Intro: These notes come from a place of love...and the eye-rolling place of being surprised when a new parent isn’t surprised when something I knew was going to happen happens.
You will say you won’t become that parent.
But you will.
A cute little sock will end up in a cute little mouth then alone on the path you strolled, like breadcrumbs dropped to find your way back.
Buy them in bulk and all the same color.
Two months before your child is born open the calendar app on your phone and delete it.
Don’t invite friends without kids to events—soccer games, school performances, birthday parties, etc. And never ever invite them to a Chuck-e-cheese.
For that matter, never go to a Chuck-e-cheese.
Kids hasten our demise.
If you have a cat, a dog and a newborn consider holding off on a Christmas tree for a few years.
They are yours at first. Then they become theirs. You will need to find yourself again.
If you change your Facebook profile picture to that of your child please know I will immediately unfriend you.
The cry of your new alarm clock can not be set for it has no concept of time. It came from nowhere between eternities. It is only a disquiet that has finally been given a voice—a brief mortality between the bookends of nothingness.
Can you blame it?
Surrender all to a creature that poops itself.
Invest in it all your hopes and try not to burden them with your unrealized ones.
Tie everything down, stow away the valuables as a ship approaching a storm.
And for the love of God will someone please invent a spoon with a tether?!
We used to ask other people for directions. Now all is know via a phone, where we are, where we’re going and how to best get there.
But know which way is North by the time your child asks.
Anything can be Googled or asked of any “smart” speaker. But information is not wisdom, be able to offer both in practiced measure. Don’t worry about having an answer for your kid, instead teach how to ask the right questions.
Having a kid starts you on a road away from your friends. They may follow with kids of their own but if they don’t be sure to respect that they chose not to join you down that well traveled highway. You will promise to stay close but you won’t. They will not share in your new interests. Sorry, but a photo/video of your toddler stomping a puddle or lamely tossing a ball is not really that interesting to anyone other than you.
It is not the child that causes the growing distance.
The main problem with childhood is having to make decisions with out the aid of experience.
Never say “Be careful honey!” or “You’ll never know till you try it...”
All the inherited reflexive platitudes mean as much to them as they did to you at their age. A child has no logic to appeal to, only emotion and wants. You say these phrases because you were told them. Say them to your kids only once, not for them but for you, because it will be the first time you’ll actually hear it. Maybe the first time you really think about it. Yes, that’s how long it takes, and a child has yet to shot their eyes out with a BB gun or actually be careful.
What sound does a lion make? Roar!
What sound does a sheep make? Bhaaa!
What sound does a helicopter parent make? Thump thump thump.
It’s hard to hear the latter when you’re talking so often to compete with your child.
Go out with the baby like you used to before baby. Try doing the once dull things you used to do. They will become brief and exhausting. Like trying to read the newspaper at Starbucks. Give the baby a page when they’re in their grabby phase.
They don’t want to keep you from reading, they just want to be like you.
Your short term memory will go. It will be stollen. Never say “remind me to…” because those in the gravity of a child will have lost their mind.
Your short term memory will go.
Creating a mama’s boy only hurts the father.
“Ah, how cute,” say strangers, “what an angel!”
No, you’ll want to say, a little devil in fact, takes all my money, my time, my complexion, my soul, my sleep...but though I invest so much my immediate return is a smile followed by a squeak of joy, the long term return is not known but I will follow all my investments closely.
Instead reply, “Yes, an angel.” Your angel.
Animals, kids and evangelicals are afraid of things they don’t understand.
Kids will fear what is unreasonable. Don’t do the same. Fear only what is possible, do not fear and plan for what is improbable. Kidnappings are rarer than lightening strikes. There never were razors in Halloween candy for strangers.
If you live your life in fear of theirs, then fear is all you will share and possibly invite the very dangers you imagine.
Parents must hold the tool of reason for it is far too heavy for a child to lift. Use it on yourself first or they will inherit your unrealistic fears in an already crowded imagination.
Safety and angst is best steered towards prediction, not catastrophizing—imagining what can happen over what will never happen. And know the difference. Ask parents who graduated their own children into adulthood about how many of the things they feared actually came to pass. They will likely tell you that the things that did go wrong could never have been imagined.
Children will always defy prediction.
Covering power outlets is silly. If they got to a point they’re using small pieces of metal to shove into things then you have missed way too many instructional moments up to that point. And considering the horrors of the world they will have to breath and eat, the devastated eco-systems and climate, what’s a little shock? In fact, scissors and curiosity are a great combo. The shock of knowledge, of truth, will be far greater than a few volts.
(European friends, this does not apply to your voltage)
Do NOT smell their butts to check for loads. Your yuck threshold will change, it will plummet dramatically. The rest of ours will not.
I never blame kids for crying on flights, they are only saying what we are all feeling. I will make stink eye at the parent for not bringing snacks for popping ears. I will make super stink eyes if we are in business class together. Airlines: please consider a romper room in the rear where smokers used to sit.
If you have four or more children have you considered trains?
Real simple: food or sleep. If a child is fussy or cranky give them food or sleep before they spiral into a tantrum.
I speak from ongoing personal experience.
No matter what noise the kid is making, what they’re saying, or what they’re trying to say, or fiddling on the verge of breaking, know that they are saying only one thing: look at me!
I will never ask a kid what they want to be when they grow up. The options will not be the ones we understand from our past or even from the present. Besides, the body will grow and age but I would hope that their mind and spirit never grow up. A grown-up is not a destination, is a journey. The uncertainty of life is best navigated by using all the tools collected from continuously growing. Being comfortable with not knowing something, but respecting your curiosity and venture into learning. At any age.
Parents are resistant, even defensive, to criticism. They, you, hate it when someone points out the terribly obvious. They take any little observation about how they’re shaping their little person as hugely personal. Parents are the first hands on the clay of a new human. Do not brush off the rare taps on your shoulders by others. Do not do what they say for they should not be offering advice, they should be making an observation.
An observation is not a thing to reject or to follow, it is simply a gift to be appreciated.
Observe how other parents raise their children or behave around them. Try not to criticize them for they will be doing the same. Take notes. Share learning. You are NOT the first person to raise a child and having one does not make you the expert.
You can choose to wait for a child, but a child waits for no one.
Gasoline + fertilizer = Napalm
Purred carrots + new solid foods = Napalm
Getting a dog after getting married is the greatest predictor for having a child. A dog is a rehearsal in love, of cleaning up of poop and fretting over all that can go wrong when a living thing is in your care. Your child will vaguely remember the dog, most of those memories will come from photos of the child and the dog playing or sleeping together. They will not remember being yanked off track in their pram when the dog sees a squirrel.
When the child is old enough to run the dog will be too tired to run. Then comes the conversation about where the dog is now, forever running or forever sleeping. The loss will be harder for you. The child will cry because they are sad for you. Death is neither a reality or an idea to them. Loss is a closer concept.
Then the next pet will come along. They’ll get to choose the name. Then a loss followed by another pet. Then another. Each time a new lesson in grief.
When the grim reaper comes he would not come as an inky darkness in a hooded cloak. No, it will be the face of a child—an innocent bright face that will grow into that of your aged one.
Ever present eye of God has been replaced by the camera lens. Try to limit your screen time of capturing them on your screen. I was raised in the time between no religion and it costing money to make pictures. So no one was watching me and I little moving proof of my childhood. When I was captured on film it was posed, smile for the camera, adjust dial, wind film, twist a massive lens, squat and…click. Photos of your kid can be used as blackmail later however, consider this.
True love: a parent sitting on the end of your bed, holding your foot, helpless but hoping you get better soon.
Drama is best as spectacle and from a distance. Know your audience.
The urge to protect is the urge to love. Is love withholding the truth or revealing it? Hide in the suburbs or smell the full stink of the world. Don’t make the choice for them, but present the options and be honest about what you don’t know. Hiding is not protecting, it’s endangering.
Take your white clothes—shirts, pants, skirts, sox, sneakers—and put them away for at least ten years.
Be ready for the big and small questions, there is no difference between them yet. Where did I come from? If “Your mommy and daddy’s love” doesn’t satisfy, try “Walmart”.
When cleaning the car, if ever you have the time, you will find Cheerios in impossible places. Even if you never bought them, never allow eating in the car, you will find them. Or smashed Skittles. Kids in cars naturally leak rolling foods.
Babies show us ourselves—in that we see what we want in them.
A baby starts as both of you, equal parts. But you will look for specific traits from each. Some will emerge, some you will create in the blank places. Phenotypes are expressions of traits, which are, for the most part, random in the mix. You will identify, see, what you want. If you miss your own recently departed grandmother then you will find traits of her in the baby. Maybe in a forming nose, the hint of a mole in the same place as her’s…at least the place you remember. If you’re disappointed in how much the person you created from randomness resembles the other genetic half, the other parent, remember no one had choice in the matter.
Know above all the child asked for none of this. From nothingness they emerge via a random roll of the dice, both in body and family.
Genes will express themselves, we can not control them, only nurse them into existence. Their character is shaped by everything else, curated by you. But later, way later, hope that your child does express the one and only thing you had control of, the choice you made, and simply says: Thanks.
Remember how much it hurts stepping barefoot on a lego block?