It gets better. During the first few months of our baby’s life, nothing was said to us more often (always by other moms and dads) than those very words.
For new parents wondering how you’re going to survive the exhaustive, day-to-day slog of raising an infant whose needs are constant, those three little words might guide you. Heck, they might even help you.
At first, we found them quite comforting.
Eventually, though, we despised them.
Exhaustion had taken its toll. Suddenly whenever someone said ‘it gets better,’ it was about as believable as Harry Potter’s flying broomstick and we could barely muster up lackluster half-smiles in return.
See, my hubby and I had assumed our baby would be super chill.
But, instead of an easy newborn, we met a baby who clung to me like Velcro, hated naps and had pipes so powerful he could make the entire house shake.
And there we were with those optimistic words hanging over us. It. Gets. Better.
‘When?’ I wanted to scream! ‘When does it get better?’
Then, it did.
How, you ask? Well, one morning at about six weeks, our small squish of a baby flashed his first smile. That cheery morning smile worked like powerful medicine remedying a long nagging cold we’d been unable to shake.
Thankfully our son no longer resembles the cranky newborn we first got to know. He is playful, curious, energetic and very kissable. Oh, and while he’s still not super chill, he does love napping.
So, I humbly offer new parents my top three tips direct from the parenthood trenches:
Your baby will come with a unique set of demands and you won’t have a clue what they are because, let’s face it, their language is more incoherent than the sloppy drunk at the local tavern. You may try to decode baby by diving into an insane amount of must-read baby books and Googling like a crazy person, but it really comes down to trial and error. You will derive the most valuable parenthood lessons from observing and getting to know the strange little human now sharing your home.
Speaking of getting acquainted with your infant, it’s wise not to assume your baby will come with a lovely temperament of your choosing. This might happen, but so might the big $50-million lottery win. If you’re expecting a calm, sleepy baby and instead get a hyper one raring to go around the clock, you’re in for a rude awakening. You may wonder whom this little person actually takes after, but that’s the point — they are their own person. They change constantly and will endlessly surprise you.
And lastly, it does get better. I won’t say when, why or how, but it does. Maybe parents finally get their stride or babies realize that the big, scary place outside the womb isn’t so bad after all, but the exhausting uphill marathon starts offering some rewards.Yes, you’ll still be scatterbrained and frequently forget your name, but peppered throughout the stinky stuff is a good amount of fun, and I swear to you, moments of the purest joy you’ve ever felt.
So, whatever challenge you’re facing today, keep those words close to you because it really DOES get better and, before you know it, this very moment will be gone.
Everything I know about kids has come 100 per cent from on-the-job training.
At this point, I am up to speed on about the six-month mark.
Anything beyond this is as lost on me as the popularity of a certain yellow sponge named Bob who lives under the sea and wears pants.
But, recently I was knocked straight off of my lovely, live-in-the-moment perch where I’ve happily been sitting since mama-hood began.
Our baby, who is still mastering the art of sitting himself (he tends to still topple right over whenever distracted), seems to have received a ‘helping’ hand from a notoriously bratty kid at my gym’s daycare.
The villainous kid (you can call a child villainous, right?) decided to push my already wobbly baby over, causing him to whack his little head on the hard floor.
Some background on the villain: He has long outgrown the baby-babble stage and uses actual words. He has the dexterity to take off his coat and mittens and toss them on the floor and he’s way, way beyond sitting. In fact, this kid can run. Sloppily, but he can.
He can regularly be seen darting around the hallways at the gym bulldozing people while his mom gabs away to a friend.
The villain is about two, I’d say.
So, while it’s true that my understanding of children is limited, when I collected our little guy from daycare and saw the big red mark on his sweet little forehead, I was shocked.
Then I felt guilty. He’s so small and vulnerable it felt like I had fed him to the wolves (or in this case an army of older kids with well-developed fine motor skills).
And a while later, I got angry. This happened when I was waiting in line to order a sandwich and some rude dude pushed his way in front of us.
Suddenly I realized it wasn’t children that I needed to know more about, but adults.
Indeed, when rudeness and aggressiveness is accepted in kids, they grow up to be rude and aggressive adults who then have offspring of their own and repeat the same damn ugly cycle.
Since the ‘incident,’ I’ve been fantasizing about the next time I see the villain. I imagine looking him straight in the eye and telling him to keep his grubby paws off my baby. In fact, I’d say, don’t even look in my baby’s direction. Not even by accident. Get it? Got it? Good!
Or, perhaps I am overreacting. Maybe this kind of thing is to be expected in a place filled with half pints.
So, what I want to know is this: Is this the norm? Have you experienced anything similar? And if so, how do you handle it?
No, we are not those people.
You know, the ones who inappropriately cart their misbehaving kids to high-end restaurants where guests pay big bucks to feast on gourmet entrées in peace.
Indeed, some places are sacred child-free zones.
So, when my partner and I took our then three-and-a-half month old son to the kind of establishment best reserved for hushed conversation and expensive wine while traveling in Glasgow, Scotland, I was terrified.
Pre-baby, this would’ve been unthinkable. Post-baby, well, it’s still pretty much unthinkable, actually. The first and only rule of bringing children to really nice restos is this: Don’t.
After successfully traipsing around this fun city, we probably shouldn’t have pushed our luck. But, this place was special. It’s called the Ubiquitous Chip and it’s a quirky Scottish gem that looks like an elegant tropical rainforest inside and is hailed one of the best restaurants in the city. What were we thinking? I suspect we weren’t.
Sadly, since becoming parents, eating out typically means wolfing down grub that involves syrup, some greasy potato side dish and limp slices of tomato. Here we were away, and we wanted to live it up, dammit! For one precious evening, we ate like civilized adults — steak for me, and grilled Carsphairn roe deer for him.
We savoured a bottle of red as though every drop was adorned with flecks of pure gold. We talked and laughed and — gasp! — shared a leisurely dessert. It was heaven.
As for our son, he miraculously slept. Fellow diners even complimented us on his good behavior. Thing is, they didn’t know he had spent the months prior screaming his little head off, responding to both his crib and stroller as if we’d lined them with nails. Had they known the selfish risk we’d taken — that with one false move the relaxing atmosphere would’ve come to a screeching halt — they would’ve demanded our heads.
Yes, the kid could’ve brought down the house. But, he didn’t.
Maybe he knew we needed time to be us again but, more likely, we lucked out.
To be clear, bringing kids to places where the napkins are made of linen and the kitchen is outfitted with an actual chef is about as smart as poking a grizzly bear with a sharp stick or trying to pet the head of an alligator.
That said, should you decide to be those people, I advise you save it for when you’re far, far from home. That way, should things go awry, you’ll never have to see the faces of those very angry diners ever again.