The Joy of Unwanted Parenting Advice

When you are single people tend to leave you be, like you’re a sad hermit, once you get married you receive marriage advice, then if you have a kid, you receive a flood of unwanted parenting advice. Keep in mind, I never really asked anyone for advice, neither did my partner, but you will get it from family, friends and even complete strangers while you’re at the post office.

So why do people become a helpline that you didn’t call once you have a child? I have found it much worse among older people, especially strangers – as their memories float back to perhaps a brighter and happier time with their own children who no longer talk to them – a time full of parenting tidbits that are likely to be pointless at best, or potentially deadly to your child due to its out of date nature. Well, I guess this is growing up – eventually reaching an age where you grab random strangers in the street, desperately trying to pass on your pearls of wisdom.

So what the hell would I say to a young person 30-40 years from now, or even my own child?

  1. Cargo pants should always be in fashion.
  2. Pop punk should only be your gateway punk.
  3. Oh wait, this is supposed to be about parenting not the start of a rant about how all the music I like is now “classic music” and “retro”.

Try not to die

I cannot emphasise this enough when starting your journey as a parent. If you wake up each day (or night depending on how awful your child’s sleep patterns are – FYI mine sleeps through all night, sucker!) and haven’t passed away in your sleep, then you’re there to take care of your little one for at least another day.

You don’t know what you’re doing – nobody does

The thing about parenting is that nobody really knows what they are doing, if they did there wouldn’t be so many terrible adults in the world would there? I would say “be yourself” but I don’t know you, what if you’re an awful person? In that case I would have to say pretend to be someone else. During the pregnancy, we literally had so much conflicting advice from midwives, people we know, the internet and from the weird landlord that hated women and immigrants that it was best to just let nature take its course. Believe me, if something is wrong your beautiful little bundle of screams will let you know.

Use money to buy time to yourself

A great thing we found is called a “babysitter”. The first time they came and looked after the precious, it felt like I had been released from some sort of bizarre torture chamber where you had to care for another person, but they couldn’t verbalise their needs, only scream them. As a writer, it’s obviously a little harder when someone is screaming while you are writing. Silence is a parent’s best friend. But don’t be fooled into thinking family is the answer, they will want to talk to you or something when they come to take care of your child, pay a professional, they don’t mind if you don’t talk to them. Family members will think you’re rude, and if they are parents they will probably want to care for your child with outdated voodoo that I mentioned earlier.

Believe nobody, not even Daderoo!

We went to a class, it was a single class, to prepare for precious… one class. I remember during University I did an entire semester on just the golden era of screen musicals, you know Seven Brides for Seven Brothers – and I wasn’t even gay, just filling in units for my degree. So basically, I am more prepared to write and produce a studio musical than I am for rearing a child. Even then, the things they taught us extended to practicing putting on a nappy, wrapping precious in a cloth and seeing how baby should face before they shoot out.

None of these things are particularly useful. It would have been better to see how to properly secure your baby to the side of its cot, or how to capture all your baby’s vomit before it coats your carpet (I actually mastered this on my own by making my arms a sealed upper pooling area, by crossing them and holding them close to my chest, using the baby as a barrier, just like a traditional water reservoir.) Whatever weird, helpful, untrue or dangerous advice you’ve been given, remember you’re the parent, everyone else is just waiting for you to screw up – so they can offer their pearls of wisdom.

What do you want to teach your children?

“Any seed of knowledge is just like those seeds from a single chilli. Ready to take root, inspire and expand the horizons of a young person. So speak with your child, play with them and share with them what you know, no matter how unimportant you think your own hard-earned knowledge is.”

With all the planning for a baby to arrive, it can be easy to forget about what you want your child to learn from you. It’s true that none of us knows everything (even though some people might think they do) but that’s not why it’s important to think about what impressions you want to make on your child. As parents, your child will always look to you as the source to most of its questions before they go to school, and often well into schooling. I guess the hope is, that your kids will always come to you for your wisdom.

I am fortunate in that I’ve done some limited teaching in the past, and from around 4-year-olds up to adults. Having taught English language classes to such a range of students has shown me that kids are the most adept learners – adults not so much. When I think about my soon-arrive newborn, I also think about all the ways they can experience, absorb and begin to understand the world around them. It is with this in mind that I have taken some shots of our new gardening projects. It is also an interesting parable for children and knowledge.

Peace lilies at home.

From just 1 chilli from my old plant, I have produced close to 100 new chilli plants. Each plant yielding a minimum of 20 chillies. That means conceivably, (if my wife didn’t love chillies so much and eat some) that after just 1 season, that single chilli, that turned into 100 plants, could create 200,000 chilli plants (or 2000 yummy chillis). Any seed of knowledge is just like those seeds from a single chilli. Ready to take root, inspire and expand the horizons of a young person. So speak with your child, play with them and share with them what you know, no matter how unimportant you think your own hard-earned knowledge is.

Some of our homegrown basil. Hopefully our new child will have green thumbs too!

After that more serious conversation about teaching a little one, here are some photos of the little garden. I hope to be able to make some “What’s in our backyard?” videos for kids early next year exploring the amazing world that exists just outside your door! Of course, remember to be careful too! Just in our yard here in Australia, we have had brown snakes, spiders (too many types to mention), a bandicoot, a bush turkey and even a goanna (and more besides!).

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post, and the photos of the garden as well!