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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, February 26, 2007

Attention parents, I need to know something

First, my disclaimer: I swear I'm not clowning. I have nothing but respect and admiration for any and all responsible parents.

But Mrs. B and I are working on creating the next generation of James or Jill (that's Mrs. B). So I have to know from you parents, particularly those parents of children under the age of 3, do you base all your decisions on what to do on the status of your kids?

What I mean by status is whether they're hungry or full, how long till their next meal, whether they're wide awake or sleepy or likely to become sleepy anytime soon, whether something entertaining or relaxing will interest them as much or more than you or whether it's something only you would enjoy as an adult.

I watched with great interest my brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law all last week and over the weekend with their kids. They're all great parents. Very attentive, etc.

But I noticed, as much as they all love being parents (of a couple of 2-year-olds, an 8-month-old, and a 7-year-old), they are literally hamstrung depending on the kids' status.

There is no just waking up and going to the mall. There is waking up and deciding whether or not the mall is viable based on when the baby's is next likely to nap.

There is no just waking up and going to the beach, or the museum, or the zoo (substitute wherever you might take your kids here). There is waking up and deciding whether you go to the beach for one hour or four, to the museum for one hour or two, and so on and so forth, depending on when the kids are likely to want to sleep/eat/poop.

Again, I'm impressed as hell with how my bros and sis's-in-law handle their business. Still, I'm guessing I'm a little naive. I always figured regardless of whether you were at the mall or the park or the museum or the grocery, or wherever, you just toss kids in strollers and if they hafta poop they can do it in the stroller (not literally in the stroller, but you know what I mean), if they have to eat they can eat in the stroller, if they have to sleep...

But is this what I have to look forward to, my life being put on a round-the-clock schedule based on what my infants-to-toddlers want/need? I mean I understand over night sleep being an issue. You have to get them in a pattern and stick with it, right? But everything, round-the-clock?

Very disturbing. I think I'll just adopt an 18-year-old with a job, maybe.

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  • You can do it anyway you want, but you know those screaming babies and toddlers you hear when you're in the mall, a restaurant, the museum, or the grocery? They are the ones whose parents decided schedules are unimportant and they should just keep on doing what they want and make the kids adapt. Babies need stability and predictability because they can't understand well what happens next and can't express their needs verbally with efficiency. You're going to love being a parent, but please go into it knowing they will turn your world upside down, at least for a while. Trust me when I tell you that you will get more than you give from the relationship.

    By Blogger wordsonwater, at 2:31 PM  

  • James, dude -- Duh.

    Yes. Once the Pampers and bottles come along, your schedule is based on their schedule. The younger they are, the more flexible you can be - within reason - because all they do is sleep, eat, poop and start back at sleep.

    Even when you get away for a few hours without child in tow, you're thinking about what they might want or need.

    To a certain extent, you can cart along their potential wants with you wherever you go, but it's inescapable that the freedom to do whatever, whenever, on a whim is gone. Or, severely limited.

    It's all worth it, though. Every last minute.

    By Blogger SWF41, at 2:32 PM  

  • Yes. As a new, first time mother of a 10 week old, I can tell you your life will completely be turned around. It is a wonderful feeling, being a parent, but you must know things will change.

    There will be no more getting out of the house in 5-10 minutes either. There is so much to take with you and so much planning for any outing.

    It is good that you are becoming aware of this before you have a baby. Too many people are shell shocked when their life now revolves around a baby.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:23 PM  

  • By the way, I have a 20 year old son with a job and an almost 18 year old daughter with two part-time jobs. Which one do you want?

    Oh - they both also come with college tuition bills, but you know...good with the bad, blah blah blah.


    By Blogger SWF41, at 3:38 PM  

  • Nothing...and I mean nothing will change your life like a baby. I was an at home mom for 6 years and it truly was the most trying time in my life. I wouldn't do it any other way because I had certain ideas on how I wanted to raise my children, and it involved me personally raising them. That being said, I was completely tied to them and their schedules. I wouldn't have dared to miss one of their naptimes because their naptime meant I had a few minutes to nap, shower, or stare at the wall like a psycho without fear or guilt. I think WordsonWater is exactly right. Those kids throwing tantrums in public are not neccessarily brats, they could very well be exhausted and not yet equipped to handle their emotions. I think there can be a happy medium, there are def. those parents who cannot do anything bc of their kids and they end up with very bossy kids who think they rule the world...well because they essentially do! But I think this has more to do with giving into demands at a store or whining, not naptimes. Blah, blah, I even making sense anymore?

    By Blogger Lee, at 3:45 PM  

  • JB,

    I don't know anybody who has had a kid recently that has any semblance of a life they control. Children are like a black hole that sucks every bit of energy into them. But there's a benefit to that. What the parents like is not that the kid has so much control, but that now they have a good reason to put everything else on the back burner. Once you have such a bona fide and unbreakable excuse, you will use it like a perpetual "get out of doing anything that doesn't involve staying home and dealing with my family" free card.

    Kids are great, but I like my unencumbered life. I don't have any kids right now because I never wanted to be saddled with their burden of joy until I was so bored with my normal life that the other life of children was the only adventure left. I don't think that I could be a good dad until that time-I think most men fit that category. It's why I think there are so many men who don't spend time with their kids from women with whom they haven't made a family. They resent the restructuring of their whole life based on what was obviously a mistake (failure to properly use birth control by either man or woman). Women seem more welcoming of the event of childbrith and kid rearing--it seems they like that their journey into womanhood is completed once the blessed event happens. For many men, it's hard to enjoy the blessed event because you weren't ready or able to pay for it and now it's like a gift someone else picked out for you and you had to pay the installments on, but never got to test drive or see other models (or even decide if you wanted to own it).

    So JB,

    If you like your life with your wife today and you are not bored with it, then maybe you shouldn't dramatically alter it by bringing a 24-7 dependent minor child into it. I mean, you already have your wife and your in-laws and plenty of nieces and nephews to be returnable surrogates. If you never feel like you have enough "me" time away from them now, having a kid certainly ain't gonna help that.

    BTW, I'm the bachelor whose home all my married friends visit to act adolescently adult again-- no judgments, no regrets, no limits. I hear all their stories and, more importantly, their warnings. Guys don't lie to each other about stuff like that nor do they sugarcoat it in the way that women do when looking through their rose colored glasses. Right now, I don't have enough of my married or father male friends telling me how great marriage and fatherhood is to make it something I must pursue like my life depended on it. Not like the same way they harped on buying a home or getting HD.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 4:04 PM  

  • OK, I hear ya. You guys are trying that whole scared straight thing on me.

    But I'm gonna buck this one. Back to my question: Why the hell can't a baby do all the things they'd do at home (sleep, eat, poop) on the road, in a stroller or in one of those baby-carrier backpacks?

    No one has told me yet why that can't theory.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 4:07 PM  

  • Oh, and SWF41, let's talk when they've paid off the college loans. They'll still be young enough I can get 'em to mow my lawn by then.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 4:08 PM  

  • James, in theory, there isn't any reason a baby can't do their sleeping, eating and pooping anywhere they happen to be.

    In fact, the pooping part? They're guaranteed to do that everywhere. They don't care where they shit.

    But in practical terms . . . the reason they can't do their eating and sleeping away from home is that people don't leave babies alone. They want to hold them and touch them and cuddle them. The world also won't be quiet, just because it's time for the baby to take a nap.

    And babies are easily stressed. I know, what do they have to be stressed about, given all they do is sleep, eat and poop. But trust me, babies are very sensitive to external stimuli. Take a baby out, expose it to all sorts of new noises, new people, new environments and the result will be an infant version of that 3 year old that got kicked off the airplane.

    It sucks, but that's just the way it is. It's manageable. Parents do it all the time. But it does require some pre-outing preparation. And lots of patience.

    And, btw, my kids don't have student loans. It's scholarships, work and the Bank of Mom, at least for undergrad. Why do you think I'm always broke?

    Please...take one of them.

    Pretty please?

    By Blogger SWF41, at 4:59 PM  

  • OK, SWF41, but can they do yard work? And your explanation was deep and logical. I'll keep it in mind.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 5:05 PM  

  • Before I had my kids, I swore to three things:

    Never let them determine my schedule.

    Never let them watch Barney.

    Never get a minivan.

    My first published essay was precisely how I did all three of these things the minute I became a parent.

    The schedule thing is a major PIA, but so worth it in keeping your life sane in a very unsane time.

    Last night, we all went out to dinner, and my kids are now 5, 7 and 9. Hubby and I both mentioned how great it is to not have to bring baby carriers, baby food, baby diapers, baby toys, baby books, etc. etc. when we go out to dinner.

    The first 3 years sucks for the social life.

    By Blogger Manic Mom, at 5:42 PM  

  • I can barely take care of myself. There can be no nursing two-day hangovers (well, that's gonna be MY rule....).

    You'd make an excellent Big Brother and Big Sister pair.

    By Blogger Matt, at 5:58 PM  

  • I don't have kids, and I'm not sure if I do. But I'd definitely listen to those folks who have them. THEY KNOW.

    Also, babysit. I did a lot of that as a teenager and it was definitely eye-opening. Kids are really wonderful and they're a ton of responsibility and work. But from what everyone I know with kids says - you're never really ready for them, you're only willing.

    By Blogger bc, at 6:36 PM  

  • I meant, "I don't have kids, and I'm not sure if I want to." Don't know if I should, though, if I can't finish a sentence!!!

    By Blogger bc, at 6:37 PM  

  • Or you can get a puppy because you have to watch them 24/7 so that they don't pee, poop, and eat everything in sight. You have to take them out every 1/2 hour and are a real handful. My friend just got one and I dog sat and I was exhausted after a couple of hours...I couldn't focus on anything while he was there. I can't even imagine a baby...

    By Blogger Erica AP, at 6:56 PM  

  • Remember the post about the kids on the airplane i think Drew did? That is the result of not planning. You don't necessarily plan around your kids, but if you do decide to go somewhere, you do have to take into account the current disposition of your child. Are they gonna get hungry? Bring snacks. Bored? Bring something to entertain them. Sick? Bring extra meds (for you and your child, LOL). It's all about planning. You want your kids and you to enjoy the experience. I do have to say though, that when my son was less than a year old, we would wait to go to a movie until right after he ate. That means he would fall asleep on the way to the theatre, and probably sleep through the whole show. And I can;t say enough about pacifiers! Good luck on your cultivating. :-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:31 PM  

  • Eighteen year olds with jobs ain't all thier cracked up to be. Read my blog. : )

    By Blogger Angie, at 9:22 PM  

  • James, there's a lot to be said for trying to get even very young babies used to some sort of routine, no matter how much they object - & some really do.

    After all, they're going to have to live with a routine eventually - if only day & night, or the TV schedules! When they go to school, that's all routine, when they get a job - a load of that's routine, even if they work from home. So get them used to at least the idea that there are better & worse times for doing certain things (if not right & wrong times!) & try to get them to appreciate that other people are people too, have points of view worth considering - & you can start that before they're old enough to rationalise such ideas, it's probably better done that way!

    Yes, it's hard work, loads of sleepless nights (even when they've grown up & are living elsewhere) but worth it.

    Just one thing - get a few basic strategies agreed with Mrs B. Some kids are just brilliant at playing one parent off against the other, you (ideally) need to have sorted who is finally in charge, & stick with it. If you discuss parenting issues - make sure you do so when the children aren't around to listen in, & present a united front. Oh, & teach them, really early on (from about aged 1) to talk with you, proper conversations, where you each listen to the other.

    All the best with your procreating!

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 6:26 AM  

  • "do you base all your decisions on what to do on the status of your kids"?

    Yes and the kid won't even be here until July. We went out with friends on Saturday night and we were home by 12:15 and she was in bed by 12:30. Before she got pregnant we would be out atleast till 3 or 4 and very drunk. Everything has changed. But it's been an amazing ride so far.

    By Blogger captain corky, at 6:37 AM  

  • I totally want to delve into this one but the kids are awake (LOL!). Sorry I couldn't resist.

    Let me start by saying this, you know all those Johnson and Johnson baby commercials that say "Having a Baby Changes Everything"? Yeah, well, you don't fully comprehend it until you have one.

    I'll be back to answer this later. I need coffee and a clear head.

    By Blogger Dayngr, at 10:29 AM  

  • I originally read this post a few hours ago as I was sitting in the middle of our living room in a homemade obstacle course/makeshift confinement area I had set up for my nine-month-old who's learning to walk. I could not respond then because her mere existence requires too much of my attention to endulge in such luxuries as blogging, reading, movie watching, talking on the phone or venturing further out into the daylight than our mailbox. Like another respondent said, my kid's asleep now so I gotta make this quick.

    My wife and I do not cater to our child's every desire. We're not the types who let her sleep in our bed or give her a cookie because she's fussy. We scoff at the parents who think having a kid means no more dinners out or not being able to listen to the radio station they prefer because Junior has to listen to the Barney and Friends cultish sing-along tape. I used to teach elementary school, and I know what a disservice it is to teach your child the universe revolves around him. Those kids are snots.

    Having said that, I will confess that one of the biggest curve balls thrown at me when I became a parent was the new scheduling. A year ago, had you called me and invited me and my wife to join you for dinner out, we could be out the door in twenty minutes (Had you just invited me, I'd be out the door in less than five, but that's another scheduling adjustment guys go through). Now it's rare that we can take someone up on an impromptu invitation. Simply getting a baby in the car can take as much as thirty minutes between getting her diapered, dressed according to the weather, fed and strapped into the seat. Often by that time, the kid has shat her diaper yet again which can sometimes start the process all over.

    We have taken our daughter out to restaurants for dinner a few times and aside from the occasional annoying happy squeal she does alright. The secret is in the timing. I have learned, as have your in-laws apparently, that the social stigma suffered by the parents for wanting to upheave everyone else's schedules to meet their kid's is not as bad as the suffering you endure when trying and failing to placate a kid who's reached his saturation point. When dining with friends, we have found eating at home, be it theirs or ours, results in much more enjoyment and much less stress.

    If you and your wife have made the conscious decision to end your childlessness this year (and remember, it's still not too late to change your minds) I would suggest you spend as much time now doing whatever it is you like to do. This goes for eating out, travelling, or just sitting on the couch listening to The Carpenters' Greatest Hits. Enjoy.

    P.S. I have the CD if you want it.

    By Blogger kevin, at 12:26 PM  

  • After the first two times you get to the mall with stroller, diaper bag and baby in tow; unpack the whole damn thing, walk around pushing the damn thing around people, find a bathroom to change a diaper, find a somewhat peaceful place to feed the baby, fend away the bunch of people who want to come over a coo over your baby (and they are great chickmagnets too, right when you can't take advantage of it), juggle shopping bags and afterwards get the whole shenanigans back in the trunk, you'll start taking turns with your wife to go to the mall.

    By Anonymous alex, at 3:38 PM  

  • I think every kid is different, but don't ask me if those differences are inherent or taught. I don't take stands on the nature vs. nurture debate.

    That being said, I have been blessed with two kids who are very easy going and can be packed up pretty much at any time anywhere and any time with no problems.

    Ok, within reason. I mean it's not like I'm going to take my kids to a death metal concert or out shopping at midnight.

    Then again, I have never read a parenting book nor have I enacted heavy-duty scheduling, and I am "one of those" parents that believes in spanking... so come to think of it I may not be the best person to respond to this question.

    By Blogger Queen of Dysfunction, at 11:48 AM  

  • Late to the party but I'll chime in anyway -

    I have two (yes, two) toddlers so I feel I can safely say that I am your go to girl for questions on children under three. (We can raise the age as we go) I can tell you from personal experience, prepare to be on a round-the-clock schedule based on what your infants-to-toddlers want/need.

    Now that we've got that out of the way let's continue...

    The best thing you can do for yourself and your child is to get them on a schedule as soon as you can. Every child is different but eventually they will get on a schedule so that life can carry on as you know it (for the most part).

    Temperament plays a big issue also. With the 1st born he was laid back and easy going. From the moment he arrived he didn’t care where we took him or how he got there. We flew to Vegas when he was 3 months old and didn’t have an issue at all with him. People would comment all the time when we were out together that they didn’t even know we had a child with us. However, any outing with a baby or toddler requires careful planning and preparation. It could be just me but I believe that the more organized you are, the better. Just getting out of the house can and will take 30 minutes or more. (See: Kevin’s comment) We couldn’t fathom the thought of parents who couldn’t come and go as they pleased. How could this be? It was so easy!

    Enter child number two. We, like most parents, were under the impression that our second child would be just like our angelic first. Um, no. This little hellion gave us a run for our money from the minute she took her first breath. She hated her car seat and shrieked from the moment she was strapped in until the moment she was removed. Believe me when I tell you an experience like that will make you question how badly you want to go wherever it is that you want or need to go.

    So, I believe that the answer lies in the temperament of your child as to how well you will be able to continue doing all the things you do, with a baby in tow.

    By Blogger Dayngr, at 6:15 AM  

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