Thursday, May 24, 2012

30 Pieces of Unsolicited Parenting Advice I'd Give Other Parents (if I were allowed to give other parents advice)

True story.  I've been banned from giving parenting advice to my family members.  Actually, I've been banned from giving any advice, but "No Parenting Advice" was the primary issue.  I've been *told* that the problem isn't so much my advice, but my way of presenting the advice, as in "You should do THIS".  Personally, I don't know how else to give advice.  Isn't that the definition of the word?  Telling someone what they should do?  So, suffice it to say, certain in-laws won't speak to me anymore every since I suggested that one year may be too young to potty train (I was wrong- my fourth trained at 1), and others have specifically said "Don't tell me ANYTHING- I'd rather figure it out on my own" as soon as I started with "you know, maybe you should...."  So, I will oblige them and bite my tongue-- and use this forum to say all the things that I want to say but can not say to my sisters-in-laws, various other parents in my family, parents of my children's friends, other parents in the community who just happen to sit down next to me at the library, and all Facebook friends who have children and post related comments that I feel compelled to respond to even though I know it's going to p!ss them off.

1.  Immediately post-birth, everyone is going to say "oh, you look great!".  You may look great; but chances are good that, two weeks after having the baby, you will neither feel great NOR look great.  Just say thank you and smile anyhow.  If you point out your flab, the circles under your eyes, and the sweatpants you haven't changed in three days it will just be awkward for everyone.

2.  It's okay to believe that your child is the most beautiful child in the world.  Probably he's not, but you can believe that he is.  Every other mother is going to be believing the same thing about their child, even though they will probably say it about yours, at least for the first few months.  Truth is, very few newborns are beautiful (mine excepted), but you can believe whatever you want.  Which leads me to point #3.

3. No matter what they say, every other mom you know is judging you.  If you are doing a better job of parenting or your child is exceptional in some area, they will be desperately seeking ways to undermine what you or your child is doing in order to feel better about themselves or their child.  If they are doing a better job than you (or their child is exceptional), they will be gleefully pointing this out to whomever they can find who will listen.

4.  No matter what your child tells you, you know the truth.  You are NOT the World's Best Mom.  Chances are, at least.  I guess someone does have to be the world's best mom, so it *could* be you, but I doubt it.  But that's okay.  As long as your kids think you are the World's Best Mom, it's all good.

5. On the flip side, no matter what you think, you are probably not the World's Worst Mom either... although you may feel that way at times.  Luckily, most kids have short memories.  And Popsicles facilitate forgiveness.

6.  When you get frustrated and call your mom and she says something like "just do what you think is best-- you'll do the right thing-- you're the parent, and you know best".  That's bologna.  There's a pretty good chance that you don't know what's best and that you may do the worst possible thing ever; however, the good news is that you have a long long time to figure it out.  So if you do it wrong today, at least you'll know for next time.  Very few dilemmas in parenting happen only once.  Parenting is all about second chances (and forgiveness).

7.  In that vein, when you call your mom and she says "he'll be fine."  Well, I'm sure at sometime Dahmer's mom called her mom and her mom said the same thing.... so, maybe he won't be, but again, parenting is all about second chances. Just try to do better next time... and hope that he IS fine.

8.  Every time you call your mom crying, your mom is quietly gloating that you are getting your comeuppance.

9.  Every time a friend, a cousin, a neighbor, a stranger compares your children and your child comes up lacking (see #3) just tell them that you will revisit the subject when your kids are 40-- then you'll see who is the better/ more successful/ smarter/ etc. child.  If she actually calls you when your child is 40, well, she's crazy.  Concede defeat just to maintain your own sanity.

10.  The easiest way to potty train a child is to let them run around naked.  It may be the only successful way-- if by successful you mean getting your child on the potty before they've gone "all the way".  If by successful you mean keeping a clean house, well, find another method.

11.  Which reminds me-- it's not necessary to have a clean house all the time. Or clean kids all the time.  Some studies have even suggested that kids who play in dirt have higher immunity and fewer allergies. My kids are pretty darn healthy.  Enough said.

12.  Have lots of children.  The more you have, the better your chances of achieving perfection in one of them.  Michael Jordon (probably) didn't make his first basket.  Bill Gates' first computer (probably) didn't work.  I'm not saying not to expect alot from your first child, I'm just saying that the more practice you have at parenting, the better you'll be.  Theorists have theorized that you need 10,000 hours in order to become a pro at any thing (Malcolm Gladwell), which would imply that any mother of a one and a half year old is a pro, but we've all seen other mothers who ruin that hypothosis (#3 again), so I believe that the 10,000 hours actually applies to each *aspect* of parenting-- discipline, bedtime, school conferences, homework-- which means you're going to either need multiple kids in order to become a professional, or you're going to be keeping your only child around longer than the recommended 18 years.  The other aspect of having lots of children is that "Go spend some quality time playing with your sister.  She misses you." sounds a lot better than "Go away, I need five minutes of peace and quiet!"  Another benefit of multiple children is that you have more kids to clean up the more mess that more kids make.

13.  Don't fight with your spouse/ significant other/ baby's other parent in front of your kids.  HAHAHAHAHahahahahahahahaha (while I'm laughing, I'll add "don't yell at your kids" and continue laughing) HAHAHAHAhahahahahaha.  So after your disregard this advice, make up for it with lots of hugs and kisses and "I love you's"-- both to your spouse/ significant other/ baby's other parent AND your kids.   It really does make it all better.

14.  Make out in front of your kids.  Alot.  They think it's absolutely disgusting and may run out of the room screaming, but that could be a very good thing (as long as they don't run back in-- or you'll be the one screaming.)  If they don't run away screaming, it's a good balance for the times you break #13.

15.  Despite all the baby products that you *think* you are going to need, you will get along quite fine without any of them.  You've got everything you need.  Arms.  Boobs.  Okay, maybe you should get a crib and a high chair, but all the bopees, bepoos, bapas, bouncers, and diaper 1-2-3's.... uhm, it's marketing.  It's not necessary; so have fun getting what you want, but don't stress about what you *need* to have in order to be prepared for baby.

16.  Geeze. Let other people hold your baby.  Unless that person is *literally* sneezing on your child, chances are pretty good that they aren't going to get the kid sick.  And there is nothing worse than the mom who says "uhm... she's going to cry if I give her to you" or "I just got her to sleep."  Really? Okay, then.  I'll give her back if she cries, and if she wakes up... well, what's the big deal?  To say no, well... it's insulting and it's rude.  Very few people have actually ever dropped a baby.  And no one is going to try to steal yours-- despite your confidence in #2.

17.  If you call someone and say "I just can't stand my kid today", they will say "I know how you feel.  I've had that day too" (or something like that).  They will think "I can't believe she said that-- what a horrible mother she must be".  I'm just saying.

18.  Try, at least TRY to have a somewhat natural delivery for at least a few minutes.  By this I mean, let yourself feel the pain.  This is for your own good.  First of all, it's interesting to discover what your body can handle and the lengths to which it can go.  Second, it's imperative that you are able, at some point in time, to look at your child and say "I went through the pain of labor for you, and you can't do *this* for me?".  It's also useful ammunition against your husband at some point.  I'm not going to judge you (although you should probably read #3 again) if you can't make it all the way.  I screamed-- no, strike that-- I *whimpered* for drugs through 3 out of the 4 of mine and got those drugs for one of them (just in time to push).  And I only had four hour labors.  So, believe me, I can't be too judgmental. But at least allow yourself to feel some of it.  Besides, it gives you bragging rights.

19.  Breastfeed.  Not just because it's healthy, but because it's easy.  Whether you're a stay at home mom or a working mom, pulling out a breast or pumping milk twice a day at work is a lot easier than making a special trip to the store to buy formula, mixing that formula, getting the bottle the right temperature, cleaning the bottles, finding the bottles, etc.  You get my drift.  The only downside of nursing is a/ your breasts will change, but it's not like they still look 18 years old anyhow; and b/ you can't send your husband to feed the baby in the middle of the night.  But the upside to this is that now you have an excuse to sleep in in the mornings since you were up 2, 3, 4 times last night with the wee-one.  Use this to your advantage.  And yes, the first 2-3 weeks of breastfeeding are going to hurt like a B!t@h.  Deal with it.  Fight through it.  If you choose not to, I won't judge you (see #3), and I will not judge you if you actually have a medical issue that keeps you from nursing-- I'm not that horrid.  But breast-feeding is not just the best way (all doctors agree) and the natural way (you do have breasts for a reason), but it's the one thing that YOU and only you can do for your child... and there's nothing more amazing than the feeling you'll get from giving this form of love to your baby and feeling their little fingers on yours as they look at you, attached to you, part of you. Yes, I'm biased.  This is my blog.  I'm allowed to be.

20.  Hold your baby.  Someone out there has gotten really rich convincing moms that they need to buy strollers and baby carriers in order to hold a baby.  Uhm... You have arms.  Yes, arms.  Those things were made for carrying a baby.  I guess I just don't get it-- why would you NOT want to hold your baby?  Why would you want to spend more time looking elsewhere than looking into those little eyes that *only* want to look at you?  Aside from the psychological benefits and social awareness strengths that holding a child creates-- I'm sure your kid will get that eventually somehow-- and the upper arm strength you will develop, why oh why would you have a child that you don't want to keep in your arms the whole time you can?  There's nothing better than a sweaty damp cheek laying on your neck asleep... it's the most amazing feeling- and soon enough, they won't want you to touch them, so hold them now while you can.  Suck up that "amazing" while you have the opportunity to do so.

21.  Be present.  I'm not saying you have to follow your kids around. That would drive anyone (most people) insane.  But when your child wants to show you an ugly brown stick figure picture of yourself for the thirty-second time today-- take both eyes off the tv/ book/ computer screen/ ipad and LOOK AT IT.  And tell them how beautiful it is.  How amazing it is.   And after they leave it on the floor and run off to make you a thirty-third, throw it away quickly.  But always look at your kids.  There's nothing like the pain in a kids' eyes (or the strength of their rebellion) if they feel they are being ignored-- especially after they've put all that love, effort, and age-appropriate creativity into a really bad piece of art.

22.  If you just can't be present anymore- it's been one of those days that you just can't handle one more second.  Put down the phone (#17) and get out of there quickly before you lose it.  You do NOT want to lose it in front of your kids-- you will then revert to #5, whether in fact or theory.  Go hide in the bathroom, the garage, the back deck, the laundry room (a glass of wine helps) and give yourself a nice little break.  Believe me, the kids are safer unattended for those three minutes than they would be if you didn't remove yourself quickly from the scene.

23.  Parenting is a lot easier in conjunction with a little wine.  Kids are cuter, their songs make more sense, and bedtime is much easier to handle.  It is okay to have a glass of wine or a beer every now and then.  It is not okay for your kids to see you drunk. One of the many reasons this is a bad idea is because they will go to school and tell their teachers and their friends (who will tell their moms) that you were drunk last night and that's why their homework wasn't finished-- and now we're back to #3 again.   And that could make for a very awkward Parent-Teacher conference and may explain why little Johnny isn't allowed to play at your house anymore.

24.  Getting your child a dog will teach responsibility, compassion, etc.  But by the time your child is old enough for a dog you have probably already learned enough about responsibility, compassion, etc., so skip the dog.

25. Let your three year old dress herself sometimes.  And do her own hair.  And tell her she looks beautiful when she does it.  It's good for her self-esteem and independence.  Are you really that worried about how it reflects on you?  Believe me, it will make your life a lot easier if you just go with the flow sometimes.  This is also the time when people will most often look at your child and say "you know how to pick your battles" (take that as a compliment-- even if YOU dressed her this time, just go with it.)

26.  Recognize that while you may believe you have the perfect child, you don't.  And telling other people you have the perfect child is just going to either A/ annoy them, B/ make them think you are delusional or one of "those parents" who refuses to see that their child is the worst kid on the bus or C/ give them a reason to blatantly search for something/ anything to criticize about your child.  So, even if you *think* your child is perfect, no one wants to hear about it. I'm not saying don't brag on your baby.  In fact, I think you should brag on your child-- even occasionally when they don't know that you know that they can hear you-- but just don't tell other parents that yours is perfect.  Yours isn't.  Theirs is.

27.  Don't get offended when other people give unsolicited advice.  They do it because they care.  Take what you want- leave the rest.  It's like an all-you-can-eat buffet.  You're not forced to try everything, but it's always good to have the option.  Two-thirds of the people who read this will probably be offended by some part of it, and three-quarters of those offended will admit to themselves that I'm right, but still be offended--  but hey, it's advice-- you don't HAVE to take it.  Heck, you don't HAVE to read this (but now that you have, finish, please!)

28. Listen to the advice other people give.  I didn't say *follow* their advice, I said LISTEN to it.  No, they aren't experts, but neither are you.  And if they've already been there/ done that, you just *may* learn something from them. See #6.  And remind them of #6. Listen to them, but... #27.

29.  Say I love you.  All the time.  To everyone you love-- but especially your children.  "I love you" should fall out of your mouth so easily and so quickly that you are embarrassed every time you hang up the phone with a telemarketer.  You should, at least once, overhear your children's friends ask "why does your mom say she loves me?".  You should say it in front of teachers, friends, soccer coaches, and other parents.  As a result, you will look like an exceptionally good parent when your son runs past you on the soccer field, mid play, and yells "I love you" over his shoulder.  No one else's son did that.  MINE DID.  (#26, anyone?)

30.  Pray.  A lot.

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