A few weeks before Everett’s birth, a friend told me how she read a sea of parenting books, got advice from several parents, and attended numerous parenting classes—but once her son arrived, the first thing she learned was to scrap all that wisdom and wing it as a parent. Her point was that parents can get lots of helpful advice but in the end, you need to do what works for you.
Oh, the infamous “what works for you” line that I heard about a thousand times when shopping for baby gear or consulting with experts on baby matters. At the time, it just seemed like another way of saying, “I don’t want to bother explaining it to you.” I understood many parents are different, but I just wanted some clear cut advice. I quickly learned “what works for you” is some of the best advice I was given as a parent.
I’m not saying there aren’t some universal parenting tips. It is probably best if you don’t try to teach your baby to ski in the first month of their life or to use them as a soft, fleshy pillow to help you sleep at night. I did learn that each baby comes with their own wonderful personality, and every parent has their own way dealing with their unique baby. On top of that, each parent has their own lifestyle, personality, and beliefs that will define the type of parent they will be for their baby.
As I’ve mentioned before in this column, I was warned by several friends that the first six weeks were going to be borderline torture, but after that it started to resemble life again. I never experienced this nightmare, and Emily agrees with me it was relatively easy (I add this, just in case you want to argue I left all the work for her). I’d like to think this is due to the fact we’re wondrous parents and we just have miraculous coping skills, but the reality is likely much closer to having an extremely easy going son. Our experience has been drastically different than many parents we know, and is irrefutable proof there isn’t one magical path to successful parenthood.
A few weeks ago I was talking about Everett to an acquaintance (because that is what newborn parents are expected to do), and she brought up how the warm weather means we can start walking Everett. I laughed, and alerted her to the fact we starting walking with Everett a little over a week after he was born. You can tell she was a little shocked we took a baby outside at the beginning of January, because this is a time of the year that most adults decide to hide out in their homes until there are no traces of snow. But we bought a bassinet and accessories like a cover so that we could take our son for a walk in the winter, plus Emily had decided a week is enough time to be trapped inside the house. Many parents are going to be fearful of exposing their newborn to the cold winter, but I also know it is better for everyone’s health to not keep my wife stuck indoors for too long. Some readers may be screaming, “But what about the health of the baby!” and you’ll be comforted in knowing that winter has now passed and Everett never caught anything resembling a cold (something even his father can’t claim).
It hasn’t just been our decision to brave the outdoors with our newborn that has made our parenting style a bit different than some other parents we know. We currently have a corner in our basement that showcases a mountain of boxes containing disposable diapers, because it is the easy gift to give to new parents but we’ve opted to go with cloth diapers. My relationship with my son is very different than several other father-baby relationships, because my working at home has allowed me to spend far more time than those clocking in 8 plus hours in an office. My being at home has also helped Emily avoid the evil “cabin fever” type emotions, because she has already been able to join clubs or go out with friends since I’m available for some quality time with Everett. There are likely numerous things we do on a daily basis that we think are common routines, but actually are done entirely different by other loving parents.
I’m not saying this to declare us these super, awesome unique parents with these innovative strategies. I realize we aren’t the first to do cloth diapers, and I am not the only father in the entire universe that works from home. I know everything I’ve mentioned in this column has been done by other parents as well. I did mention all this, because I know there are several parents that did things very differently. I also know their babies still grew up to be fantastic human beings. I know our way isn’t the only way, but it is the way that seems to working really well for us.
Each week on this blog, I’ll continue to offer up advice or at least, write about strategies that we’re using to raise Everett. I don’t expect everyone to actually follow them nor do I believe it is the absolute best way to raise a baby. The only real piece of advice that I’m learning is helpful for every new parent is to find “what works for you.”