Pretty much every parent everywhere has made a joke about wishing kids came with an instruction manual. Sure, there’s Google, but we’ve all been down that rabbit hole…we just want nice, clear directions that show us what tools are required, how many steps there are, and maybe have some of those comforting bubble people (if you’ve ever assembled IKEA furniture, you know the ones). Wouldn’t it be nice, just to flip to the index every time you’re not sure what to do? That’s why we’re here to give you Parenting 101, the handy guide to parenthood you’ve been waiting for!
Disclaimer: The following is almost entirely for entertainment purposes. There is, of course, no universally correct way to be a parent. Sorry if we got your hopes up!
Before you begin…
Attend all the parenting classes. Read all the parenting books. Join all the parenting groups online. Lovingly decorate a nursery, clean every surface of your home, and go ahead and babyproof every electrical outlet, cabinet, and sharp corner even though your child won’t be even remotely mobile for months.
Identify what your parenting style will be, then go ahead and create a set of non-negotiable rules (e.g., “My child will never make eye contact with a screen before the age of four,” and “Our family will gather at the dinner table every night to enjoy organic, well-balanced meals and chat eloquently about the day”). Alternatively, just take a walk through your local supermarket, observe other parents, and make a list of everything they’re doing wrong so you can be sure to avoid making the same mistakes.
Decide on a sleep schedule for your baby and post it in the nursery, preferably on a felt letterboard or other whimsical means of display. It’s important to manifest positivity. Have your car seat installed at the fire department, and research which pacifiers are most likely to ensure straight teeth and acceptance into the most desirable preschools.
Congratulations, you had a baby! Bring your baby home. Spend the first 5-200 minutes just staring at the baby and trying desperately to remember what you’re supposed to do. Fall hopelessly in love with the tiny, sleepy, hungry, sometimes stinky human in front of you.
Take a look at that sleep schedule you mapped out. Enjoy a nice, long laugh, preferably accompanied by a large cup of coffee. Give the whole sleep training thing your best shot, but also be mentally prepared to not sleep through the night for the next 3-20 years. It should also be noted that no matter what kind of posh crib mattress you bought or serene paint color you chose for the nursery, most babies prefer to wait until they’re strapped into a car seat to fall asleep. We recommend adding at least 45 minutes to your errand-running time to allow for naps in the Target parking lot.
Once your children reach school age, you’ll need to not only get them to go to sleep at a reasonable time, but also get them to wake up at a reasonable time. Please see Figure 1.A for instructions. Just kidding! There’s no Figure 1.A. Maybe try bribing them with cartoons and toaster waffles (or any of the other items on the “never” list you made before you were a parent).
Feeding a person whose stomach is the size of a marble might not seem like a big job, but let us assure you, it is. Whether you breastfeed, bottle feed, or some combination of the two, you should plan on setting aside a large percentage of your day (and night) for this purpose. Don’t forget to burp your baby so she can throw up half of every meal on your shirt!
As your children get older, it’s important to note that whether you buy organic fruit snacks sweetened with unicorn smiles or the plain ol’ high fructose corn syrup ones, they will find a way to cover them in germs prior to consumption. The 5 Second Rule will turn into the 10 Second Rule, and eventually you’ll just sigh and look the other way when your toddler pulls a goldfish from the depths of the couch cushions and pops it into his mouth.
Parenthood starts with diapers, spit-up, and tiny nostrils full of giant boogers (but don’t worry, you can use a Nose Frida to remove them from your baby’s nose using suction from your own mouth, so that’s handy).
That might sound gross, but don’t worry, it will prepare you for all the other gross things in your future, like potty training and puberty.
Care & Safety
This is a big one. Your child will be born with only the most basic self-preservation instincts, and even those will seem to disappear during the toddler years. While it can be tempting to line your child’s clothing with bubble wrap or try to convince them that helmets and shin guards are normal playground attire, we suggest striking a perfect balance between the healthy acceptance that kids get hurt sometimes and constant, anxiety-riddled vigilance.
It’s best to just assume that your children will require survival assistance indefinitely. Since you won’t be around forever, it’s a good idea to go ahead and get a reliable life insurance policy in place so you can continue to take care of them from beyond the grave.
Quick Start Guide
If you just read all this and are feeling overwhelmed, here’s the short version:
Step 1: Have a baby
Step 2: Wing it for the next 18-75 years
The diapers, boogers, germs, and sleepless nights are all joys that we’ll leave to you as a parent. What we can do, though, is connect you with a life insurance plan to help keep your family safe, sound, and better provided for if something should happen to you. We can even get started right now, with a free life insurance quote. Because the truth is, there’s no instruction manual for parenthood, but there is a good rule of thumb: be prepared for absolutely anything.