As busy parents, we all get into habits with our children that probably aren't the best. How many times have you heard about someone's baby playing with adult items and then putting their parent in a pickle? I've been thinking that it might be worthwhile to write a little something to help new parents, namely, Habits You Don't Want To Start. If you are a wee bit (or even incredibly) guilty of the practices listed below, don't beat yourself up. Instead, just try to start anew. Being the understanding person that I am, I do know that you can't take anything away from someone without giving them a substitution (this is what we call "a trade" in the kid biz), and so I'll be offering some ideas on what you might want to do instead of that other thing that might not be working out so well for you.
You may choose to file this post in the "Unwanted Advice" part of your brain, but really, just take a minute to read it. It might actually be for your own good.
Big Numero Uno Bad Habit:Handing Over The Keys.You wouldn't let a drunk hold your car keys, so why would you let a child? I have so many reasons and stories that could illustrate the folly of this action, but let me just say that simply put: keys are keys. They are adult items. They get dirty with lock lubricant and then kids, being prone to their own bad habits, like sucking metal, put them in their mouths. They hide them and can't tell you where they are because their brains are like seives and are often pre-verbal. Or, heaven forbid, they lock you out of your car with that little black dangly fob that makes a great squeaky noise when they push it...over and over and over while you're wrapping up your conversation after getting baby into the car seat. Once you've shut the door, you've got a 50/50 chance of actually getting into your car. Bad odds. So, when Baby is crying and you want a quick handy something to entertain them, consider getting something together that looks like your keys: a keyring with some plastic fobs is great; they can chew on it, it fits into a purse or diaper bag, and you actually make it home without calling for a locksmith. Or keep some toys in your car...hey, they are all over your house, so what's a little overflow?
Number Two:The Cell Phone.They will one day hound you for it, but please, save yourself a headache and keep your cell to yourself. Once again, this is an adult item, and while your cell or Blackberry may be your favorite toy, it is an expensive toy indeed, and expensive to replace. Trust me, the story you will tell isn't worth the money you'll have to shell out when your kid drops it in the toilet. Cell phones do not float. Plus there's that whole "oral" thing the kids do with everything. Electrical charge, hello!? Yeah, the little ones think the phone is too cool for school...that's why toymakers make toy cell phones. They ring, they chime, they talk-- in fact, they are just as annoying as yours. Part with $5 and get them a piece of cheap plastic crap that you are okay with them breaking, hiding, etc. If your kid is older, let them decorate their phone with stickers they pick out. This will make it "theirs" and keep yours out of reach. Or expect a phone bill from Trinidad.
Number Three:The Diaper Bag of Junk Food. I know it's convenient, but if you keep that huge ziplock of goldfish in the bag, guess what your kid's going to want to eat? All the Goldfish, before anything else. This will result in serious meltdowns...I've seen it happen. Children don't understand "let's save it for later". They live in Here and Now Land, where a giant bag of Goldfish is heartbreaking to say goodbye to. If you like to pack ahead, get some small, snack size ziplock bags and pack a Reasonable Amount of a Goldfish/Cheerios mix in each one. Remember, their stomach is the size of their fist. This generally works for any starchy snack. Try having a couple snack bags of apple slices prepped, or carrot coins. Some kids like frozen peas, even if they don't like the cooked ones. If you don't have tons of junk food in your diaper bag, they won't get used to eating junk. Also, as a rule, Beware of Go-Gurt and other tube yogurts. Loaded with sugar and food coloring, they are a mess in a plastic tube. String cheese is a better, portable protien, as are nuts and trail mix when they are old enough to eat them.
Number Four: "I'm Just Running In". I just can't be nice about this one. I don't know how many people I have seen "run in for a second" to my local Starbucks to grab a latte and leave their baby in the car. I don't care if your kid is sleeping, if your bucket car seat is a hassle, or if the car is locked, I hope a cop comes along and slaps a big fat ticket on your sorry ass. Leaving your child in a car is negligent, plain and simple. Nothing you can get in a store is worth your child's life. Nothing. And if you need a latte, find out where the drive thru Starbucks are. It's all well and good until your hurriedly park in a tow-away zone or some idiot slams into your car in the parking lot. Seriously, if this is you, get your priorities straight.
Number Five:Baby and the Bottle. In this so-called Age of Irony, you might think it's pretty cool to let your child play with glass bottles. Nothing is more hilarious and ironic than a toddler walking around sucking on an empty bottle of PBR, right? Grab the camera! Hey, hipster, um, what the hell are you thinking? If a baby falls with a glass bottle in their mouth it can break off in their throat and potentially kill them. We all like that our kids have great party skills--"Look at her chug that soda!", but really, if you want your kids to drink something, put it in a sippy cup. Better yet, make it a practice in your family of sitting to eat and drink. This will eliminate the risk of choking and teach your children some socially appropriate skills. This will also help you avoid an unnecessary emergency room trip and follow-up visits from State Child Welfare workers, which are not ironic, but tragic and a pain in the ass. So, if this is you, cool it with the Coors bottles already!
Well, I'm sure I'll come up with more things to warn you about, but I think these should be enough to start us off. If you thought I was being a little harsh, please just keep in mind: I love kids. Really, truly. Being a parent is hard enough without feeling horrible guilty about accidents that can easily be avoided. They'll give you plenty else to feel guilty about...just you wait.
For a Little Fun
My dear friend is on pilgrimage with her sister, walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. While she's gone, I thought it would be fun for me to write her the kind of letters I used to... nearly 20 years ago, that is. Can a 40something mom get in touch with her 20 something self? We shall see...