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Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Advice To New Parents and A New Welcome Too

There's a moment that occurs anywhere from 241,000 to 490,000 times each day. A new baby is born.

(Before I go anywhere with this, I'd like to point out the large variation in data. That's a range of 150,000 difference in babies that are projected born each day. Statistically that may not mean anything, but that's 150,000 babies that could be unaccounted for. That ain't right. Someone needs to find them and tell them that they must be counted. I don't remember when I was counted, but my parents always told me that I counted. Therefore, I must have been counted.)

Back to babies. So some hundreds of thousands of babies are born each day which means there are new scared servants gravitating towards a Baby R Us every second. Moms and dads buying unnecessary plastic bottle lifters, monogrammed diapers and bouncers/rockers/shakers/gyrators. It's crazy and a worthwhile discussion regarding the crap that's being pandered to nervous parents around the world, but I'll stop going down that road for now. This magical moment that others embraced went wasted on me for so many years. That is until I had my own. The EGB. The legendary afro-forming, cheek blasting, one-with-the-animals--EGB. That changed me. Now when I hear of a baby being born to someone I know--something clicks. I know what they're going through--both good and bad. It brings me right back to square one when they put EGB in my arms for the first time and I held her like I'd been on some abandoned island starving for weeks and came across a 13 inch summer sausage that I proceeded to put a Vulcan grip on to make sure it was real. (if this whole how-babies-are-held thing interests you, check out this previous post about how babies are held like a nice bottle of fine wine)

Regardless, it brings a laugh in part because I know exactly what they're going through and how much it will change their lives. It's borderline comedy and insanity. The long sleepless nights in which they will sit on the side of the bed as a tortured soldier wondering when they get to go home. The first drive home from the hospital when they drive like an 80 year old granny and cuss at high school kids who drive too fast. The moment that will come when they realize, "I can do this". That they'll be late to work someday because they ran out of diapers/formula/milk and had to make a run to the store. The many times when they will question what they are doing. The debates over who will change the next diaper (I knew my stats like a pro baseball player). The swaddle techniques. The baby's first smile. It goes on and on. It's all a comedy of errors with a great reward. Hopefully, this blog has captured all of this in someway. It's gotta get counted.

Having a baby is one of life's moments where unsolicited advice is unavoidable. People will tell you everything that they believe you should or shouldn't do. I did a lot of mindless head nodding as people went on and on about cloth diapers, bottle warmers, discipline techniques, books about sleeping routines. It just didn't mean anything without a frame of reference before EGB came. And after she did come, I was the frog on Frogger avoiding being roadkill, so I forgot it all anyway. Even now when someone starts an unsolicited (or sometimes even solicited) parenting advice comment with, "You need to....." I usually stop listening. Besides food, water, love, and whiskey, there are no other needs. There is no one way. The answer lies between it all.

That having been said, here is some unsolicited advice that I've given to others pre-birth that has come back to me and confirmed as valuable. Here's what others have said about it:

"That Dave sure doesn't know much, but that advice he gave me was allright," said one new father.

"One time Dave had way too many beers at a party and told me this advice. I thought he was full of it. It was so true. I'll never doubt Dave after having too many beers again," said a new dad.

"One time Dave went on vacation to China and gave this unsolicited advice to a Chinese guy on the street with his pregnant wife. The guy didn't speak English and thought Dave was trying to hit on his girl so he slapped him around a bit. It didn't really work in China, but I was laughing my ass off watching this Chinese dude work Dave over," said one of Dave's old friends who likes to see Dave get slapped in the head.

The new parent advice goes something like this--It's not easy. In fact it will be maybe one of the hardest things you'll ever do. There will be an immediate sense of loss. You will lose a part of who you've always been. You will lose the time that you that you've grown accustomed to over the years for you. You will not just be able to pick up a magazine and read it cover-to-cover. You may be angry about this. Your child will not care and may laugh at the notion that you still deserve this time to yourself. Your child will give you nothing to confirm that they appreciate your service to them. It will be an act of blind faith to give everything you have to receive no affirmation of love from your child in return. You may be angry. You may even resent your child for their seemingly selfish acts. You may feel a sense of sadness like you never expected. Love will be constant, but you may not always like your baby. You may wonder if the 241,000 to 490,000 other parents that just had babies are going through the same thing. In turn, you most likely feel guilty for having these feelings.

The fact is that parents don't talk about these truths enough. Why? Guilt. We don't feel that we should feel these things as the miracle of life has just been bestowed upon us. Anyone who has had a child knows of the wave of joy and incredulous feelings of generating a life. But in a way this feeling is somewhat fleeting in that nursing the baby to life and the real threats of danger kicks in immediately. We want to tell others of the joy. The miracle. So we do. But most of our hours are spent in survival mode. It's an extremely conflicting state of being. Further, this conflict is compounded by a thought that we should be enjoying this period more because that's what we've heard from other parents. And if we are not, than it says something negatively about us as a parent or as a person. So we get trapped. Outwardly we talk about all the amazing things about being a parent right from the start. In actuality the real amazing thing is that we figure out how to survive it all. There is the raw emotion of love that guides our ability blindly give everything we have to the new being,--but the warm love, confirmation of the benefits of giving, the real relationship....all comes down the road later.

So to you all new parents. Hear me and hear me good--if you don't feel like your totally "enjoying" the first months of your baby's life. It's ok. You're not alone and you're a kick ass parent doing what we've all done before you. Talk about the truth. It's no secret, but it's been locked up in the dark halls of the new parenting mind. Spread the gospel of the truth of "these first 90 days kinda suck". I found that once I said this out loud it was extremely liberating. Further, when others came to me later and said thanks for the heads up it made me realize that this truth should be shared without guilt. At the end of the day--it made me a better, happier (or at least less conflicted) and more tolerable partner and parent. It took time, but I guess I figured a few things out.

At the end of the day, parenting is the most glorious affliction known. It's incurable, addictive, and the greatest thing that's ever happened me. The rewards will rain on us all. It comes in waves and next thing you know the "truth" that I spoke of is no longer of consequence. The tide turns and it becomes a whole new world order. I wouldn't trade it in for anything.

Speaking of a new (what truly preempted this post in the first place before my brain got side tracked ). Welcome Dillon Sage Strife aka Lil' Dill Pickle est. June 2, 2010 to the funky world. She's being held captive by one of the great pie eating champs of E. Pennsylvania and one of my oldest friends, Mikey "tape on the glasses" Strife and Sam "manager of the Mikey lost and found" Strife. Welcome to the madness you three. I asked if Dillon would be considered a sweet or Kosher pickle. Given her lack of Hebraic roots and general dislike for sweet pickles, it's been determined that she's a hot n' spicy pickle. Keep burnin' those diapers baby.....EGB says, "Don't let that swaddle hold a sister down. Break out and party with me. I'll show you how to hide cookies and pee in the yard."

Here's the Lil Spicy Dill packle!
Oh yeah, welcome Lil' Hot Pickle. I got some advice for ya too. Make sure you kiss your Daddy a lot he feels left out like that sometimes. You gotta build him up and then make him give you ice cream.
Swing on the big girl swings asap. The little girl swings make your booty feel weird.
Stop from time to time and smell the flowers. These ones smell like cheese.
Take a deep breath and take in the scenery. You never know when you'll get lost and have to walk home. So always be looking at the landmarks around you.
Pretend you like getting dressed up. I prefer hanging in my naked birthday suit, but old people spend money on these nice fabrics--so smile from time to time.
Most of all laugh, just because you can. A lot of things will seem like a big deal, but they always work out. There's nothing to worry about Mama and Daddy got your back. I got more secrets for you, but we're just going to have to share them together.


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ellen said...

Dave! I have missed reading your blog and seeing the precious Ellie Gray. I love love love what you wrote here. Thank you for sharing the truth... I know it absolutely is what we experienced. Keep lighting the way, you jedi-warrior. And we will be seeing you guys in less than a month. So excited. You are one amazing dad and dude.

ellen