My previous post made me realize just how much I know about messy play for toddlers. It’s really time consuming to stop random people on the street and share my wisdom, only to find out that they don’t even have kids, and I should “Go home and put on pants”. Whatever, I’ll just share my knowledge with you lovely minions who appreciate my pearls of wisdom.
Messy play is one of my favorite things for so many reasons:
- It absorbs my toddler, Nacho, in a way few things can. That sentence makes it sounds like the Blob is ingesting him, but you get what I mean.
- Messy play is even entertaining for young babies. I know when Nacho was small, I was definitely at a loss for things to do with him. You can only coo at a wiggling burrito so much!
- It’s CHEAP. Having a kid is expensive, especially when yours eats like a linebacker after the big championship game (the Wonderbowl? The Supershow? You know, that sports thing that happens too often for some reason). The most basic form of messy play is a mud pit, which is free! The other recipes I use are generally pretty cheap, which is always great.
There are lots of variations of messy play, and honestly, just a quick browse on pinterest will overwhelm you with options. Well, I have sorted through tons of those links, and picked out my favorites. I look for recipes that are cheap, easy to clean up, and allergen free (no wheat for my poor guy). Several of these are also taste safe for younger ones.
- Slime – You will need a fiber supplement with Psyllium as the active ingredient, food coloring, water, and a microwave safe bowl. I love this recipe because you only use 1 tablespoon of the fiber stuff and 1 cup of water. Whisk this together with a little food coloring, then microwave for 5 minutes. Here is the link to the original post I used that has lots of Q&A if you need more details.
- Oobleck – Mix 1 cup water, 2 cups cornstarch, and some food coloring. I like to make one big white batch, then separate it into small containers to add color. I usually don’t measure anything, and just kind of mix it around until I get a good consistency. Oobleck can be reused if you spread it thin, and let it dry thoroughly. Just add water again and remix it. I usually reuse it within a couple days, and just once. There are tons of variations on this basic recipe all over the magical internets, but I stick to the basic one.
- Tub Paint – You can use shaving cream mixed with a tiny bit of food coloring, or this recipe (this is a tiny batch): 1 tbsp constarch, a couple squirts dish soap, and a tiny bit of food coloring. As with the oobleck, I make a big batch of white, then separate it to add colors. With the soap one, the tub turns into a Giganto-bubble bath after, which entertains Nacho for another good stretch of time.
- Finger paint – When my son was younger, I made his from scratch so they would be taste safe. I used this recipe, and it worked great! We still have Nacho’s original artwork, and it looks great, 2 years later. Now, I tend to buy the store-bought ones when they’re on sale. I should probably get back to making them, though…
- Play dough – Since Nacho is allergic to wheat, and playtime shouldn’t lead to him covered in hives, I used rice flour instead of regular flour. That’s not as cheap as most recipes though, so I would use regular flour if you can. I have totally lost the original recipe I used, but there are infinite variations online. If you don’t have time to cook it, you can use cornstarch and hair conditioner, mixed with a bit of food coloring.
- Play foam – this is a huge hit in our house, and one we usually keep in the tub. I use a couple squirts of dish soap, a small drop of food coloring, and about 1/4 cup of water. You do need a mixer of some kind for this. I use my hand mixer with whisk attachment and it whips the mixture up into foam in no time. I actually keep my hand mixer in the bathroom now.
- Foam dough – This is cornstarch mixed with shaving cream. When I made it, it was somewhat brittle, but some kids will probably enjoy it. I’ll probably try it again with Nacho in the future.
- Mud – regular old mud is one of Nacho’s favorite things. I just make sure to hose him off outside before we head in for his bath.
- Play sand – Sand is really cheap at Home Depot, and stores like that. It is just insanely heavy. Again, a huge hit! We bought one bag last year, for I think $5, and his sand table (which I got for free!) is still pretty full. If you store it outside, put a cover over it when it’s not being used. We just store our play pool upside down on top as a giant lid!
- Jello – Yes, just regular old Jell-o. I buy the store brand, so it’s less than $0.50 per batch. Just follow the package instructions! Easy peasy. I usually make it after he goes to bed, so it’s ready the next day for play time.
- Play snow – This is literally baking soda mixed with water, and that’s all. I kind of just mix amounts until I have a consistency I like. (Man, this is a professional blog, will you look at this? Don’t get too jelly of my amazing, super-helpful writing.) One thing about play snow, you will see recipes all over that call for conditioner or other random ingredients, but seriously, all you need is baking soda and water. You can also play with this in the tub and dump vinegar on it to make crazy amounts of foam!
- Bean tray – Beans are so much fun for kids to play with, but man, they can get everywhere. I use pinto beans because they’re the cheapest of all the beans, and they’re large enough to be easy to find. No lentils for this activity! I have a big, cheap catering pan I store the beans in with a few scoops, so it’s all ready to go when I need a distraction.
- Water – I’m including this because you HAVE to take precautions with water. Not just safety, but holy potato can kids make a mess with it. We played mixing colored water in the tub, and I’m so glad I didn’t try it elsewhere. I also stop up the sink and fill it a little so Nacho can play Pond. Give him a few animals (or toys that desperately need a bath!), and he’s entertained for 20 minutes. Long enough for me to shower (in eyesight of him), or put laundry away.
- Bubbles – Nacho is obsessed with bubbles, whether in the bath or blown, so when I bring them out, we go through a million of them. If we use them indoors, I put towels down to prevent the floor getting slippery. We made bubble snakes outside, which was great until the dog began eating them. Okay, that was funny too, but then he got an upset stomach, so don’t let your dog eat bubbles. It’s not pretty. I used one of Nacho’s socks on the bubble maker instead of the wash cloth in the tutorial, and it worked great.
- Colored ice cubes – Just make colored water, and dump it into ice cube trays. You can use yogurt cups, or other containers to get weird shapes, but make sure the container is freezer safe. There’s a blue stain in my freezer for totally unrelated reasons. Totally. I usually let these warm up a little before handing them off to Nacho so I don’t have to worry about them sticking to his skin or tongue. I have a Batman ice cube tray (YOU CAN’T HAVE IT), and he loves to fit the bats back into the tray.
I wrote about how to reduce the clean up work the other day, so here’s the link if you missed it.
- I buy my food coloring on Amazon, and it’s far cheaper than the grocery store. If I find something even cheaper than that, I will update you all.
- To extend a kiddo’s interest in a particular mess, add fun things to it gradually. For example, if Nacho has play dough, he’ll start to lose interest after 20 or 30 minutes. I just hand him something additional to go with it, like dry pasta, and that adds a new level of interest. Googly eyes make an appearance later, then cookie cutters, etc.
- Save and wash yogurt cups for scooping, or to hold multiple colors of paints/slime/various goops.
- Look around at what you have available, and utilize your resources. Kids will find a way to play with almost anything. Do you have dozens of wine corks around for no particular reason? Not because you’re a parent, surely. Well let the kiddo play with them, and now you’re being resourceful!
- Don’t have a plan for HOW the kid will play with stuff. I mean, other than “Don’t throw it at the cat”. Just let them do whatever comes to mind rather than demonstrating how they “should” play with whatever it is. If they seem a little lost or hesitant, by all means get down there and play around, but otherwise let them at it.
- With my toddler, I don’t ask if he wants to play with something. That’s get a guaranteed “NO”. I just set stuff up and show it to him, then he digs in.
- Start buying industrial shipments of cornstarch. Why does it only come in tiny boxes at the store???
- I save random plastic containers and lids to use with all of these. Coffee can lids make great pretend plates, little segmented trays are great for paints or pouring activities. Ice cube trays are wonderfully versatile. Of course, if your kid is young enough to worry about choking on things, be very careful what you hand them.
- Random items to extend play: straws or chop sticks (for a more eco-friendly version), googly eyes, dried pasta, various plastic containers and trays, milk tops, large beads or buttons, toy dinosaurs, army men, bugs, animals, other figures that are washable, balls, cars (that are easy to clean), Mardi Gras beads, nature materials like pine cones, shells, sticks, acorns, etc, cutlery, like butter knives or spoons, baking pans, like muffin tins or bundt cake pans, cookie cutters, random craft supplies like gems or feathers, and weird kitchen tools, like a garlic press, potato masher, rolling pin, those odd gadgets that accumulate and you forget what they do.
- Above all, have fun! There’s a ton of info here, so just pick and choose a couple things to test out if this is new ground. If you’ve been doing messy play with the kiddos for awhile, hopefully there are some useful tips in here, and maybe you have some of your own! I would love to learn something new, so drop me a comment with your sage advice.
Wow, that is a lot of text. My brain feels so light and empty now! I mean, it usually feels that way until I have some coffee. And then also after I have coffee. And most of the time. You can see why I prefer play things that are simple to set up and clean up!
Kids have an annoying tendency to grow out of things before they wear them out. My sweet baby Nacho is no different. He had these two adorable pirate onesies:
And of course he outgrew them. But they’re so cute! So we’re going to alter one of these into a t-shirt! I opted to use the longer one for this, so there’s enough fabric to roll up and hem.
Cut the onesie as low as you can, as shown above. Retain the pieces for an upcoming mystery project! Now roll the extra fabric up as little as possible so you can hem it. You want to leave as much fabric as possible for the t-shirt, but you need to cover up that raw edge so it doesn’t unravel.
Once you have everything pinned in place, just sew the hem down. I did it by hand since my sewing machine has forsaken me, and it didn’t take much time at all.
And now your little rugrat can look awesome for another few weeks, until his next growth spurt!
Yes it’s ALREADY OCTOBER. I know you’ve probably become inoculated to the sight of Halloween candy at your grocery store, since it’s been out since March, but seriously, October is happening RIGHT NOW. For real, go look at a calendar. See?? I told you. If you happen to have a baby who’s too small to voice an opinion on costume choice, take advantage of it and do what you want. Next year you’ll be acquiring parts for a ballerina princess veterinarian costume, so enjoy your current freedom.
You probably want a cool costume, and I have a few great ones that require a baby as an accessory:
Sarah and Toby from Labyrinth
All the baby needs is a striped romper for a costume! Easy peasy. This costume is the height of 80’s nostalgia, which makes it automatically awesome. Mom’s costume as Sarah is fairly easily built from thrift store finds. If Dad wants to be Jareth however…
Let’s stick with the 80’s since they have the best movies. Yes, the best. Of all time. Ghostbusters 2!! Dana has baby Oscar, who again, wears a very simple outfit:
A yellow romper. Super simple to recreate. Dad can be Venkman and Mom can be Dana. Or…
Janine and Louis babysit little Oscar, and look at the awesome outfits they wear while doing so! If I ever find a dress like that, I swear I will dress as Janine, even if I’m 90 years old. And that sweater-turtleneck combo is not too shabby, Dads. I’m sure you can find all this gear at a thrift store near you.
If you want to be more up-to-date, I still have an idea for you:
It’s the wee baby Seamus! Any baby with the name “Archer” written on his shoulder is instantly in costume. Otherwise, he just wears a blue romper! Simple! And then you can be any of the cast from Archer! That gives both Mom and Dad a wide range of choices.
I just realized all of these are for boy babies, which is what I have, which probably explains why my brain went that direction. My bad.
All babies can be animals, though. Crawling babies are perfect for things like turtles, alligators, beavers, echidnas, wolverines, basically anything that walks on four legs. Try to be creative. If your baby is toddling around, consider a monkey or velociraptor costume. If your baby is still young, and doesn’t move much, I think a potato or burrito costume would be hilarious. Try to think outside the typical pumpkin costumes that infest Google and Pinterest. Just remember to have fun, and make sure you get your way, since you won’t for the next dozen years.
*WARNING: Swearing ensues (Grandmas have been warned)*
I was at the library recently, looking for baby sleep books (I’ll let you know if I find anything worthwhile), and I stumbled across “Sh*tty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us”. Of course I had to grab it.
This book is a quick read, and hilarious the whole way through. Even while caring for my son, it only took me 2-3 days to read. The humor starts immediately, with chapter 1: “Road Trip with Your Kids: Multiply How Bad You Think It Will Be by a Thousand, Then Add Ten Million”. Here are a couple excerpts:
YOU ARE NO PRIZE.
Good God woman, look at yourself. Or better yet, rent Sweeney Todd and check out Helena Bonham Carter. Cause that’s you. Ratty hair, crazy eyes, making questionable food choices. Now think of your poor baby. She spends all day staring at you, wondering if this is how she’s going to look when she grows up. Of course she is crying.
Your baby needs to see how rested adults behave. If she goes only by you, she’ll think it’s normal to shout, “I can’t do this anymore!” and storm out of the house to sit in the car and eat cheese.
Knowing you aren’t the only kind of person on Earth gives your baby a ray of hope.
This one struck close to home, because my baby is named Nacho. It’s an unusual name, I know, but we think it fits him.
How to Tell When Your Friends Are Pretending They Like Your Baby’s Name
You went your own way with the baby’s name. You picked a name that you’re pretty sure no one else will touch. You like it, your husband likes it, and that’s all that matters. Besides, if first names were destiny, Condoleezza Rice would have been a stripper.
Back to your friend. Perhaps she is old-fashioned – raised to be a Jacob Mom or an Emily Mom. Your name has taken her by surprise.
She will ask you to spell it. This is a stalling technique. She really wants to say, “Uh, what the fuck did you just say?” Spellcheck is a gentle way for her to confirm that, yes, your son’s name is Z-e-p-h-y-r.
She may ask, “How did you come up with that?” She is giving you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was a family name. In fact, before you answer, she’ll suggest that very thing, and her voice will trail upwards: “Sounds like a family name…?”
Your response. “It is, now,” will not help her.
Those are just the two parts that were short enough for me to overcome my laziness to type out. The entire book had me cracking up and reading parts out loud to Hubby. Even non-parents will be able to laugh and enjoy some good, old-fashioned schadenfreude.
It does have a lot of strong language (which should be self-evident), so if that kind of thing bothers you, you should probably toughen up. We’re all grown ups. I go to work, vote, pay my taxes, and balance my check book. Swearing and drinking are a couple of the adult privileges that cancel out the boring crap, and I intend to take full advantage of them.
I’ve provided the Amazon link above, or just pick it up at the library, like I did. It’s absolutely worth the read. It gets the Clever Chick Thumbs Up!
I know a lot of people out there love their Moby wraps, and if this is you, you better skip this post now. I apologize, but brace yourself for an epic rant.
A friend of mine was kind enough to lend me a Moby wrap when I had my baby, Nacho. If you aren’t familiar with these, they are basically 87,000 yards of fabric you’re supposed to wrap around yourself in a configuration more complicated than an Enigma Machine. Your baby then supposedly fits right into the fabric without falling out the bottom or smothering to death. You can now carry your baby around with your hands free!
Here’s the thing(s):
1) There is too much damn fabric. There has GOT to be a better way to carry your child than 9 million yards of stretchy fabric. Women in pre-industrial countries wear their babies all over the place, and I have yet to see one using enough fabric to clothe the nation of Lithuania.
2) It’s hot. I was using the thing in WINTER, and my son and I were both coated in sweat after 30 minutes. I guess it’s to be expected with 18 billion yards of fabric piled on you, but it was ridiculous.
3) It’s overly complicated. I watched several videos trying to figure out how to use this thing. I got Hubby to watch and help. I prayed to both the old gods and the new (that’s a reference to a TV show, Gram, don’t worry), and I was still unable to get the thing on me how it was supposed to go. If you don’t get the tension exactly right when you put it on, you have to take the whole thing off and start over again. Lifting a wriggling baby in and out of the wrap 3 or 4 times before you get it right will test anyone’s patience, and I have very little to begin with.
4) It’s not really “hands-free”. You can sit in a chair, or walk around without holding your baby, sure. But forget bending over to do dishes or laundry. My son didn’t have neck control yet when we were attempting to wrangle the 8 cubic miles of fabric, so if I leaned over at all I had to support his head. If I tried to tuck fabric around his head, I had to worry that he was smothering to death, or his head would slip out and suddenly flop backwards (which happened, and was the impetus for me throwing in the 8,000 mile long towel). If I have to keep one hand on the back of his head at all times, it’s not that useful.
5) Getting in and out of it is nigh impossible. So let’s assume you succeed in finally getting your infant into the wrap. And then s/he poops. You’re now trapped, tied to a fussy, squirming baby and a poop balloon, just waiting to explode. Have fun untangling you both from 67^10 acres of fabric in a timely manner. If your kid is anything like mine, s/he’ll choose the moment s/he’s almost free to kick you in the chest and launch him/herself into oblivion (or, hopefully, the pack-n-play). Forget trying to feed a baby you’ve been mummified with also. There’s no room to get a bottle in there, much less get a boob out.
6) They’re expensive. $50 for some fabric? Come on. I’m really glad I got to borrow one rather than drop that kind of cash on some fabric I hated.
I do know a few people that like their Moby wraps, and I have a theory. All of the women I know who enjoy them, and who are shown in the tutorial videos and websites have fairly straight waists. I, however, have an hourglass figure, with big hips, so all the fabric slides up and bunches around my waist. Without such an exaggerated anatomy, the fabric seems to stay put where it’s supposed to. That’s just my hypothesis, based on a very small sample of data.
Wearing your baby is really fun and wonderful, but the Moby Wrap is not necessarily the way to do that. I was lucky enough to trick Mi Madre into making me a ring sling. She found a tutorial and the rings online, and used fabric she had laying around the house. We’ve used it a ton, and plan to keep using it for awhile. A fellow mom-friend of mine found a baby-wearing meet-up group that rents out different baby carriers so you can try them. She tried several before finding one she loves. Search for something like that before making any purchases.
I love popping my son into his sling and going for a walk around the block when the weather is nice. He’s fallen asleep in it several times, and it’s very easy to slide him out into his crib, or just sit down and let him nap on me.
It can be hard when you know nothing about babies, and your friends insist on spawning left and right. You then get invited to the celebration of said spawning, and are expected to provide something useful and meaningful for the spawn. If you have no babies this can be a HUGE challenge. I know it sent me into whole new territories at Target I had never ventured into before, even when I worked there.
Well here’s a trusty guide from me, a relatively new mom, with almost no prior baby experience. I can help you navigate this madness!
1) Registries – ALWAYS start with the registry. Most pregnant ladies focus their nesting instincts on picking out exactly the right crib sheets and baby bottles. If they’re like me, they neurotically compared ratings and safety information across several websites before adding even a pacifier to the registry. Acknowledge all that hard work by getting them exactly what they want. A couple more hints:
a) Make sure the item is listed as “Wanted” and not “Purchased” or something like that. Items are not REMOVED from the registry after someone buys it. You want to avoid duplicates so the massively pregnant lady, or the new mom hauling a tiny baby, doesn’t have to trek back to the store to return or exchange it.
b) Make sure your purchase is marked off the registry. This also helps prevent duplicates. Check with the store or retailer to see if there’s a special process to have the item marked “bought”. Even just double checking the registry to see if it was marked off can be helpful.
2) Get a gift receipt – if you’re shopping online, I don’t think this happens, but I could be wrong. Even if you followed the above steps with the registry (good for you!) not everyone else giving gifts did, I promise. Hopefully, when the mommy ends up with two pack-n-plays, you’ve provided the receipt so she can return one.
3) Baby clothes – New parents do NOT register for baby clothes. They are told not to, and with good reason: EVERYONE wants to shop for baby clothes. We got TONS of them. My son is 6 months old, and I’ve still never bought him an outfit. If you desperately want to shop for baby clothes, go for it, but keep a few things in mind:
a) Most people buy tiny clothes, like newborn and 3 month. Help the new parents out by buying older sizes, like 12 or even 24 months. My son was born so big he never fit into several of the smaller outfits we had for him.
b) Keep the season in mind. If the kid is born in winter, s/he’ll be one year old again in winter, so buying warm 12 month old clothes makes sense. Buying warm 18 month old, not so much.
c) I would buy something practical, like a thermometer, in addition to the clothes. But that’s just me. Or, of you want to buy practical clothing items, consider Onesie Extenders. These are short pieces of fabric that have snaps on both ends. They can be added to a onesie to make it fit longer. The link I provided is for Amazon, but you can also find them on Etsy and Ebay.
d) Buy something washable and practical. Read the washing instructions. If it says anything like “Dry clean only”, or “Hand wash separately, lay flat to dry”, PUT IT DOWN. Ain’t nobody got time for that, much less new parents.
e) Also make sure the neck opening has snaps or fabric folds so the baby’s giant melon-head can fit through. We got one outfit that was super adorable, but had no way to get it over my kid’s head, so I have no idea what to do with it.
This post got pretty wordy (What? Me, wordy? Never!), so I decided to give your eye balls a rest, and break it into 2 parts. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion! Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel!
A friend of ours, Sara of the Long Red Hair, hand made us this adorable baby pirate outfit. Unfortunately, I gave birth to a behemoth, and he never fit into it. We decided to use it to revamp one of baby Nacho’s stuffed animals.
Here is Hobbes, a gift from Hubby in years past, when he was still Boyfriendy, which doesn’t have a great ring to it. He agreed that Hobbes would probably enjoy the new outfit. The bow simply came untied, and a seam ripper detached the heart easily (that is a grotesque sentence).
Fortunately, Hobbes is MUCH easier to dress than Nacho:
Now we have another pirate to join Nacho’s crew! You can do this with any really special baby outfits. When I was growing up, my clothes got handed down to my sister, Beans, and then to my Cabbage Patch doll.
For the bulk of the clothes, since small kids generally outgrow things before they’re messed up, hand them down to friends and relatives kids, or donate them to thrift stores (assuming you aren’t saving them for your next kiddo).
Previously, I discussed how to be a good friend to a friend who is expecting or just had a kid. But friendship goes both ways, and just because you’re having/had a baby doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. As a new mom myself, I’m also writing this as a reminder to future me.
- Don’t act entitled. Your friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances don’t owe you gifts and worship just because you’re breeding. It’s not that special. Everyone who exists came out of someone like you. I’m not saying don’t enjoy your pregnancy and new baby, just don’t get all Bridezilla about it. And don’t talk crap about someone’s gift to you. Maybe they didn’t spend as much as you think they should, or bought you something you don’t like. Be appreciative that they obviously care about you.
- Don’t overshare. When you’re talking to friends, they may not want to hear the details of your cervix, or about your kid’s diapers, even fellow parents. (Although I did have someone ask me if I pooped weird while pregnant, so you never know). It’s hard to keep perspective when you have just had 8 different medical personnel digging around in your lady parts, but do your best.
- Don’t talk exclusively about your pregnancy or bundle of joy. Ask your friends about their lives also, and show genuine interest. Yes, having a kid is a huge thing that absorbs your whole brain, but you used to be able to have normal conversations. Try not to lose that skill.
- If people ask you personal questions, like “Do you poop weird?”, try to answer candidly. There is so much that no one tells you about pregnancy until you are actually pregnant, that I had a ton of friends who were just plain curious. I always feel that if someone has the guts to ask you an awkward or embarrassing question, it shows that they feel comfortable with you. You should go ahead and answer, rather than being judgmental.
- Be interested in things other than your baby. You had hobbies and interests before the kid. Maybe your model train building gets put on hold, or slows down somewhat, but you don’t have to sacrifice that part of yourself on the altar of parenthood. When that kid is no longer dependent on you, you still need to be a complete person. You also still need interesting things to talk about at dinner parties (or Super Bowl parties, whatever).
- Be grateful. When someone has gone out of their way to get you something or make you food, say thank you. Send out thank you notes for gifts you receive. Send the gifter a text later telling them the food was delicious, or that you’re using the stroller they gave you and you love it (this is in addition to thank you notes, not instead of).
- Try to keep up a social life. It’s so easy to just hide in your house and focus on raising your new little munchkin (especially for me, but I tend to be a hermit). However, you don’t want to lose touch with your friends. Maybe you can’t get to every craft night, movie night, or bar fight, but make an effort to get to the big events, like birthdays and Harry Potter marathons. Friends will be understanding that you aren’t always available, but don’t take them for granted.
At this point, now that I have a 1 month old, I think I’m qualified to explain what to do and NOT do with someone expecting, or who just had, a kid. Some ranting ensues:
- Don’t send them negative media. Sending articles about why it’s better to be childless, or how bad for the planet a baby is, how much babies cost, or anything like that is just plain rude. If you had just bought a home, and I gleefully sent you websites that said “Only idiots buy houses”, I would be a jerk for raining on your parade. Maybe I’m ok with living in an apartment or condo forever, but you made your choice to purchase a house. I should be happy for you, or at the very least, keep my damn mouth shut since it’s too late to change anything now.
- Don’t ask about parenting decisions. “What if he wants to go to [name expensive college]?” “What age will you get him a cell phone?” How about you let me worry about birthing the kid before I concern myself with any of that crap? Do I really need to decide those things right now? I mean, I have a few years before he can even make sentences. I don’t think we need to decide Harvard or Yale until he’s at least 5.
- Don’t ask “Are you getting rid of your pets?” No. Why the hell would I? On the off-chance that my baby Nacho might be allergic? When you adopt a pet (and all of ours are rescues) you make a commitment to house that animal for its whole life. Obviously if one of the cats was to try and hurt Nacho, we would adopt it out, but let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. And why is that a question people ask? Also, don’t say “Once you have a baby, your dog will just be your dog, not a baby”. RUDE.
- Don’t bring up possible medical problems. “What if he has [name horrible incurable disease/disability]?” Any expectant parent is ALREADY worrying about that stuff. Don’t bring it up. This is just another way to crap on my joy. Remember, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
- Don’t bring up tragedies. “Did you hear about that newborn that [insert horrible tragedy, i.e. ‘died in a fire’, ‘got eaten by tigers’]? What would you do if that happened?” Again, I am already worried about all of that. I don’t need you reminding me that horrible things happen. If you have no other point of reference to discuss children other than child slavery, just talk about something else entirely. Just because I’m gestating doesn’t mean my brain died. I still listen to NPR and read books. We can talk about North Korea or Game of Thrones; take your pick.
- Don’t gloat. You can drink alcohol and eat sushi, go to the gym, and sleep in. Good for you. I KNOWINGLY made a different choice. Hell, I had a kid so I have an excuse not to go to the gym. It’s much more understandable than “I was leveling up my mage in Skyrim”.
- Don’t concern yourself with my diet or medical needs. If you are not MY OBGYN or pediatrician I don’t need to hear your opinion you read online once, or that thing your grandma told you. Saying “Should you be eating that?” or “That’s bad for the baby” should be grounds for public caning. Unless you see a pregnant woman doing something blatantly dangerous, like smoking or stunt driving, keep your mouth shut. Even if you are a qualified medical professional, you are not MY qualified medical professional.
- Don’t share your parenting or pregnancy horror stories. You have 3 kids and want me to be prepared for the bad things: “Just wait until he has explosive diarrhea!”, “You’re going to have to do something with all those books, or else he’ll ruin them all”, “Say goodbye to your boobs!” (<—actual quote), or “Little Johnny threw up on our wedding album on purpose, then burned my wedding dress in the yard!” I get it, you’ve been in the trenches before me, and you want me to be prepared, but there are so few opportunities in life to be joyful. Unless your story is hilarious, at least ask if I want to hear it.
All of these boil down to “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. And yes, all of these happened to me.
- Don’t touch a pregnant woman without her permission. If your best friend is pregnant, it’s probably fine to rub her belly. Stranger in the grocery store? Not so much. I don’t care how delighted you are, and how excited you are by the miracle of life. Would you walk up to a non-pregnant random stranger and rub their belly? No (or you should stop, please). She still deserves her personal bubble of space. I was very lucky not to experience this. I think it’s because I have a naturally forbidding face, which is good because I am VERY protective of my bubble. I hate places like concerts, festivals, or popular discotheques (that’s where the cool kids hang out, right? Right??) because of all the sweaty people pressed up against me. Blurg. Keep in mind, pregnant people are people, too. This goes for new babies also. First, WASH YOUR HANDS. Then say to the new parent “I just washed my hands, can I hold the baby?”
- Don’t buy giant items or noisy toys. Stick to the baby registry, or else say “My friend’s baby love such-and-such, would you like one?” or “Do you have room for a rocking chair?” And whatever you buy, get a gift receipt if you can, and tape it to the item! It’s always possible to get duplicates, even with gift registries, so make returns as easy as possible.
Ok, enough negativity. What should you do?
- Do bring food. Especially something I can just microwave and stuff in my face. It’s a good idea to text or message ahead of time to ask about food preferences, allergies, and freezer capacity. When the baby is brand new, lots of people are probably bringing food over, so bringing something that is frozen or can be frozen can be a big help. That way the new parents have food a couple weeks from now, also, and don’t have to worry about eating everything before it goes bad. Baked goods are great, but abundant, so bringing a casserole or soup can be helpful. I ate SO MANY Christmas cookies this year! You could even bring some basic groceries, like paper towels and toilet paper. You know they’ll get used, and it might save a trip to the store.
- Offer to help, but offer something specific. What are you good at or willing to do? It’s much easier if you say something concrete like, “I can mow your lawn Saturday morning, does that work for you?”, “I can’t cook, so let me come mop your floors”, “Can I come play with your baby while you take a shower?”, or “I’m going to the store, what can I bring you?” rather than “Do you need anything?” I may have a totally different idea of what I’d like you to do versus what you’re willing to do. For pregnant ladies, try to think of something they can’t do themselves, like lifting heavy things, or reaching things that are very high up or low down.
- Be unobtrusive. Send a text or email rather than calling if you can, because you never know when they might have just gotten a colicky baby to fall asleep, or have finally fallen asleep themselves, or are at a doctor’s appointment. Offer to drop off food instead of visiting, and if you do visit, keep it short. The new parents might protest, but if they’re yawning, you get out of there.
- Tell them they look good. If a woman is hugely pregnant or just had a baby, you tell her she looks great (but don’t use the word “glowing”). Tell new parents their baby is adorable. Reality does not matter, just say something nice.
We are so fortunate to have so many fantastic friends and family members that did so much for us. Sara of the Long Red Hair brought us a ton of food, about half of it already labeled and frozen. My sister, Beans, did an awesome photo shoot of my new little family. Lots of people brought food and gifts.
My brain twin Kornberg went above and beyond when I got pregnant. First. she volunteered to pick up Flapjack and dog sit while we were in the hospital, something it hadn’t even occurred to me to think about. When I went into labor, I sent her a text so she knew to get Flapjack. While Hubby and I were at the hospital, she changed the cat boxes, took out the trash, and did the dishes. While I was in labor, she sent me funny stuff on Facebook to distract me. When we came home from the hospital and she brought Flapjack home, she brought us a homemade casserole, listened to me blabber on about my precious, adorable baby, and only stayed a couple hours. Of course, being my brain twin is a special bond, and it was all incredibly thoughtful and helpful.
Now us breeders are not off the hook for appropriate behavior. See part 2 here.