6 Things People Say on the Internet About Their Babies That I Don’t Relate To
My kid is about to celebrate her first birthday. This milestone (which seems like it really ought be observed with whiskey and dinner alone with your partner, not cupcakes and MORE children) has made me reflective on my first year of parenthood.
I love my daughter. She has a laugh that sounds like Jon Stewart’s impression of George W. Bush, and it is hilarious. She adores her dog and, against all reason, her churlish cat. Her cheeks are made out of some substance that science has yet to properly identify — they demand to be smooshed with kisses even when you are having the worst day.
But let’s face it, the first year of parenthood is tough*. At a certain stage of life, it seems that everyone on the internet is conspiring to tell you what life with a baby should be. And if you aren’t sure you want kids, or if you have them but your life doesn’t follow the predominant narrative, it can be extremely isolating. So here may I present a list of things people say on the internet that have made me feel like I was, somehow, doing it wrong.
*Most ground-breaking sentence ever written on the internet.
1. I loved her from the moment I saw her!
Really? From the moment you saw this tiny alien creature, covered in guck? You weren’t a terrified, hormonal, tired human suddenly faced with enormous responsibility? At the risk of this living on the internet long enough for her to read it, I will say — I did not love my daughter right away. I did not love her after the first couple of weeks when the baby blues went away. I didn’t fall hard in love at all — rather, I slowly sunk deeper and deeper, and I am sure I will fall deeper still. But that love came after time, bonding, and her ability to reveal to me, bit by bit, who she is becoming.
2. I can’t imagine life without him!
Again, really? Do you have a terrible imagination? Because it is not hard for me at all. I would go on more vacations, take walks at night, see friends, make art, and probably not feel guilty about writing this blog post instead of working for pay or spending time with her. It’s only been a year. C’mon, you can remember life a year ago, right? But she’s here, and that is a choice I made consciously, and while that is a genie that can’t be put back in the bottle, I am very glad for that.
3. Her personality is really starting to show!
Do three month old babies have personalities? Because mine didn’t. Aren’t all babies happy (at times), fussy (often), curious, cautious, and sad in different degrees? I have only had the one so far, so it is really hard for me to know what might be my daughter’s personality, and what is just… being a baby. It seems like a lot of pressure on a tiny human to already have a “nice personality”. Daughter, it’s okay if you are super cranky or wild or quiet or peaceful. I will not define that, for better or worse, as your “personality” because you are a baby. We get a small window in life to not be judged for our behaviors. Enjoy every moment.
4. We are following [insert your Method™ of eating/sleeping/being of choice]
First of all, I have no judgment on any way of raising your kid, as long as it is safe and loving. So this isn’t so much about a specific method, but that I never could relate to the idea of following some kind of roadmap that I read about in a book or on a website. It just didn’t work for me. A well-meaning family member gave me a book on how to cherish the first 6 weeks of parenthood, which involved highly detailed “schedules” to get your baby on. By the second week! A schedule was inconceivable to me. When I realized that we were all alive and okay and not following those schedules at all, it kind of delegitimized any dogmatic method for me. But everywhere you look, parents are taking sides in different debates. Do you co-sleep or Cry It Out? Do you spoon-feed your baby or give them cut up grown-up food? Do you put your baby in a stroller or wear them on your body? To me these seemed like minute-to-minute decisions based on what my daughter was doing that day, and not some strict philosophy to choose to follow. But no where did I read, “figure out what works for you and do it that way, until it doesn’t. Then flail around until you find a new way that works for the next 5 minutes.” I guess that doesn’t drive web traffic?
5. I was made to be her mom.
I am good at being a parent so far, I think. I know that I haven’t faced even a small percentage of the challenges and opportunities of the job. Basically, I’ve survived the orientation period. But honestly, at 33 I still don’t know what I was made for. We happened to make a baby the traditional way, but there are so many paths to family that aren’t connected to biological destiny. Getting to know my daughter and being the privileged one to get a front-seat view of her development has shown me more than I could have ever understood that it’s not about me. I’m just the assist, the guy behind the guy, giving her the support and tools she’ll need to grow into who she is. I’m just as confused about my life direction as I was before I had a kid, but I do like what I’m doing now. Check back with me when she’s a teenager.
6. He made our family whole/complete/etc.
My partner and I were together for nearly 12 years before we had a baby. We had/ have a strong, complete relationship and I cannot relate to those parents that say that something was missing before having children. Perhaps a more accurate word would be evolved? Our family has evolved. I loved my family with my spouse, and I love my family now. There are things about the family of two that I miss, just like I’m sure if we have another baby, I will miss things about a family of three. I really loved Leslie Knope’s logic:
“You have kids because you and (your partner) are a team, and you want to bring in some new team members.”
If anyone reading this has said or felt these things, please know that my snarky tone is not meant to knock you down. I mean the opposite — parents shouldn’t be knocked down for doing their best and showing their love. We should all be held up, whether we fell head over heels right away or struggled, whether parenthood fit seamlessly in with our concepts of self or not.
So happy birthday to my squirmy, giggly, expressive, whiny, interested, silly, challenging, adorable, loving, alien-creature-turned-person. Can’t wait to keep getting my assumptions knocked down and learning more and more from you. XO.