Nine months ago a lot of people had unprotected sex. How do I know this? Because I’ve been asked this exact question three times in the past week: What is the ONE piece of advice do you have if you have a newborn baby? I congratulate these people on having such pleasure in their lives nine months ago. It’s a great thing to orgasm knowing that you might’ve have also created another human being to add to the seven billion that already exist.
I was asked the question once on Twitter (in my Thursday Q&A that I do each week at 3:30 EST) by @euros. Once in an email. And once in the Q&A after a talk I gave.
In the Q&A at the talk I reminded the questioner that I was far from the expert.
A) I wanted my first daughter to be aborted
B) I want my kids to be lesbians
C) I played poker the night my daughter was born
D) Some would argue my kids should be taken away from me because I don’twant them to go to college.
So from beginning to end I might be a screwup.
But I will give it an answer: because who better to answer the questions in the King’s court than the Jester himself. The one who has been so foolish and who has nothing to lose (a jester’s position, in every movie I’ve ever seen about medieval times, seems to be infinitely secure).
My ONE advice: take care of and nurture your relationship with your wife.
Because for years your wife and you lived in your own private island. You made jokes to each other that nobody could understand. You spoke your own private language. You shared hopes, dreams, kisses only with each other.
Suddenly, the worst thing possible happens.
A 1 foot tall human moves into your house. Just like that she moves in. Who the hell invited her? She doesn’t speak English. She shits on the floor and you have to clean it. She cries a lot.
And it doesn’t get better. In fact, for the first two years it gets worse. Wait til she starts walking. Now she’s hurting herself by running into things. No normal human being would run into that TV set but she did. And then, ugh, she gets toilet trained. Now you have to make sure she makes it to the bathroom in time. Or there will be shit and urine everywhere and you have to get down on your hands and knees and clean it up. Did you ever thing, when you were 15 years old and planning on being an astronaut, that you would be on your hands and knees cleaning up the shit of this uninvited guest.
And what limited space you and your wife have (you’re just starting out in life: your free from your own parents, schools, maybe your first corporate jobs where you were no better than slaves) and now SPACE is stolen from you. Your child needs a bedroom, then maybe a playroom, then maybe toys.
In fact, your child needs to be constantly entertained. It sucks! Taking care of a child is a Zen experience and I mean that in a negative way (almost all Zen “experiences” are negative. Just take the basic fact: you are sitting on the floor in the lotus position for an hour doing nothing. BORING and PAINFUl. The Lotus position is not designed to be a pleasurable position for the body. By the time you get up, your legs have fallen asleep, the blood rushes back in full force and the pain for at least sixty seconds is as if you had your legs amputated without anesthetic. )
Taking care of a child is Zen because you can ONLY focus on the child. You can’t focus on anything else. For HOURS. And by the way, that’s mostly your wife. Or your babysitter, who could care less about your kid (for the most part).
Here’s what I did by accident the first week after my kid was born:
On the way to playing poker my then-wife asked me to take the garbage out. Instead, I did the worst thing you could ever do:
There was a garbage bag sitting outside the bedroom. I took that garbage bag of brand new clothes instead of the garbage bag that was, of course, supposed to go in the garbage can.
It was all her clothes that she was going to wear for Easter. My first child was born at the end of February. Which means, with Easter around the corner we were still in that special window where a woman’s body has not quite fully recovered, not quite achieved its former glamor (which is the hidden secret because your wife is allowed to acknowledge that and plan for it but you MUST NEVER mention it). She had carefully planned, stitch by stitch, dresses, undergarments, socks, everything, what she would wear for Easter.
I threw out all her Easter clothes.
Then I went to play poker. I lost $500 that night. Walking home across the park”Madison Green” (now home of the famous”Shake Shack” hamburger joint) at 4 in the morning I had to jump and stomp as high as possible to clear out the rats which covered every possible inch of the path through the park. They scurried away and at that moment it occurred to me.
I was in big trouble. And I was. Several weeks later (since I hid the facts of what I had done and even pleaded ignorance until there was no way out) I had to get down on my knees and cry apologies and perhaps even threaten my own life or the life of my zero year old to somehow cancel out all the pain that was caused.
I say this not as one event that should be avoided but as a cascading series of events that occurs when child#1 is born. Events that when added up irrevocably change the binding that was once two and you have to adjust to the School House Rock / De La Soul song “Three Is the Magic Number”. Yes it is, as the lyrics go, it’s the magic number. No more twos.
For me, three never became magic. And neither did four. And ultimately my marriage was gone. And ultimately I met Claudia. I can argue for me it worked out for the best. Maybe for you it will work out for the best also. But kids want their parents to stay together. So this is a long of saying….
The most important advice I can give when your first child is born is pay attention to your wife. She will take care of you when you are sick. And many years later, she will think about you when you are long gone.
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