I’ve learned the secret to parenting! That’s right—put away the books and forget about what Oprah or Dr. Phil have to say. Dr. Sandy has the answer. After continually refining my technique over and over again, I now know all that I need to know to get by for these next 18, 35, and 60 years. Live by these three simple rules and you are guaranteed the be a much better parent.
Rule #1: Patience is a virtue. OK, I thought I was a fairly laid-back guy before being a father. After all, I work at a pretty stressful job, but rarely let it bother me at home. When I deal with people who are less than ideal, I grin and bear it. But nothing prepares you for the patience you need with a kid. Iris will spin into tantrums when she’s teething…or is she hungry?…or how’s that diaper? She’ll be going full-force with the fury that could be heard in Tacoma and you’ve gotta play detective. Only problem is—she isn’t going to help you figure it out. A couple of weeks ago, I had Iris for the afternoon and we were having a blast until, all of a sudden, she rips into this tantrum, the likes of which I have never seen before. This went on for a full hour. Check the diaper—nothing. Offer her a bottle—that only gets her madder. Each time, I kept asking “What’s wrong, sweetie? You’ve gotta tell me what’s wrong.” until, at one point, I swear she stopped crying for just one sec and flashed me a look that said “you idiot—I can’t tell you what’s wrong. I’m five months old!” Oh yeah. Hopefully, Iris will learn to have a little patience with dear old dad.
Rule#2: Whatever it is, it’s funny. I don’t think anyone would question whether I have a sense of humor or not. I am quick to poke fun, particularly at myself. Well, guess who the butt of a lot of the jokes are when you’re a parent. Yep. When I am in the throes of the toughest times, I will tell jokes to keep myself sane. When she’s in a fussy mood, I’ll start mocking a conversation with her and pretend she is reacting to my last comment–“yes, I agree. Our policy in Iraq is troubling.” or “I can’t believe Cheney shot that dude either!” When she’s really loud, I actually give her tips (“no Iris, more from the diaphragm—you can hit the higher octaves that way.”) When I am at my wit’s end, I think happy thoughts (“hey Iris, are you interested in new living arrangments. How about being raised by wolves? Worked for Tarzan.” There have been times where Cherise looks like she’s about to go nuts and I will say anything to get a laugh out of her. There’s something about laughter that can break any tension, though sometimes baby doesn’t appreciate it. If you can’t laugh at the kid, laugh at yourself and your feeble attempts at calming the baby.
Rule#3: Admit you don’t know squat and get on with it. OK, this rule trumps all other rules. When I was younger, I always wondered if I’d meet the ideal woman. When I used to get magazines like Men’s Fitness, there would always be sections about how to attract the opposite sex. Of course, the advice is on contradictory and one size does NOT fit all. As a result, trying to take the advice did more harm that good. When I finally wised up and threw away the pretension and basically admitted I was incapable of doing all the things that society expected me to do to find the perfect woman, the perfect woman showed up and married me. I learned at that point that you really need to trust your gut. So when it came to Iris, I’ve flipped through the books and heard the advice and will always listen to the advice (so you’re NOT supposed to give them something when it’s been on the floor, right?), but Cherise and I will say we did it our way…
The more I look at them, the rules don’t just apply to parenting but to life in general. Yes, there are more rules (like treasuring every moment) and I invite you to post them here. To me, these three are all about survival and I am hoping they keep me sane.