12 Months of Charlee: The 12 Things I’ve Learned in my First Year of Parenting

img_09241

So, what better way to celebrate a year of Charlee then to reflect back on getting here and what I’ve learned.

It’s really interesting and almost comical sometimes when I look back on the older posts in my blog, where I have advice or recommendations that I’m providing. There was nothing wrong with those, but often they reveal a Dad who was sooooooo unaware of what was up next! Not unprepared per se, but most definitely unaware. And here I am, looking back on only the first year! I can’t even begin to think about year 2… daycare, talking, walking…. Oy vey!

What I can say is that this year has been something that I could have never expected. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along with my journey so far. You keep reading and I’ll keep writing J

On that note, what a great segue into number 1 on my list… Enjoy!

  1. Read!

1aa217

It’s really just that simple.

Read.

There are tons of books and while I personally recommend the Dr. Karp series, look around… ask around… google some reviews. There are so many parenting books out there and they are there for a reason.

You will have questions!

You will want to know that you are not alone in this journey, nor has anything you are about to encounter never been encountered before!

I read one book that ironically advised not to read books. But rather, many of your parenting intuitions will come naturally. That’s fine and dandy, and I hope for whomever abides by that principal, they are right, but the number of approaches that we took which did not come naturally, were not spawned off of our natural intuitions, yet resulted in the right outcome is staggering (approaches to sleep is my #1 in that regard!)

It was interesting what happened in-between books as well.  We read plenty leading up to having Charlee, a little bit after having her, and then sort of assumed things were on cruise control. Little did we realize how quickly babies change and how difficult it is to stay on top of what happens next and how to handle it!

I’ve started reading again, and right now I’m on Dr. Karp’s, The Happiest Toddler on the Block. He himself says that you should start reading it ideally when your little one is 9 months of so, in order to be ramped up for the 1-3 year window.

I know it’s a toughie to fit in to anyone’s schedule, but really, it will help out immensely to be as prepared as possible.

  1. Yard by yard is pretty hard, but inch by inch is a cinch

irritated_baby

I wrote a blog entry once called How Quickly We Forget – The Halo Effect and Dad’s with PTSD. The main point being that we often go through situations which seems incredibly catastrophic and painful yet, in time, we move on and get to reflect back on it.

I look back at Charlee’s year and even when she was enjoying womb service:

First there was the determination that she was breeched and all the chiropractic visits and moxibustion attempts and the scheduling of a C-section. Finally when she was born there was 4 days in the NICU, sleep regression, food sensitivities, more sleep regression, teething, my changing employers, more sleep regression, milk shortages, financial hiccups, more sleep regression, relationship strains, and did I mention sleep regression?!

But at a certain point, you get a chance to look back, be it through a blog or just personal memory, and go, holy shit that was rough, but we made it!

  1. It ain’t a competition

ht_sam_griner_then_02_jef_150413_16x9_992

So don’t get me wrong – I fully understand that everybody wants to know that their child is doing well. But similar to the earlier point, if your baby starts crawling at 6, 7, 8 or even 15 months, it’s great at the time, but when they are older these things will be so inconsequential! The fact that your baby is in the 85th percentile, or the 35th percentile – it’s all irrelevant as long as they’re healthy, it doesn’t matter!!

However, and I hope this point makes sense, you should never, ever, ever, feel that you need to suppress your urges to talk about your baby.

You should be proud.

You are raising a human being and every achievement of theirs, is a representation of your work and dedication. So good on you!

Granted there is a fine line between pride and gloating, and you know what, sometimes it will just be heard the way that it’s heard, but in my honest opinion, you don’t get these opportunities too often, unless you’re breeding like bunnies (and all the power to you if you are), so go on, be proud of yourself and of your little one!

  1. Your life will change… duh!

download

In case for some ungodly reason you thought that this is just an addition to your life, I will firmly state that you are wrong!

A baby does not accompany you to the club. They WILL get carded and refused access.

A baby does not sleep in on weekends, nor do they pull all-nighters… well… not in the good sense…

Your relationship will not be the same and you need to come to terms with that.

However!

You’ve just created a miniature version of yourselves – how friggin cool is that?! Granted when they first arrive, they’re a tad wrinkly or ‘fresh’ as one woman in a shopping mall once referred to 2 week old Charlee. But in time, it’s amazing how you start to see elements of yourselves in him or her.

With Charlee, she has my laugh, many of my features, and somehow at the age of 1, my sense of humor. She also has Becca’s disposition, kindness, and for what it’s worth, toes!

  1. Routine is important, but don’t obsess

Many books we’ve read address the fact that babies thrive off of routine. They will act better, sleep better, and overall just function better. But this doesn’t mean that there is no flex to the rigidity. Other than the fact that there can be extenuating circumstances, you have to realize that your life is not obsessively routine so how can your child’s be?

My mum had my brother and me 11 months apart (he was adopted, not that that matters, but just to help with the math and not assume that my mum and dad were aiming to have two kids so close together). Her line to me when I asked how the heck she juggled two children under the age of 1 was simply, “have baby, will travel”.

Makes sense to me – sometimes your baby just has to come along for the ride.

I’m a pretty firm believer that balance is everything, so stick to a routine for sure, but don’t obsess over every little thing… for the baby’s sake… and your own!

  1. Figure out child care as early as possible

baby_child_care_four

Maybe I’m putting this in here because it’s kinda fresh in my mind, but the most ridiculous thing happened the other day to me, and apparently it’s much more common than you would expect.

I approached a daycare which is well situated and affordable, they start with kids at the age of 1, and with all of these factors there understandably is a queue of families who are pre-registered.

Now here’s where it gets interesting…

I was directed to their website to register and low and behold, there is a 2 year waiting list… “Approximately”… meaning that it could actually be OVER 2 years!

In our situation, it would have meant a very interesting first date conversation where we skipped the dinner and drinks and went straight to pre-registering our unborn…nay, uncreated baby!

In Ontario and Toronto specifically, child care is expensive and hard to come by. Granted, our province has just recently abolished waiting list fees, but while we were searching it could potentially have cost us hundreds if not thousands of dollars just to get Charlee’s name on some lists!

We’re still sorting through ideas, but at this point, Becca is home with Charlee until at least 18 months and we’re on a few waiting lists, but that clocks a’ tickin’ and finding out that there are waiting lists that are over 2 years long, gets the heart rate rising!

  1. Money talk

baby-on-a-budget-600_dggqxt

So, aside from those costs you can forecast, there are just a ton of things that creep up on you and apparently are never ending! Different wages for different stages you could say… patent pending.

When we first looked into daycare, we factored that it would cost anywhere from around $800 to $2000 a month; $800 being on the cheaper side through something like an unlicensed home daycare, and top of the price range being a licensed city run daycare (yup… $108 a day!).

Our in between option was a Montessori, where it’s around $1500 per month, but low and behold, waiting lists and questionable reviews have made things a wee bit more complex.

Next there is the food factor. If you’re breastfeeding, that’s fantastic, and we are too, but there were some unexpected situations with food sensitivities, sick baby not being able to feed successfully, drop in milk supply… y’know… expecting the unexpected again.

Due to Becca’s work and upbringing, she is very conscious about food additives and the like so we are pretty diligent about the quality of food we give Charlee. And with that comes a price tag too.

Even when you factor and budget for all of those things, there is still STUFF.

We have been extremely lucky to have Charlee’s older cousin who provides a ton of hand-me-downs, and also so many generous friends and family. And I’m actually pretty proud to admit that I don’t think we’ve binged on anything unnecessary for Charlee, even though I do still have my eye on a $2000 kids’ ride on Porsche…

But food, toys, gifts, and even at times entertainment, adds up – be mindful and diligent and don’t forget to put money into an RESP if you’re in Canada! In 17 years, university is going to be pretty steep.

  1. You and your baby are going to get sick
For the record, no baby is happy with a nosefrida
For the record, no baby is happy with a NoseFrida…

I always think of that Nyquil commercial, with the dad trying to call in sick.

We all wish that were true.

What actually happens is that one of the parents gets sick and brings it home to treat the whole family to a bout of the flu.

Somehow you have to muster the strength to get through your own cold while also treating the baby with whatever lack of medicine you can use (though infant Tylenol, Advil, a NoseFrida and a bottle of Salinex do work wonders) and all the while holding down a job, keeping the house in order, and sticking to the routine as best as possible.

Keep in mind that every sickness the baby gets through usually implies a strengthening of her immune system; so really, she’s just doing this to become that much bigger and stronger.

  1. Don’t forget about YOU
Healthy dad or attempted mugging?
Healthy dad or attempted mugging?

Remember that your health is just as important as the baby’s – after all, you’ve got to be in peak shape in order to take care of the little one.

I follow so many dads online who are proponents of keeping in great shape. I am all about wanting to do that too, and I have way too many excuses.

The least you can and should do is keep up to date with your own doctors’ visits, eat your vitamins, and take your meds.

That’s the easy part.

What people often forget is that you sometimes need a break from your family. Sounds kinda mean, but it’s really true. It doesn’t mean you love them any less, but from a purely psychological perspective, getting out for a pint with the boys, or especially taking the misses out on a date night is hugely important for you and your relationship with your family.

  1. Treasure your quiet time

images

Date nights and drinks are few and far between, and I often find myself enjoying the most bizarre quiet times.

I follow a blogger online who wrote about how she even treasures the silence between buckling up her little one in the backseat of the car, closing the door, and walking to the driver side!

Another blogger seeks solace in his breaks to go to the bathroom…alone!

We’re lucky that Charlee is a lovely, calm, and gentle little angel, so in general the volume is fairly low, but she is active and mobile, and sometimes, yeah, it’s nice to get away, even if it’s just to sit on the can!

  1. More importantly, treasure your time with baby

img_09251

Sure it’s important to get away, but it’s even more important to be involved.

Charlee is fantastic and watching her learn and develop is breath taking. In one weekend around 9 months, she said momma, dada and started crawling… ONE WEEKEND!

I did a review on the book thirty million words, and the messaging there is one that, at least for me, appears fairly new. There is an overall recognition now that the first three years of a baby’s life are some of the most fundamental for growth and learning. A child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development from birth to three, producing 700 new neural connections every second. The fact that you can actually witness it firsthand and help develop it with the way you engage with them is surreal!

Treasure it!

  1. Love is the answer

c4811c4809d6cf2e2c9b6e7806d61158

Yeah it’s a little hokey, but you know what, it’s true.

Maybe I need to define what love means to me…

To me, there are two key factors in in love:

  1. Love is unconditional to those who are deserving of it.
  2. You get back what you give.

If those fundamentals are met, everything else is just noise.

Sometimes it is not easy to love, because the noise is loud; so loud that you forget that the fundamentals are still there.

You can block the noise with strong communication. Without it, the noise keeps ringing in your ears.

I don’t mean to sound too profound here, but that metaphor works for me.

With some, I’ve found that the noise is so consistent that I need to reassess the fundamentals.

With some I’ve found that the fundamentals are not there.

When that occurs, I need to rid myself of the noise, because it’s not healthy noise. It’s not noise that’s going to subside.

With others, the noise comes and goes, but the fundamentals are strong and the basis of our relationship is valid and meaningful and important.

Charlee has introduced to me a whole new world of love and a whole new approach to priorities.

She has fundamentally changed Becca and me, including our love for each other. It’s not gone by any means, it’s just different.

We’ve learned a lot about each other through Charlee, and we’ve developed a new love for one another and a new love as parents – a new definition of who we are.

I was thinking once about how you rarely know for sure about how your mate is going to parent, let alone how you are. You chat when you’re dating about things like what kind of school you’d like your future kids to attend, and how you’ll celebrate Chanukah and Christmas together, but you rarely discuss how you’ll approach baby led weaning, or what technique you’ll use for sleep training.

When those events arise in parenting, you are no longer addressing them as individuals. You are a team of two parents, approaching something foreign to the two of you.

You’ve either read up on it together or separately; queried a parent together or separately; have heard experiences through a friend, together or separately; or just have a gut instinct on how to handle the situation, together or separately.

Regardless, you now have to handle it… together!


This next year is going to be eventful, to say the least! I’ve just started back at school, part time. I have a new job but my contract expires in February (hoping for an extension). Becca and I have been chatting about opening up a store, but also discussing whether Becca may want to go back to her old work, or maybe school. We’re sorting out day cares and interviewing different Montessoris. We may even invest in a rental property in the next few months.

img_09261

I do not know what the future holds but I look forward to continuing to share my wild journey through fatherhood with you and hope you’ll stick around for the ride!

What are your thoughts?

%d bloggers like this: