On Being a New Parent

I rediscovered one of my favorite posts on Medium: Letter to a First-Time Father. It’s a friendly letter of advice on what other parent’s forget to warn you about when you become a parent. I read this just before Olivia was born and it’s funny and insightful and a delight.

Number Three: I’m sure plenty of older parents have already told you to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” And this is useful, because it distinguishes that person as someone who honestly has no recollection of what it was like to live with an infant. You will never sleep more than 45 minutes at a clip, and not because baby wakes up crying. You’ll be doing it because you’re terrified of SIDS, and will continually be hovering over the crib to make sure your child is breathing. Problem with this is that babies are so small, you can barely notice if their chests (with or without nipples) are rising up and down. So, logically, you’ll put a hand on your daughter’s little body, just to check, which will then wake her up. She will remain awake for the next three hours. She will also cry throughout the entirety of these three hours because she’s pissed you woke her up.

You will repeat this process every night until she’s a year old, when you’re out of the woods with the SIDS business. However, you will sporadically continue to do this for the rest of both of your lives, because the silence now terrifies you. Once, we were staying at my parents’ house and I woke up at 4am to make sure my preschool-aged sons weren’t suffocating in their blankets. When I opened my eyes, my father was hovering over me, making sure I, too, was not suffocating in my linens. I was thirty-one years old. Yes, it was creepy.

Go read the whole thing.

And Jonathan Coulton’s You Ruined Everything might be a perfect song about becoming a new parent.

Stack Overflow founder Jeff Atwood said in his On Parenthood post something I didn’t believe until Olivia was born.

As an adult, you may think you’ve roughly mapped the continent of love and relationships. You’ve loved your parents, a few of your friends, eventually a significant other. You have some tentative cartography to work with from your explorations. You form ideas about what love is, its borders and boundaries. Then you have a child, look up to the sky, and suddenly understand that those bright dots in the sky are whole other galaxies.

You can’t possibly know the enormity of the feelings you will have for your children.

I’m also very glad for the blogger Jason Kottke, who is several years ahead of me on the parenting journey. Kottke.org is a blog that posts about great ideas and awesome people, and every so often Jason speaks personally about his kids and his perspective on being a parent. There is so much good stuff here. I’ve found as much insight from posts tagged Parenting on Kottke.org as everything else I’ve read. Side note: back in 2010 he posted a link to another site where he guest posted a list of his favorite stuff for kids. That site is now gone, so in my soon-to-be-a-parent anxiousness I emailed him to ask what else was on his list. He was gracious enough to dig into his personal archive and dig out the list. Thanks Jason. And you’re right, a diaper bag needs and over-the-shoulder strap. I should have listened.