“So I think I’ll need a bandaid (need a bandaid),
Or maybe three or four (or five or six or more)
And a bottle of that spray stuff
We just got at the store.
Some sticky tape, a roll of gauze,
And if you’d be so kind,
A washcloth and a piece of ice,
But not the iodine.
No iodine.” – Trout Fishing in America
(IF you don’t know this song – google it. Then buy their very first album for your toddler. The song where they throw nursery characters out the window is GOLD)
Kids. Thats too broad, BABIES. Toddlers. I both love them and hate them. Madison had colic. She legit cried 12 hours a day for 6 months. It was torture. However, after that she never had another fit or tantrum ever again. No lie. We like to think she got it all out. And all of the things people told us, to help us get through those hours of crying. None of it worked: thanks guys. It was then Ryan and I both realized, lets just be extreme cause fuck it we aren’t sleeping anyways! And shockingly, those against the grain ideas, actually worked, FOR US. So, this is my “What to DO when you’re expecting and all of your friends think they know better and the books were written by rich white women with married parents and nannies” list.
Lots of people are having babies. Contrary to popular belief, there is no RIGHT WAY to raise them. That “What to expect when your expecting” line of books? Total bullshit. Your friends who have kids and have “more experience”? Meh some may be helpful but chances are, their situations are not YOURS. And this is what I am here to tell you – my list – is a list of all the things I did AGAINST the grain, and literally opposite of what people told me, AND IT ALL TURNED OUT OK. Not only is our daughter beautiful, smart, amazing and successful; she is fierce, free thinking and not only speaks to us, but considers us friends at the adult age of 21. None of those things could I claim when I was growing up, so something we did seemed to work.
- Pregnancy Vitamins. You don’t have to take those horse pills. Fight me on it. Change your diet. Eat more greens. Look at what is in them and find fresh ingredients to give you those nutrients.
- DO take daily naps. If you have to, take a nap on your lunch break at work. You should be taking DAILY naps starting in month TWO at the latest. YOU ARE MAKING REAL LIFE ORGANS IN THERE. Your sleep will make a stronger baby bear.
- Sex. All the time. No the baby won’t see anything, its ok. Do it all the times.
- Foot rubs. All the time. And if your partner doesn’t like feet, remind them YOU ARE MAKING FEET WITH YOUR BODY. If you don’t have a partner – your friends better warm them hands up. Its the saving grace for a pregnant person.
- Wine. Its OK just be cool. A few glasses of red are good for you. A bender with fireball isn’t recommended.
- Birthing choices: If you want an epidural, or to be in a hospital and have pain meds, that is ABSOLUTELY your right and makes you no less of a mother. Seattle is full of uber granola parents that like to push their “drug free, bloody hot tub” views on other expectant moms and I roll my eyes every time. Both ways are just as brave. You are bringing another human to life outside your body. I give a fuck how you choose to endure that pain. You are a warrior. Period. Don’t shame people for their birthing choices, they are birthing, thats a WIN in general.
- Formula or Breastmilk? Breastfeeding IS HARD. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work for you. It seems like so much work for so little, I know. Its literally a milky water that was specifically made for your baby. Its not gonna come out like a tap most likely, cause that shit is like GOLD! Either be ready to do the (pumping) work, or just take a breath and do your formula research. There are plenty of amazing choices out there for those that decide to not do it. Then see the end of the last paragraph and stop judging each other for it.
- Co-Sleeping. Its ok to let your baby sleep with you. You won’t roll over on them. You won’t forget they are there. You WILL sleep more, and can feed from bed. The baby will sleep better near your heart, its where they were for so long. If this is not possible or you aren’t comfortable with this – get them a “Momma Bear” its a bear that sits in the crip and makes heart sounds and is very similar to the sound they hear in the womb. It did wonders for us.
- FOOD. Madison’s first food was a piece of red licorice. Then her second bite was mashed up penne noodles. She was barely 24 weeks old. Baby food, shmaby food. Its over priced, and full of things. Sure we got them for Madison to supplement, but we did not fear food. If the baby reached for something, I tried to mash it up and give her a taste. As she grew that included wine and spicy things. Sure be smart about choking and large anything with no teeth, but that is literally COMMON SENSE, I would hope.
- TV. “Not too much tv! Limit screen time! Only rated G!” Listen. This is utter nonsense to me. They key isn’t limiting SCREEN TIME, the key is limiting alone time. Don’t use it as a babysitter. TV isn’t harmful, its using it wrong thats harmful. TALK to them about what they are watching, engage so its not a zombie looking at a screen. Talk through it and become part of the audience with them. Madison accidentally saw a rated R movie when we were overseas when she was just 3 years old. The short version of the story is – someone told us “American Pie” was good movie for young kids (thanks Omeed lol). We were in Zambia, Africa and drove an hour to see it, so when the apple pie scene happened we were like “Well shit…” and just rolled with it. You improv and make it work. Later when friends asked how the coveted movie trip went, big mouth Maddi said “It was silly a man put his peepee in a pie!” and yup that was that. It happens, and they will survive.
- Candy. On halloween night, when Madison was just 1 year old – I let her take her loot, sit super close to the TV and dump out her candy. She looked up in awe. I said “Eat as much as you want!”. I even sent a photo to my sister because I was so proud of doing exactly the opposite of what we were allowed as kids. What ended up happening? She ate 3 pieces, felt sick and didn’t eat anymore. To this day she has never overdone it on candy on halloween. Because it was never something she had to rebel.
- Clothing. Blue and Pink are dumb. Ok I don’t really mean that but lets try to not encourage the forced societal gender norms at day one, what do you say parents? Ryan and I didn’t buy it – so we decided we were going to dress her like Harriet the Spy. Baggy, primary colors. And then when she was old enough to choose her own clothes, we welcomed it. Take it further, let them choose YOUR CLOTHES. How does that feel? Weird right? So maybe make it a collaborative effort. Stripes, hearts and pineapples DO SO MATCH!
- Adults. I was raised with a “Don’t speak until you are spoken to” and “respect your elders” era. And then of course I am an XGen kid so that all went out the window in my teens in a negative way. However when we raised Maddi we were able to foster and encourage a happy medium. As a toddler we spoke to her as a human, not a baby. Even her gibberish was a language and we entertained it. Every word was celebrated like a 3 point goal and usually rewarded with a little dance or high five. At 18 months she barely spoke over a whisper, but it was a well thought out whisper. Her fav words to whisper were “Elephant, Water and Monster”. When she did raise her voice it was secure. We taught her to always look adults in the eye, always stand your ground and speak your mind. You can disagree without loosing your intelligence and patience. Always question adults and their motives, always.
- Bandaids. Buy them in big boxes. Same with neosporin. Don’t be stingy with them. Just because YOU can’t see the cut doesn’t mean its not there. Always wait 5 Mississippi second before reacting to a toddler or baby owie – bandaid doesn’t need to mean drama. They feed off you. If you blow it off, they will too most of the time. We would wait, she would gauge our response, whimper a bit – Ryan would say “You are all good!” and I would say – “Lets get a bandaid and then keep playing” and it was all good! They know you are there to help heal them but also that its all good!
- School. Yeah I think you all know where I am going to go with this. Babies need music, love and you. Toddlers need music, love, you, picture books and sesame street. When they are old enough to walk they need to go to busy places with lots of moving parts and stimuli. No I don’t mean something Montessori based, I mean the real world. Take them to an open air market, to the car wash, gas station. Take them to the DMV and the hair salon. Let them touch and feel things, get dirty and talk to them about it all. THAT IS SCHOOL. That is where they learn. Preschool, K-whatever. That is all important of course, but do your research. Let them skip days and take them on day dates. Be an active part of their education, not with the PTA but with attention and time. We were never rich with money but we gave her all the time and energy we had.
- Finally – Siblings/family. “Don’t you wish you had another baby?” “Its not fair to her to not giving her a sibling” and the worst “Its easier with more than one, they will play together and you don’t have to do as much!”. Its not for everyone – multiple kids is hard and its something Ryan and I knew we didn’t want to tackle. I read something a long time ago in an OLD parenting book and its literally the only piece of advice that wasn’t total bs – Dr Spock said that ideally each child needs 5-7 years of “only child” attention. Over the years I have spoken to people that spaced their kids as such and they all praise it – I have no experience with it but it makes absolute sense to me. Either way you do you.
Raising kids is a lot of work. I once had a girl friend call me, in fear – because her and her partner were pregnant and she was absolutely terrified. She said “We have no money and no big house – I don’t know what we are going to do!”. I told her to calm down. Babies need 3 things, love, food and you. The rest will come if you ask for help. The government can help, your neighbors can help, I mean total strangers will help via the internet if you get someone to tell your story. You are not alone.
LOVE your baby. Snuggle them and make eye contact as much as possible. Thumb through a National Geographic magazine with them on your lap while listening to The Score, pointing out Lauryn’s verse in the title track and teach them to say the word FIRE with that as reference. Let them help you cook and throw food at each other. Let them taste ingredients and talk to them about each one. Make their chores be watching movie classics like The Wiz, Goonies, The Breakfast Club and The Karate Kid. Let them yell at you for taking a toy away, then after thank them for being real and explain the process with a cool head. Let them stay up late and watch old TV land episodes of 227 and Welcome Back Kotter and make it their background noise. Let them feel a vinyl record and know what a cassette tape is. Watch Pee-Wee’s playhouse and name the furniture, then tape up your faces and go to the grocery store.
They can learn things to help them succeed in the quickly growing tech world, like to code, to use a MAC and “proper” grammar – at school. Shit, they are selling coding toys for TODDLERS. I could code my myspace page to have a cool background. Thats about it. They will get that education around them as technology advances. The things you can give them are priceless. This is what parenting is to me when they are young. Let them LIVE with you and show them the salt of the earth while they are at your fingertips. Time moves fast, and before you know it, these formative years will pass. Take every second you have and make it unforgettable.