Advice for new parents, from…a new parent

Alex turned 1 year old last week. We didn’t do anything major – his aunts and uncles came over and sang him Happy Birthday, and he was more interested in the fruit on his cake than the cake itself, but it was nice, and we got to have a great family moment. Since then I’ve been vacillating between calling him a baby or a big boy – he can pull himself up now, and take small steps when we hold him; he can feed himself by hand, and hold his own sippy cup to drink, and we’re working on him feeding himself with a spoon; he’s chatty and adventurous and loveable in his own special way.

A few weeks ago we were at a cafe, and sat next to us were a couple with a 10 week old. I commented that they looked great for having only had the kid a few months, and that I couldn’t remember the last time I numbered my baby’s age in weeks (rather than months). Andrew said it gets easier, and I was just about to launch into some tired platitude like ‘cherish these moments, they grow so fast!’ when I stopped.

It’s right around the 1 year mark when parents think they can start giving out unsolicited advice (rather than always be on the receiving end), and I always found it a bit annoying, especially since some of it was downright stupid (someone actually said to me once regarding my overtired 6 month old, “Give him some gin with a little honey, he’ll go right down”. Thank you, Drunky McStupid, but I think I won’t poison my kid with honey and booze just yet). But, as this is the Internet, where unsolicited advice rules over everything else, here is my bit of advice for new or expectant parents:

Whatever the hell works, work it.

If wearing your baby 24 hours a day works, do it. If your copy of Gina Ford is falling apart from you thumbing through it, do it. If £3500 worth of the fanciest baby gadgets gives you peace of mind, do it. If you have to call Crysis and your peds doc every three hours, DO IT. If making all his food by scratch works, or if buying everything off the shelf works, do it. And while I am grossly against it, if you feel like not immunizing your kid is somehow better for them, as much as it pains me to say, do it. Pretty much everything short of hitting your kid or abusing drugs and alcohol, if it gets you through the day, do it.

It’s hard enough in this world of overinformation, where everyone seems to be an expert, to figure out how to be a good parent. It’s even harder when you feel like you have to be the ‘expert’ parent. For example, the other day I got mad at myself because I wasn’t doing my 20 minutes per day of Cantonese lessons with Alex. Let me restate that for all of you: I was mad at myself because my son, who would eat his own poop if I let him, wasn’t getting his 20 minutes of structured lesson plans per day. Ridiculous.

Your job is to be the best parent in the world…for your kid. If that means tv time and a late bedtime, fine. If it means Suzuki piano lessons at 9 months, fine. As long as you are doing what you feel is the very best for your kid, *AND* you are honestly evaluating yourself every once in awhile to make sure it is the right thing for them (and not just for your ego/laziness/etc), then go for it. Don’t worry about the experts, your job is to get through the first year with your brain still intact.

Good luck, and remember – it’s only 365 days. Try your best 365 times, and you will be fine.