It’s finally happening, guys.
People I know are starting to reproduce.
I’m more excited about this than makes any sort of logical sense; I mean it’s not like their wrinkly infant is going to want to hang out with my nine year old and play Minecraft. I think it’s probably more that I’ll finally have people in my varying social circles who finally freaking understand. Who maybe I can call up and say hey man, you wanna come over and drink wine while we watch Brooklyn 99 because we’re parents and can’t go out very often anymore? Or — yeah, I totally understand that you made up some BS excuse to get out of having to attend the school talent show this year because you pulled an all-nighter and you really just want to take a nap. I get you. I feel you so hard.
I’ve been waiting for this moment for almost ten years. Welcome my friends. Welcome.
That being said, my currently expecting friend asked me to write an article designed to give tips to new parents. He might have been kidding, but jokes on you dude because I’m doing it man, I’m doing it. Let it be noted, however, the first thing I said to him was (after all the obligatory congratsing had been done) – I have no fucking idea what I’m doing 93.2% of the time. I’m basically just making it up as I go. So if you’re looking for some amateur advice from a woman who has no real credentials other than having managed to keep another human being alive for a decade, than you’re in the right place.
Bri’s Parenting Rules
(Rule number one is not ‘don’t talk about Bri’s Parenting’ because I actually didn’t enjoy Fight Club and I refuse to pretend otherwise. I understand if respect has been lost here. My condolences.)
Rule #1: You’re Doing It Wrong
That’s right, everything you’re doing is wrong.
The kid isn’t even here yet and you’re messing it all up. At least according to someone, somewhere, for some reason. There are factions of people all over the internet filled with conflicting and often damaging advice and opinions (I’m looking at you anti-vaxers), all of them ready to swoop in and make you feel like a pile of shit. That’s okay. That’s normal. Take deep breaths. Because you’re probably going to look down your nose a few times at how other people are raising their kids. We all do it, most of us just learn to keep our unsolicited thoughts to ourselves (I’m clearly not one of these people).
So maybe you can’t (or don’t want to) feed your kid organic all the time. Maybe you can’t afford private school and have to send them to some sort of afterschool care because you work a lot. Maybe you don’t let them watch T.V., or maybe you bought them a cell phone when they turned five. All this is just background noise. You can do all these things or none of them and still be a great parent. Or, alternatively, a really crappy one.
Rule #2: It’s Totally Okay To Hate Being a Parent Sometimes
There are lots of things and people we love that, on occasion, seriously annoy the shit out of us. Our kids aren’t an exception (sometimes I think they’re the rule). This includes the occasional feelings of regret; of thinking wistfully of the days you could just go anywhere and do anything without worrying about another living person. This is perfectly normal. This does not make you the worst parent on the planet. Being a parent can be super rough, it’s a job of its own with basically no appreciation or recognition. Even if you happen to love your job, even if it’s your dream job, there are always going to be parts and moments that are less than stellar. The feeling will pass.
Take time for yourself. The world doesn’t revolve around your kid and it’s not a bad lesson to learn that you sometimes need a break. Even if it is from them.
Rule #3: Be a Ball of Emotion
I get that not everyone wants to be a parent (which bears the question of why you’re reading an article about parenting in the first place, person, but whatever), but for those of us who do, let me tell you man. Let me tell you.
Kids will break your heart. They’ll freaking tear it open, and then they’ll glue it back together with paste and Popsicle sticks. I totally mean this in a good way, obviously.
You’re going to be beyond proud of every stupid thing your offspring does and you damn well should be. You helped make that living, breathing thing that just managed to stick six crayons in its mouth. For me no personal moment of success has ever been able to compare to the pride I take in my daughter’s accomplishments, and I mean this with absolute sincerity. The first time she finished a real chapter book and came gushing to me about it I nearly cried in the middle of Target. The first time she received honor roll I think I told pretty much every person we ran into. Less because I wanted to brag and more because I wanted her to know how insanely proud of her I was – okay, there may have been some bragging involved. And then there was the time she brought an old pair of shoes to give to a needy friend at school… and, and — I’m getting all choked up thinking about it!
You think you have a pretty good handle on what love is, what the whole feeling entails, and then you have a kid and suddenly you realize you had no clue. No freaking clue. It’s visceral and vital and it can cut like the sharpest knife and sooth like some sort of magic balm or whatever (insert clever metaphor here).
Rule #4: You’re Probably Going to Fuck Them Up
Now that we got some of the gushy stuff out of the way…
I think most of us adults (and I use this term loosely) can pinpoint a number of things we didn’t like about our parents. Maybe a few things that we think they did that kind of screwed us up. I’m a pretty firm believer that most adults spend a lot of time trying to overcome their childhoods’ to some degree or another, no matter how great theirs may have been. The moral of this story is: you’re going to fuck your kid up. It’s inevitable. Try not to be too hard on yourself. All any of us can do in this life is try our best. And trust me, as soon as you start trying to do the whole role-model-parental-figure thing, you start to have a lot more appreciation for your own parents.
Mom, dad, I am so, so sorry for ages 13-16.
Anyway, just try to love your kids, man. Protect them, support them, be there for them, and they’ll probably come out the other end relatively intact. After that, the rest is up to them.
Rule #5: Don’t Avoid the Hard Conversations
Don’t be afraid to address complex social issues with your kids. Don’t avoid some of the harsher realities this world has to offer because you’re uncomfortable or unsure. Your kid is going to look to you to explain things, to make sense of everything. I guess this is the first real ‘rule’ I’m laying down here and I, again, have no idea of what I’m doing.
I repeat. I have no idea.
But to me I’d rather be the one to explain to my daughter what things like rape are, or the harsh reality of death, or even about the things I’m still up in the air with — I’m not exactly sure what my feelings about religion are, for instance. I don’t think it’s wrong to let your kids see your vulnerabilities, to let them understand that the world doesn’t always make sense, even to adults.
Rule #6: Just Love Them, Man
I really and honestly believe the most important part of parenting is just showing up. It’s waking up and clocking in every single day no matter how tired and worn out you are. It’s just being there with them, both physically and mentally. It’s just making sure that they always know they have someone on their side, on their team all day every day. That doesn’t mean you’ll always agree with them, or that you’ll always be able to step in and save them from themselves. But it does mean that you’ll do your very best to guide them and to help pick themselves up and brush themselves off and try again.
So, in closing – just love them, man. Just love them. You can do this, I promise.