This is a follow up post from the “what I learned” post I wrote after one moth of dad-hood. In this sequel post, I intend to cover all the phases our kid went through from being a tiny helpless newborn to being a crawly, almost-walking, almost-talking, mini human. It probably goes without saying, but parents also go through stages of development when they have their first child.
Summary: Our life is now basically a poop show, but it is a lot of fun too. Even though I get food and vomit all over me every once in a while, parenthood is overall great, and I am constantly excited to see what is next!
Here are the five phases that we experienced in the first year of new parenthood:
PHASE 1 — The Dark Times (0 months to 2 months) … this was the period where I was home on paternity leave and we took turns waking up every two to four hours for feedings. Not a whole lot of positive feedback from the child… basically a one-way relationship where we provided food, diapers, and songs about poop. We googled the lyrics to old lullabies and spent lots of time at 3AM researching baby funfacts and symptoms of baby diseases we had never heard of. In daylight hours we would try to be adventurous by going on a “family walk” or doing “one thing” outside the house. We definitely did not know what we were doing, and we were learning basic parent survival skills. We had a meal train and learned a lot about babies from veteran parents who brought us nutritious food. We also learned that some people who aren’t veteran parents need to learn baby etiquette like not ringing the doorbell when they stop by. (!!!) We didn’t actually “do sleep training” as much as we simply got our child to weigh ten pounds, at which the pediatrician told us we could stop waking our child up every four hours. This made everyone happy!
PHASE 2- The Ridiculously Ambitious Emergence (2 to 5 months)
After two months, our child started to laugh and smile and show emotion… obviously a good feeling. Bedtime began to be predictable (11pm to 5AM) and we were refreshed by having six STRAIGHT hours of sleep! We were emerging from the Dark Times! We had developed parental tag team strategies and felt like we could juggle the child between us and figure out how to go places and do things. We felt so good that we started planning things over-ambitiously — going back to the gym … meeting people out for dinner … attending evening events. This, we learned, was not sustainable, especially as bedtime crept earlier and earlier. We soon hit a wall and we realized that we were, to some degree, living in a poop show when we took our baby out in public. Despite having been “always follow through” type people, we found ourselves bailing on things at the last minute, leaving church in the middle of the service, tentatively committing to hang out with people (because you never know how long a nap will last) and quitting an evening Bible study (because our child was too disruptive). I started to compare my child to a cell phone that you can’t mute… there were events — frequent loud baby cries and and inappropriate diaper changes in public — that reminded us that new parents stick out like a sore thumb in most public places. In the 2 to 5 month period, there were some great upsides, like no longer having to be overly concerned about neck support. But basically, this phase was about learning to accept the poop show: If we wanted to go out, we would have to attract attention and accept the risk of scowls. We pressed on, and hit walls, and learned from our failures, and tried to remember the funny stories.
PHASE 3 Settling In and Hitting Milestones (or not) (6 to 9 months)
We concluded that our social options were mostly daytime activities between the morning and afternoon nap, so… an early noonish lunch hangout or a play date during the 3 to 5PM window. Social activities with other parents were limited to sitting around drinking coffee on the floor or picnics in large open spaces. Social plans with other parents involved large windows of time (9 to 1PM? noon to 6PM?) to account for other people’s nap times and feeding times. We also had to account for the possibility of either party cancelling at the last minute (if someone has a fever) or the possibility that our child would whine the whole time due to stranger danger. Also, we pretty much eliminated evenings from our social calendar — we hunkered down to the new reality of 7PM bedtime house arrest. While we watched our baby grow and start to eat solid foods from the baby aisle at Kroger (rice cereal! pod of green beans!), we pled with our single friends to come visit us at night because we couldn’t leave the house. (They did not understand, and invited us out at 8PM.) It was a challenge to figure out how to recruit a trustworthy babysitter for $13/hour, especially since we don’t know many teenagers. A key form of entertainment in this time period was sitting around the house watching our child enjoy the rainforest gym (basically two arches with random jingly objects dangling from them — good for tummy time). We graduated to watching our child enjoy the jumperoo (sort of like a child-sized trampoline stand up desk). Both the rainforest gym and the jumperoo are surprisingly entertaining to very young children, as well as for homebound parents. With legs strengthened by the jumperoo, our child was ready for more milestones… rocking on all fours, then flopping forward, then real crawling … and then we had to actually babyproof the house. When we went on summer vacation we sat around at other people’s houses doing the same things we did at home. We also hit more milestones while on vacation, such as waving, clapping, learning how to install a LATCH system carseat, and and learning how to deal with stranger danger! Some kids stand and/or walk by 9 or 10 months, but ours did not, which is apparently normal. Some kids don’t walk until 18 months. My dad says that you spend the first year of a child’s life teaching them to talk and walk, and the rest of their life telling them to sit down and shut up. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s funny.
PHASE 4 Time Limits, Toy Diversification and Pre-Language (9 to 11 months).
Time. Regardless of whether your child is crawling or walking, when you are following your child around the house, you don’t always have time for taking care of business like folding laundry. At some point in the 9 to 12 month range, the morning nap disappeared, making getting things done even more difficult. We stopped being able to go anywhere after 1030 because of the risk that a car nap could ruin the afternoon nap. Even walking the dog is now a challenge. Many of our hobbies have become “hobbies” (in quotes, because we don’t have time to actually do them). But we have lots of time to sit on the floor and talk while we take care of our child, and lots of time to sit around at night and recover from taking care of our child.
Toys. The baby toys we got at our shower served us well to entertain our child — mostly textured, grippable and chewable things (balls, rattles, blocks) that make noise and flash. Then our baby’s boredom set in around 9 months, and we shopped for toys that have more interactive components. These new toys taught cause and effect, like a truck that flashes and makes noise when you press its buttons. The soundtrack of the poop show is the cacophony that occurs in the living room when five different musical toys are playing their five different songs all at the same time. One key thing we learned about toys is that something that costs $50 at Baby’s R’ Us is probably available at a consignment sale for $5. The same goes for cute baby clothes at Carter’s.
Words and Books. Reading books to a non-responsive 3 month old child had seemed pointless … but after 9 months, our child’s interest and developing language skills made it a special time! In addition to real words like mama and dada, we witnessed lots of experimental sound making and vocal nonsense (bua bua bua bua!). As we read, our child also developed a love of page turning, and we learned about “board books” and how they prevent most babies from ripping out the pages. We also learned that board books are not actually indestructable, and that the ones from the library probably have baby germs on them. Here are some observations about children’s books:
- Meter doesn’t matter in children’s poetry. As long as you rhyme the last word, authors get away with phrases like, “this dog has a brother // they are related because they have the same mother // and a dad /// and they are the best parents that anyone ever had.“
- Goats only ever say “Maa” … Dogs, on the other hand, say woof and arf and ruff and many other things. Thus 99% of children’s books with talking animals avoid dogs and include cows, ducks, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, and owls. Only Eric Carle knows what sound the fox makes.
- Kids point things out in books that you would never notice. Moon. Stars. Clock. Bird. Flowers. Sun. Hat. Glasses. Balloon. Some children’s book illustrators place these elements in books gratuitously.
- Pat the Bunny is brilliant, although I did not understand why at first.
- Goodnight moon is also brilliant. and all of Richard Scarry’s books.
- Eric Carle is a brand. He wrote and illustrated The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Busy Spider, and then he cut an pasted 1000 more books out of old wrapping paper that are all entitled “Eric Carle’s <title>”.
- There are no real animals that start with the letter X, unless you count the Mexican Hairless Dog aka the Xoloitzcuintli . Also, Q is for Quetzal a colorful Mexican bird that nobody has ever heard of except Eric Carle.
- 45% of all modern children’s books were written by Sandra Boynton.
Phase 5 Almost There (11+ months) … We are living in the “already, but not yet” … At this point, our child knows words but cannot say them, and knows how to stand up but doesn’t want to. If we say MOON or BALL or or STAR or BUTTON or STRAWBERRY or YOUR HEAD or DOGGIE ON YOUR PAJAMAS we can get a knowing response and our child will point to the object and say “THAT” or “YEAH!” Our child that “cruises” along the couch and accidentally stands, doesn’t necessarily want to walk across the room (yet). Our child can dance with our help and climb up stairs with almost no assistance, but is not ready to walk alone. Our child no longer drinks formula from a bottle, but still regresses to a whole milk breakfast, for old times’ sake.
That’s all for now! Feel free to comment with editorial suggestions!