Working With What You've Got

Working With What You've Got

"These early months of your child's life are critical to the development of healthy and commendable vocabulary. A recent study by the University of MakingYouCrazy found that a child who hears less than 100,000 words per day during the first six months of his or her life will be certain a fate like this charmer below. Consider yourself warned."
– Journal of HereToMakeYouCry.  


Holy smokes. What am I going to do? 100,000 words per day? How can we possibly meet that quota? It's just me and the hubs; no family nearby. My child is going to be a failure. If only I didn't move down to D.C. for a career that I've found tremendously fulfilling, I'd be close to my family in NY, who could help me meet this daily word count. Dear me. 

Ok. Stop fretting. Just do it. Just start yammering. Talk to him while you're doing the dishes. Talk to him while you go to the bathroom. Talk to him when you're talking to Mom about talking to him about talking to you. Wait; what does 100,000 words even sound like? Where's my stopwatch? 0:00:58 0:00:59 OK! Go! How many words was – oh, wait, I'm leaking – GAAAHHH! 

This was basically how the first six months or so of my firstborn's life went. (Well, the self-inflicted paranoia continues, but the severity peaked during this time.) I'd read any and everything about childrearing, all to fill the daily wisdom gap that I feared we were missing out on by living at a distance from my family. No family nearby to casually drop some timely knowledge. No family nearby to help us reach the 100,000-daily word quota.

So, when the time came to return to work and put my son into daycare, I earnestly prepared (read: overprepared) by reading every pro-con article on the planet just to find the one confirming that putting my son into daycare was the best decision for him and the rest of humanity. I never found that article. Time marched on. Work beckoned as did our rent, so it was off to daycare we went. I was a mess; wracked with guilt and tears that felt like they would never end.

And then it happened. The teachers at the daycare, women with years and years of experience caring for infants, started sharing some helpful tips with me. I'd bring questions about last night's feed or weird fussiness, and they'd have 3-4 tricks up their sleeves to remedy the situation.

After my son had started taking longer than normal to finish a bottle, I wasn't sure what was going on. Was he not hungry? He usually drinks X amount by Y time. What's going on? I mentioned the Issue of the Day to the Head Aunty, and she suggested we try a larger nipple size for the bottle. What? These things have different sizes?!? How did I miss that? SMH. What about the Bumbo chair? A-OK for him to go in that now? How about the exer-saucer? I read you shouldn't put them in one until they're at least six months old… My list of questions went on and on as did their patience and encouraging input.

It wasn't until about month 3 or 4 of daycare that I realized these women were helping not only take care of my son but, of me, too; their advice quieted my endlessly running mind and seeing my son thrive helped whittle away my feelings of guilt. They were becoming my local "aunties," caring women whose experience and advice helped me fill that knowledge gap I feared, the aunties who casually dropped infant knowledge like it was their job (pun intended). Their help tracking milestones was helpful when I finally got down to doing that baby book for him three years later…!

These women, these teachers had become our extended family, our village. After a while, some even started commenting on my work outfits and my aspirational punctuality – just like family!

This experience demonstrated to me that parenthood is about doing the best with what you've got. Some folks are your village because they're your family; other folks are your village because they become your family. 

When not obligingly singing “daddy-finger” through her teeth or dashing to make the school bell, Sarah Byrne can be found tearing up the keyboard, sharing snippets of her madcap life and her affection for Prince George’s County, MD on Route One Fun!
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