December 15, 2006

The Best Advice...

The Best Advice Is To be Quiet

By Sean Claes
So, it seems to be the time of our life when a good number of our family and friends are having children. As you likely know, my wife and I are expecting our second child in April (a few days after our first child turns 3). We’ve got 3 or 4 couples at church that are expecting or just had a baby. A few of my wife’s friends are expecting. Now I find out that two of my best friends are expecting as well! One is expecting his second, and the other is about to embark on fatherhood for the first time.

It hasn’t been too prominent this time around for us, but first time parents, weather they want it or not, are subjected to advice. I was on the phone with my friend Trevor last week as he let me know he’s going to be a first-time daddy. My first thought was “there goes that Jagermeister baby-doll t-shirt I was going to give to his wife for Christmas (I’m still sending it by the way Trev.. she can wear the clothes… just not drink the shots)” but that was quickly replaced by joy, happiness, and genuine thrill.

Then it occurred to me that I should warn him. Not about the trials and tribulations of having a child… not about taking care of a pregnant wife… not about colic or spit-ups or projectile vomiting… but I felt the need to warn him about people who learn he’s going to be a first time dad.

What? Warn him against people? Yes. The simple fact is, many people feel the need to share the most tragic, disgusting, negative stories to first time parents. So I thought I’d write this little ditty to let people know sometimes they should just keep their mouths shut.

What NOT to say/do to expectant parents:
- Don’t tell the story about the person you know who knows someone who had a miscarriage or a stillborn birth. Having a child is scary stuff. What good is it to let them know that you have proof that there’s a chance that this child will be anything other than the baby they will someday send off to kindergarten, college, marriage, and be parents to their grandchildren? There is no good reason… at all. Some people say “well, I’m just being truthful.” There’s a fine line between being truthful, being hateful, and being an asshole… and you’re tripping all over it.

- Don’t tell them that their life is effectively over and say something you think is funny like “hope you did everything you wanted to do in life already.” The commercial says “Having a baby changes everything.” It’s true. Having a baby does change everything. There is a new heartbeat to love, cherish, and center you in your universe. Suddenly having a beer at Hooters doesn’t seem like it’s such a big deal. Suddenly going hunting/fishing/playing music/drinking/building model airplanes/going to the movies/eating at expensive restaurants/wearing the newest clothes/impressing others/arguing or anything else you did before this kid was born becomes a bonus and not a reason for existence. This doesn’t mean you have to stop doing any of these things… it just means it won’t be the center of your universe.

- Don’t tell horrible stories of colic. Sometimes babies cry… a lot. Colic is something that, depending on where you look, happens to 10-20% of children ( That doesn’t mean it’ll happen to their child. They should be aware that it isn’t something that is wrong with the child… it’s a fact of life. If you want to give advice about colic… tell them ways to soothe the baby… don’t point and laugh or tell them “oooh… just you wait until your kid won’t stop crying.” It’s not a revenge thing… if you took care of a baby with colic, or the expectant mother or father was a colic baby and you are their parent, you aren’t “passing the torch” to the next person. You of all people should know what a disgustingly hurtful thing that is to say.

- Don’t tell folks who are expecting their second child – “Watch out, if the first one was an angel, the second will be the devil.” You know what, you told really hateful and crappy stories about having a first child, so you’re opinion on the matter isn’t valid.

- Don’t touch the belly. How would you like it if I walked up to a complete stranger and rubbed up against them? I’d be arrested for assult or indecency or for generally being a creep. What makes it OK for people to touch a pregnant woman without warning or permission? If anything you should keep more of a distance from the expectant mother as by the time she’s showing she likely doesn’t want you to touch her, much less rub her belly. She’s carrying a life, she isn’t Buddha.

- If you had a troublesome pregnancy, don’t tell them about it in graphic detail. A simple, “I hope your pregnancy is going well” will suffice. Just because they are pregnant, it doesn’t give you permission to share your woes. It’s they who are pregnant, not you… stop talking about yourself, you self-centered prick.

- The advice I always give folks who are expecting is… don’t listen to anyone. Every pregnancy is different. Every child is unique. There is no solid evidence that the reason that your kid is a little Einstein is because of the way you raised him. It could be in SPITE of you. You really don’t know. All you can do is love this child more than anything in the world (but that’s immediate and you don’t have to work on that).

- My wife and I were raised very differently. We have raised our first child thus far very differently than the way we were raised. I’d like to think we took the best parts of our upbringing, combined it with the things we saw that our friends have done that we agreed with, and added some personal beliefs. That’s the way to raise a child. Learn from your past and your observations. Don’t listen to angry/hateful people who disguise their negativity as “giving advice.” If anything… land if you have to listen to them… just think to yourself “man… I’ll never do THAT to my kid.”

- It’s perfectly allright to tell the person who asks you personal business about your pregnancy that you don’t want to share that that information is Noneya. None of your business. If they persist, ask them about their last pelvic exam or physical. Watch out though… they may tell you.

- If someone shares a negative story, why not ask them to tell you something positive that came from raising a child. That’ll throw them for a loop.

So, if you’re expecting a child. Congratulations! It’s the coolest ride in the world. Have FUN with it. Like I said, we’re working on our second at this point and we will make sure that this second child is engulfed in the same bubble of love that our first currently resides.

So… Little Claes Too, I am really looking forward to meeting you and touching your beautiful face for the first time in April. I cannot imagine the life changes that will occur with your arrival, but I know that we’re in this together. Claes Family of Four are getting ready to take over the world in 2007!


Trevor Lane said...

Thanks for the shout out! I'm working on my sailor language for the kid's sake - too many "F" bombs floating around at the house. I think our scout patrol, The Wolverines, corrupted me!

You're the best! Trev

Anonymous said...

I just came across your article today after googling "parent negativity pregnancy." I am 35 and pregnant for the first time. My father's first advice when I told him I was 3 weeks pregnant was to "not get too excited." On Christmas he told my husband that he wished we did not tell him because now he will have months of worring. I am now 3 months along! When did he want to know, after it was born?!?!? My dad lives in another state, but I had to tell everyone around here as we were so excited and I am already outgrowing my clothes, why should everyone know but him. I think I will tell him next time he talks like this that he needs to talk to someone else if he is going to be pessimistic. I mean, common, you think he would be excited for another gradkid and who will be with 2 loving parents. Thanks so much for your words of wisdom and experience. I guess I better get used to this and toughen up since I am sure next will come the parenting advice! -Laurie in IL

SeanclaesDOTcom said...

Glad my words were of some help... It's tough to hear that kind of stuff... and I don't think most people know what asses they are being...

Congratulations on the coming child!!! My wife and I are both in our 30s... so I know the "concerns" people somehow conjure up... Twisted concerns...

I hope you can do your best to ignore the negative and just concentrate on enjoying the miracle that is pregnancy!