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Parents: You Gotta Chill The Hell Out

Are Kids Killing You From the Inside? What the parenting books and magazines aren’t telling you.

Every time someone asks me when we are having babies, I’m almost giddy to respond that, “Unfortunately, my wife is barren.”

She’s not. But the enjoyment I get from watching the person’s face contort just manages to cancel out the anger I feel towards the insensitivity of their inquiry. So it’s a wash.

My wife and I have been married for a few years, and while we haven’t made any grand decision regarding having kids or not, what we do know that it is the last thing we need at the moment. Life is chaotic enough as it is.

Speaking of chaos, we are officially knee-deep in the holiday season. Not only must we wade through the winter snowdrifts, but Christmas allows for more traffic on the roads, congestion at the malls, and far away contrived family gatherings. For my Jewish father, it truly is his favorite time of year.

My dad is cozy at home with a warm drink and the football game on television. In his mind, the greatest advantage to being Jewish has nothing to do with God, and everything to do with opting out of the “Christmas-time craziness.” When he inevitably falls asleep in his chair watching the game, the family debates whether he’s tired or merely overcome by the bliss that comes from no one expecting anything from him for a full week. In a world gone cuckoo for Claus, my dad has found contentment on the couch.

“You’ve got to find that place of personal bliss inside yourself, and chill the hell out.”

So what does any of this have to do with anything? Well, as a non-single person with no kids, I spend a good amount of time watching parents in action. All that time spent corralling or cooing or cajoling one’s child, leaves even the most practiced parent exhausted by day’s end. I don’t need to have my own child to realize what superheroes parents are day in and day out. Personally, I can’t believe that as annoying a little shit as I was, my parents never once broke a bone in my body. That. Is. Love. I mean, I tormented the hair right out of my father’s now bald head.

What pains me, however, is that after all that time spent caring for their offspring, parents still expend so much additional energy worrying after those same well-loved children.

And so new parents, I’m gonna flip the script and give you all some unsolicited advice. “You’ve got to find that place of personal bliss inside yourself, and chill the hell out.”

And I mean that as a friend.

The majority of the potential ills that could befall your newborn child are easily observable, like if she eats her block or he plays in his own poop. But you’ve got these infantile infanticide attempts covered – you already hover over your child like a solar-powered helicopter. Of course, diseases only cover a sliver of the range of parental concerns. The most insidious worries, I find, often involve words like “percentile” and end with the phrase, “for her age group.”

It’s here that I need to introduce the concept of the normal range.

The normal range is that green section in the middle of every growth chart, IQ test, or reading scale. And, objectively, the green section is the largest section. Most everyone is gonna be ok. Therefore, I just don’t understand the fuss over, “Well my Jackie is in the 95th percentile for height, she’s gonna be a basketball player.” (you’re an idiot) or “We’re very concerned that little Jerome is only in the 5th percentile for height.”

We don’t have a short person epidemic in this country. Or a tall person problem for that matter. Why parents spend so much energy worrying over the size of their baby befuddles me. Didn’t they ever see Starman? Babies are growing masses of expanding tissue. Yes, one two-year-old can be twice the size of a baby the exact same age, and there can still be NOTHING wrong with either baby. We need to get back to the “they’ve got ten fingers, they’ve got ten toes – we’re good to go!” mentality. Old school.

“We don’t have a short person epidemic in this country. Or a tall person problem for that matter. Why parents spend so much energy worrying over the size of their baby befuddles me.”

But that doesn’t sell magazines. You can’t get new parents to buy solutions for issues they don’t at least think they have. More measures are made and new deficiencies are created, so that there can be more products to sell in order to alleviate these new “baby problems.” This negative-centered thought process has robbed parents of the relief of hearing their baby is fine, and exchanged it for ulcers perseverating over why Camilla is lagging toward the bottom of the normal range. That is not how normal ranges work!

Imagine them more like a Price Is Right Range Game where you stop the semi-transparent rising red bar when you believe it is perched across from the correct price of the dining room set. When they do the big reveal, it doesn’t matter if the true price is smack dab in the middle of your red bar, or just inside the bottom edge – either way you’re taking home that dining room set. Same thing with developmental normal ranges: Get anywhere inside the red, and you’re a winner.

It takes practice, parents. I’m not blaming you, and I’m certainly not giving you that same shit eating faux-concern slash pity gaze that you gave me when I said we weren’t sure if we wanted kids. Parents mean big big bucks to manufacturers, and they are not going to leave you sleeping soundly if that means less bills in their wallets. You’re gonna have to fight, for your right, to have saaaaaaaaanity.

If you can get away though… If you can find a way to be attuned to your child’s needs without the constant stress over each new potential silent killer broadcast nationwide by Parenthood Magazine… You’ll get to join my dad on the couch and enjoy a cup of joe while you watch the Patriots manhandle the Jets. You can make parenting more like your own Jewish Christmastime.

Written by:

Mattitiyahu Zimbler, Ph.D.
Bridesmaiding Contributor

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