It's so weird. It seems like, for a few years there, every summer would have friends' weddings. Now, I keep hearing about friends' pregnancies. I keep trying to make the connection there, but it eludes me. Anyway, I'm thrilled to have so many Moms and Dads (whether they're brand new, or soon-to-be) as Friends! I have heard that once you're married, you just want to hang out with married people, and once you have kids, you just want to hang out with other parents. I'm thrilled to report that so far, that has not been the case with my nearest and dearest. They make time for me and my unmarried, childless problems ("I can't decide if I want to take a yoga class, or start drinking more! Waaah!"). All the same, though, I want to be sure that I can still offer wise counsel to my friends as they go from colleagues and school chums to Moms and Dads and I think I know how.
Dream: Tell other people how to care for their baby.
Goal: Achievable. As a childless man, there's nothing I can opine about more emphatically than infant care, and I have some ideas.
Plan: Share my baby-rearing tips so that expectant parents can have an easier time of their babyhood. Maybe you can print this out and tape it somewhere prominent like your refrigerator, coffee table, or engorged breasts. Here's what every parent-to-be needs to know.
1) Naming is critical. An anecdote: At the clothing store where I work, my boss was calling another location to place an item on hold for a customer. He said, "May I have your name for the hold, please?" And the customer mumbled her name and explained, "It's like Angela with an M." My boss said, "Okay so Angela M?" And she said, "No! Angela but with an M!" And he said, "Amgela?" And finally it turned out her name was Mangela. Mangela! Come on! Who names their kid Mangela? Alright, fine, maybe Mangela is a popular name in a different culture, but not in this one! Also, there are plenty of names that sound like terrible appropriations of other names like Zaiden, Shaydence, Kaylissa, Janika, Blaze, Flimsy, and Dyce. Don't do this to your kid. If you want something unconventional, at least pick a proper noun which already exists, like a place. Name your kid Dakota, or Paris, or Furniture Store.
2) Read to your baby. Reading is also critical. Even if Baby doesn't understand what you are reading, Baby gets that this is a nightly ritual and will soon become comforted and familiar with the act. To that end, I recommend reading Baby all the boring but necessary authors people will ask him/her about for his/her entire life. Get Michael Chrichton out of the way! Stephen King, too. Definitely read The Da Vinci Code because it's broken into like a thousand chapters and if someone brings Dan Brown up at a party when your child is older, they can snort and say, "Dan Brown? I read him when I was a baby." Toss a Danielle Steele in while they're still young enough to chew up the corners. And waste no time in introducing and debunking The Secret because even a baby can understand the Universe doesn't operate to get you more money or a better car and that all you "attract" by buying into that garbage is a sense of entitlement and greed.
3) Help Baby cultivate a few signature items. For instance, it's never too early to find a signature cocktail or fragrance. It took me year of drunken stumbling to find my go-to drink order, and I think I only prefer it because it's the hardest thing for the bartender to get wrong. But imagine Tiny Little City James with a vodka and tonic in a sippy cup. Adorable. Also, I know babies naturally smell nice, but they also smell like their own waste quite a bit, so splurge and dab a few drops of Chanel No. 5 to really class your infant up.
4) Sing to your Baby. I still remember my mother's made up songs from my childhood, with insightful lyrics like, "Look who's standing up straight and tall!" and "This is how come we wear pants!" If you're not inventive/clever, just copy an existing song to ensure Baby grows up with fantastic musical taste. Lull Baby to sleep with "Invisible Touch" or "Bette Davis Eyes" and make morning time an adventure with "Dress You Up (In My Love)". I remember countless nights falling asleep to Supertramp's Crime of the Century album, a memory so ingrained that the opening strains of School get me yawning comfortably.
5) Start a Baby blog! I don't mean a blog about your triumphs and struggles in your first year of parenting, that's boring and stupid. I mean start a blog from the point of view of your baby. Even if it's just, "Dream: Stop pooping in pants. Goal: Unachievable." Baby will always have that. And you don't have to use my format, Baby could express him or herself any way they wish: poems or artwork, even film pitches ("Movie idea: Keys! Keys!"). It's wide open!
Finally, teach your Baby the importance of friends, little and big. A lot of my friends are having their first babies, who are at present without siblings or work colleagues. Be sure to bring your Baby round to the park, Starbucks, and my house. It is truly a marvel for me to hold the baby of a friend or a relative and watch them blink their tiny eyes at my longish face. I always think about how weird it is that a life exists where there was none before, and that so many stars had to align, so many circumstances had to be just right, and so much love has grown and flourished, all to produce this tiny body. To think that all of us who exist were once so fragile and beautiful. Teach your baby anything you want, but teach yourself to remember these moments. Being a parent is the hardest work you'll ever undertake, so be sure to enjoy the easy part.