When I was learning to drive, I asked my dad how often I should look in the rear view mirror. My dad said “as often as you need in order to know what’s behind you”. When I had some professional lessons I asked the instructor and he said “about every 7 seconds”.
My dad’s answer reminds me of a lot of parenting advice like “trust your instincts and don’t worry, they usually turn out fine”. True, totally accurate, but not really very useful when you’re learning and haven’t developed much in the way of instincts yet.
The driving instructor gave the different sort of advice, which was more the answer I was looking for. Here is the exact thing you need to do. Problem is lots of parenting advice that is directive is also totally conflicting. There’s no right answer.
Every experienced parent I’ve spoken to about having a second baby a couple of years after the first has said that it’s harder because there is a toddler too, but it’s easier because you know the ropes. You instinctively know how often you need to check your mirror.
Hopefully they’re right.
Some of the things that were hard in the first year had specific 7-second type answers that took me a while to figure out. They might only apply to the little dude, but hopefully there are some generic bits in there too that will apply to the next bubba.
Baby crying and is teething and in pain and overtired? Put him in the cot and stroke his head and talk in a low soft voice telling him how sleepy he is and how nice it is to go to sleep and how sleep will make it better. You don’t have to wear yourself out rocking him for hours to provide contact and comfort.
Baby cries in the carseat? Put a toy in front of him and play any music you like.
Baby just starting solids doesn’t want to eat off a spoon? Get one of those boon hand-held silicone feeders, best 8 bucks ever.
Baby hates getting dressed after the bath? Tickle him.
Toddler resists getting into his pushchair? Spin in it around as soon as he is in, he’ll laugh and want to get in quickly next time.
Toddler doesn’t want to wean? Tell him “all gone milk” and he’ll accept it.
I bet I won’t remember these things in 30 years and if anyone asks me anything about raising kids I’ll say something totally unhelpful like “um, just try different things and see what works for you”.
[Post script: after I blogged this I thought of the following… parenting advice is wildly inconsistent, like one driving instructor says “throw away the rear view mirror” and another one says “develop super-human powers of peripheral vision and look in it constantly”, and that’s when you’re like “oh well both of those sound NUTS so I’ll have to go with my dad’s vague but at least not crazy advice and figure it out by myself.]