You know how when you hear someone is expecting a baby, you feel compelled to share all your wisdom with them? Even if you haven’t actually had any babies? Uh, yeah. Most of us do it. Except the dog and cat people out there, who skip the advice and just chime in, I love my cats/dogs, they’re so much easier than babies.
No, they’re not.
For instance, our creaky, kind of kooky 15-year-old boy cat, Wacky Cat 2, (you may remember him from such blog posts as this one, or or this) decided to stay out all night last night and stressed Steve and me the hell out. “Stressed me the hell out” is a phrase I use way more often when talking about the cats than when I am discussing the kids, fyi. I went out on the back porch and called for him, and miaoooow!! There he was. Steve: “He never comes when I call him. I can’t believe all you have to do is call, Here, kitty, kitty, and he trots right up.” Me: “Yeah, after 2 1/2 hours!” Seriously. I was all, Woog! Woogie! Boogie! Here, kitty, kitty! starting at 6 a.m. Our poor neighbors. Miaooooow!! And he won’t tell us where he was. It’s maddening, really.
Next: Kids generally tell you before they throw up. Once they’re verbal, that is. Before that, all bets are off. You will not get that kind of notification from a pet.
My friends, a couple I’ve known since college, who are just adorable and yummy and live in the Bay area with their exciting life, have surprised us all by announcing they’re having a baby girl in a few weeks. I should have known, because they bought a house, and then they got a dog. Breeders. (Kidding. Congrats to the three of you, and blessings. You will both be great parents.)
They even posted pix of preggo mama on Facebook to prove it to us. Wow! Pretty woman. Love her. I promptly sent them a list of the top 5 items they shouldn’t forget to pack in the bag for the hospital (nail clippers for the baby, because the hospitals tell you because of “health codes” or something they won’t/can’t do it; sleeping/nursing bra, without underwire; the baby book, so they can put the footprints in that when they do the state birth certificate; a couple of sizes of clothes for baby; a couple of sizes of clothes for mom) (oh, and I told the dadd-o, for god’s sake don’t eat pizza or a peanut butter sandwich when she’s in labor. Just sayin’…), They promptly sent me back a note that said what they really need is 4 or 5 binders to gather up all the “helpful advice” they’re getting from everyone. My response to that was, Yeah, we’re all obnoxious, sorry. PS it usually takes about 3 weeks to get the hang of breastfeeding; it’s not exactly the most natural thing in the world.
Next time I hear a close friend is having a wee bebe, I’m going to keep my mouth shut. Because why shouldn’t they re-invent the wheel? We all want to. (Except me. I figure, that wheel looks good enough, I’ll use it.) Seriously, I like checking in with other parents, grandparents, nannies, bartenders… whoever… about child-rearing. I didn’t realize my first baby was teething until a mother of triplets pointed it out to me. (See: drool. See: cranky face. See: gnawing on hand.) I didn’t think babies started teething until… later. What the hell did I know? I was also surprised that she started scooting at 4 months and crawling at 6. Both of mine walked on their first birthdays, which was kind of hilarious. “Developmentally, you’re right on track!” were the first words out of my mouth. Kidding.
A friend’s husband also told me, worried, Well, be sure you don’t leave her on the table. (Cuz he did, and his girl went boom on her head.) Just… damn. Don’t leave them on the bed/couch/table/changing table/anywhere high up, unattended.
Some of them start rolling and flipping over from birth, it seems like. (It was three months and younger for our 2.)
“It’s just a matter of time before they’re locking you out of the house.” — my great-uncle to my great-aunt, when her kids were toddlers.
Truer words were never spoken. To wit: The time my kids locked me out. And the other time. And that one time when… Then there was the incident wherein my son smashed his Thomas the Tank Engine bang into my nose, stating calmly, after the fact: “Train coming.”
“It’s like those books, ‘You Never Know What to Expect…’” — my girlfriend Zip, when I was asking her for more advice. “That’s not even what they’re called! They’re called, ‘What to Expect…’” Her response: “Well, they should call it what I said, instead, it’s better.”
What is it, this desire to “share”? I think we all struggle with parenthood, especially that first year. Especially those first few months. Especially those first few weeks/days/hours/minutes. We want to make it easier for others than it was for us, maybe. Some people (Steve) take to it like a duck to water. Others (me) have to have the obvious pointed out to us. Some advice, however, is messed up.
* My granny, calling every few days while I was pregnant with Wacky Girl. She’d yell, Spina bifida, spina bifida! at me, then hang up. She was making me cry. So I finally said, Granny, I took my folic acid… I’m still taking it… My baby is not going to have spina bifida! “Oh, OK.” (click.) That was my granny, God rest her soul.
* The cow I worked with at Fred Meyer, who told me I really should have another baby right away (our daughter was 1 at the time) because what if something happened… And then she went off on it. Made me cry, just like my granny. I was hormonal at the time, due to the fact that I was already knocked up again and didn’t realize. Sheesh. One child can never replace another child, just fyi, cow-lady.
* You know what I told my friends who are soon-to-be parents? That I used to know so much about parenting. But what I know now, you could stick on the head of a pin and still have room left over for the Pledge of Allegiance.
* The only real advice you’ll need is what our ultrasound tech told us, excited, at the same time she was flipping out about my advanced maternal age 1) “Oh! My kid is 3. I’ll tell you everything I know about parenthood. It’s not the terrible 2′s, it’s the terrible 3′s. 2) Do you want to wear the green shirt? Or the blue one? 3) Do you want the yellow sippy cup? Or the red one? 4) After the baby comes, your dog… is just a dog.”
OK, I’ll add one more, cuz I can’t resist. If you want to make a baby or a little kid laugh, put something… anything… on your head and say, “Look! It’s a hat!”
“Don’t be yourself. Be someone a little nicer.” — Mignon McLaughlin, journalist and author (1913-1983)