Nothing to Fear but…

I have to say that the prospect of raising a child in today’s world is not the most comforting of thoughts.

Riding the subway every day makes me wonder what sort of creature will evolve from the combination of our biology and our nurturing.

How many kids do I pass by on the subway that reek of cigarette smoke, or pot? How many of them are talking about the kickass party last night where so-and-so puked their guts out from alcohol poisoning?

Which is fine if we’re talking about university students. But a lot of these kids have only had their double digit ages for a few years.

And these are the tame ones.

Why are we doing this again?


Children are our legacy. Most of us are programmed to want to create them.

It’s the whole raising thing that’s the tricky part.

How do we do that? Certainly there are likely thousands of books on the subject, all with differing points of view. Books like The Right Way to Raise Your Child by Dr. So-and-So, or Teething is the Devil by some former nanny, or maybe Preparing For Your Child’s College Education by Collecting Beer Bottle Deposits, whose author I even don’t want to think about*.

On top of these many, many reference texts, there are the many, many tidbits of advice from well-meaning people. I remember when my little pun’kin was just eight months old when he started walking. Make sure you coat the entire house in thick foam to prevent bruises, they say. Sometimes you hear things like, breast feeding is the only way to do things. If you don’t I’ll come to your house and beat you about the head and neck with a broken bottle. It makes you feel all warm and tingly inside**.

It’s all very confusing.

From a social point of view, it’s interesting. There seems to be a fundamental need for some of those in the know to share their experiences. This isn’t limited to child-rearing knowledge, so it’s not really a surprise. The interesting part is how emphatic these people are when they tell you about what to do with a baby. There is a look in their eyes of secret hope that you will go through some of the same hell that they went through, so they don’t feel alone.

This is perhaps a bit strong, as there are an equal number of people who don’t do this. You know who I’m talking about. Yeah. Those people who look relaxed and cool with their baby, who is quiet as a mouse and already doing long division using cheerios and strained peas on their high chair trays.

It’s quite a contrast between these two factions.

The most interesting thing about sitting on the cusp of being a parent is the uncertainty as to which side I will fall on.

Response Ability

It’s a weird feeling, not knowing what kind of parent you will be.

It would be more comforting if we each came with a label, or a file perhaps, that contained information as to what sort of abilities we will each have when it comes to helping our children grow up properly.

Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge (even with the use of a magnifying glass and halogen lamp), I haven’t found anything.


So I can’t help but feel a bit anxious.

A number have people have told me that they think I will make a great father. A dad, even***.

This is a nice compliment. But really, how do they know?

Raising children seems to be something that people try to plan for. A proactive endeavour that usually results in highly reactive behaviour.

Which raises my heart rate a little.

Oops. Cold sweats too, apparently.

Do I have what it takes? I certainly hope so.

Worrying for Nothing. Chicks for Free.

Chicks as in kids, before you get the wrong idea.

I agonize about the most trivial things at the best of times. Child raising is far from trivial, in my opinion. So you can imagine what sort of agonizing is going on here. We’re talking about large cargo bins full of the stuff.

And yet, as I typed this article sitting in the window of a coffee shop, several people walked by pushing their babies in strollers. All smiles. No worries.

I can’t help but smile back, as it calms me a little to see things like that. I wonder if all of my agonizing is for nothing.

I guess there is nothing for me to do but wait and see.

Several people have told me that things will always turn out okay if I just do my best. They say that people always find a way to make it happen.

I guess that’s all any of us can do.

* – Yes, I made all three of those books up. However, if these books do exist, I wouldn’t be surprised.
** – Yes, I made these up as well. Take a pill.
*** – As silly as it sounds, when I hear a compliment directed towards me, I secretly dread Triumph the Insult Comic Dog jumping out from behind some nearby structure yelling out FOR ME TO POOP ON!!!

22 Responses

  1. Welcome to the world of parenting. I think we all felt that way. Kids don’t have an instruction manual. And you will find just because something worked for Ted and Alice does not mean it will work for you and your child. What was the norm for one kid is not necessarily they way things work for the next. Ask most parents that have 2 or more kids. They are each individual.

    I have met people that bragged they had their kids on solids in a very short time. Some kids start walking as early as 7 months (or earlier). I know one person who’s child did not start walking until 2 years of age! But when the kid decided to walk there was no staggering or falling. Just up and went.

    The other joy of raising children is the chemistry of the parents. It is easy to say “keep a unified, consistant front for the child’s sake”, but it is quite a different story when one of you thinks the right thing is to do “A” while the other is convinced the right thing is to do “B”. It is also harder to come to a rational conclusion at 3 AM when you are both sleep deprived and the child is screaming and you don’t know how to make it stop!

    You will also find that as they become older they start having their own opinions and it is heavily influenced by their friends. When as a parent you feel they are not old enough to go it alone (whatever the particular “it” is at the time) and you feel they haven’t got the experience. Many will do whatever when you are not around. The angst for parents never goes away.

    I take some comfort in the fact that the human race has been raising children for millenia without instruction books. It is all about trial and error. You *will* make mistakes. But you just do your best. You ask friends and family what worked for them and choose the approach you think makes the most sense for you in your situation. There is no *right* answer because the personalities of the children and parents are a unique combination.

    As they say in the online video games … GLHF (good luck, have fun)!

    To quote George Jetson on the treadmill “Jane, how do I stop this crazy thing?”

    Been there, done that, stiches pulled. And yet the saga continues …


  2. Here is my quick list of things to know …

    – Everyone has an opinion on how to do/solve everything. What you are currently doing will rarely be right.
    – Asking 2 people for advice or help with something will almost always result in 2 different answers. Even among doctors and nurses in the same hospital.
    – Take all the input from around you and use what makes the most sense for you.
    – ‘the kid’ will let you know what they want (Travis is a stomach sleeper, no matter how many people told us that this would significantly increase the chance of SIDS … guess what, sleeping on his stomach increased his chance of sleeping 100%)
    – Get any man stuff you need to, done now … it is hard to do man stuff with a diaper bag on one shoulder and spit-up on the other.

    And yes I understand the ironicallity of starting this opinion piece by stating everyone has an opinion. I have also made up a word.

  3. Jorge.

    To speak to you in baby-talk…

    “Who is the rational man? Who is the rational man? Whoooo isss theeee rational maaaan??!!”

    The answer, of course, is you are! The fact that you’re asking, acknowledging and trying to solve these questions/problems is a good sign of things to come. You’re so gonna rock being a Father!

    [psst – remember that convo we had that one time…? you’ve done this before. you can CERTAINLY do it again.]

    [pssssst to the first psst – that sounded creepy, but you may know what i’m talkin’ about. if not, then the sickness i’m feeling is making me delusional and nonsensical.]

    Y’all are gonna be wonderful parents. And you kinda know it.

  4. Man, you really do worry too much.

    Here’s the deal:

    You’re going to be a bad parent. One day you’re going to realize you’re acting in exactly the same way as you promised yourself you wouldn’t because your parents did that, and you promised yourself you were never going to do that with your own kids. You’re going to prevent your child from having an important learning experience because of your fear that it could possibly turn out badly. You’re going to let them (perhaps through lack of attention) get into a situation where they get hurt — physically, emotionally, mentally. You’re going to leave them in the care of people who will then behave in ways that you consider irresponsible. You’re going to be mean, and say hurtful things to them.

    You’re going to be a good parent. You and your partner are going to come up with your own ways of doing things, which will be better than either of your parents. You’re going to create positive experiences that you never had as a child, and your child will relish them. You’re going to protect them from harm, and care for them with immense compassion when they get hurt despite your best efforts. You’re going to trust others to do their best to care for your own child, because you believe that your child will benefit in the long run from doing so. You’re going to love them, and tell them so, and tell them why.

    You’re going to keep worrying, just as much as you are worrying now, after the child is born (it never goes away). You’re going to have more kids, or not, and worry about whether that was the best choice for your child. The worrying is actually what good parenting is, as long as you and your partner go ahead and make the decisions you need to make.

    You’re always going to do your best with the resources available to you. That’s all anyone can do. It won’t be acceptable to you, but you have to accept that.

  5. Oh the wonder of it all … Remember love and listening are important factors from both the parent and the child .. There are no gauntee’s(sp) as to what kind of parent you will be, you will make mistakes that is human …
    Everyone will have some thing to say about their sweet little jonhy or jane. My child did this at this age etc . IT’S all bullshit …. a child and parent grow together at their own pace … No child , no parent are the same . Have faith and teach your child/dren in what you believe and leave room for their belief’s later in life …
    It is a wonderious thing and an uncertain thing being the parent and the child … love one another and “like” one another is all you can do … ah but how much is bullshit here, only time will tell, as the years go by with tears of joy , tears of frustration and tears of love, fall ….

  6. Oh the wonder of it all … Remember love and listening are important factors from both the parent and the child .. There are no gauntee’s(sp) as to what kind of parent you will be, you will make mistakes that is human …
    Everyone will have some thing to say about their sweet little jonhy or jane. My child did this at this age etc . IT’S all bullshit …. a child and parent grow together at their own pace … No child , no parent are the same . Have faith and teach your child/dren in what you believe and leave room for their belief’s later in life …
    It is a wonderious thing and an uncertain thing being the parent and the child … love one another and “like” one another is all you can do … ah but how much is bullshit here, only time will tell, as the years go by with tears of joy , tears of frustration and tears of love, . This response is not that different from some that you have … trust your gut, trust you partner, like and respect each feeling or act the other may have that is different then yours… listen closly to what your heart says, it is usualy true. one final thing don’t sweep anything under the carpet so to speak as it will come back to you or worse your child …
    Hang in there :)this is a life time thing and it is filled with so much life …good and bad …



  7. My phylosophy on the whole thing is to love your children unconditionally. Try to be a good role model and become involved in their lives. If they feel loved and well secured then you have laid a foundation that they can use to face the hardships of the world.

    Is this an absolute, no it is not, after all children do develop their own characters.

    As far as the fear, been there done that and it all goes away when you realise that you were meant to do this. I love being a father and there are more rewards than minus at this point of my child’s development. It could change but they require your attention now not later.

  8. PS – the books did help calm the fears of the first 4 months of my child’s development, but that was mainly to calm my fears. Once I started ralizing that she was an individual who was gifted on certain things but slow to learn on others I threw the books away.

    Having fears is natural – This is a lifelong committment, if you were not worried you would not be a parent.

  9. You’ll be the best parent you can be.

    You’ll also be the worst parent you can be.

    You get the first ten years to raise ’em, and the next text years to see how you did.

  10. Jorge you are so going to rock at this parenting stuff!
    Don’t worry, just love your kid for the first couple of years…. Everything works itself out.
    After that your child is going to develop a personality. It will be differrent than any other child’s out there. It will be unique and if you have more than one child it will be different for all.
    I have one piece of advice to go along with all the other great advice you are getting.
    PLEASE, PLEASE DO NOT BE AFRAID TO SAY NO to your child. I have watched 100’s of kids grow up in this neighbourhood, and I’ve watched the parents that give in to thier kids demands raise those same children that you so despise on the subway.
    Then there are the other parents that say, “NO, you can not have that, but you can have a hug and it doesn’t mean I don’t love you.” Give them all the love they can handle, just don’t substitute that love with materialism.
    Also I would like to highlight Richard’s remark… always provide a united front. If the two of you have different parenting syles only practice one of them when your both together. Settle these things in private. Always take the hard road… you can change your mind or your spouses mind later in private.
    You also seem to have a lot of great friends with good advice that I’m sure will support you every step of the way.

    Good luck… been there done that, was as worried as you are now… I read all those books, very little applied to my child, the authors had totally different kids!

  11. There are people who say, ‘The world is so awful – how can we bring a child into it?’

    To me, this is defeatist and despairing. It’s wrong. Better to say, ‘My child’s presence on this planet will make it a better place.’

    Becoming as father was and still is the best thing I ever did. True, it is terrifying to love another human being that much – but that’s no reason not to do it.

    And as Shakespeare said, ‘The world must be peopled.’

    – Nick

  12. Even if there was an instruction manual, you wouldn’t follow it. You don’t read the one for the DVD player, why would you for the kid? 🙂

    I’ve found that I just have to make decisions based on how I feel, and hope for the best. Parenting is anything but an exact science. If the child grows up just mildly screwed-up, you’ll have done the job well.

    What you’ve already shown, Jorge, is a deep, abiding need to be the best parent you can be. And that will be what makes the difference.

    Good luck, buddy.

  13. Jorge,

    There is no manual. You just do it. You know what is right. Take the best things that your parents instilled in you and apply them. If you start early and reinforce sound, good principles you start to get them conditioned to acting and behaving in a way that is not detrimental to themselves.

    All I do know is that exposing them to as much as you can, point out the bad or poor aspects of behaviour and instill a sense of wonder in them. It is tiring and hard work. you didn’t think those 13 seconds of pleasure were going to come back and bite you in the ass now did you?!?!?

    I may not be a Dr. Spock-like authority on the matter but you can always use me as a sounding board.


  14. Hey man… I found out a couple of years ago, that not only did my mother smoke ALL through pregnancy, and took some illicit drugs, (which was a REAL shock, considering MY mother) but she also raised me according to Dr. Spock… (No, not the Star Trek guy…) and somehow… I turned out all right! Not only that, but I have somehow managed to successfully at least HALF raise (she’s ten) a wonderful, bright, intelligent and caring daughter.

    Dude, if I can do it… you can DEFINITELY do it. 🙂

    I won’t say anything as trite as “stop worrying”, because you won’t. Not ever. But let’s say… worry LESS. 🙂

    (And take that advice about the “guy stuff”, seriously.)

  15. Oh honey,

    You are worrying too much. You will be a perfect Dad as you are caring and considerate. If the child happens to want to drink/smoke/do drugs as a teenager (as if you didn’t) then he/she will. It just happens and we all learn from our own experiences and use them to share – as you are doing in your blog and with your photography – you share.

    Sharing, caring, compassion, and empathy have gotten you this far – the baby is a stepping stone to a new world you will love, be confused by, and enjoy.

    Take care and hugs to Mrs. J. – she’s carrying a larger load 🙂


  16. Listen, I started smoking at 13 and drinking at 16. Look how I turned out!

    Okay, maybe that didn’t help.

    You ARE going to be a great dad and Mrs J is going to be a great mom. How do I know? I’m psychic. I predicted Steve Irwin’s death a week before he died!

    I know, I know, still not helping but I know with you guys as parents, your kid is going to be one lucky little duck and grow up just fine. Stop worrying so much.

  17. What I’ve noticed about my future parenting techniques:

    My future two-year-old neice and nephew twins like to run around in circles chasing each other until they get dizzy and fall down laughing. My future father-in-law constantly tries to get them to stop because, as he tells them, they will fall down and hurt themselves. But heck, that’s what kids do. They run around in circles until they fall down and hurt themselves. So I tend to encourage the chasing each other in circles. As long as there are no sharp metal objects around or glass shards or spiky toys, then who cares? They are having fun and tiring themselves out at the same time. 😉

  18. I’m proud that you are taking the big step of becoming a father in today’s world. You can be the one who makes a difference by raising your child to be strong. Many folks are afraid of procreating in this day and age, but if nobody procreates, who’s going to be around to cure cancer and other illnesses and diseases. Congratulations in taking a step to help make our future better by raising your future child. Just make sure he/she doesn’t end up being a lawyer 😛

  19. that last comment was me

  20. Sarah’s dad always had a theory, which went something like this:

    There’s a lot of gonads in the world, and it’s the gonads that seem to be having most of the kids. It’s the duty of the non-gonad populace to bare non-gonad children, so there’s someone to lead the gonads, keep them from hurting themselves, and tell them that touching themselves is not an outdoors activity.

  21. It’s not?

  22. Jorge,

    Everyone has a good point here. Try not to completely panic before the bairn has even arrived. Zac has an excellent point. You will suck and you will rock at this whole parent thing.

    No one will know the best way to raise your kid. Not even you. But the best thing you can do is accept that you will screw up (and sometimes it will be a doozy, and sometimes it’s not worth mentioning), but the important thing is to do the thing that you think is best. Ignore everyone’s opinion (except mine, of course. 🙂 ) and follow what you (plural) think is right.

    It’s reduced the stress in my life with my Mini Man. And yes, we have “SPF” days (think hard…’stupid parent factor’) some high and some low. But Mini is still growing and happy, so I can’t have messed up that badly.

    So, take a deep breath. You’ve taken the plunge already. Enjoy this. It will be the best ride of your life.

    Belle (Happy to be a Mum still.)

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