The terrifying thing about becoming a parent is that you don’t know anything about being a parent. Naturally, you look for information, comfort and support from veteran parents—parents who’ve weathered the newborn stage and who, you hope, can provide advice on everything from breastfeeding to how to assemble a co-sleeper. But there are a few kinds of parents who are, let’s say, less than helpful. Below, the eight types of seasoned parents every new parent meets.
1. The Baby Diviner Parent. This parent is usually a member of the older generation, perhaps a grandmother. She will claim to have telepathic communication with the infant and will report to you, the mother, what he “really wants”: to be held, to be nursed, to be changed. These communiques usually come right about when the Baby Diviner herself is tired of holding the baby. If ignored, the Baby Diviner will escalate to the Ventriloquist Parent.
2. The Ventriloquist Parent. This parent will speak to you in baby talk, assuming the persona of the child. When the newborn is wailing—because sometimes newborns wail, even if they’ve been nursed 34 times in the last hour—the Ventriloquist will hold out the baby, and say, making the “sad baby” face, “I’m hungwy! I need somefing to eat!” When your toddler is irritably tossing his toys around, and you say mildly, “What’s up with you, buddy?” the Ventriloquist will reply, in that high-pitched baby voice, “I want my mommy to hug me!” It’s hard to justifiably lose your temper with the Ventriloquist, because aren’t you then just, like, yelling at the baby? Or at least the character of “baby” the Ventriloquist is assuming? Well played, Ventriloquist Parent, well played.
3. The Fraternity Brother Parent. This is the guy who loves to haze new parents. It starts in pregnancy: If you complain of fatigue, because you have 50 pounds of baby stomping his hooves on your bladder all night, well, the Frat Bro will say, “You think you’re tired now? Just wait till the newborn stage!” and you shiver, because you’re already feeling, well, like someone’s standing on your rectum. And then, once the kid arrives, they make a point of telling you their kid didn’t sleep through the night until she was 14 and even now they still have to lie down and pat her back even though she’s halfway through an MBA program. In short, the Fraternity Brother Parent is straight-up cruel.
4. The Amnesiac Parent. This is generally an older sister, or someone who has school-aged kids. You think, “She’s a mom, she’ll remember how to handle a newborn.” The Amnesiac Parent is game to help, sure, but holds the baby like it’s a ticking time bomb. She has zero recollection of how to heat up a bottle or clean an umbilical cord. What’s funny is when the amnesia lifts for a moment—like Amnesiac Parent will start to do the dip-and-sway motion of rocking a infant—a horrified look will come over her face as she says, “Oh yeah, I remember this part.”
5. The “Been There” Parent. This parent is also usually of the older generation, and has either forgotten literally everything about having a child and hasn’t kept up with new advances in, say, child safety. “In my day,” they’ll begin, recounting how no one worried about car seats or drowning thirty years ago—conveniently forgetting the 34 trillion children who died in auto accidents before seat belts. They will raise their eyebrows as you smear sunscreen on your basically translucent child and say, “In my day, we let the kids get a little color.” When you tell them to knock it off, they don’t. Instead they’ll merely raise their eyebrows when you insist on installing a car seat in their car and say, “I’m not saying anything!”
6. The Stealth-Feeder Parent. It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on here. But when your two-year-old comes back from a visit with the Stealth Feeder, he always looks rather green and refuses dinner. When you ask him what he ate, he rather incoherently describes some kind of cupcake–ice cream–cookie confection of epic proportions, and then vomits on your shoes. When confronted, the Stealth Feeder will morph into the Baby Diviner, saying “I could tell he really needed a pick-me-up.”
7. The Finger-Wagger Parent. This is usually a stranger, someone who wants to tell you all the ways your kid is about to hurt himself in the store or even on the totally child-proofed playground. It’s often couched as concern for the child—”I’m worried that he’s going to hurt himself!”—but is really just a way of insinuating that you’re not looking after your kid properly.
8. The Godsend Parent. This is the best parent of all the veteran parents. In the postpartum days, this parent brings over a delicious meal. They hold the baby for a few hours while you take a nap. They do the dishes, know how to wash the breast-pump parts, and take your toddler out to play for the afternoon. The Godsend Parent listens to you while you cry about the sleep schedule and incision pain and pumping, says “there, there,” and fixes dinner.
With any luck, the new parent’s run-ins will the first seven types will be brief, and the relationship with the Godsend Parent will be long and satisfying. Because, hey, someone’s got to put together the co-sleeper.