An Open Letter To Those Who Have Gone Before Us: Addressed to Parents of the Past

letter writing

Dear All

First up: sorry for not writing more often. And by more often, I mean never. But look, this is a start, and I’m rather ashamed of my tardiness, so let’s not dwell on it in case the baby wakes up before I finish.

I want to say something before I delve into this letter, something that should have been said, and should continue to be said to you more often:

You did a great job.

You guys all did what we new parents are learning to do right now: Raise a child in the best way you know how. You did it with love and with all the tools at your disposal at the time. You did it with cloth nappies, horse and carts, polio, war and depression. You did it without formula, central heating, vaccinations, research and Kaz Cook baby books. And we all turned out alright (sure, some of us might be card-carrying narcissists from too much love – but who knew that would be the outcome?).

The reason I want to say this, and say it loud, is that just as you did your very best – so are we newbies. It would be naive to assume there isn’t quite the gap between parenting in 2014, and the parenting of generations before us. In the baby-rearing arena, when continual research can mean that recommendations change almost yearly – a generation is a long time between drinks. And don’t even get me started on drinking!

So I guess I’m writing to clear up a couple of things:

Sharing is caring, but unsolicited advice is kinda annoying.

We would be nowhere today if knowledge wasn’t passed down through the ages, across the board. Science, literature, cooking  – where would we be without Nonna’s instructions or Great Uncle Kev’s fishing tips. But when new Mums are constantly barraged by conflicting information on how to look after a baby, a gentle suggestion can go a long way, instead of making an assumption that what is being done is wrong. You’d be amazed at what complete strangers have “advised” me so far. “He’s hungry” being a favourite.

I know that there is a fine line between helping and being a pain, but perhaps think about the way you provide any advice you’re giving to new parents. You want to help, not hinder, and statements are a whole different ballgame than a suggestion.

If you’ve had kids more than 4 years ago, and you’re going to be around a new parent a whole lot – do some reading

Just as we’ve had books, blogs and baby forums shoved down our throats, you too might benefit from a little updating of your new baby knowledge. Perhaps things have changed since you were a tired, hormonal mum, or a pensive new dad, and it would be a huge benefit for you to combine your past experience with current recommendations and regulations. Then maybe you can skip the whisky-on-the-gums suggestion and spare us the eye-rolling.

Just because some things might have changed, doesn’t mean we’re saying you did anything wrong

This is a biggie. When a new parent in 2014 disputes your advice about the position baby should sleep in, or the best swaddling method, this is not because they think you are wrong or have done wrong. It’s simply that what we’re being advised now is different to the advice of yesteryear, and we have to follow the safety stats. Please don’t take it personally, and please don’t infer that what you had done (tummy sleeping etc) was something terrible. You were doing exactly the same as we were – following recommendations from the health professionals. You’ll find you’re far less defensive if you do a little reading as suggested above, since then we’ll all be on the same page.

Lastly – don’t stop helping

I don’t know how frazzled I would be now if someone hadn’t showed me some fantastic positions for de-gassing baby, or the body language babies show when they’re in the early stages of tiredness. This stuff doesn’t change. It’s really the things surrounding our babies that change. So keep sharing your homespun advice, but with the new-found knowledge of 2014. We’d love your help.

 

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