A friend whose wife is expecting their first child was asking me for advice today. He's going to be a new dad, so he was asking in general terms because until you're in it, you really don't know what to ask for.
My knee-jerk reaction was to tell him to get rest. Lots of it, whenever you can from now until the kids are adults. Forget the idea of work/life balance too, because balance is a myth. Sometimes work will take priority, sometimes the kids will, and sometimes dad has to be a priority. If you're too concerned about hitting a false measure of balance, you're going to miss something.
|The End of the Beginning|
And that was it. That's all I could come up with until I got in the car and scarfed down one of the sugar cookies I bought for myself as a treat that I had no intention of sharing. Here's what I came up with.
- Avoid watching Caillou at all costs. For some reason, kids are absolutely mesmerized by him. No adult on that show holds the kid accountable to the boundaries they've set. Sure, he's four but child whining shouldn't equal parent caving in, and that's what happens on every blessed episode of this show. You'll both learn bad habits if you watch too much.
- I don't care how verbal your child is or is not, watch your damn mouth.
- Read with them. Everyday, even for just a few minutes. Early on, it doesn't really matter what you read, meaning the sports section of the newspaper is fair game. So is a good Doris Kearns Goodwin biography. Eventually you'll move on to Sandra Boynton board books, rediscover Dr. Seuss and chill out with the hippiest hip cat in the library, Pete the Cat. Watching them discover stories and storytelling is a blast, and you'll be giving them a skill they will never outgrow.
- Let them play. If you send them to daycare or preschool, make sure play is a big part of what they do everyday. I walked out of a prospective daycare once because they had a new activity every 15 minutes. These aren't little robots you're raising, they're kids and kids learn a ton from play. If you're concerned they aren't progressing academically, check yourself if they're under five. You're trying too hard, then start repeat suggestion three until Pete the Cat helps you find your mellow again.
- Make time for yourself. Make time for your spouse. Make time for both of you alone without the children. You will feel guilty the first dozen or so times you try it, but you will be a better, more relaxed, more focused parent as a result.
- Refrain from striking everyone who implores you to treasure these moments. Everyone says it, and you're no good to your kid(s) if you're in prison on assault charges.
- Share what is comfortable for you. If people are complaining you share too much about your kids, you didn't need those people in your life anyway. But share smartly and do things to avoid giving the full details of your child's identity to the general public.
- Be willing to learn from your kid. The basics of getting along in society, reading, writing, 'rithmetic, you probably already know. But if you let them, your kids will teach you a lot. I know I've learned a lot about unconditional love and cultivating patience from The Kid.
- Enjoy the opportunity to do kid stuff again without appearing creepy. You get to go to great cartoon movies when they're first in the theater, head to indoor water parks in the winter, play with slime and check out science centers without worrying if anyone is going to call you a cad.
- Ask anyone you want for advice, but accept it only from the people who you think are parenting right.