Dear Pre-Baby Me

Dear Pre-Baby Me: Things You Swear You’ll Never Do as a Parent (But Totally Will)

Dear Pre-Baby Me,

Here are a few things you swear you’ll never do as a parent:

You will never co-sleep with your baby.

You will never let your baby eat sugar or processed foods or anything that contains ingredients that sound like they might have come from a lab.

You will never leave your baby to cry, even for a minute.

You will never hand your baby your phone to keep her entertained.

Sounds great, right? Except for one thing: you will do all of the above, without hesitation.

You’re an avid follower of instructions, Pre-Baby Me. You also have zero experience with babies, aside from the fact that you used to be one. So when you find out you’re pregnant, you’ll read all the parenting articles you can get your hands on. This will give you a pretty solid idea of what babies are like, what to do with them, and how things are supposed to go.

There’s just one problem: all the books, all the parenting articles, and all the Facebook group members? They’ve never actually met your baby, and neither have you. And even though you know yourself pretty well, you have no idea how you’ll react when faced with the reality of raising a child.

And I’m not talking about any of that “hardest job in the world” crap here (for crying out loud, some people are brain surgeons and presidents and underwater welders and fast food restaurant cashiers). I’m referring to the fact that you can’t predict how you’re going to behave as a parent because you’ve never been a parent before.

It’s a new situation for you, and different situations call for different approaches. Also, children? Are people. And different people also require different approaches.

The most important piece of parenting advice I can give you is this: Do what works for you and your baby. Not what the experts say will work; not what the internet says will work; not what your mother-in-law says will work.

Just. Do. What. Works.

There will be a period when the only way anyone can get any sleep is if the baby shares your bed.

There will be a time when your child will refuse to eat anything that didn’t come from a box.

There will be mornings when you’ll have 45 seconds to pack your daughter’s bag for daycare before you leave for work, and she won’t sit still without a phone to play with.

And, yes, there will be nights when you realize your child just needs to yell for five minutes before she can doze off.

It’s going to be okay.

The thing about babies is they don’t come with a manual. In the Information Age, they actually come with 10,000 of them, but not one is for your particular model. Kind of like that TV you used to have that only worked if you smacked it in just the right spot (Note: this is only an analogy. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT smack your baby). The point is, you’re going to have to figure out this parenting thing on your own.

You think you know what kind of parent you’ll be — or at least what kind of parent you will never be.

You will never be one of those moms who are slaves to their children’s sleep schedules.

You will never be one of those moms who hovers over their children, always terrified that they’re going to injure themselves.

You will never be one of those moms who obsesses over every single milestone.

Except … wait for it … you will.

But you know what? That’s okay. Because the parent you become will be dictated by the child she is.

She’ll be the child who needs to be on a schedule or all hell will break loose. But she’ll also be the child with boundless energy, who wakes up smiling every morning.

She’ll be the child who requires constant supervision, lest she attempt to dive down the stairs or stick her fingers in the electric heater. But she’ll also be the child who inspires you with her curiosity and sheer fearlessness — and she’ll be that way because she knows you’ll always protect her.

She’ll be the child who doesn’t learn to walk until well after all your friends’ kids. But she’ll also be the child who learns to climb before crawling, and who beams with pride at each emphatic step.

She’ll be all those things and more. And you wouldn’t want her to be any other way, because she’s unequivocally perfect.

(Barf, right? Yeah,  you’re going to become that guy. Sorry.)

Never say never, Pre-Baby Me. Doing the things you swear you’ll never do as a parent might just make you the best parent you can be.

With love,

Future You.

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