Unsolicited Parenting Advice from the Schultes: Part 1
I'm changing things up for a series of posts and asking my joint CEO of the household to share his thoughts. This post is authored by both Mick and [Mark - in brackets].
Mark and I have become those people at parties that trample young expecting couples with nuggets of wisdom they never asked for [But desperately need!]. Usually our conversations end with the couple backing away slowly to escape our swirling tornado of advice. As they sprint toward the nearest exit we keep shouting suggestions, knowing they will undoubtedly thank us, those overenthusiastic strangers that couldn't recognize basic social cues to STOP TALKING. [Actually, Mick, they leave so quickly because they can't wait to put our advice into practice.]
So, this blog series is a result of two realizations that:
- Imparting our baby-raising know-how on unsuspecting couples isn't welcome [Speak for yourself, Mick]
- There is a dire need for pseudo-experts' parenting advice on the Internet
[We will narrow it to a few top Schulte Parenting Methods, SPMs. However, if you have some masochistic leanings, feel free to stop us on the street for some more thoughts. The well is deep.]
[Before we go any further, I would like to address one important point. When people hear we have 4 children under 5 and a set of twins to boot, there is usually a certain amount of awe. It is a combination of "How do you do it?!" and "Why did you do it?!" Our parenting resume lends a certain gravity to what we say. To be clear: that gravity is completely misplaced. Like one of those fake rocks our neighborhood uses to hide the water meters. You think you can jump on it to launch high in the air and it crumples under you and you fall flat on your face. For example, this week:
- Our 5 year old daughter saw me doing some silly, fast shadow boxing to make the twins laugh and promptly used the technique to punch her brother in the face
- Our 3 year son ate his own poop
- We keep forgetting to check the 1 year olds' diapers when they are fussy and end up with two red rashed butts
You'd think we would have learned. But this blog isn't about us learning, it's about you! So without further ado:]
#1 SPM - The Exercise Ball
We believe the big inflatable exercise balls you see in gyms should be rebranded as "baby silencers". Long before we had kids, we watched a cousin welcome her third baby into the world. That tiny human could sustain an incredible decibel level [usually reserved for jet airplanes] which no amount of rocking, soothing, feeding, or pacifying could stop. In her agony, our cousin plopped herself on the exercise ball and suddenly there was silence [Blessed silence! We know because we were living with them at the time]. The baby was finally content as long as the person holding her was bouncing on the ball.
We witnessed this ordeal and hoped with all our might that we would not receive a baby such as this one. (No offense to that baby who is now a charming young girl). Then we had trouble having any babies at all so we simply hoped and prayed for a baby, no matter the disposition. After a couple years, our sweet Evelyn Ruth came into our world and she was wonderful.
For the first week.
This little being that I wanted more than anything in my life turned into a monster at times. I felt like a terrible mother because nothing seemed to make her happy. But thankfully (and really, unless you know the sufferings of having a colicky baby you have NO IDEA how thankful), we knew about the exercise ball from our cousin.
We would try other things, like sitting in a comfortable rocking chair or snuggling in bed, but she would have none of it. Eventually we always resigned ourselves to the bouncing ball and instant silence [and inevitable back pain] followed.
The boys that followed Evy depended on the bouncy ball too. Some nights when the twins were having trouble, we would sit on that thing for three straight hours. Bouncing and holding, usually while watching a TV show or movie on our tablet in a dark room.
You can ask any of our helpers about the magic of the exercise ball and they'll agree. It's unquestionably a necessity.
[Magic is the appropriate word. As a scientist, I experimented with other methods that didn't have me ruining my back from holding a baby or my hips from the constant deep squat. No matter what I did, or how smoothly I bounced standing up, the babies always knew. ALWAYS. It was maddening I couldn't trick them... A scary sign for the future.]
We don't have any pictures from the times when we needed the ball because we were in panic mode and doing all we could to survive. So here are some reenactments of those days with all four of our kiddos.
First Evy. Imagine placing your ear directly on the blaring smoke alarm in your home. That's how we remember her cries.
And now imagine that instantly turning into peace and quiet.
This worked with Levi too.
And with the twins. But we had to do double duty with them. Our balance was seriously tested and we ended up stacking them on top of each other in the beginning. I can't believe they were that little at one point! Here's our attempt to recreate those moments.
Eventually we held them on either side.
No matter how we held them, as long as we bounced, they were quiet.
The inflatable balls also provide a lot of fun too. The babies were playing with it and watching the Vikings playoff game against Philadelphia in these pictures. The ball was much more exciting than the game.
There's our first installment of SMPs and if you've made it this far, we salute you! [You defintely stayed longer than the last people we spoke with.] We hope this unsolicited advice proves helpful.
Look for more in this series soon. And please share your top tips for parenthood in the comments below!