What is Good Parenting?

Greetings from San Mateo, California, where my brother and sister-in-law live with their newborn baby – my nephew – Dylan and their dog Poochy. Dylan is cute. In all the ways babies ought to be, as though cobbled together from various types of bread: with arms like just-baked dinner rolls, belly like a giant loaf of sourdough, hands and feet like delicate braided pastries and a gleaming, puffy face which, for some reason, reminds me of a doughnut. A glazed donut when he cries. Baked into the doughnut are wondering eyes (“A little on the small side,” says his mother), barely there brows that are furrowed more often than not as though he were pondering the world’s most pressing yet unfixable issues, and a button nose. His lips are smaller versions of his mother’s – full and pouty – but perpetually chapped from all his fuss.

So, don’t be misled by the tranquil looking photo above – those times are rare. I’ve met many babies by now, and I would have wished upon my brother a less fussy version of this one, but instead they got a quiet dog, obedient and independent and quiet. I suspect their next child will be somewhere in between. Sometimes those are just the cards you get.

But parenthood, if you’re cut out for it, brings out qualities you didn’t even know you had. Mountains of patience, for one, and a reserve of phantom energy that no other living being in the world could have summoned, meant to be used at the oddest hours (between 2-5AM) for the oddest things – breast pumping, feeding, picking dried poop off your baby’s butt, or to say, over and over again, “And here’s your nose! And your eyebrows!” followed by pleading, “Okay who’s a good boy and is going to go to bed now please, for the love of God!”

And this most important one, the ability to take long sighs and accept certain people as they are because you a.) made that person and b.) are now responsible for them and c.) cannot expect, at least for another year or so, for them to communicate with you in any reasonable way.

So after all the pushing and pulling, the negotiating with your parents, your sister, your teachers and professors, your boss, your girlfriend-then-wife, and all the millions of people and situations in between that helped bring you to the life you have now, you return to a time very similar to the very beginning of your life. But now the roles are reversed.

Your baby cries incessantly. Spits up almost everything it eats. Smiles a gorgeous heart melting smile every day for just five minutes and for the rest of the time is either frowning, on the edge of crying, or hyperventilating on the edge of crying, or actually crying – wailing, as though you were hurting him in unknowable ways even though all you’re trying to do is rock him to sleep.

You look to your parents for advice and your mother can only shrug and smile and look tenderly upon her grandson because she’s only here for the weekend. She’s done this before. Now it’s your turn.

“Oh every baby’s different,” she says, “but you,” and she lists those very same difficulties your baby gives you (as if you were a victim!) and which, apparently, you gave her, “you were just like him.”

For the first few months, anyway.

So this Sunday’s Seven: On Parenting!

1. For starters, 7 Research Backed Ways to Raise Your Kids Right

2. But now research says that some stuff, like what your grandparents did, is just out of your control. It’s called epigenetics. 

3. Over indulgent parents beware: it’s okay to be a little withholding with the compliments, (but not too much like my freakin’ dad) unless you want a little narcissist.  We all know a handful of these little boogers and they are not cool.

4. But if they are narcissists anyway, hopefully it’s because they’re damn smart. Here’s how to make them that way.  Reading to them is always at the top of similar lists, which is good because I’ve already started my collection long and crowing collection of “Books I Want To Read to Mini-Me.”

5. Are you an irrational parent? Hopefully not, but it’s all relative right? I’d like to let my kids walk a mile from my house to the park without my friends thinking I’m crazy…but who would be the crazy one.

6. That kids are expensive is not a secret. But in New York it’s almost doubly so: it can costs upwards of $500,000 to raise a kid in New York. Sometimes I see kids (not in the mirror) that look like they cost way more.
7. Lastly, does all of the above sound exhausting, expensive and not-that-exhilarating? That’s cool too: kids aren’t for everyone and it should be totally acceptable for people – like my professor did – to opt out of parenthood.  

Happy Sunday! If you’ve got a baby, hope it’s happy too.

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