The aftermath of four small children is a scattered knowledge that is (mostly) useless. Every situation is a little different and while I remember what I did at the time I have a hard time recalling which kid was involved or how old they were. It is like I made extremely detailed notes on Index Cards but I refused to use any sort of nouns in the descriptions.
“Example: When ____ gets sick with a sore ____ if they are over _____ years of age, use honey and a non-dairy ____ .”
See. Totally Useless.
However, some new parent confronting the same problem might mention that when their two year old had allergies and was lactose intolerant someone recommended using some local honey mixed into a non-dairy creamer. (This is not a real treatment for anything) At that moment your brain fills in the blanks and says “ah ha!” and you remember doing the same thing.
I’m sure that my ocean of knowledge isn’t all that shallow but I feel like it is. I have several friends and family who are expecting and the common question is, “What advice do you have for babies/kids/raising little girls?”
Ummm. I have been dragging my feet on answering but how about this; I will share what things seemed really handy to me in a sort of top ten style.
- Baby Swing – This is an awesome thing. Someone to rock your baby when you can’t or maybe don’t want to. It is cute and special and something you miss until a baby needs to be rocked sixteen hours out of the day to prevent screaming, then a swing is a good thing. We looked for one with efficient battery drive because the first swing drank D Cell batteries faster than fraternities drink cases of Natural Light.
- Pacifier – Maybe controversial to someone but I stand by them. For little kids it doubles as a mute button and a choking filter. If they have a pacifier in their mouth then they can’t fit dog food or random bits of paper. Once it is time to stop using a pacifier it can be taken away unlike the classic thumb sucker who will be harder to break from the habit.
- Universal Seat Carrier – Those car seats with detachable bases that also clip into a stroller are awesome. If you can avoid waking up a sleeping tyrant every time you stop and start going somewhere, that is worth a lot of sanity. Riding in a car is like Nyquil for infants so the clip in stroller and car seat keeps naptime intact.
- Swaddling Blanket – Learning the baby wrap technique with the stretchy fabric (Muslin?) is also helpful. The first few times I did it I was worried that I was squeezing them too tightly but they all lived so… whatever that is worth. I guess it wasn’t too tight.
- Booger Sucker Thingy – Plastic bulb that I hope contains a sanitary black-hole because of all the boogers that went in, none ever came out. Our dog ate one once. We thought we might never find out what happened until one day while mowing the lawn we chipped one up that had been in a pile of dog poo. Back to the point, this thing is helpful to get snot out of a kids nose. Next item.
- Background Noise – Always have some sort of background noise. If this is your first child then turn on The Weather Channel or stick some forks in a blender. Create some racket because if a baby gets soured on silence then you are doomed to be silent every time they drift off to sleep. The first child was a light sleeper. Our fourth child could sleep in the swing while my wife vacuumed marbles off the hardwood floor. That was pretty sweet.
- Pets – These are happy distractions. When I say pets I don’t mean things like Boa Constrictors or Bengal Tigers. We are talking dogs and cats. Aggressive dogs need to go but for the most part, I see animals welcoming new family members like a new brother or sister. I’m glad our kids have had lots of pets.
- Ora-Gel – A little of this stuff during teething can buy enough time to get them back to sleep. I hear whiskey on the gums helps too but I imagine that getting a teething infant drunk is bad advice. Too much Ora-Gel can be bad too so sometimes just letting them cry is the only way out.
- Baby Carrier or Wrap – The commercially available Ergo or just a specialized, long piece of fabric that you tie around you in a sort-of parenting origami that holds your baby without a need for you to use your arms. Think Native American papoose but without a wooden board. As a Dad I like the clip and nylon strap style because it is less work and less to remember. I think my default picture on this blog is me rocking a carrier.
- Boobs – I recommend having a set of boobs for a newborn baby to eat from. Cheap, convenient, and best of all it is not something that Dad has to be involved in. As a Dad I could sit back and do something else the whole time the baby was eating. Plus I didn’t have to get up more than two seconds in the middle of the night. That is pretty fantastic.
I am a slow learner so I didn’t fully embrace all the benefits of boobs until the third and fourth child. No more steam powered bottle warmers that burn the shit out of your knuckles because you are holding the bottle (at 2 am) to get it a little warm instead of piping hot. In fact, no more heating bottles and trying to remember to use distilled water because using regular tap water will (apparently) make baby’s heads fall off. None of that.
Using baby formula is fine. Lots of great parents do. Some moms have complications or life situations that prevent breast feeding. I’m 100% good with that. I don’t have functional boobs so, like other issues in the female wheelhouse, I probably don’t need to have a strong opinion. But man was it nice not to have the iron-stained clothes from the formula spit-ups and this very specific smell when the baby burps. Distinct, like pipe tobacco or leather, but more along the lines of vomit. Yum.
So there you have it. Things that I found helpful. Feel free to completely ignore any part of that list.
Also, if you need another tidbit to completely ignore, “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is a perfect example of wishful thinking. Once the baby was asleep all I ever wanted was to do something normal to feel like I hadn’t completely lost my old life. This reaction is also known as denial.
To those about to rock, I salute you. Do what you feel. You’re welcome.
-Underdaddy to the rescue.
ps. my next post is number 100 and I am thinking it over. If you have any inspiration or words of support now would be a good time. 🙂