Some people are just built to be parents, some of us have to learn as we go. My best friend is the former. He is emotionally wise beyond his years. He bends over backward to make the people in his life happy. Even as a teenager you could tell he was a family man just waiting for the right family.
Several years ago, he introduced the Kid and I to his new girlfriend. It's not often that you have a photo from the first day you met someone but being a relatively new parent, I was snapping shots of the Kid like a paparazzi trying to catch someone without makeup. I liked the new girlfriend. That's more a big deal than it sounds. I don't like anyone straight away, and I'm very protective of my friend. As I watched them interact with each other and play soccer with the kid, I knew this was something special. They fit
together like two puzzle pieces.
When I look back at those photos today, I'm filled with a warm glow. In the years to follow there was an engagement, a wedding and now a baby of their own set to arrive any minute. 10 years ago, I was not the person anyone would come to for advice about children. However, I have been at this parenting caper for a few years now I decided to pass on some things that I found helpful.
1. Don't listen to the horror stories - For some reason, when you are pregnant, other women feel the need to tell you the worst possible stories about pregnancy, labour and being a new mum. Which when you think about it, is a little sadistic. There is a difference between being prepared and scared witless, and unless you are having the baby under a tree in the woods, you will be surrounded by medical professionals when the time comes. Your only job is to stay as healthy and calm as you can.
So to that end, by the time I was thirty weeks, if I heard the beginning of a story about having or raising children, that may as well have included a hitchhiker with a hook for a hand, I looked like I was listening but I had actually drifted off and was singing S-Club 7 to myself.
2. Opinions are not facts - People will express their unsolicited opinions on everything from breastfeeding to sleep patterns but what works for someone else might not work for you and your child. When the kid was 2 months old, I sobbed for an hour one night because I couldn't get her to feed.
The longer it took, the more panicked I became. The next morning after checking with the clinic I went to purchase some formula so that I had an option if I needed it. A woman overheard me asking for formula for a two-month-old, she took it upon herself to lecture me about the importance of breastfeeding and that my failure to do that would turn my child into Charles Manson. Ok, so she didn't phrase it exactly that way but in my sleep deprived state that is what I heard.
I sometimes think about seeing that woman again, introducing her to my perfectly well-adjusted child and explaining how harmful it is to put that kind of pressure on a new mother. Sometimes I think about seeing her and running over her foot with my trolley. My point being, no one loves this baby more than you. Follow professional advice and your own instincts. Talk to people who you trust and are there to support you and you will never go too wrong.
3. Don't compare yourself or your child to other people - There is always that one person you know whose baby is, apparently, a genius. Little Tarquinn is 5 months old, and he is already walking, talking, taking himself to the bathroom and on his way to getting a Nobel Prize. In my experience, this mother is either going through stuff of her own and feeling the need to put on a perfect face or just feels the need to brag. Either way, it doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong or your child is behind.
Take a deep breath and next time you see her, bring a caramel slice so that when her mouth is full, you can talk about how your one-year old took off her own nappy in the supermarket and kept walking or that you found her the other day eating dirt cause that's what kids do!
Mostly to my best friend and his gorgeous bride, I wanted to tell you that I love you. You are amazing people, which means you are well on your way to being amazing parents. You guys have got this, and for the days you feel like you haven’t, you have the Kid and I. Nappy changing service and caramel slice, and an S Club 7 CD delivered right to your door anytime day or night.
Pictured top: My perfectly well adjusted formula fed baby watching Dolly Parton