Five things you should avoid saying to a New Parent
There is something about big life moments that renders some people incapable of connecting their brains with their mouths. Generally, in these situations people fall into three categories; those who say the right thing, those who say little at all, and those who get it spectacularly wrong. I have heard some hilarious comments directed to my heirs in my close to three years as a father. Most of the time I can laugh them off, and assume that the statement, words or questions come from a well meaning place, however misguided they are. But sometimes there are times when only a double take and jaw on the floor will do. These are five such examples of some of these gems I have heard over the months
1. “Oh wow look at the size of his head! It’s massive.”
Now some babies do look like a beach ball balanced on a cylindrical croissant, but to their parents they are perfect, and any sleight against the physical appearance of their perfect baby will not go down well. Resist the temptation to search behind the ears of the baby for the valve to release the pressure on the giant head, and say something nice about his eyes or personality instead
2. “If you fancy a change of scenery, just pop over for a cup of tea.”
For New Parents in those first few days after birth, leaving the house is the equivalent of trekking through the jungles of Congo. With a giant octopus. In a shopping trolley. This is why New Parents don’t “pop” anywhere. Any exit from the home requires at least an hours preparation, military precision logistics and enough supplies to keep a small army marching for days. Why not instead offer to come over to the new parents house. And offer to bring food with you. It is likely the New Parents will not have had a chance to do much cooking and will appreciate this gesture of thoughtful kindness
3. “Do you fancy coming out for a drink tonight, we can celebrate?”
Although a perfectly harmless and well meaning question, this can be devastating. Not only will it be a painful reminder of the carefree days of socialising that the New Parents have given up on, now their little basket of noise has arrived on the scene, but it will also be utterly incomprehensible to people who will by now be probably hallucinating with tiredness and unable to sit upright or string a sentence together in the company of normal people.
4. “Well, if you want my opinion….”
If there is one thing that New Parents are not short of, it is opinions. From the moment the new parents reveal their good news they are subject to a bombardment of strong and frequently contradictory opinions. Most of these opinions are offered from a place of well meaning, and some can even be helpful. Some are not and can be really damaging and undermining to New Parents trying to find their feet in this weird and confusing new post-partum reality. If you do feel compelled to offer a New Parent an opinion, preface it with “in my experience” and finish it with “but of course all babies are different, I am sure you will find what is right for yours”
5. “You look tired”
An unhelpful thing to say to anyone, let alone a New Parent living in the present on a lethal and toxic tide of hormones, adrenalin and caffeine. There are some things that are just a given. Bears do defecate in the woods. The Pope is Catholic. And if you touch the sun you will get burnt because it is hot. New Parents know they look tired. They don’t live in caves (despite what you might think the lank hair and messy clothes indicates), and they do have mirrors; but frankly, looking tired is the least of a New Parent’s worries. Resist the urge to utter these dreadfully unhelpful words and instead try saying something vaguely positive like “You are walking, talking and still alive. Wow! You are doing REALLY well!”
These are just five, there are many more. Let me know what you have heard as a New Parent that has made your jaw drop, or your blood boil!