”
“Just do the dirty work, man. You gotta do the diapers, you gotta do the middle of the night thing. I mean, your wife — a human being will exit your wife, so she’s done enough. Just change the diapers and do all that stuff.”
Seriously, he hits nail not just on the head but right through the plank of wood you were about to use and into the masonry. Small babies are a lot of work and have no problem at all waking up as many times as they feel like as they have no concept at all of personal space and well-being. Letting just one person take the load here is just downright mean.
You can rationalise it all you want but even if you just want to try to have a good night’s kip so you’re fresh for work in the morning there’s still heaps you can do to make things easier for your partner. You could do bedtime, the first wake up before 10pm, a morning wake up or if your child is a serial waker sit with them for an hour or two playing Xbox whilst your partner gets some rest. Change diapers, wash some clothes help out around the house and so on.
If you work together the whole parenting thing becomes a lot less daunting. Being able to clean up poop, vomit and other bodily fluids without dry retching is a skill I’ve only been able to develop since becoming a dad. I’m also fairly confident it may have a useful reapplication later in life. However, like marriage, parenting requires effort on both sides for it to be successful. It also shows that parenting and life is an equal partnership, you lead by example. Things like racism, bigotry and sexism aren’t genetic, it’s inherited by how we act, how we talk and how we go about our daily lives. Our children are sponges and will follow where you lead.
At The End of the Day
When all is said and done just go back to my first point and remind yourself to trust your gut. You’ve got this! Sure your child may have just walked out the door wearing welly boots on a scorching hot day wearing a mishmash of different colours which would send any fashionista into a spin but they’re happy. There’ll be times when you wonder whether what you’re doing and how your parenting is good enough and then you see their smiles and hear their laughter and that’s got to be a good thing. You’ll no doubt hit a point where you’ve given everything and there’s just nothing left in the tank and it’s at these times that your small human will toddle over to you, give you a huge hug and whisper “wuvs you daddy.” There will also be days where just surviving and making it to bedtime will be seen as a victory; savour them.
In closing, if your child grows up to feel safe and secure in your company and knows that they can just be themselves around you then I feel that however you got there was the right way. It may not have been the conventional way or the way that someone else did it (please don’t ever try to compare you or your child to others, it’s not worth it) but it was your way and it worked. Be proud, show your photos, be “that guy” because your kids are fucking awesome and they have you as a dad!