In the style of Kevin Kelly's unsolicited birthday advice here are 18 pieces of parenting advice, in no particular order, from the other side of 18 months of child number one.
1. Every single parenting cliché is true
Seriously, every single one. From the second you meet your child, you love them more than you've loved anything before.
2. You pass through a portal
No amount of imagination, reading, planning, or time with other kids can prepare you for how deeply your life changes. As a result, a divide opens up between the people in your life that have kids — who can relate to your experience — and those that don't. That second group just haven't gone through the portal. It can be frustrating, sometimes even lonely, to deal with the common misconceptions that they hold that you likely used to have.
3. "Trust the process" should be the unofficial motto of parenting
At every stage of your child's development comes the worry that they're behind or not developing fast enough. More often than not it's just comparison and it's completely normal. It helps to keep this mantra front of mind at every stage; trust the process.Like the coach of a team whose job it is to create the conditions for others to succeed, it's your job to just be there for your kid and let them figure out movement, eating, speaking, playing, and everything else that they'll learn. They won't hit these milestones on the first try, but in time they will. Trust the process.
4. Nothing is permanent and everything is a phase
If trust the process is the first mantra, then this is a close second. There was a time when it seemed like our son would not sleep more than a few hours at a time, but eventually he did. During the weaning phase, he'd throw food on the floor rather than try to eat it. It passed, and now he'll try almost anything. If it seems like you're just repeating yesterday over and over, just remember, it will pass.
5. Have a good thermal flask
If you ever want to enjoy a hot drink again, you'd better make sure you have a Thermos or something similar. Trust me.
6. A little reading goes a long way
This is something I'm guilty of not doing anywhere close to enough of — seriously, ask my wife — but when I did, what I learned was invaluable. The Wonder Weeks was our guide through the early months, and our son tracked through most of the stages of development outlined in the book. Even just reading one stage in advance meant we felt equipped enough to have some understanding of what was happening in his world, and we could respond to those needs.
7. When people say "babies" they mean different things
A six-week-old is very different from a sixteen-week-old, who is very different from a six-month-old. To everyone else, these three ages are just "babies"; a single life stage until they're old enough for preschool. But to you, they're a specific age with specific needs. I've found it helps to remember this when receiving unsolicited advice from well-intentioned family, friends, and strangers.
8. Sleep regressions are rough
There's no way around it, sleep regressions can be brutal. Remember #4 above.
9. There's more than one way to do it
Zoom out, and kids all over the world are being raised in countries and cultures that vary wildly from your own. Unsolicited advice comes with the colour of those upbringings that might be in contrast to the circumstances you're raising your child in. No one is right and no one is wrong. Just do what's best for you and your family.
10. What you're worried about is normal and also nothing to worry about
Following on from #9, remembering to keep a wide perspective keeps your fears at bay. Yes, kids are fragile while they're still growing, but they're also the latest in an unbroken chain being raised in some of the best conditions in human history. Love them, feed them, care for them, be available, and they'll figure out the rest.
11. If you rely on analogue tools prepare to go all in on digital tools
Or, convenience trumps all. I was an avid bullet journal-er, and I'd been using the bullet journal method for at least three years. That was until having a kid, and suddenly I had to recreate my processes in digital form. When you have a scarcity of time and mental bandwidth, don't underestimate convenience over ritual and process.
12. Involve them from an early age
Let them press the buttons on the washing machine or play with the hoover. It's their home too so let them get to know it. Take and chores might take longer but it’s worth it to watch them learn and explore. A learning tower is a fantastic investment even just to give them a better view to watch you.
13. Beware the advice of the twenty-something without kids
If you're at all like me, then you've spent a more-than-reasonable amount of time researching and testing different apps and workflows in an effort to eke out some transformative productivity gains. I've watched and read more than my fair share of videos and articles. The problem is that a lot of productivity content is written by people without kids. Seek advice from people who understand your situation and who know how having children impacts all areas of your life.
14. A stake in the future and longer timelines
If you didn't have this before, then you will now. You'll want to make sure that their future is the best that it possibly can be, from the local to the global. https://www.twitter.com/made_in_cosmos/status/1420123536828555272
15. Everyone deserves to be treated the way you treat your kids
But not to the detriment of others.
This one comes from an episode of The Ezra Klein Show with author George Saunders as guest.
You can listen to the segment here until 31:50.
I read something, it’s actually the same interview that you said, that “the big turning point in my artistic life was when my wife and I had our kids. The world got infused with morality again. Every person in the world should theoretically be loved as much as I love my daughters."
And on the one hand, I really feel that. I found becoming a parent to be a really startling window into how I treat other people, and to how other people deserve to be treated. And at the same time, I notice how easily it can tip the other way, that the particularistic love we feel or maybe I should just say that I feel for my children, or those close to me, it can close you off to the world. And make you more intent on protecting them, and getting what they need in ways that hurt others.
16. Put on your oxygen mask first
You're no use to your kid if you're sleep-deprived, malnourished, and burned out, at least no more than is unavoidable. Take naps, eat good food, meditate, journal, exercise, or do whatever you need to do to feel like yourself so that you can show up for your kid. You're not a martyr, you're a role model. Let them see you take care of yourself.
17. Uninstall your factory settings
All of your intuitions, shoulds, and musts have to be assessed when you become a parent before they become they translate into habitual behaviours. Like I said in #9 there's more than one way to parent. Books like The Conscious Parent will probably challenge all the shoulds that you have and that's a good thing. If you're not conscious of why you're parenting the way you're parenting on autopilot.
18. Capture it, document it, and live it
Take photos. Record videos. Write about it. Document it in as many ways as you can. It only happens once so be there.