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Winging-it style parenting and other metaphors

December 11, 2014 The Wine Time Dad 1 Comments Category : , , , ,

Warning: This post will end up in the shower. There is no way around that. Carry on...

As we come up on the 2014 Winter Holiday or Christmas (whatever you want to call it), I'm closing in on two years of being a father and 21 months of doing the stay-at-home thing. Congratulations to me for making it this far without killing my child or myself! I still don't know much about raising a child, as I never did the research, but I consider myself a winner for this fact alone. My participation in life consists of flying by the seat of my pants, thusly, parenting is no different.

In terms of parenting, I suppose I should give myself a modicum of credit. The pre/post-birth me wasn't necessarily scared shitless, but he was concerned about his utter lack of baby knowledge. Maybe more concerning, was my lack of desire to actively edify myself in baby matter, and, later on, all things toddler. In this day and age, where most new parents from the middle class up, barricade their ignorance and fear with baby books galore, I probably had no excuse to be as laughably unprepared as I was. This was all very overwhelming for a born slacker and procrastinator, and a pretty insurmountable task for one such as myself.

However, I was hoping that my more studious and schedule oriented wife would do the leg work and filter it down to me. She did and still does. I'm eternally grateful. I've been able to waste that precious time indulging in more important activities like research (reading fantasy), writing (mostly watching 'True Life', 'Pit Bulls and Paroles' and... Maybe 'Gypsy Sisters'), and debating (arguing on FB and Twitter). For my part, I would wing the rest until I became a pro. Winging it is the perpetual motto of my life.

I was sure that almost two years down the road, which would be today, my ignorance wouldn't matter. "Future" me would be way better off and more in control than "past" me. Trial by fire. Fake it till you make it. Wing it till you crash it. Let the miracle of time-magic (a new phrase I'm coining, if it hasn't been already) abracadabra your inexperience and ignorance away... Pick any metaphor you like.

To date, this has all worked in some sort of nebulous way..

Currently, I don't think I've read more than 40-50 pages of anything relating to child-rearing (that number may actually be less) and we've managed to avoid rearing a biter. She also notifies us when she's made a deposit, which is "such a big girl thing" according to one of the mothers in the play group (oh yes, she's in a playgroup). All this serve to reinforce my parenting prowess. More specifically, it reinforces my deft handling of a lengthy and complex process, despite the litany of "I don't fucking know..." sentences that used to run through my head several times a day (not so much anymore).

Time, it seems, has turned me into a super dad.

But, in my private moments and on this blog, I know it's only a matter of time before the next "Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy sheee-it!" moment arrives (try to keep in mind that what comes out of my mouth doesn't always match the situation).

If present me could go back, he would remind pre-bith me of the truism that time alone does not have magical teaching properties. Knowledge and skill don't inevitably sky-rocket for the better over great swaths of time when you do the bare minimum in learning. Or course, you learn by doing it but that only takes you so far. Some outside input is needed.

Fortunately for me, I wasn't entirely without outside input. There was and is always my aforementioned super studious wife. Our relationship has drilled home the fact that it's always easier making decisions when you have an accomplice- especially if one of them has at least looked into the matter.


When that tactic doesn't work or my wife has no useful input (which never happens according to her), I would ask the child's grandmother, a nurse, for advice. Grandmothers, especially those in the medical arena, are a font of child-rearing knowledge of which they are always ready to pour into your open ear.

My second to last tactic always involved frantically scouring google for related articles and comparing them to my wife's input and the grandmother's advice. All while a screaming baby-toddler was trying to pound her crumby hands on my shiny light-up wonder (a made up baby description for my laptop, obviously).

Regardless of the tactic I went with and/ or whose advice/ input I sought, parenting was/ is always peppered with the "winging it" element. At least when the wife isn't around. Actually, no witnesses are best. I'm so much more confident when I solo-parent; there's no one around to disagree with me.

Have I told you of my ingenuity with children's tylenol?

Well, in case you didn't know, the dosages for infants and toddlers, under a certain weight, are not found on the box. Not even the grandmother knew. Bummer. But, you can just go online and look it up (good thinking, DC Daddy). When you find the weight chart but don't know your child's exact weight, just wing it. Estimate how much you think they've gained since their last check-up, and give them slightly less than the recommended dosage. Remember it's children's tylenol, it won't kill them (my uneducated opinion). And, look at that! It seems that your screaming minion is doing better already. Not only are you a genius, you're pretty fucking awesome. You can't lose!

But, not really.

The unfortunate side-effect of getting it right that one time, is that you've become convinced that you know what you're doing when you really don't. You will forever after argue with anyone who tries to do things differently, including your partner, who has now done the same relevant research as you but actually followed the instructions. Because of your first major success, you will be reluctant to change your ways- forever relying on your ingenious child-rearing intuition.

Which is why after nearly two very long years of child-rearing, I made a snap decision and put my daughter in the bathtub after lunch the other day.

[start anecdote]

We got home after a lovely outing to and from a museum, it was raining. She was hungry and I was tired. I didn't want to make her anything elaborate, which I always do. Besides she had some more teeth coming in, making her irritable and less likely to eat anything I made for her. Good thing there was an opened can of two-day old beefaroni in the fridge. Red, sloppy, soupy beef-a-roni. Perfect for slapping down on a highchair tray while I zone out and she watches TV. Oh look! "Peg + Cat" is on, daddy's favorite fucking show. 

I was almost a asleep fifteen minutes later when I jerked awake and stared at the red sauce mess that was the entire upper front half of my daughter. Still she sat there, slack-jawed and wide-eyed, fingering the dregs out of her bowl. Just as she picked up the bowl to "drink" the remaining sauce, now cold, I snatched the bowl away and only briefly thought of getting a towel to wipe her down. 

No towel was going to fix this

How was I going to get her from the chair to the shower without her touching my clothes? Of course! I'll take my shirt off and stiff-arm carry her to the bath.

"Boobies!" She yells happily as I take my shirt off. 

Time to move her. 

She's starting to cry... I'll just leave her diaper on- it's dirty anyways. 

Where's her soap? Ah, no time. I'll just grab the handsoap off from the sink... 

So, there I stood, sorry, kneeled, while I sprayed-cleaned my screaming daughter after her lunch. I gently wiped the entirety of her sauce coated face off with just a wet rag, but I had to use the handsoap on her body. After I felt she was clean enough to re-clothe, I took her diaper off; it had been on the whole time.

[end anecdote]

I'll admit that I was tired and not thinking clearly, but things could have been much worse if I hadn't showered her off. In my hurry to get her fed, I hadn't strapped her in, relying only on the locked-in tray. Had I taken the tray off, she would've escaped and covered the surrounding area in beefaroni sauce. Frantically putting an angry toddler in the shower was the only way to mitigate that situation.

So why did I waste your time with a second, lengthier anecdote relating to my theme? Mostly because I wanted to stay true to my word about this post ending up in the shower. Also, it was this incident that really made me realize how much I rely on a winging it to parent.

By modern parenting standards, I've probably been barely pulling a 'C-' in this class... Pathetic.

And, my toddler watches way too much TV.  D-

But, not as much as other kids.  D+

She's also very friendly and polite. Back to a C- (^_^)!

Furthermore, I haven't accidentally tossed her out a window in my excitement during a televised sporting event. An A for effort, buddy!

Really, the point I wanted to illustrate is that I, as the self-appointed representative of the "every parent" here, feel like this is how we mostly do things. We wing-it. If you sometimes guess dosages (on the low end, of course) or have to throw your toddler in the shower after lunch, or a rear-end blast, that's what you have to do. Sometimes a mess can't be managed with a wet rag or even baby wipes. Sometimes it's best to just wash the whole thing off. A reset. It's, like, another metaphor, man. If you can recognize this without either beating yourself up or getting too complacent, then consider yourself a winner. Sort of..