A friend asked for car seat advice today, and another asked for some diaper insight earlier this week. As Peanut’s second birthday, and the birth of Squeak, quickly approaches, I realized I have learned a lot — mostly through trial and error and more error — about parenting, babies, and myself in these past two years.
What I’ve Learned About…
Car seats. Splurge on the one you’ll use the most, and go low-rent on the one you’ll use less often. Non-twisting or twist-resistant straps are pretty awesome, and so is fabric that camouflages stains. The ability to adjust the straps without rethreading is a must-have. Grandparent-friendly buckles aren’t just for grandparents. Substantial side support is also important, because kiddos like to sleep on long car rides. You don’t want them to crank their wittle necks.
Diapers. You get what you pay for. Unless your kid has Herculean skin, you might wanna splurge on the good ones.
Noise machines. They are awesome. My kiddo has slept through every midwestern thunderstorm we’ve ever had, which is phenomenal. And don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you they cause autism. (Not kidding — two weeks ago, my mother tried to tell me that Peanut’s noise machine is going to make her autistic. So I put a little label on it with my label-maker; in our house, it’s officially called the Autism Machine now. Take that, Grandma.)
Feeding a toddler. You can offer vegetables a million times over, but if you have a picky eater, she’ll never eat them. Save yourself the stress and figure out what she WILL eat. And don’t keep any junk food on the bottom shelves — Peanut quickly learned to recognize the packaging of things she liked, and is able to literally climb the pantry shelves to get at them.
Toys. The best-intentioned toys are the first ones to be abandoned. Laundry hampers, cardboard boxes, and the like will be much more popular for a lot longer. It’s okay to get rid of toys if they are irritating you. It’s your house.
Clothes. It’s so not worth splurging on a closet full of Baby Gap clothes for a baby or a toddler. A few items, sure. But overall, garage sales are your friend, as are hand-me-downs from friends and family. They grow so fast.
Cameras. The best camera is the one in your hand. Buy a fancy one if you want (I did) but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t come out of the case very often. Just keep taking pictures, however you do it.
Discipline. Pick your battles. Teach your kiddo that being sad isn’t such a bad thing. Don’t give them everything they want. Learn to say NO and mean it. And if your kid keeps grabbing the remote control, don’t hide it. Just keep saying no, consistently, and she’ll stop eventually. Kids aren’t stupid. But be patient and consistent.
Clutter. It is a sign of a well-lived life. Even though it triggers all of my OCD and anxiety, I‘ve had to learn to quiet the voice in my head that says ‘Omg this place is a pit! Must clean!’. Every so often, on a bad day, I give in and clean like a madwoman while my child watches Elmo. But not every day. That’s the important part.
Looking put-together. There are women who will always look put together even with a kid on each hip. I am not one of them and I never will be. If you aren’t either, don’t feel bad. Those supercute put-together moms in heels are the exception, not the rule. Those of us with spit-up on our shoulder, snot on our pant legs… we are the normal ones. 🙂
Taking a toddler out in public. It’s stressful. It will probably always be stressful. Just do the best you can and remember to breathe. What other people think does not matter.
Snot, slobber, and pee. When they belong to your kid, they’re not so bad. And it’s okay to take a bath in water that’s been peed in. It’s sterile. Your kiddo will survive.
Poop. Is gross no matter whose it is, but your kid’s poop is slightly less gross than any other. You’ll be all business with poo pretty quickly. Having poop on your hands is probably going to happen weekly, but you won’t care.
Giving Advice. Parenting advice is something you give when asked for, and at no other time. I don’t like people telling me how to raise Peanut, and I know I‘ve had to bite my tongue when I see someone doing something “wrong.” Sometimes, in the right company, I still give advice, but I try to stay away from supersensitive topics.
Sleep. I’ve learned that sleep is relative, and any major changes in your sleep pattern become the new normal quickly. Don’t be too frightened by the horror stories. When the time comes that you’re needed in the wee hours, you will rise to the occasion. It’s a lot easier if your partner gives you some relief to catch a nap.
Kisses. Even when delivered with a snotty nose and a chin covered in slobber, they are still the best things in the world when they come from your baby.
Getting sick. Baby will have lots of illnesses, and it’s nothing to be scared of. Try to keep it together. Get a doctor who indulges your new-parent paranoia. Every time she comes down with something new, she’ll never have to fight that virus again, so rejoice! (Okay, you can rejoice after she’s feeling better. Until then, batten down the hatches, it’s gonna be a rough go.) The best part: you will get these sicknesses too. Even if you’re healthy as a horse now, just wait until that little germ-smuggler moves in. Your horse health will be out the window. Embrace it.
Daycare. There’s no such thing as the perfect daycare provider. Center or in-home, nobody will ever care for your kid exactly the way you do. Pick your battles. Feeding your kid the occasional Pop-Tart? That alone isn’t enough to leave behind a good provider. But bruises on your kid? Holy shit, GET OUT NOW. Just remember perfection is unattainable. Find someone who loves on your kiddo and treats them well.
Myself. I can operate on shockingly little sleep, but after 2 weeks, I hit a wall. I loved breastfeeding and can’t wait to do it again. My toddler is the most amazing human I’ve ever known, and I made her. I can be a little judgey when it comes to other parents, but I’m working on it. I am the hardass and my husband is the softie. When my child is hurt, and everyone around me is freaking out, I don’t panic. I’m the calm voice of reason in an emergency, even when my baby is injured or in pain. I am stronger than I think I am.