Wednesday, December 29, 2010

if we only knew...

Today I met my dear friends to give them some guidance on their baby registry.  As first time parents, they are entering into this experience with wide-eyes, and a whole range of emotions.  They recruited me to 'show them the ropes', and give them insight into the necessities for bringing a little one into the world.  What a fun little honor...and I was happy to oblige.  So, off we went, to Target and BRU (Babies R Us), the quintessential mecca for mommies-to-be. 

As we roamed up and down the aisles, scanning item after item, comparing prices/features/colors, I was providing the happy couple with insight, ideas, and inspiration.  I'm generally not an overly opinionated person (this statement will come as a shock to many people I'm sure!).  Well, let me rephrase this.  I have have strong opinions about many things (thank you, Italian side of the family), however there is a big part of me that falls under the category of 'people pleaser'.  I want to be liked, I want to make sure others are happy.  So giving my so-called 'expert' opinion to my friends presented me with a challenge.  'What if they don't like the item/design/style/performance of the thing I urged them to register for?'  'What if they think I'm ridiculous for telling them they 'need' all these things--only to discover down the line that they could have gotten by without some of it?'

I found myself using the phrase 'personal preference' a lot today.  Because that's what a lot of parenting is.  Sure, there are countless books out there that give advice on pregnancy, infancy, toddlerhood, and all the way up the age scale.  But, with that plethora of information available to you, it still is up to you, the parent, on which advice you will take to heart and which you will take with a grain of salt.  It's only natural for 'experienced' parents to offer advice to those with less experience.  For example, I remember when Gavin was just 3 weeks old, and I received quite a bit of unsolicited advice from a mommy whose baby was 4 months old.  Really?  You mean to tell me that in those 13 'extra' weeks of mommyhood you have unlocked the deepest, darkest secrets of parenting?  You've mastered it all, know it all, and are qualified to teach it all?  Yes, your kid is older.  Congratulations.  Your biological clock was just slightly faster than mine.  Here's your prize.

I'm not gonna lie.  I offer advice.  But I am very cognizant of the way in which I offer my advice, because it's not always what you say, but how you say it (I swore I'd never turn into my mom, yet here I am using her infamous phrase that I heard from her on a daily basis as a teenager!).  It's a challenge not to fall into the 'advice trap' when you're around a group of mommies.  Mommies are a competitive species.  Some mommies are so headstrong, so deadset on their 'personal preferences' for parenting, while others have this incessant need to hear their own voice and be told their doing an amazing job.  It's the combination of those two mommy personalities that you've got to watch out for.  Those are the mommies I observe and mental a BOLD FACED mental note of their ridiculous ways so that I'll never become like them.  (However, as I type this blog about mommyhood...I fear I'm sounding hypocritical.  Please know that is not my intent. I have my parenting preferences, but try to keep them to myself, or if I do share, I want them to come across in terms of a funny anecdote from my personal experiences.  I also don't need to hear I'm doing an amazing job.  It's refreshing to hear, but I know I am each day when my kids hug me or smile at me.  That's all I need.)

So today, I had my friends asking my input on their registry choices and I faced a dichotomy.  Do I...A.) offer advice by way of my personal opinion, or B.) let them make their own choices, without my input.  If I chose option A, I had to tread carefully so as to not become one of 'those' mommies, because it's easy to get sucked into the whirlwind of mommyhood chatter.  So option B is looking more like a wise choice, right?  Well, at first, yes.  I didn't run the risk of suggesting something that made me look like a mommy who has fallen victim to the clever marketing schemes 'baby gear' designers use to trick people into thinking their parenting experience isn't complete without their particular product. 

But then I took a moment and look at my friends' faces.  Their eyes.  The worry, the apprehension, the overwhelmed anxiety they're experiencing is evident in their saucer-sized eyes.  Parenthood is the single most exciting and thrilling experience of my life, and I know it will be for them as well.  But parenthood is also a bigger range of emotions than that.  And right now, my friends, who are just barely parents, are facing a fearful realization.  They need stuff--and they don't know where to begin.  I had no choice but to select option B, and just revert to my careful and contientious manner of offering advice.  Thankfully, it worked, and after about 4 hours and 2 different stores, my friends are able to check off a big part of the preparation for baby.

This whole experience took me back 5 years.  Randy and I were wandering aimlessly through the aisles of BRU, eyes pretty much the same size I saw on my friends today.  I was completely overwhelmed, excited, anxious, nervous...etc, etc.  Being 1,700 miles away from *home*, away from family, away from anyone and everyone who could give us advice was not the ideal situation.  Yet there we were.  Scanner in hand, we generated a registry full of what we thought would help create the best environment for our growing little buddle of joy. 

I empathized with my friends today, as they painstakingly chose the *perfect* items for their baby, however at the same time, I had a great feeling of accomplishment.  I've been there, in their shoes, and have survived.  I remember agonzing over the specific color/design/brand/style of each baby item I brought into our home, only to look back and realize that those details aren't what I remember most about my kids as babies.  It's hard to tell an excited couple that, though.  I want them to go through the whole process that we did, because without going through that, you don't have the opportunity to one day say, "if only we knew then what we know now".

 We were so scared...but so happy...
Our first official family photo, May, 2006

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