Thursday, September 17, 2009

The First Nine Months Of Parenting

There is no school that can teach you parenting. You can farm the web for tips and tricks, you can get heeded and unheeded advice from your parents and your peers, or, you can quote this blog post going forward. Being a parent, I am exercising my sense of entitlement and projecting my thoughts on this fairly new role.

There are some caveats to this thought blurb:
1. You will hear me generalize all my statements as if each of these is a truism that applies to all kids. However, I have experience with only one: my own.
2. It is also true that no two kids are the same. Hence, if any of my statements don’t seem accurate, I am still right.

Nine months have passed since the birth of my son. When I compare the 18 months of his existence, the post-interval period seems to be as exciting and as mysterious as it was when he kicked and tossed and turned in his mother’s tummy. These are some thoughts from the time he first let out a cultured cry as a means of introducing himself to the world. Life is brilliant as a parent, but there are a lot of changes too. Here are some reflections, tips and tricks from the first nine months.

· Time becomes an inconsistent entity after the birth of a baby. It flies when you are in the midst of the feeding/cleaning/sleeping cycle. It is this unending cycle of consumption and creation that makes you realize why people regard food as so critical to their existence when they grow up. On the other hand, it slows to an extreme trickle in the middle of the night when the baby decides it’s time to wake up.
· You are engaged in psychological warfare with your kid. It is on, and it is the hardest fight you will be in. One that you are bound to lose. You may not believe it, but the kids are playing you; all the time
· Grandparents are fantabulous. They are a great blessing. They play with the kid through the day and then get equally excited watching his pictures the same night. Three sneezes amount to a cold and imply that the baby will be quarantined and given extra cuddling. They are there for the most important baby hand-off: at 5.30 am. You also see glimpses of how fondly they remember your childhood and visit it in flattering detail at this time.
· Grandparents are also your biggest curse. There is a saying in Gujarati that ‘The interest is always dearer than the principal’. They love this interest, and they spoil it rotten. They make you believe that handling the kid will be easy with work, and you don’t realize the magnitude of it till it hits you square in the face. They will have given the baby a taste of the good life, with undivided attention and extra pampering, which of course is impossible to sustain once they are gone.
· Putting your child in daycare is a tough call. It is the inescapable part of modern day immigrant existence in the United States where both parents are making a living. We try to delay it as much and attempt to rationalize the decision, but what stings ultimately is the loss of control. Handing off your baby to total strangers takes a leap of faith.
· Mothers should be banned from going to dropping off kids at the daycare. It is absolute heartbreak for them, and no logical reasoning can help resolve that. It isn’t that fathers find it a cakewalk, but they find it easier to rationalize.
· You suddenly wonder why you invested in so much furniture for the house, when your child needs all the space he can to crawl around
· Babies will crawl to the exact places you don’t want them to and touch the exact things you want them to avoid
· Parenting peer pressure is far more than any other kind you have faced till date. Everywhere you look, everyone is attempting to be a super-parent, and unlike other contests, this is one you don’t want to be trailing
· You will seek signs that will convince you that your child is a prodigy. I mean, you kid has your genes, and while you may never advance beyond being Joe the Software Plumber, surely your kid would have jumped up the evolutionary ladder!
· Watching a movie in a theater will sound like a dream come true, and you start preferring lunch meetings with friends rather than dinner
· Bachelors only hang out with bachelors and married people do the same with other married folks. That is a true fact. An extension to this dictum: you will seek other parents will babies similar in age to your child.
· The baby industry in this country is mind-boggling. There are a million choices for everything and they will convince you that each one of them is required. No wonder both parents need to earn good money here! Baby clothes cost almost as much as adult clothes do, with the shortest shelf-life possible.
· Someone had once told me that once you are a parent, be prepared to be embarrassed. Truth is, once you are in a restaurant with a baby who will make you stand head over heels to pacify him and feed him, that’s the last thing that will cross your mind. As parents, you will do and say things you never thought you were capable of. If you are not a good entertainer, you have trouble on your hands
· Remember the person who cursed the people with babies in an airplane who just couldn’t keep them quiet? Yes, that was you. Blank your mind to the thought that someone is thinking the same thing about you on this seemingly interminable flight.
· You need to carry your whole house with you when you travel with your baby. And be certain that you would have forgotten something behind
· Wildly reset your expectations on what you can achieve on an outing. It will take three times the amount of time to do the simplest thing.
· You start digging up yours and your spouse’s childhood photos to figure out resemblances. The question ‘whom does he look like?’ will have a new answer every week.
· The most annoying thing that can happen when trying to pacify a howling baby is four other people converging and asking, “What happened? Why is he crying?”
· You will know all the nursery rhymes (Karadi Tales in our case) by heart. In fact, you will be making up new songs as you go.
· Ban the car seat. Seriously. I understand the need for safety, but when a baby treats it like a prison, you have had it.
· You will need extra storage space for the million pictures and videos that you will take. You will document anything and everything and surprisingly enough, maintain that rhythm as time progresses. It also helps if your baby looks like he should be on the cover of a magazine.
· Your heart beams with parental pride so often and so quickly. Your baby gets compliments, he rolls over, he crawls; anything can get that going.
· You will call your spouse Mummy and Daddy as it applies, and being called that makes your heart glow.
· Babies have no sense of morality. No right or wrong. No convoluted biased decision making with an ulterior motive. It is funny how we strive all our lives to achieve the sense of purity we already had when we were so little
· Babies can make softies out of baby-agnostic people. They really do. Treasure them and spend time with them having unbridled fun, while they let you. Remember, as they grow older, they become you :)

Exhaustive and exhausting list? The latter may be true but the former is not. Who knows how different the next set of thoughts may be, if I wait another year to jot them down? Signing off as an exhausted, exhilarated and blessed parent.


Vidya said...

And it seems like little Parth has you wrapped around his finger!

All the best - enjoy the joy. There's so few sources of it these days. :)

frissko said...

"You will call your spouse Mummy and Daddy as it applies, and being called that makes your heart glow."

Didn't know people did that :)...

It does look like quite a ride...I've only had the fun part with babies, not the responsibility part...Good luck man...

Parth said...

@Vidya: That might be true :) Just don't let him know that.

@Frissko: Thanks. I have no experience with this fun without responsibility part, but I have been assured it is a lot of fun :)

Radha said...

Congratulations- - has it been 9 mnths already?
As parents, you always feel proud when your baby reaches a milestone; and anxious if he's a little late in getting there... even though you know that all babies will eventually be able to turn/ sit/ crawl/ stand/ walk/ etc. you feel proud as if your baby was the 1st to ever do it :)

Yogita said...

It is an amazing experience, and only gets better with time.
I can't stop wondering how cramped our SUV has become with just 1 additional passenger :-)

Parth said...

@Radha: Yes, indeed. A side effect is drowning in the deluge of information. Its too much and too confusing at times.

@Yogita: He he! I feel like the parents are part of the baby's entourage, and there's always a million things to take for him when we step out of the house.

RagzZmatazZ said...

Wow .. :) :)
With pretty much my entire set of friends headed the "family way" I hear a lot of different stories and make many observations. Have been meaning to write out a lot of the very observations you made. You have hit it spot on !!!! Actually having a baby helps write the post I guess :).. Me likey this post. Happy parenting !

Parth said...

@Rags: Thanks :) You wouldn't have gotten half these points from me last year, so experience definitely helps.

Jyothsna said...

Lol! Being a new parent myself, I know most of that is true for me too! :)

Kau said...

wonderful heartfelt post.
I live in a joint family with 2 nephews and having seen the younger one go through almost ever day of the last 2 years .. I can say that this post has captured early parenting perfectly !
My bhabhi would love to read this list !

Anocturne said...

haha, and now, the mom song for your viewing pleasure: