Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Yes we can

For those of you who don’t believe in miracles, check this out: my son is now 14 months old, meaning that despite my incapacity to sustain most forms of plant and animal life, child rearing is surprisingly doable.

I can’t say it’s been easy learning to parent while working from home, keeping said home passably tidy and maintaining at least a solid B in personal hygiene, but I’ve never been one to shrink from a challenge, especially in the face of naysayers. Our pediatrician comes to mind: “You’ll never get anything done” was her retort when I informed her of my intention to forgo childcare until our son had turned one. Well, she was wrong; I get stuff done. It just takes me 10 times longer than it used to.

Something I discovered in my first year as a mother is that no-you-can’t-ers abound; our pediatrician is but one example. And it’s not just that. Too many sources of parenting information, be they first or second-hand, are either needlessly negative or straight up alarmist—the apparent goal being to keep parents in a perpetual state of borderline panic. From SIDS risk to vaccination hype to choking hazards, the underlying message is that at any given moment, we are but one accident away from infanticide. Why, it seems every baby product out there bears a warning label tantamount to If you don’t use this product exactly as intended, your child may very well die (and it will be all your fault, you poor incapable fool). And here I thought pregnancy was stressful.

OK, some specifications are warranted.

That may be why I’m so delighted to have passed the 1-year mark unscathed. I’m also delighted to have discovered just how wrong so many people are about raising babies. Even before ours was born, we began receiving all manner of seriously jaded, totally unsolicited advice, often from perfect strangers. For example, “Enjoy your pregnancy; it’s the last time you’ll be able to do what you want for a long time.” (How is one to respond? Thank you?) Since our son’s birth, we’ve been advised to avoid restaurants, museums, and weddings; to protect him from honey, public changing tables, and the sun; to have him fed, bathed, and lying in an empty crib—on his back only—by 8:00 pm; and for heaven’s sake, to never leave those little feet bare. But my favorite piece of advice, and one that apparently has no expiration date, is to “cherish this age while it lasts” (insinuation: because man, are you gonna hate the next one).

Coming soon.

Incidentally, this is all garbage. We may be the only ones around doing it, but we take our son absolutely everywhere. He’s traveled with us by plane, train and automobile. He’s visited five countries, including both coasts of the United States, and dipped his adorable baby toes into the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Mediterranean, and the North Sea. We’ve taken him to museums, cathedrals, art gallery openings and classy restaurants (and a wedding). He doesn’t have a fixed bedtime and no, he doesn’t like socks—so just STOP already with the tisk-tisking! Yes, there have been some extreme situations (a diaper change at 1,500 meters atop Puy de Dôme, for example), but so far, so good. Babies need stimulation, which we’re happy to provide. And you know what? He’s doing beautifully.

Maybe that’s why I’m such a die-hard Obama fan. However history ultimately remembers him, he had me at Yes We Can. As a new mom, I cannot fathom why, amid the cascades of parenting advice out there, none is anywhere as encouraging as that simple notion: yes you can. Of course it’s hard; everything worthwhile is. But a whole lot of people, many far less apt than we, have managed it. So as we ease into our second year as parents, we do so with renewed confidence in our own instincts—which have turned out to be of far greater worth than all that other advice combined.