Friend of ours recently had their first child, a beautiful baby girl (welcome to this crazy, beautiful, difficult, wonderful thing called life, little one). I've been thinking a lot about them, about the early days of parenting. Bringing home that little bundle and being thrust into sleepless nights, days filled with constant feedings and changings and laundry and naps. I have wondered what advice I might give to new parents. What is it that I would have wanted to know back then?
There are lots of practical things, of course. Tips that would have been useful. Personally, I liked Luvs diapers. They were some of the cheapest and did the best job at holding a mess. Know, however, that your baby might reach growth periods that, whatever your favorite diaper is, she may need another brand to fit her better. Also, despite what some people say, I put pure corn starch powder on at each diaper change; we never had diaper rash issues as long as we were doing this. Follow your gut. Listen to all advice but then figure out what bits work for you. Gas drops work wonders in the early days. Tylenol (once the doctor approves it) falls into the category of "Can it hurt, can it help?"; don't be afraid to try it if baby is inconsolable.
I could go on like that for days. But as I thought about all of the advice I could give, the most important seemed to be this: don't wish it away.
That may sound silly. Of course you won't wish away your baby's time! But there will be parts that you will wish away. It is inevitable that you will find yourself rocking at 3:00AM, struggling to keep your eyes open, and thinking "When will this child sleep through the night?" You can think that, of course you will think that, but remember this:
Children's lives are lived in stages. Short, short stages. Each stage comes with some good and some bad in it. The moment you wish for something difficult to end, you will also be wishing for something that delights you to end. For instance:
If you wish for more sleep in this very newborn stage, you will also be wishing away the only time in your daughter's life when she wants and needs NOTHING but you. Endless snuggling and rocking and soothing may seem like your forever in the midst of things, but I promise you it lasts for less time than you can wish.
If you wish for peace from teething that makes your little one fuss, you will also be wishing away the sparkle in her eye as she learns to crawl and chases you from room to room.
If you wish away the fear that you feel as a wobbly new toddler learns to walk and threatens to fall and crack her noggin, you will also be wishing away the delight of chubby hands who have found their way to the refrigerator door and slap at it while she shouts, "Bezzie!!" because she has figured out how to compel you to get her some blueberries.
If you wish away the need to pack a million things with you everywhere you go, you will be wishing away the delight of those trips, both big and small, and the joyful memories that you are making together as you go.
I'm not the first person to try and express this. Poets and heros, rock stars and philosphers have said it (and probably better) before me. Time is a slippery thing that fools people into believing that it will last forever while it steadily ticks away. Because of this, my advice is simple. Just enjoy it. Hold on to what you can, let go of what you need to and fill it all with great love for one another.
Enjoy the ride. It's the best one you'll ever take.