I have four children. Yes, I do know how they get made, and no, I don’t need another hobby. Thanks for those fresh insights, though – I appreciate the sentiment. When my first child was born, everything was either head knowledge or all new experiences. You are given so many opinions about what to do as the baby is coming, from so many well intention-ed people – but without the experience to balance it, you really have nothing to go on.
I remember my wife and I tried to use the trading system. I get the baby this time and you get him on the next run, so to speak. It didn’t work very well because as a paramedic, I was always listening for the “alarm,” which of course in this case was the baby noises. At every little cry I was up whether the baby was or not. My wife, on the other hand, was exhausted from everything having a baby entails so she would sleep through pretty much everything. What we found to be happening was, I would always wake up, then spend time trying to wake her up, and then still be unable to sleep well. It was exhausting.
Man – then there is the leaning on the kitchen counter with the baby crying at some miserable hour in the AM while you wait for that freakin’ bottle to stop taking forever to get to that “perfect” temperature. I literally wasn’t sure I could go through with it, to be honest. I remember thinking I might die from exhaustion before the baby grew out of this phase. Mind you, we were maybe two weeks into the baby’s life at this point. For whatever reason, I also kept the house dark during these feedings so it was hard for me to stay awake or even to see where I was going. Don’t even mention me taking shallow cat naps while I fed him as well. It felt like physical and mental torture.
All of this stressed the wife and me out individually, made for tough times around the house, and ultimately was something I would never do again. See, none of the actions we were taking made sense for our lives. I wanted to be a good dad/husband and do everything I could. T.V. told us to take turns with the baby feeding, I can’t remember who suggested we keep the house dark at night to build a day/night cycle for the kid, and we got extra stress from falling asleep with the kid because our minds told us if we looked away for a second he would bungee jump to his death or something. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, I see these patterns ingrained in their lives.
They don’t know why they do what they do, and yet somehow they must keep doing it “this” way.
Yes, that is a purposefully ambiguous statement. Try it though – ask a friend why they do something you see as abnormal and possibly harmful. Usually you will get a statement that, when broken down, will be my ambiguous quote above. Most of the actions my wife and I took during that time was based on a fear that we didn’t know how to be parents.
Here’s a thought for you: What if everyone was born with the ability to raise kids, yet somehow along the way we convinced ourselves that because we never have, then we can’t?
Think about that. I am sure that this principle could apply elsewhere, but to encourage myself to get to my point I will keep it to babies. Initially, every decision my wife and I made was out of fear. We chose to believe because we didn’t have our own kid already that we couldn’t possibly know anything about raising a child. Billions of books, tv shows, well meaning friends & family, and then everyone else has hammered this “well meaning” message home, over and over again. And we suffered with fear. But let me tell you something – the bear doesn’t do well being grumpy or fearful so I was about to break stuff in order to make it fit me.
I am a night person and my wife’s doctor appointments were during daytime hours. So I came up with a plan. She would go to bed at midnight and I would stay up playing the Xbox or watching my shows. Everything the baby did from midnight to six was my job; after six am until I woke up it was her job. Let me tell you, that worked wonders! We both got to sleep at least a solid six hours and the baby’s needs were met. It was a whole new world. We went about analyzing and adapting every other known baby wisdom to make it our…well use whatever word you feel is appropriate here.
The point is we let go of the fear-filled lie that “we couldn’t know…”, and embraced the truth that we can figure it out if we paid attention. That’s the key. See, people give you unsolicited advice about raising kids because on some level they want to live vicariously through you. To be honest, mostly because they feel like a failure on some level with their kids, or they don’t want you to be better than them in any way because somehow that would make them a failure. Not that they think this consciously, but in my experience I was pushed down early and hard as an expecting father by people who exhibited those traits.
In everything you do in life, you have to realize you were born to do it. We all are. I can try something that I think might work, and as long as I pay attention, the world doesn’t end. Do you hear me? I said if you pay attention, the world doesn’t end. Now you may be asking why I am being so melodramatic. It’s because we never ask ourselves, “Why not?” We never ask ourselves what are some of the possible outcomes, good or bad? And having wasted a ton of my life not asking these questions gets under my skin a bit.
So go ahead and ask yourself “Why am I doing ‘this’ this way?” If you come up with a reason, then now you know. You also have something to compare to if a new idea comes your way. If you can’t come up with a reason, then freaking try something new that excites you a little bit. Bringing it back to babies, here is my question for me:
Future Me: What is the worst that will happen if I leave a light on for my baby?
Also Me: Well, his day/night cycle could get screwed up and then he will stay up all night and sleep all day and I won’t sleep.
FM: Says who?
AM: Uhhh, I don’t know – somebody told me.
FM: So you’re not sleeping all night and all day because someone told you that someday the baby might sleep during the day? Yeah, how’s that working out for you, slappy?
AM: Yeah, ok, it’s not.
FM: So you can try turning on the lights and then pay attention. Then if you do see pattern changes, you adjust as they happen. Also sleeping during the day isn’t what he is doing, and even if it were that’s more sleep than you get now.
AM: Yeah, you have a point there that feels right, and I can just change back to what I was doing before if it doesn’t work.
Future Me: Hey, and invest in Apple in the 90’s – Steve Jobs comes back in a big way.
Also Me: Hey moron, your first kid wasn’t born until 2005. I know about Jobs already.
My wife and I went on in this pattern of asking the question and then experimenting with answers. Each child has brought a new experience and with them, new ways of getting to the same result: balance, peace, and joy. Seeing this method work inside my home has inspired me to push those boundaries everywhere.
So the point is – You have to experience something to gain experience. The only way to get through life happy is to find what works for you. Stop sleepwalking your existence and find out why you do what you do. Ask the question, find a path to try, and pay attention to see if it works for you. You are the only expert on you. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.