I was seven years old the first time I had a real babysitting job and 43 when my last baby was born. In between I worked babysat, did daycare, and taught school. That’s over 35 years of reading Parents Magazine, Dr. Spock, What to Expect, various child development textbooks, plus every single book on infants and sleep that has ever been written. And that's not to mention attending education workshops and classes.
The problem with having that much information invading one’s head is that it does just that. It invades. And despite the fact that even the sleep experts can’t agree with each other, the invading information is always separating the wheat from the chaff.
And by chaff, I mean, “Stuff the baby book said you were doing wrong!” The baby books don’t fully disclose which level of Dante’s hell your child will be doomed to wander if you don’t follow their advice, but the subtext is obvious: stick with us or your baby will spend years in therapy.
But in all honesty, your baby would probably benefit from a therapist anyway. I mean who wouldn’t? In my mind a better goal is to keep you and Dad out of therapy with a marriage counselor at least while your child so new that you desperately need that time for sleep.
This I wish I had known: Dad gets to be right too, even if he’s never even laid eyes on a baby book. Dad gets to be right sometimes even when he’s doing things “wrong”.
In fact Dad gets to decide whether or not he even reads baby books. You can highlight, bookmark, and photocopy all you want. Personally, I may even have tried buying a DVD and begging Dad to watch it with me (Don’t judge! We were in the throes of the evil colic; it’s amazing we even survived!). Ultimately, Dad still gets to decide whether to watch, read, listen, or throw it all out the window and do his own thing.
This I wish I had known: Dad’s “thing” will be different. Dad’s thing may even be downright scary sometimes to a mom who is borderline overprotective even on her best day. But close your eyes, close your ears, and try not to even ask what happened while you got your glorious nap. Because Dad’s thing, while perhaps not fully scripted by your favorite parenting expert, is still one of the sweetest and most wonderful things that will ever happen to your child.
And if you let it, it can also be one of the sweetest and most wonderful things that ever happens to you. Because parenting is joyful and gratifying and delicious. But at the exact same time it is difficult, relentless and, grueling work.
And here is Dad saying, “Go ahead and take a nap! I’ve got this!”
Take a nap! Take it, for crying out loud! Because everything will go wrong sometimes, whether or not Dad’s way follows the exact plan that you carefully constructed after reading umpteen books on how not to ruin your baby.
Dad will find his own special way. And as the years go by, it will matter less and less whether his way and your way are exactly the same. What will matter more is that your baby grows into child with two loving parents who are both doing the best they possibly can.
Now…I'm off to practice taking my own advice...so that I can have a nap.