The Care and Feeding of Your Very Own Small Person

My boss and his wife just became parents.

They are about to enter a marvelous world unlike anything they’ve ever experienced, or ever will.

I know. I’ve been a member of that club for several years.

I remember when my first daughter was born. I wasn’t one of those dads pacing the floor of the hospital waiting room. I was right there in the room when she arrived that morning in 1987.

That didn’t change after we brought her home. I’d rock her to sleep, change her diapers, bathe, feed and burp her. I’ve lost track of the number of mornings I was up feeding her at 2 or 3 a.m., even when I had to be at work within a few hours. It’s not easy to hold a bottle for an infant when you can barely keep your eyes open.

But you know something? I’d do it again.

I didn’t know much about helping to raise a child in the beginning. I learned right off the bat that the stork doesn’t hand out complimentary parenting handbooks to anyone. All parents begin wondering, what am I supposed to do? But that’s OK. Experience, and in-laws, are great teachers.

I admit it. I didn’t always know what I was doing. Sometimes I asked advice. Sometimes I just winged it. A couple of times I just knew.

By the time my daughter was around 8, I was spending more time with her. We’d have breakfast at Shoney’s on Saturdays. We’d go to a movie or a local festival. I remember driving around with her in the car on Saturday evenings, listening to Garrison Keillor’s humorous News from Lake Wobegone monologues on public radio.

Saturdays were our day, and that’s how we liked it.

Then one day I finally understood. I discovered the key ingredient to raising your own small person. (Of course, it was many years after she was grown and had left home when I figured it out, but hey, better late than never, right?) And it’s so simple, yet so complicated.

You know what kids need?

Time.

Your time. They know you don’t have all the answers—well, they eventually figure that out. (No need to tip your hand too soon.) They just want you to spend time with them.

Sometimes that may include them laying on your chest while you pat their back and burp them. (Note: don’t attempt this if they’re old enough to roll their eyes when you say “good morning” or operate a motor vehicle.) Sometimes it may involve taking them to a game or movie or a cow birthing. Maybe it’s taking them out for breakfast. Sometimes it may just be listening to them talk about someone they like at school. (Just don’t let them hear you snore. Not good.)

Sure, parenting isn’t easy. There will be a few restless nights. Yea verily, there shall be a few skinned knees and elbows. Babies and children seem to like food, so be prepared for that as well. And if you’ve never changed a diaper, well neighbor, you’re in for a real treat.

So yeah, being a parent is hard, and without an owner’s manual, doubly so. But, you can do this. You can raise your very own healthy small person into a healthy big person. I know you can do it. How can I have such confidence in you, someone I may have never even met?

Because I did it. I figured it out.

Twice.

So, go forth and multiply. Stop reading this and go begat—hey, wait!

I’m not finished yet. Come back here.

Gird your loins.

Learn how to say, “no,” once in a while.

But sometimes it’s OK to say, “yes,” too.

Now you may go. And hey—let’s be careful out there. 78

 

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