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  • Writer's pictureChristensen

Parenting Advice from Strangers


Such a cutie! <3

Stop!


Just please stop!


I want to make a sign in both English and Korean that says something to this effect whenever strangers or even long-time friends start offering me “free advice”.


As a new father, I get tons of unsolicited advice. Only a few times have I gone out with my son so far, but when I do, I already brace myself for advice. I love it when people want to look at my son. He’s a cutie for sure, so I’m glad when people wanna get a peek at him. Here in South Korea, he is a bit of a celebrity as a mixed-heritage kid. But I cringe a bit when I stop to let someone admire my little one. Will they say something? Chide me somehow?


“He should be wearing a hat. It is too cold for him today!” (The temperature is 90 F, 32 C. I think he will be fine without a hat.)


“How old is he? One month?! Are you crazy to bring him out of the house?!” (Yes, I’m crazy. Thank you for your concern.)


“You should never give your son a pacifier. It will ruin his teeth.” (No, studies have shown that this is actually not true. No matter what you think of pacifiers, we will go with what we think the experts are saying.)


One friend: “Don’t put sun screen on your son! It will cause cancer.” Another friend: “Don’t leave home without putting tons of sun screen on your son! He will get cancer if you don’t.”


One difficult part of living overseas is that you quickly find out that there are diverse cultural expressions of every bit of sage advice. You even discover that your own culture has a lot of myths! One culture will do things this way; another culture will do things in the completely opposite way. And they all make sense in their context even though there isn’t a lot of science behind the practices. For instance, I found it amusing that one person didn’t like me taking my son out onto our apartment’s balcony when he was just one week old. Literally two feet out into the open air. I wanted to show him the mountains and have him feel the breeze on his cheeks! I had read that a newborn does not get their melanin fully in until later so you should try to keep them out of the sunlight, and I did.[1],[2] But for the compassionate person, just walking a few feet outside was too much. Yet, you must understand Korean tradition. Here in Korea, babies and moms are sequestered for at least a month if not three months (some mothers don’t even leave the bed for a month). For me, that seemed extreme. Though, when you consider the infant mortality rate in decades past, these precautions make sense.[3] Better safe than sorry, right?


And in the US, we have plenty of our own stubborn myths. For instance, I was planning on getting my son a walker until I read reports that said that walkers have been proven to be more of a detriment than a help to a child learning to walk. Really? I grew up thinking that they helped a child learn to walk and get around at crazy speeds! Though, in the words of Reading Rainbow, “don’t have to take my word for it” and investigate this one yourself.[4] Always look to reputable sources (if you can).


So, I know that there is a diversity of opinions on everything to do with babies. And, honestly, the diversity of opinions makes my head spin. So, I try to just look at what the experts say.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot to learn as a new father. And yes, I need to read a lot more studies and just figure out what we think is the best for our son. Before my son was born, we, his parents, started reading a bunch of books and watching tons of videos. We tried to filter out those books and videos written or done by one parent describing their one child. That eliminated about 90% of the material out there (a slight exaggeration). Then, we looked for books and such written by experts in the child psychology, pediatrics, etc. Still a jumbled mess, to be honest. And it keeps changing as we learn more about kids and more and more studies are done. But my wife and I are trying our best to figure out what our son needs to grow up well. And we will definitely make mistakes.


However, I don’t agree with the maxim: “You will simply know. Every parent knows what is best for their child instinctively. So, just do what you think is best.”


No, that is not true. There are plenty of examples of parents who screwed up, intentionally or not, and their child suffered because of it. Do I have to point to the dad in France who left his child at home alone while he went shopping?[5] That child decided to go for a long walk off a short balcony. Or the dad who supposedly punished his child by making her stand outside next to a tree for not eating or drinking milk? Sadly, that child ended up dead.[6] Just today, we found out that a grandfather in Korea left his grandchild in the car while he went to a meeting, and the child died in the heat. I don’t have a link to the story because it was my wife who told me about it. Yet, the point is that, clearly, there are right and wrong ways to do things when it comes to child rearing. And I am trying to find out those by studying from experts.


So, I’m grateful for your advice. Truly I am. Tonight, I was delayed in finishing this blog because my son decided to cry for three hours straight before going to bed. And guiltily, I am not good at dealing with an inconsolable child. My wife is, and she carries the heavier burden of getting him to sleep. I try to help her in other ways. But I wish I could comfort my son when he is crying with abandonment. So, I covet your prayers and suggestions on where I can find answers. Though, I want to make sure the information is more than one person’s guess at what is good to do.

Sleep, baby, sleep!


So, maybe do this instead of giving me advice. Listen. I could use a listening ear sometimes because parenting is a stressful and emotionally draining “adventure”. I would love to hear from other parents who had a hard time dealing with their child crying and what they did to deal with the stress and anxiety it causes in them. But I don’t want to hear platitudes or quick advice. I prefer someone listening to me first and hearing my specific details and then humbly offering what they did (pointing to experts would be even better).


I know before Daniel came that I was a bit scared of the whole parenting thing because of the horror stories that parents told me. No, I was mortified. We almost decided not to have kids because of the stories parents weave.


“Get your sleep now! After he comes, you and your wife will never sleep again.”


Seriously, I got that one a lot! It freaked the heck out of me because I love my sleep. I need at least a good five hours for me to be barely functional and prefer getting more.


Thank you, God! My son has been pretty good with sleeping. Only recently has he had a difficult time going to sleep. But most nights, he sleeps a good 5-6 hours straight and only wakes up once or twice. And thankfully, my wife handles him during the night while I sleep (she has told me that she needs to wake up to nurse him anyways, but that both of us don’t need to do that). I used to be an extremely light sleeper, but I think that is changing.


So, I tend to get enough sleep. My wife, she pieces together enough sleep with naps during the day. I try to help her by being her assistant and playing with my son during the day. We try to discuss what will work for the two of us. But so far, we both are doing well in the sleep department even though he does keep us busy. And maybe that will change.


Yesterday, my wife and I met these new parents at church. Their daughter is a bit older – 3 ½ months old. So, I thought I’d ask them something I have heard and read over and over again – that babies go through a lot of crying in the first three to four months but then calm down a bit after that.


“So, is it true? Will it get easier after three to four months?”


“I can’t say. Your child will be different from our child.”


Wise words.


If you must give me advice and you don’t have time to listen to me for a few hours before speaking your wisdom, can you do me a favor? Please send me a link to a book or video from a reputable source for me to look at. I’ll accept those more gladly than your personal opinion. Thanks!

[1] https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/children/sun-safety-tips-for-infants-babies-and-toddlers


[2] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2011/06/06/137010355/a-babys-skin-is-no-match-for-the-sun


[3] http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2011/08/31/64/0302000000AEN20110831002800315F.HTML


[4] http://www.shb.scot.nhs.uk/departments/physiotherapy/Myths_About_BabyWalkers.pdf


[5] https://edition.cnn.com/2018/05/28/asia/paris-baby-spiderman-rescue-intl/index.html


[6] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/father-missing-texas-girl-found-dead-charged-first-degree-felony-n813616

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