Perhaps the most surprising thing about parenting a newborn child1 is the fact that you need to figure it all out by yourself.
Parenting is not really a recent invention. In fact, humans have been doing it since even before we formed as species. Every generation in the history of mankind has done it — literally! — and no generation was a complete failure at it so far. You’d think that after accumulating knowledge in this area for tens of thousands of years, the most basic things would be common knowledge by today, wouldn’t you? You’d suppose that countless generations of this experience would result in some kind of a comprehensive and exhaustive manual for the benefit of those who make their first steps on this path, right? After all, it isn’t too much likely that new people stop becoming parents anytime soon.
Well, the manual isn’t there. Or, rather, there are numerous manuals that contradict each other in every possible way. You’d think after all these years there’d at least be a consensus on what to do and not to do, nevermind on how exactly to do things, but alas. Every new specialist you ask has a different opinion, every new book you read holds a new paradigm, incompatible with the ones from every single book you’ve read so far.
And then there is the kind of advice I hate the most. “You absolutely need to do A, it’s very good for your child, and it’s extremely bad if you don’t do it; however, about half of the babies can’t do A, and if your baby is among those, doing A can be really harmful; in that case, you’ll need to do B or even C, whatever suits your baby most; just trust your instinct!"2 Well, if there’s one thing your instinct tells you as a new parent, it’s that your baby is precious, vulnerable, very fragile and absolutely not to be used as a guinea pig.
So you try to figure it out yourself. You try to make sense of everything you’ve read and heard about parenting. You take (with a grain of salt, of course) advice from your own parents, who didn’t do a truly splendid job on raising you, but at least managed to avoid fatal mistakes, or so it seems. You take advice from your friends. And from their parents. And you try very hard to find at least something everybody agrees on, some common point in this never-ending parade of parenting concepts.
And then it dawns on you.
People are different. No two people are completely alike, and the same goes for kids. As a parent, your job is to try harder than humanly possible and understand what your baby needs, what it wants, what bothers it, what gives it pain, and what you can do to make it better. Your job is to do your best (and then some) to make sure your baby has everything it needs, is not hurt in any way, and is a warm happy little creature in this big cold world. Wait, there’s a word for that.
Your job is to love your child.
That’s actually what every book and every specialist told you, the one thing that everybody agrees on. Love. Just learn how to truly love your kid, and everything else comes naturally.
All you need is love. And a contact of a good paediatrician, just in case. That’s enough to raise a happy, healthy, awesome child.
I really hope it is.