If you have a baby, there are many people who will be happy to tell you how to treat your infant. Many of them have written books. Many of those books contain handy little mnemonics for memorizing that book’s particular dogma. Like Dr. Sears, who espouses a kind of lite version of Attachment Parenting, has the Seven B’s of Attachment Parenting. Or Dr. Karp, of Happiest Baby on the Block fame, has the Five S’s to make your baby STOP YELLING.
Seth and I have decided to come up with our own parenting dogma so we can write a book about it and make literally hundreds of dollars selling our theories to other desperate parents! Here’s the fruit of our efforts so far:
The ABC’s of Fumbling-Through Parenting ™:
A is for ANY MEANS NECESSARY
B is for BABIES ARE WEIRD
C is for CRAM A BOOB IN IT
D is for DON’T LEAVE YOUR BABY UNDER A BUSH
E is for EVERYBODY’S DOING THE BEST THEY CAN, MAN
ANY MEANS NECESSARY: having a newborn is super-hard. You don’t get any sleep and you spend a lot of time staring into the dark wondering what you have done. So whatever you have to do to get some sleep and occasionally a shower and maybe a cup of coffee, that’s what you have to do. For instance, if your baby doesn’t like to be put down, don’t put him down! Why not train the household dog to carry him around while you’re peeing or off at the store buying vodka?
BABIES ARE WEIRD: sometimes your baby is going to freak the hell out for no good reason. You can run through the checklists and try to feed him, burp him, change his diaper, etc, and if he’s still freaking out… well, who knows! He just got here. Before this he was in a climate-controlled environment so luxurious nutrition was pumped directly into his veins! By comparison, the outside world must be depressing like a gulag.
CRAM A BOOB IN IT: this is the solution to most of my kid’s problems, as it turns out. Someone out there probably thinks that you should try everything else before resorting to this, because what if he’s just comfort-nursing and by sticking a boob in his mouth when he’s upset you are failing to help him learn to self-soothe?!????? And to that person I say, LISTEN CHIEF, you are welcome to come over to my house and babysit, HAD I MENTIONED THAT I’M OUT OF VODKA.
DON’T LEAVE YOUR BABY UNDER A BUSH: it’s so weird how when babies are brand-new they are actually not all that cute and they are super-needy and cry-y and they don’t make eye contact with you or smile or really seem to notice that you exist. They’re just these balls of frantic need. (Why would evolution set it up this way? Surely many many early humans left their irritating infants out in front of the cave when it was time to sleep.) But you have to just count on the fact that it gets better: the baby gets fat and cute, he starts to hold his head up and look around. He makes eye contact. He gurgles and coos. Sometimes he looks at you in a very calculating manner and then cracks a huge, toothless grin. So don’t leave your baby under a bush. It gets better.
EVERYBODY’S DOING THE BEST THEY CAN, MAN: parents, especially parents of the female persuasion, have a hard time not being competitive and judgmental. I guess it’s because raising a baby is like the super-charged version of growing the biggest pumpkin in town. You want there to be an objectively best way to go about doing things. You want to do what is right, not just “right for your family”. So you obsess over the right baby books, the right parenting dogma, the right hats, the right car seats, the right sleeping arrangement, the right way to talk to your baby. You want to have all the answers. You want, quite frankly, to be better at it than other people.
But that way lies madness.
There may be a science to parenting (and if there isn’t, nerds like Seth and I are fucked) but mostly it’s alchemy, mostly it’s faith, mostly it’s faking it until you make it.
Everybody’s doing the best they can. Even you.