When my children were sent home from the hospital, the doctor in the nursery gave us some advice.
“Just love them,” he said.
He never said anything about what sort of stroller to use or whether to use cloth or disposable diapers. He didn’t even weigh in on formula versus breast milk and he certainly didn’t offer his opinions on organic baby food.
A few weeks ago, I saw a coming attraction for the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” movie which I have not seen. It brought back memories of how silly we all were when we were new parents. We all clung to the advice in the book with the same title. We ran to it if a situation confounded us.
We worried so much about where children should sleep—alone or with us—and what sort of equipment we should acquire. New parents judged each other over boiled formula water or delayed potty training or too much dessert. We fretted over microwaving bottles versus warming them in a pan of water. We even agonized about reading to them enough or playing the right music to them before they were born.
As if that was not enough, the parenting magazines tortured us more with ridiculous advice about sneaking vegetables into milkshakes and how to layer winter clothing.
When I look back, so much of it was a total waste of time, energy and even money in acquiring equipment we didn’t need.
We are all such suckers for it at the time. Parenting is so daunting to us when we begin that we are willing to read anything, listen to anyone to avoid making decisions ourselves. We have so much time on our hands before children arrive to sit around and plan what sort of parents we want to be. We wallow around in the preparation, the arms build-up of stuff.
A few years into it, most of us realize that there is no owner’s manual for these children. There is no one answer for every situation. Each kid is different, each parent is different.
You can worry about sneaking a carrot into a brownie, but your child may still go to McTacoKing too often when he gets a driver’s license. Middle schoolers will not use an umbrella in the pouring rain or wear anything warmer than North Face or sports team jacket despite the fabulous foundation in layering clothing.
And, you can really laugh at your younger self about the stress over boiled water or 100 percent cotton clothing or special overpriced laundry detergent when you are worrying about the next thing like how to pay for college. It’s just a stage new parents have to go through. Nothing has changed, except now the toys are even more complicated. You can get high chairs and toys with Microban or baby monitors with video feeds.
We can even keep it up as they get older with monitors on our car that will text us if they drive too fast or a GPS system so you always know where they are – or at least the location of the phone.
I think it is important to separate the stuff and the technology from the common sense. We need to ask whether it is important to know or control everything just because we can. We need to remember the advice of that wise pediatrician—just love them.