Six Things Every New Parent Should Know

Six Things Every New Parent Should Know

My brother and his wife had a baby recently, which makes me an uncle again. It also makes me nostalgic for the days when I was a young parent of a baby girl. I'm now a father of 15, 11, and 9 year old children, and I've been through just about everything a parent could go through. I've learned a few lessons in those years, some the hard way, and some by watching other parents and promising myself I would never, ever do that.

So for a "welcome to parenthood" letter to my brother and his wife, as well as to new parents everywhere, here are six things I wish someone would have explained to me when I became a parent.

1) Don't worry when your child gets sick. Every kid gets sick. Colds, fevers, whatever. It's the same thing parents get, only the kids aren't such babies about it. When your kid gets a cold or flu, alternate infant's ibuprofen and acetaminophen every four hours. That will help keep the fever down, and they'll feel fine. If your kid wants to play while he's sick, let him. It means he feels okay.

While going to the doctor is going to give you peace of mind, keep in mind that when she gives you medicine for your child, it's really for you, to get you to calm the heck down.

2) You don't need a big honking diaper bag. If the diaper bag weighs more than the baby, you've got too much stuff. You don't need five outfits, 15 diapers, a box of wipes, and three bottles. You're going to the grocery store, not a three-week tour of Italy. The general rule of thumb is if you need a sherpa to carry your diaper bag, you're overpacking. You'll figure it out by the third child, when you stick a single diaper and a thin handful of baby wipes in a Ziploc bag in your back pocket and go.

Also, if the diaper bag is too girly and cutesy, you won't get your husband to carry it. There are diaper bags disguised as backpacks, but do you know what else makes a good diaper bag backpack? A backpack. Don't make your husband carry anything pink or with flowers on it, unless it's his own daughter.

3) Helmets are unnecessary until the kid is six and riding a real, big-boy bike. When they're three, and are scooting around on those little scooty bikes and tricycles, they don't need helmets. Basically, if your child is taller standing up than he is on the bike, he doesn't need a helmet. Either that, or you need to make them wear a helmet at all times, in which case, make sure you start saving up for a good therapist when he's 15.

4) Not everyone is as interested in everything your child does as you are. Especially other parents. It doesn't matter how cute, adorable, or "really, really smart" you think your kid is, that insufferable twit from Mommy and Me thinks her kid is cuter, more adorable, and way smarter than any kid in the room — because apparently, smart kids drink from the dog's bowl. She prattles on and on about how her Bradley is nearly potty trained, and he's getting straight Smiley Faces in second grade. But we know your kid is smarter, better, and certainly doesn't think the toilet is a swimming pool.

5) Still, no one else is interested in everything your child does either. First steps are great, first teeth are worth a glance at a photo on your phone. But no one wants to hear about their potty training, their feeding habits, or the cute thing your son did when he "discovered himself" in the bathtub. And if your discussions include the words "diarrhea" and "explosive," please save them for someone who truly cares about your child's bodily functions, like, well, not me.

6) Be sure to pay attention to all the firsts with your last kid the way you do with your first kid. Nothing will give your child a bigger complex to see thousands of pictures pasted to hundreds of pages of his older sister's baby book — first crawl, first tooth, first step, first bite of big kid food, first big girl bed, first day at school — compared to the three photos you put in his — first step, first driver's license, first college graduation.

Of course, like any parent, I violated more than a couple of these rules when my kids were younger. (Speaking of explosive diarrhea, you should have seen — uh, never mind). But as a veteran parent of three children, hundreds of bottles, and thousands of diapers — and thankfully, no helmets for the plastic Big Wheel — I can tell you, it's not that complicated. Just relax and have fun.

You should be worried more about the fun new words I'll be teaching your children when they're finally old enough to talk.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

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