The Novice Father: Advice overload in Vail Valley
Vail CO, Colorado
Now that I’m a new parent, there are many things that are now in short supply: time, money, clothes without spit-up stains. One thing I’m never in short supply of is parenting advice.
Doctors, friends, grandparents, books, magazines, Web sites, unsolicited advice from random strangers … everyone shares their opinions on the right way to raise a kid.
To complicate matters, the sources of these conflicting viewpoints are usually credible sources. It’s not like I take advice from a crazy cat lady who mumbles to herself when she walks down the sidewalk. The opinions I seek are from doctors and child development experts.
How am I, a novice father, supposed to make a decision when the experts can’t even agree?
The first problem with advice overload came only days into our life as parents. My wife and I were trying to figure out whether to sooth our daughter whenever she cried, or to sometimes let her work it out on her own.
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The advice on that topic came from all angles. Most of those opinions directly conflicted with each other, too. One book written by an expert pediatrician stated that the baby needed to learn how to self-sooth, so we should let her cry. Made perfect sense. Another book written by an expert pediatrician said that we should always pick up a crying baby that’s only weeks old. A baby that cried too much would become stressed out and be more likely to cry in the future. Made perfect sense, too.
Mike Miner of Eagle felt just as bewildered when he and his wife were trying to get their newborn twins to sleep through the night. “Do you wean them off the bottle? Do you go cold turkey off the bottle? Do you let them cry?” Miner said. “This was a big hurdle for us.”
Ultimately they decided to go the cold turkey route. It took three nights of Miner sleeping with the pillow over his head, but it got the job done, he said. “We do take things from books and people,” he said. “We tweak it to our lifestyle.”
I’ve found that using my household values as a guide is the only way to make these murky decisions: bottle versus breastfeed, cloth verses disposable diapers, let her cry or soothe her.
The cold turkey route “worked for us,” Miner said. “But I’m sure there are parents out there who think we’re crazy for letting our kids cry.”
Eventually, I have to make actual decisions … ones that I can’t just look up in a reference book. Actual parenting: who knew it could be so tough?
“I don’t think there’s any one book out there that’s the end all, be all,” said Miner.
Kelly Coffey is a novice father. He shares his mistakes, fears, and laughs along his journey to figure out how anybody could possibly raise a child. Submit comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.