The best part about being a modern parent with Internet access is how you learn from the mistakes of others, so you can do a better job of raising your children than they have.
You only learn from your own mistakes, because you simply won’t credit other parents’ stupidity when they demonstrate ahead of time how badly things can go wrong. You’ll believe it only when it happens to you.
Possibly not even until the second (or third) time it happens to you.
But, in hope of any new parents reading who actually have the foresight to prepare by observing the errors of others, here are a small sample of the rookie mistakes I made, and the pro tips* I now feel qualified to offer.
*New readers: For the record, I use the term ‘pro’ extremely loosely when referring to my parenting ability. Long-term readers will be well aware of my decidedly amateur childrearing skills already.
Rookie mistake #1: Buy newborn clothes with anything other than snap-through fastenings. Newborns are adorable, and you want everyone to see how adorable they are, so you buy adorable little outfits with braces and buttons and bows. ADORABLE!
You know what’s not adorable? Newborn poo. Newborn poo arrives suddenly and theatrically in startling quantities, is the colour and consistency of mustard, and can smell alarmingly bad despite their very bland diet. Containment of newborn poo in a nappy is never a sure thing, given their scrawny little legs don’t always fill up the leg holes adequately, and the liquidity of the substance in question. If there’s even a tiny gap, you’ll have a blowout: A Number Three. A Poonami. And THEN: during the cleanup, you’ll have to attempt to get your adorable baby’s adorable poo-spattered outfit up and over her adorable head – without getting poo in her hair.
Pro tip: Snap-through, baby. Snap-through all the way, ankle to neck. Not just snap-crotch. Snap. Right. Through. You want to have ‘quick-release’ in mind as a feature when assessing suitability of baby clothes. Also (this is perhaps the only point that Gina Ford and I will ever agree on): plain white is good for baby clothes. Cute on a boy or a girl. Will camouflage milk spills, spit up and parental tears of exhaustion. Can be bleached and washed in hot water, which is really the only way to deal with ‘mustard’ stains. Snap-through white onesies for the win!
Rookie mistake #2: Throw the baby in the air after a feed. This one is courtesy of my husband, because even I had the sense to realise from the very beginning that this was a BAD idea. He was unconvinced, and couldn’t resist bouncing our giggling firstborn high in the air at every opportunity, even if I had warned him that the baby had only just burped after his feed. Eventually, of course, it all ended in tears (and vomit). Picture an adoring Daddy, laughing and holding eye contact with his son as he tosses him repeatedly in the air. Picture the son – who is already nicknamed ‘The Chucker’ – giggling uncontrollably before unloading a bellyful of semi-digested breastmilk directly into his Daddy’s open mouth. It’s simultaneously one of the most hilarious, disgusting, and vindicating things I’ve ever witnessed.
Pro tip: Don’t throw the baby in the air after a feed. It’s not that difficult to explain. Just wait a while after they eat before you roughhouse with them. And even then, maybe keep your mouth closed just in case.
Rookie mistake #3: Weet-Bix as baby food. It seems like a good idea. Weet-Bix and milk are actually often recommended as a bland, low-salt, low-allergen food to introduce early on. You can make it as mushy or as lumpy as you like. Babies and kids love it. What could be the problem with Weet-Bix, you ask?
Babies spray their food around like all get-out, okay? It’s a delightful aspect of the weaning process. And Weet-Bix (or The Devil’s Cereal as it’s known here), contains a mystery ingredient that causes it to set like stone and adhere firmly to whatever it’s been spilled on, unless of course you clean it up in under five minutes (HA! HA! HA! I know, I’m hilarious!).
Pro tip #3: If you’re going to feed them Weet-Bix, wait until they can reliably handle a spoon and aren’t going to get it everywhere. Like, maybe when they’re 12 or so. If you insist on giving them Weet-Bix at a spillable age, use industrial drop-sheets and possibly hazmat clothing, or you’ll have rock-hard weety lumps stuck all over your dining room. A paint scraper is handy for removal of those.
Pro tip #3a: Bananas, a favourite accompaniment to The Devil’s Cereal, and another highly recommended first food, stain like a motherf*cker. The innocuous pale yellow flesh somehow transforms into hideous, stringy black marks upon coming into contact with clothing. You have been warned.
Rookie mistake #4: When your kid does something good – gloat, brag and be generally smug about it. Share your foolproof techniques with others, liberally. You’ve clearly got parenthood sorted, my friend.
I took this photo of my grinning daughter wearing her ‘Insomniac’ shirt after a 3-hour nap and (naturally) posted it on Facebook with the caption ‘The shirt lies!’ – to the amusement of some and the disgust of many. At the time it was true! She woke only once overnight and reliably had two big sleeps every day. I was positively drunk on sleep, and thought I had it all wrapped up because this was my second child and I clearly hadn’t made any of the silly mistakes that had messed up my first sleepless wonder…
A week later she entered her 4-month sleep regression (a period I hadn’t known existed before, because my son’s first year consisted of just one, endless sleep regression). She became wakeful at night, she was alert for hours at a time through the day, she took ages to settle and preferred to only nap in the sling or the car. Were my friends sympathetic? Actually, they were, because they’re wonderful, but it would have been perfectly reasonable for them to call me an ass and cast me aside.
Pro tip #4: Lesson learned. If it’s going well, keep it to yourself. Gloat to your significant other, if you must. Feign fatigue and malaise during any interactions with other parents. Lie, if necessary. Because if you don’t, either you’ll make someone else feel bad, or you’ll jinx yourself. Or both. So shh!
This post appeared first as a guest post on Life, Love and Dirty Dishes as part of the “Rookie Mistakes” series. Thanks for having me, Claire!