My parenting style might best be described as injecting an echo of myself into someone's memories:
I understand my place as a supporting character in my children's memories of growing up. The world has a set of rules and signals that will live a life of its own within them. The best I can do is to incept my own interpretations of these rules and signals within layers of their psyche as they develop into beings more capable than me.
I have two, now. the first is a high functioning autistic with ADHD.... a diagnosis I suspect to be hereditary. He began reading at the age of 3, has proven to excel academically by age 6, and like me... every thought and feeling he has defaults to an uncontrollable110%. He has no idea how much of myself I see in him growing up. He mustn't. My job as his parent is to help him develop his own instruction manual for his brain in order to develop the mental tools needed to avoid the mistakes I made growing up.
The second was just born a little over a year ago. She will be the last. We've learned a lot about staying married and self care and child psychology and all of those expectations and boundaries associated within those arenas. I realize that I should write down what I've learned about parenting in the last 6 years before that mindspace gets purged.
If there is any single piece of advice I might bestow upon my past self, it is this: There is no replacement for your physical time and mental presence. Work and efforts to bring in income are not a replacement for changing diapers and playing with your child. Money that buys objects and supplies are not a replacement. It's an emotional thing, and emotions are where real decisions come from. If you delegate that time to other family members (i.e. a grandmother), then they will feel the moral authority to make decisions about your child proportional to the amount of time they have invested. If you care, then put the time into owning your parenthood. Do not let other family members place their gender expectations upon you as an clueless male because that's what your father was. Yes, you start out as a level zero parent, and you will make mistakes. All new parents will make mistakes, and that needs to be okay in order for your marriage to survive.
Other pieces of random words to my past self:
- A baby-log channel on Slack (or any phone app that supports channels) is an excellent way to allow seamless baby duty handoffs between mom and dad by tracking last feedings and daiper changes
- Guest bed is a valid sleep resource. Sleeping together is nice, but taking turns sleeping is nicer.
- Mattress on the floor, eventually.
- Carpeted stairs + crawling backwards = good
- Stakes are high, and parenting is a pressure cooker of moral authority, fear, and judgement... don't let this turn you into somebody you don't like
- Mothers are tanks because society expects them to be tanks with a lot of hit points. Don't let that be an excuse to let the mother do all the heavy lifting
- Things to master:
- Battery supplies
- Bottles cleaning
- Baby station upkeep to avoid situations where you must open packages while managing twisty baby
- Baby bath and bedtime routines
- Nose Frida is the best way to get that snot out. Bulbs are inferior. Suck in short spurts... never prolonged suction.
- If the mother will eventually be returning to work, then bank the second half of your paternity leave for when her maternity leave ends; so that you can do the heavy lifting during that transition. It helps her, emotionally, to know that you are the transition.
- Accept that you will be less of the worker you used to be due to parental obligations. Make sure your career structure supports this notion.
- After age 3: Template for behavioral correction is to inform them of the proper pattern instead of just saying no. Eventually, you can prompt for pattern recall with a gently delivered phrase: "Let's try that again."
- Babies love soft ramps and gravity. Have these in your baby-safe caged area - also known as "place where grownups can lay down and parent with eyes closed". Add comforter to this area for maximum effect: