For my Florida Friend
Since I haven't heard from you in the last couple of days, I'm assuming that within the next 24-48 hours, you will become a father. Whoa huh? The arrival of this day certainly wasn't something that either of us considered when this friendship began when I was 12 and you were 11. Heck, back then all I cared about was whether or not you were going to accidentally club me with your nunchucks.
You will soon discover, if you haven't already during the course of the pregnancy, that everyone has advice, opinions, protests to every single thing about childbirth and child rearing. And since I'm a full 5 years ahead of you and since I think it's fair to say we're close enough friends, I'm going to chime in with mine first.
There will come a day in the near future that you will stop, get choked up and possibly shed a tear in disbelief that your life is what it is. The dicotomy is that in some ways you will mourn what used to be but have an overflowing heart for what has become. You will do things, say things, feel things and believe things you never imagined possible, never dreamed be real.
When it comes to decisions concerning your little girl, don't ever waiver from what you believe in your heart to be best. There will be people, parents, priests, pediatricians that will all chime in with "the best thing" and whether by experience or education, everyone's an expert. Bottle or breast. Co-sleeping or crib. Cry-it-out or scoop-them-up. Belly sleeping or back sleeping. But, only YOU will truly KNOW your child. Only you will be able to hear the unspoken and know in the most indescribable ways what you're supposed to do. When you encounter an advisor, smile, nod, thank, move on. Always go with your gut.
Believe it or not, there will also come a day when all the "stuff" that has filled your calendar week after week pre-baby will have no power over the new daddy you. You'll still do them, occassionally, but they will lose their luster. In their place, you'll start participating in tea parties, bounce house birthday parties and ballet classes. You'll discover that walking through Home Depot holding the hand of a little princess dressed in her Cinderella gown, tiara and glass slippers (all draped over her yogurt stained t-shirt and a pair of jeans) really is the highlight of your weekend.
Remind yourself that every single stage is hard. You'll find yourself chanting: "This, too, shall pass. This, too, shall pass." It'll start with the sleep deprivation of the newborn. After that will come new teeth, the first day at daycare, crawling, solids, walking, mumbling, running, frustration over not being able to communicate, climbing, getting out of a crappy diaper by themselves, getting out of the crib by themselves, talking, potty training, the first day of preschool....the list goes on until they have their own children. Every transition and milestone is equally feared and celebrated. And with each one, you'll be trying to hold back the ticking of time, to keep her little, young, innocent, new.
I think it's also necessary to point out that the people you now know as Mom and Dad will not be the people that become Memere and Pepere tomorrow. The parents that forced you to eat all your vegetables will be the same ones to swipe her plate away from her AS YOU'RE TELLING HER TO FINISH ALL HER VEGETABLES. It's true, ask Kap. They will also suddenly have no qualms about all day snacking, having a candybar right before bed, staying up past bedtime, playing in puddles, and an innumeral amount of things you were never allowed to do. It comes with the territory. It's the Oz they've been waiting for since the days they were raising you. The relationship they build with her will be unique and wonderful albeit difficult to digest at times. My hope is that you are able to have your parents unconditional support in your decisions/choices/parenting as I have. I don't know what I'd do without them. Their confidence in my ability to parent is worth it's weight in whales.
When your mother-in-law comes by the third day after you leave the hospital and offers to watch your little one so you guys can go get dinner or go get nursing pads at Walmart or whatever, take her up on it, even if your first thought is to decline. And, when you come home to find her sleeping on the couch with your little one sleeping on her chest, take a picture. You'll both remember that exact moment each time you see the picture. While we're at it, the first time anyone (parents, in-laws, siblings whomever) offer to keep her overnight so you guys can do something special, do that too. It'll be a good thing for all of you. The best two gifts you'll ever give her are a happy mommy and daddy and a loving, involved extended family.
At least once a week, come home in time for dinner and offer to do the nightly bathtime. Blondie will absolutely LOVE you for it and it's such a great bonding experience. Remind her, though, that with everything, daddy's and mommy's do things differently and that neither method is wrong. In the beginning, watching TallBoy do anything with Bam-Bam be it baths, bottles, diapering, whatever, made my skin crawl because it wasn't the way I would do it. It took a little while but I soon realized that the end result was the same and that Bam-Bam adapted easily between the two of us and came to expect that things would be different from each of us. But he never doubted that we loved him beyond words.
If you're invited to an event and the host calls to tell you that someone else that will be there has a cold, go anyway. You're never going to keep her from ever getting sick, ever or, like, ever. Don't miss out on memories trying to make sure that never, ever, like, ever happens. Live! She may or may not get their cold as a result of being around them. Life is worth the risk.
Come up with your own quick-wit reply to: Are you disappointed she's not a boy? One that will put the asker on the floor in shame.
Find a saying that you have just between you and your little girl. With Bam-Bam, as I'm tucking him into bed I ask: "Who loves you more than me?" Find your own special thing too. She'll remember it always.
If she screams in the middle of the night and she's dry and fed, check to see if her toes are being squished into the footies of her footie pajamas.
It's ok if the lawn gets too long because you're rolling around on the floor with her.
Always have Tylenol, Hyland's Teething Tablets, and Vick's Vaporub on hand. Always.
Take pictures. Lots of pictures.
And if the first time she says Dada and is referring to YOU and not the remote control, the spoon or the carpet, it's ok if she sees you cry. She won't remember it.