Monday, September 10, 2012

The Dude’s Guide to Surviving Your First Year of Parenthood

I recently shared my words of wisdom with you on how to survive your first pregnancy.  So now that you have made it through the delivery and are home with your adorable bundle of sleep deprivation, you are probably wondering what happens next.  I fully expected my Little Dude to be ready to play when we took him out of the box, so to speak, but I learned the hard way that that’s not how it really works.  So I’ve put together a handy primer on what to expect after you are done expecting, or

The Dude’s Guide to Your First Year of Parenthood:

1)      The first year is boring.  Really boring.  I’m not saying the kid isn’t amazing, because he* undoubtedly is. But if you’re expecting him to do tricks right away, like your puppy did when you brought him home, then you will be very disappointed.  In fact, you shouldn’t expect much activity from him at all for at least 6 months. You know the saying “a watched pot never boils”? It’s sort of the same thing here but with less scalding water and many more unpleasant excretions.

2)      Go to parks. You may feel depressed as you watch bigger kids running and playing on the swings and jungle gym while your little lump is just drooling on his Sophie, but the fresh air is good for him and soon enough he’ll be the one on the slide and you’ll be the experienced veteran who the other new parents will want to trade places with.  
Me with 6 month old Little Dude and an empty playground.
3)      Be flexible. As long as you feed, change and wash the baby on a semi-regular basis (each at least once a week), there’s a good chance he won’t break. Let him adjust to your schedule, not the other way around. If you assume he will sleep at the same exact time every day, you may get lucky. Or you may end up with a Gremlin who becomes evil after midnight.

4)      Speaking of sleep, the baby needs a lot of it.  Especially in the beginning. Who says it can’t occur while you are at a movie, restaurant, or roller derby? If you train the baby to only sleep at home in a quiet room where the temperature is exactly 72 degrees, then you will end up with cabin fever faster than an Eskimo in an avalanche.

5)      Don’t lose your mind. Once the sleep deprivation kicks in, you won’t remember your middle name half the time, let alone when you last changed or fed the baby. Get an itzbeen**. Hit a button to start a timer reminding you exactly when you last changed his diaper (among other things) and you won’t have a baby sitting in more rancid liquid than a month-old matzah ball.  
6)       Read to your kid. You will be so sick of Goodnight Moon within a few weeks that you wish the two little kittens would attack the old lady that’s whispering hush just to make things interesting for a change, but it’s good for the baby to get both the bonding time with you and the vocabulary stimulation. You will start to think Dr. Seuss is really Dr. Kevorkian as you grow bored to tears reading Hop on Pop for the millionth time, but your little one will like it and one day be glad you suffered for him.

7)      Play good music for your baby. If you think typical kids’ music is enjoyable, then maybe you should get checked out by Dr. Seuss. Or Dr. Kevorkian. There is a ton of great rock music that works very well for kids: The Beatles, Bob Marley and Phish just to name a few.  Believe me, the 10th time in a row you hear Buffalo Soldier is infinitely better than the 10th consecutive round of Baby Beluga. (And check my “Rockin’ Friday” blog posts every week for a great song your kid will love. Guaranteed to please or your money back.)

8)      There are a million milestones you’ll consider earth-shattering.   Most really aren’t. First steps or first tooth, sure. First bite of asparagus?  Not so much. Put things in perspective and focus on things that the kid will want to remember someday, not trivial things that will bore even the most biased grandparents.
First time in a Bumbo...who cares?!
9)      Don’t make your friends hate you.  I mean Facebook friends, of course.  Sharing a few pictures here and there is one thing. Uploading 50 pictures three times a week will clog News Feeds and surely earn you a few well-deserved De-friendings.

10)   TV won’t kill them. I’m not talking about a 12-hour Jersey Shore marathon. Lord knows that could turn an astrophysicist’s brain into Jell-o halfway through. But there is nothing wrong with a few minutes of screen time here and there if it’s something educational that might benefit them in the long run.  And you in the short term if you need to take a shower for the first time in three days.

What advice would you give to first-time new parents?

*= I use “he” to refer to the child because that’s what I have. Also, I hate saying “he or she” repeatedly. This list applies to female infants, as well.

**= itzbeen didn’t pay me to say that, though I wouldn’t mind if they did. Or at least sent me a new itzbeen for Baby #2. Their product truly helped restore sanity in my house on a daily basis during the Little Dude’s first year.


  1. Great advice with the itzbeen! We had one and it saved my sanity! After months of sleep deprivation and emotional exhaustion, you can get confused on whether what you did last was change the diaper or the oil in the car. It all runs together. I say the company should pay you! ;) Good luck on Round Two! I have two little men and have to say, the second go-around was a breeze compared to the first. No moments of "freak out" like previous. Must be why my second is a bit more mellow. Great post! I'm sharing!

  2. This is all so true, great tips! I need the primer on teens now though. To your last point, Baby Einstein is pretty awesome.

  3. Yes! When you parent like a dad life is so much more enjoyable! Took me a few kids, now the whole parenting this is actually fun when you realize being the "perfect parenting book parent" really doesn't work.

  4. Oh, Dude! This is so true. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon is good lullaby music...until you get to the scary songs and the British chicks screaming, and clocks ticking and sounds of paranoia.... Little Dude is precious. Great post.

  5. Solid advice. It was interesting how many of your I managed to get wrong. Only sleeping in a darkened temperature controlled room, being so disappointed with the lack of action in the first six months and getting way to bogged in "milestones" that didn't matter.

    I'll be checking back again.

  6. very nice list! Too bad I didn't know about that handy gadget...the number of times I've forgotten about the diaper...!!

  7. Good list, Jay. One bit of advice I got early on that rings true two kids in is that when your kid naps, you should too. Often, when your kid naps you think, "Yes! Now I can watch TV or surf the web (or whatever)," but you will regret it later when you are exhausted and the kid is up at 2 a.m. Grab those zzzs when you can. It will make you more productive in the long run.

  8. Great list! Stopping by from the YKIHAYHT Blog hop. I would add Don't read parenting/baby books! They will drive you crazy and baby's hit their milestones at different times so just enjoy your baby!

  9. This was a great list and I loved seeing it from the dad's perspective. I agree with Mike (was so happy for my occasional naps) and not reading parenting books. I drove myself NUTS with those things. I eventually realized that I was developing a neurosis that would eventually be projected onto my kid. Big mistake! Love your writing!

    Penny from Mom Rants and Comfy Pants

  10. I read the part about Goodnight Moon to my husband and we CRACKED UP! My son's favorite song was "Scar Tissue" by RHCP up until he started asking about the words :)
    My only advice is also a song "Lot Love Rule" and you can't go wrong.