I still recall that day, about an hour after we brought him home for the first time, when we were staring into his crib wondering what the hell to do next. The hackneyed phrase ‘there isn’t an instruction manual!’ rings far away in the background as reality dawns. Seriously, what the fucking hell do we actually do?
We’re only a year and a bit into this gig so it’d be ludicrous to proffer a definitive answer but taking into consideration he was born fit and healthy, and that the missus and I are functioning (for now at least) with all our faculties, I’d like to tentatively suggest a solution to the immediate question of what one actually does when finding oneself in a room with one’s brand-new charge. The answer? Nothing. You do nothing at all.
That doesn’t mean you just stand there literally doing nothing, of course. That’d be horrific. What I mean is that neither you or the baby have begun the process of communication, so until that code starts writing itself you’ll just have to wait. Chances are it’ll begin with the baby crying and your responding with food (tits, not mine) cuddles, nappies etc., and this crude vocabulary will gradually develop and drive things forward until one day, out of the blue, you’ll suddenly be aware you know stuff you didn’t know you knew. This has begun already, like hassle-free bottle-feeding, wriggle-controlled bath-times, best practice nappy-changing (I could write a chapter on this aspect alone) plus a myriad of other baby-related minutiae that you know you’ve nailed, for now at least.
Of course, these are shifting sands. Take the nappy changing aspect, and I think I will, when he was very small his discharge was liquid, relatively odourless and easy to deal with. Now he’s on solid foods we’re having to deal with a range of squashed adult-style turds that require a combination of skills: dexterity, precision, circular breathing etc. The point here is that it’s nature way for you and the baby to learn and grow together, and I don’t mean that to come out as some sort vacuous ‘hippy’ platitude. When they’re tiny they move less, eat less and shit less, and as these elements develop you can be as sure as eggs is eggs you will too; unless you’re a moron.
I’d even argue that reading too much on ‘parenting’ before your baby is born is detrimental to parenting because you’ll have completely random and irrelevant expectations of things that don’t yet exist. This is my opinion to date, I could be wrong, it could be that by taking an intuitive rather than an academic approach to parenting my son will wind up enjoying Electronic Dance Music -I’d hate that so much, only acting out my hatred in mime would get close to conveying how much I’d hate that.
For all intents and purposes parenting is a natural talent, books and advice have their uses but they’re of no use at all if, for example, you read about the ‘cry it out’ method a week before birth and now you’re getting less than three hours sleep a night because you’re adamant mumsnet is right over and above your instincts to find out why it’s crying: a bad dream, a weird noise, a stranger in the room without any trousers on.
Besides, it’s much more fun to explore all this stuff together. I’d heartily argue that common-sense trial and error brings everyone closer together, and when you get those ‘man, I’ve so got this’ moments the world is a much happier place, so much more than the boring, contrived lands of ‘do it this way.’
I have spoken.