[This letter captures Bill and Ellen Brewer's wisdom about child rearing back when the memories were very vivid. The first edition was written on Jan 3, 1976 to our friends, Chuck and Alice Corbett, who had waited 10 years longer than we did to have their first child (and so had become very set in their ways). The letter was revised Dec. 23, 1984 and sent to, Anne Hay, one of my ex-graduate students, and has been passed along to many faculty and graduate students over the years.]
[A wise psychologist, John Bransford, once said: Wisdom can't be taught--but here goes anyway.]
If there are some 'selfish' things you want to do, like going to a movie, sleeping late on Sunday, or having a pizza out on impulse, etc. Do it now!. It is a long and tough trip to be the person in charge of another human being.
[For the Female] Having a baby hurts. Ellen says that there is a conspiracy among women who have been through childbirth not to tell the nulliparas the truth in order that the Species not become extinct.
[For the Male] As best I can tell only a female who has been through childbirth can really appreciate a baby from about 0-6 months. Mostly they eat, eliminate, and cry. However, it is uphill from there and reaches a peak at about 3 years where they are so cute and lovable that you have to learn not to describe in minute detail to your friends every delightful thing the child does or says.
We have recently talked to several first-time parents and something all confessed to (and true of Ellen) is that there were periods of near psychosis from lack of sleep. Ellen's rule: For the first few months there can be nothing so crucial that it is more important than sleeping when the baby is sleeping. Buy a comfortable rocking chair. They work.
A hard thing to learn is that even though they look fragile, we (and others) have proved repeatedly that they do not break when dropped (oh, yes you will). Once again evolution seems to have been at work here.
Go for all the high technology baby equipment. The Infantseat, the Gerry carrier, the umbrella stroller, etc. With these you can be somewhat mobile again.
The high water mark. This is the height to which a baby of a given age can reach. It starts low at around 6 months and reaches the ceiling remarkably soon thereafter. All objects below the high water mark must be babyproofed. In our prime we could look at a babyproofed house and tell the age of the child.
[For the Female] Find some other women who have gotten themselves into this state. You need to have people to talk to about the virtues of Pampers vs. some other brand. It sure seems important at the time (though most of your non-parenting friends would just as soon not listen to these exciting conversations).
Read Gessell, Spock, etc. For academics its is good to try and intellectualize things and to find that other folks have faced exactly the same challenges and survived. Supplement the child care books with child rearing humor (Bombeck, Saahl). It puts your daily problems in perspective.
Relax, give with the blows, hang tough. Remember several billion other parents have succeeded.
Good luck to you both.
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Last updated May 7, 2000 by EFB