Right, so, first thing’s first – I hate getting unsolicited parenting advice. I hated it before we knew that Isaac was special, and I hate it even more now that the unsolicited advice is rarely helpful to our situation. “Have you tried ABA? I read an article that autistic kids do really well with ABA.” <sigh> “Yes, oddly enough, I am in the know of the most common and documented autism therapy. Thanks, though.”
Thus, I cringe when I hear myself *give* unsolicited parenting advice. As it’s happening, my inner voice goes, “No. NO! What are you doing, crazy lady? They hate this! You hate this! Stop stop stop!”
It’s rare. I’ve gotten pretty good at biting my tongue.
But when a new baby comes on the scene, and especially when that new baby is part of my tribe (new nephew, good friend’s new kiddo, etc) – all this advice comes bubbling up and I hold it in. My new nephew Charlie made his debut last week, and I have so. many. thoughts.
Then I realized – I have a blog! I can type all my thoughts! And it’s not giving unsolictied advice, because I’m just sharing my thoughts to the world!
If any new parents (hi Aidan!) happen to read this…well, so be it. I’m not saying any of this is super helpful or whatever. It’s just my list.
- You can’t make a baby sleep. You can set up behaviors, rituals, and environments that are conducive to sleep…but none of those things guarantee sleep. Babies do what they gotta do. Roll with it.
- You can be 100% confident that they will either figure out sleeping through the night eventually, or that they will not sleep but will not bother you so you can sleep. It will happen, someday. You can set up behaviors, rituals, and environments that are conducive to that day coming, but you cannot make it happen.
- Nurse on demand. It’s what your body and the baby’s body wants. Be lazy, do what’s easy, nurse on demand. I am the most scheduled person alive, and I nursed on demand because trying to make a baby shift to my schedule was horrible.
- Get life insurance ASAP. Once anything is wrong with your kid – from autism to pre-existing health stuff – that insurance gets more expensive and harder to get. Get it as soon after birth as possible – it’ll be super cheap and they have good options now that you can cash out at age 18 and use for college costs.
- Baths are important…but not, like, super-important. If your kid looks dirty or smells, then bath them. If they don’t, then don’t. (I mean, babies are pretty gross so you end up bathing daily. And a bathtime at night is conducive to helping with sleep. All good reasons…but as kids get older? If they look and smell clean, let it go.)
- You are going to be the primary influence on your kid – on their morals, their outlook on life, on how they view the world. If someone else in your kid’s life doesn’t exactly match how you roll…it’s okay. Your kid can still have time with, have a relationship with that person. You’ve got this.
- The parent makes the weather in the house. How you react to things – to mistakes, to thwarted plans, to rainy days, to running late, to when your kid messes up, or throws up all over you…how you react sets the tone for the whole day, the whole house, your baby’s whole world. Breathe first. Take care. You make the weather.
- It is more important to be a good observer of your baby than to know all the facts and “should’s” and details of child development. Speaking as someone who parented a baby who matched up with *none* of the milestones or sensory reactions of a typical baby…my knowing him, watching him, grokking him was so much more important than my knowing the “right” thing. If something goes wrong – physical health, developmental delays – you knowing your baby will help the experts SO MUCH. Watch. Learn. Be with them. Be the expert in your kid.
- Ask for help, early and often. Call the on-call nurse. Rally your family and friends when you need them. Related to 10.
- Have a village. You cannot do this alone. Even if you can for a short time with everything going fine, there will be a time when you cannot. Deliberately build a village of people you know and trust who also know and love your baby. Even if you don’t need a sitter right then, have one and be building that relationship for when you do – even if all you do is go out for coffee for 40 minutes and come back home. So worth it to have that village when you need it. And you will.
Okay, take it with a grain of salt – my parenting journey has been very specific to autism and being atypical. But…this is what I want to share with the new parents I love.