Now that I have a 1-month-old child again, it has become abundantly clear that there are times when people just don't know what to say to me. This is the third time I've been through this stage, and the comments are always the same. Sometimes people who don't know you well are just grasping for topics to talk about, and sometimes people with no kids are just clueless. It's not their fault; they just haven't been through it.
So consider this a guide to inform you about what not to say to those people who are in the middle of trying to figure out life with a newborn. Some of these are questions, some are statements, but none should ever leave your mouth when speaking to a new parent.
1. "Are you getting much sleep?"
What do you think? Parents of newborns generally walk around like extras in the show, The Walking Dead. If you see parents of newborns who don't look like this, they are most likely numb to the sleeplessness. Another possibility is the grandparents have just swooped in like heavenly angels and woken up throughout the night with the little devil, uh, I mean baby. This is the number one question asked of me. Just don't go there, the answer is always the same.
2. "Let me know if I can do anything for you."
I have a newborn. Like I have the time or energy to remember who told me to "ask them if I need anything." My mental capacity is near empty; if you want to know why, see #1 above. Some good questions would be, "What can I bring your family for dinner on Thursday?" or even, "Can I pick your kids up from school tomorrow and take them to the park to play?" Either of these is like a miracle from above. Don't make me call you and ask -- just tell me what you can do and when. And bring dessert with you. Dessert is never bad.
3. "How is your wife doing?"
She's fantastic. She just pushed a watermelon through a hole the size of an orange. She's never been better. In fact, she might just run a marathon next weekend on a whim. Instead ask, "I hope your wife is recovering well, what's one thing I can do for you so that you can have a little bit more time to take care of her?"
4. "Is the baby sleeping through the night yet?"
Why yes. At 2 weeks old he is a medical freak of nature and sleeping all the way through the night. With all the extra time on my hands from him sleeping so much, I have been researching new fashion trends. The one I am trying right now is called "Death Warmed Over." Do you like it? It's the newest look, especially among parents of newborns.
5. "I just got a puppy, so now I know what having a baby is like."
Really, do you now? Last time I checked, it was still illegal to lock up a baby in the dog kennel when it's in the way or you just can't handle any more of the messes. Did you have to get up to nurse the puppy at 2 a.m., 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.? I also don't think you woke this morning to a screaming little one covered with poop up to their armpits. I swear diapers aren't designed to hold it in, they actually are just there to channel poop up the baby's back. I could go on and on with this one, but you get the picture.
6. Usually said by a stranger in a store when the baby is screaming and you are just trying to make it through your shopping list and keep your sanity: "You know your baby is probably tired/hungry/has a dirty diaper/etc."
Listen, I didn't ask for your advice and I probably know exactly what my baby needs. Unfortunately, I am barely holding it together, haven't showered in four days and honestly couldn't care less what your opinion of the situation is. If you want to actually help, give me your place in line so I can get out of the store faster.
7. "When are you going to bring the baby over?"
You need to understand that getting a newborn out of the house can sometimes feel as daunting as defusing a bomb in under 30 seconds. Besides that, stupid people always want to touch newborns' hands, which spreads germs and sickness all over the place. And sick babies don't sleep... ever. So thanks for the offer, but our newborn will come out to play when we are good and ready.
8. "When are you having the next one?"
While adding another pooping machine to the fold is awfully tempting, we will hold off making that decision for now. People should never make important decisions while exhausted, stressed or in the middle of a major life change. Well, guess what? Having a newborn means we are dealing with all three of those. Also, if every parent of a newborn made that decision right away, no kid would ever have another brother or sister.
9. "Is having a baby worth all you give up for it?"
This baby is a miracle, and having him is one of the greatest moments of my life. We are a month in and I would do anything for him. Every dirty diaper, sleepless night and mind-numbing children's song is nothing compared to the joy of being a parent. I will never have a regret about giving up some of my freedom (and sleep) to raise my child. I just pray that I can be the parent all my children deserve and have a ton of fun at the same time!
A study published in the journal Infant Behavior & Development revealed that the standard "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" has little to do with reality. When 253 college students were asked to rank photos of the same individuals as infants and young adults (without being told who was who), there was no relationship between how cute the students found the babies and how attractive they found the grown-ups.
No, really, it's true. It doesn't matter how many times you've heard the shout "Mine!" -- research shows babies can sense fairness at 15 months. During one study at the University of Washington, 47 babies observed videos of an experimenter distributing milk and crackers to two people. When one recipient received more food than the other, the babies paid more attention. That means they had expected a fair distribution. The researchers also found that babies who did notice unfairness were more likely to share their own toys.
OK, so they're not exactly psychic. But a recent study from the University of Missouri found that babies just 10 months old are starting to follow the thought processes of others. Yuyan Luo, an associate professor of developmental psychology who conducted the study, tells The Huffington Post, "Babies, like adults, when they see something for the first time -- when something is surprising -- they look for a long time. It shows [they recognize] something is inconsistent." It's called the "violation of expectation," she explained. When babies are surprised by something or notice something unexpected has happened, they tend to gaze at that thing longer. In Luo's research, babies watched actors consistently choose object A (such as a block or a cylinder) over object B. When an actor then switched to object B, the babies stared for about five to six seconds longer, meaning they recognized the change in preference.
Don't judge a book by its cover. Treat all people the same. We're all equals. These are sentiments parents strive to teach their kids from a very young age. And they should. Starting, like, immediately. Researchers at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom found that babies at three months begin showing a preference for the faces of people of their own race. But not all hope for equality is lost. The same study showed that babies who are exposed to people of all different races are less likely to develop bias at such an early age.
Researchers from Brigham Young University found that five-month-old babies can identify an upbeat song as being different from a series of sad, slow songs. In other words, they are happy. They know it. They will clap their hands. Or stare longer, as the case may be. The experimenters showed babies an emotionless face while music played. When they played a new sad song, the babies looked away. When the music pepped up, the babies stared for three to four seconds longer.
Babies have a sense of morality at six months old, say Yale researchers. During the Yale study, babies watched a puppet show in which a wooden shape with eyes tried to climb a hill over and over again. Sometimes a second puppet helped him up the hill, and other times a third puppet pushed him down. After watching the act several times, the babies were presented with both puppets. They showed a clear preference for the good characters over the bad ones by reaching to play with the good puppet.
Dr. Janet Werker of the University of British Columbia, who studies how babies perceive language, found that if a mother spoke two languages while pregnant, her infant could recognize the difference between the two. And they don't even have to be spoken out loud. Werker's research found that infants four to six months old can visually discriminate two languages when watching muted videos of someone speaking both.
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