The daughter of a friend has just adopted a baby. The whole family is wild with joy, and doing all that they can do to support the new family. My friend asked me for all the advice she could give her daughter. After first warning her that advice could be the last thing the mom wants at this point, I decided to see if I could figure out myself the most important ideas for first-time parents to grasp,
and here they are:
• Get to know your baby. I’m not talking about the compulsive counting of fingers and toes that seems obligatory, but rather really paying attention to who this new being is. You’ve been busy imagining for some months, but it’s now time to throw away the fantasies of who you would have liked to arrive, and learn who actually did. Babies arrive wired for a particular temperament and way of interacting with the world and people around them. Life is so much happier for both children and their parents when we figure out how best to match their style. Pay attention to what bothers and delights your little one, and soon you will have figured out some of how to support this unique person as you move through years together.
• Get some sleep—and help when you need it. Young babies are ceaselessly demanding, with no sense of day or night, and no qualms about disrupting yours. The exhausting first few weeks makes most parents re-think the choice to become parents, so there is no shame in either howling or taking naps when the opportunity strikes. Superwoman didn’t have babies, which is why she can bound about so energetically. Right now, look after your baby’s physical and emotional needs and your own, without panicking that everything in life as you knew it has changed forever. (It has, but that daunting idea can be dealt with later.) As you move through years together, remember that it really does take a village to raise a child, and rested parents can be most effective.
• Get a life. Yes, taking on the care and nurturing of another human being is a huge responsibility, and your parenting role will influence your life forever, shaping the kind of person that you are and will be. Yes, good parenting is not something that can be done in odd moments or in your spare hours. It takes considerable time, effort and thought, and seeps into all other aspects of your life. But it should not become your life. Those who do let parenting become their sole obsession run the risk of becoming the most uni-dimensional people around, boring those around them, as well as ultimately their own children. They also are likely to damage their own children, the very people that they would purport to do anything for. It is not healthy for either parents or children when parents are so focused on their kids that they lose sight of the things around them that should also have meaningful places in their lives:
#Their primary relationships with the other parent as well as others—the relationships that will nurture them emotionally so that they have the wherewithal to nurture their children;
# Their meaningful work;
# Their own development as physically and emotionally healthy persons, and
# Their larger contributions to the world around them.
So that’s about it: get to know your child, get some rest and help, and get a life—focus on these three things, and the rest will fall into place.
The GROWING TOGETHER NEWSLETTER is issued by; GROWING CHILD Inc., and is distributed free, courtesy of:THE LIFESTART FOUNDATION,
2, Springrowth House, Balliniska Rd.,
Springtown Ind. Estate, L’Derry BT48 OGG
Tel: 028 71365363. Fax: 028 71365334.
Web Site: www.lifestartfoundation.org