Showering with unsolicited advice

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At the risk of sounding obnoxious, I think Mr. Wonderful and I have raised — to this point anyway — two good kids.

The ones that are kind, giving, gracious, look out for others. I’m proud of that.

I flatter myself that people want to know how we have managed through cleverness, parenting skill, and sheer good fortune and good genes get to live with teenagers that are a pleasure to be around.

My answer? I have no earthly idea. I just thank the Lord and my luckiest stars every day.

Cue the maniacal laughter because the minute you start going public with THAT attitude, a kid will knock off a liquor store just to spite you.
Then I ponder all the things I worried myself sick about as a new mother, and I just want to laugh, and laugh.

Yes, my friends, I have finally become that most annoying person at the baby shower: The veteran mother who finds all the brand new parent’s registries simultaneously adorable and faintly ridiculous. I own it.

Veteran

You know us. We sit in the back of the room and exclaim over the tiny outfits (adorable!) then hoot derisively over the sheer amount of gear young parents believe babies “need.”

A wipes warmer? Ha! In my day we just stuck a wipe in our armpit to warm it up and the kid was lucky to have that. An infant seat that holds an iPad? Is that for stock trades? You know the eTrade baby isn’t real right?

Generations before us marveled at our combination stroller/car seat/personal rocket ship. I can remember my grandmother’s amazement at the no less than three car seats it would take to transport our children.

In her day, I think they balanced the babies on the seat with one hand and shifted with the other, or maybe they just laid the baby on the floor boards.

Some change is good, obviously.

Other things — you worry too much. It’s the nature of parenting. We all do.

The thing is, when we aren’t making fun of your insistence on having the “perfect nursery décor” or being “true to your style,” be it 100 percent organic, crunchy granola or “sanitized for your protection, hermetically sealed plastic bubble,” we feel for you.

Small stuff

We’ve been there. We have sweated the small stuff.

In parenting, once you have basic health and safety concerns met, so much of it really is small stuff.

In the moment, things like sleeping and potty training and biting playmates (or was that just my child?) seemed so HUGE.

Every choice seems fraught with risk — of derision, of disaster, of making a mistake and screwing the baby up FOR LIFE.

I can recall preening at being lauded as a saint by a stranger because I breast fed my son, then later that same day, chided as a demon by another stranger who was horrified to see that same baby happily sucking on his pacifier.

The devil! As an aside, that child kept his “binky” until he was almost 3 years old, and I lost sleep over that. Where had I gone wrong?

Today I look back and laugh because he’s very handsome, his teeth are perfect, and despite my fears, he didn’t go to kindergarten — or the prom — with his pacifier.

Broken

So much of what you get all ratcheted up about with little children turns out to be easily filed under “No Biggie.” Safety matters, of course.

I’m a big fan of not running with scissors. Although in the interest of full disclosure, you wouldn’t know it from my scratch and dent kid.

My teen Adonis son sports a perfect ½ inch scar on his chest from being cut by the glass of a broken (beer) bottle — at age 3.

I mention this just so I don’t go all “breaks arm patting self on the back.”

When taking my advice, consider the source. This is not code for “hey just wing it. Put gin in the baby bottle and he’ll be FINE.”

No, you do need love, common sense, and commitment to parent.

What I mean is, I sweated the small stuff. I was a terrible control freak.

I was going to do everything PERFECT ALL THE TIME and no harm would ever come to my children.

In reality, perfect is impossible. Sometimes things break. The bottle, your best laid plans, your patience.

There will be scrapes and bruises and tantrums (yours and theirs). There will be less than stellar moments (to the patrons of a Kent, Ohio, Friendly’s restaurant c. 1999 — I’m sorry).

What I want to say at the baby shower is that preparing for parenting boils down to is less wipe warmers and more warm hearts and wiping the slate clean day after day to try again to do your best — and then some — tomorrow.

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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