Sunday, July 29, 2012

An advice column, minus the advice

Some advice is timeless and universal.  Don't keep your toothpaste and your Preparation H in the same drawer, for instance, unless you're ambivalent about which one you apply orally.  Or you're open-minded about which parts of you are minty fresh.  But parenthood invites all sorts of advice that isn't so clear cut.

When my wife and I were expecting our first child, I asked my friend Josh for his advice, since he’d already taken the parental plunge a year earlier.

“The number one thing you should be prepared for is crazy, conflicting advice from everyone you’ve ever met,” he told me.  “Just ignore it all and figure out what works for you.”

Josh was right about the amount of advice new parents receive, even when they’re not seeking it out.  One time, I even got parenting advice while waiting in line at the grocery store deli.

“He’s so adorable.  What’s his name?” a friendly woman asked, insisting that I go ahead of her in line.

“Quarter-pound of turkey,” I replied, frantic to start the cart moving again before Evan started wailing at the lack of motion.

“Sorry, it’s Evan, and thank you,” I said.

“Well, he’s precious.  Are you getting him vaccinated?  You should really look into it before you do.  Vaccines can cause autism,” she said, repeating polio’s favorite rumor.  Suddenly, there seemed to be a dramatic increase in the amount of bologna in the vicinity.

I reached into the car seat, putting Evan’s binky back into his mouth to buy a moment.  I understand why people are suspicious of vaccines – there does seem to be a global conspiracy to keep us all alive longer, perhaps so that we can purchase more drugs, which will also keep us alive longer -- but I’m much more suspicious of whooping cough.  

“Oh, I read that the doctor behind that study lost his medical license.  He’s a quack,” I replied.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Nothing.  Thank you so much for letting us go first,” I said, taking my turkey and hitting the road.  She was nice, after all, and I got the distinct impression that neither of us was interested in having our minds changed by some small talk next to the pimento loaf.

Last weekend, I found myself in the odd position of being the dispenser of advice.

“What are we in for?” my sister Amy asked during her weekend visit.  Her wife Jaime is pregnant with a baby girl, ensuring not only that our two sons will have an awesome new cousin to play with soon, and that I’ll be getting a promotion to Uncle Mike, but also that Amy and Jaime’s household will be in very little danger of ever facing an estrogen shortage.

As she waited for an answer, my infant son, Zack, squirmed in my arms, wincing at the cold milk in the bottle.

“Don’t look at me, Mr. Brainfreeze.  You wouldn’t wait for the bottle to get warm,” I said.

With two young kids of my own, it seemed like I should have some advice for Amy more helpful than “go do everything you can’t do while toting a tiny screaming and possibly barfing human, because you won’t be able to do any of that stuff anymore.”

Otherwise, I’m not really sure what advice works universally for all parents.

“When they’re screaming, it means they want you to do something you probably don’t feel like doing.  Also, as long as you say it nicely, babies can’t tell the difference between regular words and cuss words.  That’s really useful for the first year,” I said.

Amy nodded, realizing that the Internet would be a much more valuable parenting resource than her brother.

You can get measles with Mike Todd at

1 comment:

  1. Love when that Josh friend of yours makes a cameo in your column. He sounds incredibly intelligent, funny and handsome.