“My kid will NOT use a pacifier.”
“I will not swaddle my kid, it’s bad for arm development.”
“There’s no way I’ll ever give my kid formula.”
“NO TV in this house!”
First-time parents, it’s likely that you thought, uttered, or exclaimed some of these sweeping grandeurs of sage parenting, back when you were reading every book on the planet on how to raise well-adjusted children. And I’m also sure that you were frustrated beyond all belief when been there, done that parents said, “Just wait…”
And if you aren’t a parent yet, I’m sure you have some really good ideas about how you’ll parent your kid to maximize their and your happiness (read: sanity). Believe me–I did it too. Somewhere on a bookshelf in my house are all the parenting books that I read diligently when we were expecting our first child, collecting dust. It seemed so easy! They make how-to books for parents! And then your kid is born and realize, oh sh*t, babies can’t read. Not only can’t they read, but they don’t seem to give a you-know-what about your plans for them.
This time around, I didn’t even pick up a parenting book. You learn very quickly that 90% of parenting a newborn is trial and error, and really the other 10% are instincts that you guessed right on. Even between two of our own children, I notice differences in how one thing worked with one isn’t working for the other–and neither scenario was adequately explained in What to Expect the First Year. I guess I just finally realized why already-parents get to act so smug, because at one time, we were all those first-time parents that knew how we were going to do everything, just to get knocked down a few pegs when our kids didn’t calm down after The Five S’s, or how attachment parenting was slowly making us lose our minds, or when the only thing that could calm them was the aforementioned pacifier previously relegated to Public Enemy #1.
Similarly, I now know that newborns are evolutionarily designed so that first-time parents really have to try to cause serious damage. I also realized that if you give your kid like 5-10 extra seconds to pull it together on their own, they often will (which saves me many trips into their room to pick them up in the middle of the night).
But most of all, I learned that the best way to keep yourself from stressing out is to not set up yourself to get stressed out. First-time parents, expectant parents, eventually-will-be-parents, take a deep breath. Never say never. It’s fine to draw your lines somewhere (for us, it’s sleeping arrangements, our kids will never penetrate our bedroom’s threshold to sleep), but don’t get set up rules for a creature that has no idea what a rule is, and then be stressed out when the rules have to be broken. And then you can be smug like the rest of us.