Good Advices

March 13th, 2004  |  Published in Uncategorized

Time for some babyblogging:


We’ve got something that kind of looks like a routine now, so I think I’m going to jinx it by mentioning it in something other than a hushed voice with my fingers crossed.

Some time around 8 p.m., we get a bottle into the lad. Food has the useful effect of making him slow-witted and compliant. Then we break out the Burt’s Bees Baby Oil and give him a rubdown, which chills him out even more. We follow the massage with a bath and swaddling. IMG_2213.JPG Ten or fifteen minutes in the rocking chair with him, and he’s ready to go down. We usually have him in bed by 9 p.m., and he stays down until around 6 a.m. This has been going on for something like seven or eight nights straight, and he’s even tolerated small variations in the routine without going insane and making us pay until 2 in the morning.

Stuff You Can Know

Coming back from the game and comic shop today, we were talking about the New Routine and what an insane blur the first month of Ben’s life was. Two things we agreed on readily enough:

  1. Any book that deals with anything besides how to feed, clean, or otherwise maintain basic life functions is useless. Books with advice about making the little nipper sleep regularly, learn a second language, communicate his needs with a babyfied ASL, program in ALGOL, or learn to not be ashamed about his poop may as well stay on the shelf because the kid’s just not in the same room with you most of the time, and when he is, he’s like a sloshing pink plastic bag of old nitroglycerin. They’ll have their time, but even the books centered around early, early issues (like sleep habits) pretty much back off even pretending that they can offer worthwhile advice before three months. The worst just gloss the issue.
  2. Once you’re willing to pull a book down off the shelf and consult it, it’s a crapshoot. If the author happened to have some kids like your own, the advice will work most of the time, sort of. Otherwise, you’ll either waste time reading something that stops making sense the second you try it, or you’ll realize a few pages in that the author just had a different sort of kid.

Realizing the second thing was a real blow to someone who’s as book-oriented as I am. IMG_2214.JPG There’s not room in the apartment for all the books I’ve gone out and bought to solve a simple problem or deal with a minor and passing curiosity about the way a thing works. Should have taken my own advice when I wrote:

“[…] it just seems like hanging so much on “Dr. X’s Guide to Making Your Baby Y and Z” is a good way to guarantee future misery when the child proves him or herself to be a human, and not a deterministic system.”

I can let myself off the hook a little, because the things I was reacting to then were more generalized “child rearing” texts as opposed to the practical texts we were trying to consult. All the same, when people say “every baby’s different,” I’d go so far as to say “different enough that you just shouldn’t try to find the book that’ll happen to cover yours.” Best to just ask around and keep an ear out for advice that feels right and doesn’t run contrary to a basic maintenance book you’ve picked less for methodology than apparent scientific soundness.

More prickly than blowing off a book is the issue of how to deal with all the advice that friends, family, and loved ones have to offer.

I’ll make no comment on the quality of the preponderance of that advice, or single any particular bit of advice we got as good or bad. IMG_2219.jpg I’ll just note that everybody has an opinion based either on experience, preconception, or preconception shaded by some knowledge of someone else’s experience, and that few of the people who have something to say agree with each other. The most comforting thing you can hope to hear isn’t “Oh yeah, just do X,Y,Z and the kid’ll be golden,” but “Yeah, I remember it being kind of like that. We tried…” Mercifully, as the shock of the first few days and weeks wears off, some of that can be culled instantly as contrary to what you think you should be doing, and some of it makes sense enough to try because it squares up with how you think things ought to be but you just hadn’t thought to try that particular thing.

IMG_2224.JPGI’m writing this with some worry that someone among the many people we’ve talked to about this challenge or that will think I’m thinking about them when I use words like “blow off” and “cull.” And that makes me think of Jon Leonard, who once said the most useful thing anyone’s ever said around me: “Hey! I’m full of shit, too! We’re all full of shit!” But that doesn’t make the care and patience people have shown for our little family any less important, even when it was expressed in the form of advice that was dead wrong for our particular bundle of entropy.

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