Being a parent bears a ton of complexity, and yet, the simple things are what I value the most. After two years of parenting, these are a few of my most important lessons:
#1 Babies Grow Up Too Fast
But it hit me hard when Jacobi turned two. Maybe it was the birthday party, or the haircut, but whatever it was, I saw in an instant that Baby Jacobi was gone. It was the dawn of the second day, and Toddler Jacobi was on the rise. There’d be no more first laughs, no more frightening first steps, and no more lazy mornings with Jacobi swaddled and cradled against my chest. I know there will be other “firsts”, but those big firsts that come in the early years of life are amazing on a level that I didn’t understand at the time. They seemed so simple at the time, but looking back, I see how much more important they really were—not in the grand scheme of life, but to me, in particular.
#2 Seeing Your Kid Laugh Is Awesome
One thing I knew for sure was when that kid laughed, he did so because he was genuinely happy. The first time I heard him laugh for any prolonged amount of time, I was hiding behind the couch, popping out, and spitting at the air in front of him with my lips pursed (making that PFFFFFFFT sound). Jacobi loved it, and his bright smile turned to little chuckles, and then into squeals of glee. I had tears in my eyes when it was over. I was happy, too. My son had a sense of humor, why shouldn’t I be happy? To this day, any laugh I can get out of Jacobi is like gold.
#3 ...But Sharing An Emotion Might Be Even Better
#4 Reading Is Important
I let Jacobi explore the pages. I tried reading with different inflections and accents to gauge his reactions. Once he knew how to point, I’d let him interact with the pictures and words as I read. When started to talk, I’d help him sound out words. It didn’t take a lot of effort. It was fun, and it relates to what I mentioned before about sharing moments together. Now, if we could only read comic books together…
#5 Information Can Be Your Worst Enemy
By the time Jacobi was born, I’d read probably three or four books on parenting and/or childbirth. I considered myself prepared. Of course, there’s hundreds of little things that I missed, ignored, or forgot about, and so I leapt back into the books or onto the internet whenever I needed a refresher. To this day, I still have trouble with this, which is why I think it is such a complex idea. The truth is that it all really comes from my insecurity as a parent.
I don’t always feel this way, but when I really don’t know how to approach Jacobi’s behaviors, I start to doubt myself, and so I try to figure out what hundreds of other parents or doctors have done. Ultimately (and I have to remind myself this point all the time), there are a ton of different ways to raise a child. Bottle fed VS Breast fed. Juice VS Water. TV VS No TV. The simplest approach for me is to talk with my wife and figure it out together. There’s nothing wrong with getting some information, but sometimes, all that information just covers up the parenting instincts. Just be a parent.