Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Obama Response

In speaking with a few friends of mine who have recently had babies of their own, I realized how all new parents suffer through the same elephant in the room, not the cute cuddly stuffed elephant but the awkward conversation of what to say about you as parents and your kid as a baby. Obviously, the newborn baby is the center of attention and all discussion topics revolve around everything about his pooh, the screaming vs. sleeping battle, and the not very fun stuff about my wife’s breasts (breastfeeding and breast milk).

But in all these conversations, there is one very subtle, very dangerous tight wire line floating around new parents, “How do I describe our experience?” Sounds harmless I know but that is so far from the truth. Newborns come with a same set of questions from everyone, “How is the baby?” “How is he sleeping?” “How are you sleeping?” “How bad are the diapers?” And the list goes on. People who never had kids try to be supportive but usually say things that mirror how they raised their golden retriever puppy. People who have had kids will spew out suggestion after suggestion and heaven forbid story after story about their experiences which would be nice except for when you try them with your baby, it somehow makes things worse.

The true tough part of the new baby inquisition though is in how to answer. Answer positively and you risk alienating yourself and your baby. “How’s the baby sleeping?” Answer “Great. He has been a good little sleeper.” Immediately, the room grows cold, the wind stirs the tree branches outside, you get the look of death and the figurative middle finger saying “f*** you and your well rested household!” Answer “It is brutal. He is so fussy.” Immediately, you get the look of curiosity saying “what are you doing to that baby and try reading a baby book or two lazy slouch?” It is like this for everything topic also: 1) sleeping, 2) gas and pooping, 3) breastfeeding, 4) awake/alert time, and I assume regular feeding, crawling, walking, talking is even more intense and then comes school and sports where competitiveness rears its head.

So how do you answer questions about your newborn and being new parents? I find disappointingly vague and contradictory statements work best. This confuses everyone so we just move on to the next topic. “How are you sleeping?” Answer “Not great but we are getting some.” “How is the baby’s gas?” “He hates it but he deals with it.” Classically worthless and uninformative but more importantly, politically neutral as to support or defend any stance…I call it “the Obama Response”.

Chaos...every night and morning...and afternoon and evening...just getting by...

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