It snowed on the way home from the hospital. Not much, hardly more than some light dust on my windshield. But to me, a dad for all of 48 hours, it may as well have been the polar vortex slamming into our car.
My wife told me to relax, and she’d just done all of the work—even though I was the one who’d nearly fainted during delivery—so I took it down from reckless seven to a much safer five miles per hour.
Traffic lined behind us, head shaking and honking, snaking back for as long as I could see in my millisecond glimpses out of the rearview mirror. I put the car seat in right? They checked it, everything’s fine. I thought to myself, sweating profusely as my white knuckles on the steering wheel were proof that I was taking on the new job seriously.
At home the real work began. No more nurses checking in on us or emergency lever to pull. But so many people had given me advice that I felt prepared with a plan for every minute of the day. Bath times and naptimes. If there was a little trick to make things hum along, I was all ears.
On top of that I’d done enough research to earn a degree in reading about parenting. Checking out library books, taking notes and studying at night. We’d even taken that baby course and besides dinging that baby doll head on the edge of the desk I felt that I'd mastered the swaddling technique.
But only a few days (and sleepless nights) into the vast struggle that is parenthood I arrived at one major realization: A lot of what I’d read wasn’t working. Each book or blog seemed to vary due to the latest studies and research. And sure, maybe it had worked wonders for other people, but as I scribbled down my son's bowel movements and charted his breast feeding I couldn’t help hearing that nagging voice in my head.
You have no idea what you’re doing.
No, I didn’t. Sure, I’d become a pro at getting that plastic doll into a diaper at baby class, but peeling off a soiled sack of horrid orange muck while weaving out of harm’s way from a gushing fountain of urinal while trying not to shriek at the sight of a freshly circumcised male part forced me to realize that nothing, not the reading or advice, had prepped me for the real thing. Because you can’t be fully prepared.
Sure, there was some useful information passed along. Helpful tips and timesavers. But you have to be on your schedule, not someone else’s. Do what works for you.
There’s no one-size-fits all parenting style. Each kid is unique and requires a customized parenting style (and an endless supply of batteries) to fit his or her needs. If it doesn’t work try something else. That’s what we did, and do, and so far so good. We have one bright, inquisitive little guy on our hands. So take what works and toss out the rest, because there are many ways to accomplish what hopefully is everyone’s main goal here: Successful Parenting.