My New Year’s Resolution: A Little Less Staring, a Little More Caring
There's no perfect book written about how to be a parent. Sure, there are a few decent reads out there, heck I even wrote one myself (less self-help and more I NEED HELP), but at the end of the day, when all the chips are on the table, parenting is a combination of instinct and experience. Just as there is no perfect book, there is no perfect parent. So why are we so critical of other parents?
I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't admit that there have been times in the past at the mall or grocery store when I've seen a struggling young dad and chosen to laugh, sit back, stare and judgmentally fill out my scorecard instead of offering a dad hack or piece of advice because I went through it and now they’re going through it.
But, those days are over. I'm making a New Year’s resolution to change. Here’s why.
In 2009, I became a dad for the very first time. I was blessed with a beautiful daughter who turned my life wildly upside down. As a 33-year old comedy executive, I found my position terminated and suddenly I was the primary caregiver for a 10-week old little girl.
I never had any sisters growing up and knew next to nothing about keeping a small person alive. I did go out and pick up a few of those 'decent reads' and gave them a shot, but the majority were so stale and mundane that it made me fear parenting.
I decided to forego the literary route and just play the game. Guess and check, baby. “Don't be afraid to fall down and get up,” I told myself, “just don't be wearing the baby when you nosedive.” Turned out, this whole parenting thing was easier said than done.
I still remember some of my most cringe-worthy moments as a new parent like they were yesterday, so who am I to judge another parent for not having it all figured out? It took me almost two hours to install my first car seat. People driving by thought I was wrestling an alligator. I actually drove to the fire station (because I still think it's 1976) and asked if they could do it for me. The firefighter laughed me out of the precinct.
The same thing happened with the baby carrier. I spent 45 minutes twirling around the parking lot in circles chasing the loops with my arms. An older couple snickered as they crept by slowly in their sedan, making it all the more uncomfortable.
Another time, I drove away from a rest stop with my daughters bottle, binky AND blankie on the roof. I remember thinking “No one could have told me? No one could have flagged me down?” I spent nearly an hour getting off one interstate exit and onto another, scouring the sides of the highway in the pitch black with a cell phone flashlight until I finally found it.
It felt like there was a secret society of parents who had all the knowledge. They carried toilets around in their cars; meanwhile, I was pulling up frantically in a fire lane outside of Target with the hazards on, sprinting through the lobby carrying an infant as if they were going to explode. Not that I would ever put a toilet in my car, but it would’ve been nice to know it was an option.
The point of telling you less than 1% of my dirty secrets is that, while I'll never regret going through those parenting experiments, it would've been nice if the passerby with veteran experience had stopped and at least laughed WITH me and not AT me.
Then, one day I took my daughter to the park when she was about two or so. There were a group of nannies and moms and I was the only dad there. I remember feeling as if a thousand eyes were burning on me, watching my every move. Ava had lost her binky and I was scanning the mulch as a mom approached me with it in her hand. She laughed – not unkindly— and told me about the binky strap, to prevent THAT from happening again. She probably didn't know it, but that brief exchange meant a lot to me. Rather than chastise me for not knowing what I was doing, she lent a helping hand.
It was moments like those that made me realize we can take pages from our friends and family, highlight snippets about chicken pox and nap cycles, or even dog-ear funny one-liners in a memoir to aid our sanity when we've run out of gas at the end of the day... but the real way we’re all going to get one step better at parenting is by helping each other out. In other words, try a little less staring and a little more caring. Stop being so quick to judge – both in person and on social media.
Join me and the folks at Minute Maid in creating a more empathetic parenting community. Make it your New Year’s resolution to take a minute to tell another parent that they're #doingood in 2017. Or, better yet, tell them any time of year with a heartfelt letter. Check out Minute Maid’s Letter Generator at minutemaid.com/lettermaker and give the gift that counts all year round!
This post was written by Adrian Kulp as part of the Minute Maid campaign to help more parents realize they’re #doingood! Check out his blog Dad or Alive for more stories about Adrian’s adventures as an unexpected, full-time stay-at-home dad!
Adrian Kulp is a former comedy executive turned full-time stay-at-home dad for three kids under the age of 6. He started his blog in 2010, published his first book 'Dad or Alive: Confessions of an Unexpected Stay-at-home Dad' in 2013 and also produced Modern Dads for A&E. Follow the family adventures on the blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!