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Mistakes New Parents Make

Dale Kiefer


Becoming a parent is a high stress proposition. There's no doubt about it. Having a baby means saying hello to worry.

Some worry is good. It helps you keep an edge. It helps you stay alert, on two hours of oft-interrupted sleep. It keys you in to consumer product safety recalls you might otherwise have ignored. It makes you think twice before leaving your infant alone in a room with a strange pit bull terrier. But there's a fine line between healthy vigilance prompted by concern for your baby's safety and outright obsession.

Having advance knowledge of the most common first-time parenting mistakes probably won't actually help you avoid them. Like every new parent since Adam, you will still make mistakes. With luck, you'll learn from them. But it may help to know, when you feel you have made an irreparable error, that you are not alone, and that the world will go on. And unless you mistakenly dip your newborn in the deep-fryer, it is unlikely he or she will ever know the difference, in spite of your guilt and angst.

Here is brief list of a few of the more common mistakes new dads and moms are likely to make.

Ignoring unsolicited advice.

There is something about a pregnancy that brings strangers bearing gifts of unsolicited wisdom out of the woodwork. Sometimes it's endearing, but more likely it's annoying. Who are these people and why do they think it's all right to comment on your wife's body, or worse yet, feel free to fondle her belly in public? The odd thing is, sometimes, there will be a nugget of wisdom buried among otherwise questionable advice and commentary. So be careful not to dismiss everything you hear out of hand.

Heeding unsolicited advice.

The corollary of the above is that occasionally you will be presented with soundly bad advice. Take everything with a grain of salt, and remember: What works for your family is what works. Period. If you make a mistake, learn from it and move on. No harm done. No one way is ever the only RIGHT way.

Fretting over every hiccup to the point of exhaustion.

This is one of the most common pitfalls of new parenthood. A certain level of hyper-vigilance is both useful and understandable, but taken to the extreme this form of worry can be detrimental and counter-productive. Babies are generally far more resilient than new parents realize. Relax. If in doubt, consult with a more experienced parent before lunging for the pediatrician's speed-dial button.

Missing subtle "firsts" due to exhaustion.

One of the disadvantages of all that worry is that eventually you will simply collapse from mental and emotional exhaustion. Give yourself a break and relax. Your baby will thank you for it, and you just may get to enjoy her more.

Neglecting each other.

This is a classic new parent mistake. The baby becomes the center of the universe and all else fades before the glory of his or her magnificence. Well the fact is, you and your wife were here first, and you will be left with each other long after junior flies the nest, so you would be better to remember the importance of your own relationship before it's too late. Don not sacrifice romance to make room for baby. There is plenty of room in your life for your marital relationship and your parental one. It's true that things will never be exactly the same as they were before baby arrived, but that is no excuse for neglecting your marital and sexual relationship.

Over-documenting the life and times of First Born.

While the obsession to videotape, photograph and otherwise indelibly record every waking (and occasional sleeping) moment of a baby's unfolding life is universal among new parents, and it's certainly healthy for the videotape and film manufacturing industries, it's probably good advice to take it a little easy. At the very least, ask yourself whether or not you intend to document the lives of any subsequent children with as much fervor. If the answer is no then should understand that your subsequent children will inevitably notice, one day, that they did not receive equal attention. They will likely take this as evidence that you really do like junior better.

Refusing hand-me-downs in favor of expensive, designer baby clothes.

Babies grow in and out of clothes at a breakneck speed. In between they chew, spit upon and otherwise do their best to destroy all that comes within their reach, including their own clothing. Better to put that money into an investment account for your child's future needs. Ditto expensive furniture and highfalutin' toys. Unless you plan to start a dynasty and hand down your baby furniture for generations to come, it is probably best to go with functional rather than aesthetic. You will be looking for a place to store it before you know it, and probably before it is paid off. And children still vastly prefer to play with the boxes expensive toys come in rather than the actual toys they contained.

Dale Kiefer is a free-lance writer living in northern New Jersey with his wife and two young sons. Born in New Jersey some 40 years ago, Dale was raised in Kentucky, where he spent most of his life, graduating from the University of Kentucky with a degree

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