I’m a first-time mom. Aside from some furry children, I only have one kid of my own. So while I often feel like more of a third-time mom (regularly finding pacifiers in my work bag, refusing to pay full price for any kids clothes ever, and an almost alarmingly cavalier approach toward safety and cleanliness), there’s not a whole lot of weight behind my suggestions and recommendations. Keep this in mind as you enjoy these questionable parenting tips.
1. Non-toys are the best toys
Mornings are a monumental challenge. Lucy is in the best mood she’ll be in all day, so she just wants to party. Meanwhile I’m trying to accomplish eight hundred things – including but not limited to packing lunches, feeding all kids both furry and human, and remembering that my laptop is in the library but the iPad is in the guest bedroom and my work notebook is under the couch. The hardest part is entertaining Lucy while I’m in the bathroom trying not to stab myself in the eye with mascara. So I implemented a simple solution – just let her dig in some drawers. While she may or may not have once found some very special items in her dad’s nightstand, she’s generally content with unpacking and repacking the bottom bathroom drawer, home to my feminine hygiene products. Tampons everywhere, and occasionally a pantyliner stuck to her leg. But she’s busy, and I’m ready for work. And speaking of non-toys…
2. Get creative with backup entertainment
If Lucy insists on ejecting her pacifier within the first 30 seconds of a neighborhood walk, I want to find her some replacement entertainment (if I have any hope of enjoying the stroll). I recommend grabbing and repurposing the nearest stick you find on the ground. The bigger the stick, the harder it is for the kid to poke herself in the face with it. She will enjoy waving it about haphazardly, and may even chew on it a bit. And if the dog is along for the outing, he will delight in his newfound toy as soon as the small human grows tired of it.
3. Embrace the yuck
As I see it, the more they get sick now, the less they’ll get sick later. This does NOT mean that when a toddler friend has extreme HFM we’re going to take Lucy over for a play date. Hard pass. But when I was pregnant, I joked about digging a mud wallow in the back yard and starting a daily ritual of rolling the baby in it and letting the dog lick her clean. That hasn’t happened (yet), but I’m applying the same mindset to raising Lucy. When she goes belly down at the playground and digs all four limbs into the sand, I let it happen. When she gives the cat a few licks of her string cheese and then, indignant, takes it back and shoves the whole thing in her mouth, I don’t bat an eye. Spit cleaning the pacifier is just fine. Germs build character, right?
4. Let the baby find her own snacks
When I get home from work, many things need to happen. Empty the dishwasher. Pick up the toys. Preheat the oven. Bring in the mail. It’s also the time when the furry children require dinner, and Lucy usually wants a snack. A few weeks ago after feeding the dog and cat their dinner, I left Lucy alone for a moment so I could refill water bowls. When I returned, I found her stuffing her face with kibble from her doggo’s bowl. She smelled like dog food for the rest of the night, but she procured herself a highly nutritious snack without my help.
5. Don’t let the little one ruin your dinner
When Lucy finishes eating before my husband and I do, we just put her on the floor and let her graze on all the food she’s knocked off the table. This is a major issue in our house right now. Lucy has always been a phenomenal eater (i.e., bottomless pit), but she throws food like it’s her job. So giving her the opportunity to recoup her losses – and share some nibbles with the cat – allows us to finish our dinner in peace. Mother of the year award? Probably not. Sanity? Yup.
6. Let the baby frolic about naked
Whenever Lucy has a new tooth working its way down through her gums, her diaper rash is a force to be reckoned with. I can slather on the coconut oil and zinc oxide cream until the cows come home, but nothing clears up the diaper rash faster than letting her sweet little bum get some fresh air. Does Lucy pee on the floor? You bet she does. Has she pooped on the carpet? We don’t need to talk about that. But is Lucy’s naked baby bum one of the cutest things in the world? Absolutely. And if nakedness does the job, then I’m not going to fight it.
7. Don’t censor yourself
I like my swears. Despite my husband’s best efforts to get me to curb my sailor-like vulgarity as Lucy understands more and more of what we say, I can’t help but persist. My non-swearing vocabulary is extensive, but nothing beats an appropriately placed four-letter word when the situation calls for it. This is a value I hope to instill in my daughter. Yes, I know this will take significant training. I’m already strategizing how to implement swearing as a reward for good behavior. Yes, I know I will be receiving some concerned phone calls from teachers. But I have years to prepare my response. Calm down, it’s going to be fine.
8. Take the big stroller
Why, you ask? Well, I could talk about grabbing a few books to deposit in the neighborhood’s Little Free Libraries (which I do as often as I can remember). Or I could sing the praises of having ample space for that backup diaper (because who hasn’t had a poo emergency a mile from home?). But really it’s about the cupholders. When you pop a sippy cup in that stroller, nobody asks what’s in it. I’m not saying you should fill that sippy cup with a nice Pinot Grigio, or perhaps a gin and tonic, but I’m not NOT saying that.
9. She’ll probably figure it out by herself
I recently discovered that Lucy learned how to drink from an open glass without spilling the contents. While my parents (our kid care) were camping up north, I took some time off work to be home with the kiddo. It was great to spend that time with her, and I was embracing the change of pace so much as to enjoy an afternoon beer as we played in the living room. At one point, I stepped away to use the bathroom and, knowing it would take me all of 30 seconds to do my business, left Lucy in the living room and my pint glass on an end table. Upon my return, I found my child sitting on the floor happily holding the glass to her mouth, on the verge of taking a sip – not a drop of beer on the floor, and Lucy was proud as proud could be. But the silver lining is clear. It seems we can start retiring some sippy cups.
10. Sometimes playing dead is the only way
We all know that children can smell weakness and fear. When all else fails, I play dead. It may not be the most glamorous or admirable approach to parenting, but sometimes it’s exactly what a situation requires. Mama needs two and a half minutes to close her eyes, and Lucy needs to know that she’s more than capable of handling this by herself. Win win win.