Jan 26, 2005

for the parents

September 13, 2003

10 things every new parent needs to know

By Laura Dolce
Times Herald-Record

My baby brother and his wife are expecting their first child in December and like those of us who've traveled this slippery slope before, they're preparing for the blessed event by gobbling up every parenting/new baby book they can find, like they're working toward a master's degree in parenting, or need to pass a baby bar exam.
Trouble is, the books only tell you so much – they play by the rules. And as every experienced parent knows, chances are there's no chapters titled "What to do if your son eats a Matchbox car," or "Help, my daughter stuck a Barbie shoe up her nose." And plenty of times when you really need them.
That's why I put together – for my brother and his wife and all those parents-to-be out there – my "Top 10 things all new parents need to know but will never find out from a book."
So hang on to your baby booties, 'cause here we go:

1 You will watch him breathe. A lot. You will, in fact, spend hours in his dark room watching his little chest rise and fall. Your world will hang on each shuddering, stuttering breath. You will find yourself straining to hear the sound of his breathing on the monitor, and bolt out of bed in the middle of the night to rest your hand gently on his chest to feel it rise. And this need doesn't disappear over time. Just last week, my 13-year-old demanded, "Why were you staring at me while I was sleeping?"

2 Your baby's world isn't sterile. Deal with it. I was once at a social gathering with a friend, his wife and their several-month-old daughter where every time their daughter's cup/pacifier/toy touched the ground, my friend's wife would bounce up from her chair, grab the now-offensive item in two fingers like it carried the bubonic plague and hustle off to the kitchen to boil it. This went on for hours, as the little tyke soon realized chucking something on the floor caused mommy to bounce up like a jack-in-the-box and run away.

3 Beware of grandparents. They seem innocent enough, what with the gaggle of gifts they fill the nursery with and the offers of help they rain down on you. But beware. A new grandbaby can turn your seemingly normal parents (or in-laws) into zombie-like beings driven by only one thought: Get to THE GRANDCHILD. It starts out subtly. They "happen to be in the neighborhood" carrying four cases of Pampers and 14 little stretchies they "picked up on sale." Next thing you know they're trying to arm-wrestle you for who gets to give baby his next bottle. If your parents' offers to "give you a break" are getting increasingly strident and they've taken to beginning every sentence with "My grandchild ..." you've got trouble. Short of a restraining order, there's not a lot you can do to solve this, so try to catch it before it gets too late.

4 Your child will eat dirt. More if he's a boy; less if she's a girl. But believe me, dirt-eating will take place. And you know what? Let it happen. You can't stop it, and you'll only make yourself nuts if you try. Repeat after me: A little dirt doesn't hurt, a little dirt doesn't hurt ...

5 You will wake him up just to hold him. That's right, you will pluck a sleeping baby out of his bassinet or crib just to see him smile when he wakes up and sees it's you. That's 'cause there's no late-night TV show that can compare with a gurgling baby. Note to second-timers: The saddest thing I ever read was an article about repeat parents that contained this line: "No one ever wakes a second baby just to see her smile." Right then and there, I decided I wouldn't let that happen. When my second came around, I woke her up plenty. This may be while she's a night owl today ...

6 He will change the way you feel about body fluids. Poop never looked so good. And you'll spend hours discussing its myriad facets: texture, consistency, frequency. None of this will strike you as odd or inappropriate. In fact, getting to know your baby's poop comes in handy. When he's first born, his poop will tell you how he's handling your breast milk/formula. As a toddler, it will tell you whether or not he's eating pocket change and just exactly where Great Aunt Miranda's diamond stud went. Toddler poop will also spur you on to that other rite of passage: potty training.

7 He will scare the crap out of you. When my daughter Emily was about 18 months old, she took a tumble down the stairs in our house. She cried for exactly 30 seconds, then picked herself up and went on her merry way. My husband and I sat on the top step shaking for a solid hour. My little one, Sarah, hurled herself out of her crib and onto her head – and into the emergency room – at 10 months old. I slept beside her next to her crib for the next three days. Kids will do that to you. They think they can fly and don't give a hoot what that does to your nerves. Nothing, I mean nothing, will ever scare you more than the thought of your child being hurt. Embrace the fear. It ain't going anywhere.

8 He will stick things where they don't belong. Pennies, Cheerios, paper clips will end up in his mouth, up his nose or down his diaper. On the bright side, by the end of his second year you'll be a whiz with a Q-tip.

9 You will turn into Conan the Barbarian. There will be times when you'll become a cross between Xena, Warrior Princess and Al Capone if someone threatens him in any way, like, for example, the brat down the street who didn't invite him to his birthday party, or the kid next door who stole his favorite truck, or his rotten kindergarten teacher who always wanted him to color inside the lines or ... You get the picture.

10 He will make you wonder what you ever did before he showed up. Dinners out? Weekends away? Uninterrupted sex? A thing of the past. Yet, each time you hold him in your arms, you'll wonder why you ever thought life before him was worth living at all.

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