Special Guest Post: Eric Nuzum Would Like “Practical advice for a new parent”

DC Youngster
Photo by PoPville flickr user *tinadelarosa

The following was written by PoP contributor Eric Nuzum. Also of note: Eric will be at Past Tense Yoga, 3253 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, after Happy Hour on Fri, Oct. 23 for an entertaining reading from both The Dead Travel Fast, his pop culture look at vampires, and his forthcoming book Bring Me To Heaven, where he visits to some of the most haunted locations in the country to find ghosts. You can read Eric’s previous contributions here.

The other day I was watching CNN and five-word headline scrolled across the bottom of the page, “Pet bear kills Pennsylvania woman.”

Of course, since I rarely have anything better to do, I immediately Googled “pet bear kills pennsylvania woman” (the 15th most-popular search term at the time) and found this story, detailing the demise of 37-year-old Kelly Ann Walz of Ross Township, PA. It seemed Mrs. Walz kept a variety of exotic animals as pets–a cougar, a lion, a Begal tiger, and a 350-pound black bear. The Walz family had kept the bear in a fifteen by fifteen foot concrete and steel cage for nine years. A few days ago, Kelly threw in some dog food to distract the bear while she cleaned its cage. Once inside, she learned the bear wasn’t all that distracted, was probably more than a little pissed off about the 225-square-feet-of-space-for-almost-a-decade thing, and mauled her to death.

At several stages of this story, it kind of leaves you asking yourself: what was she thinking?

And few months ago, I read a similar story in Esquire, about a guy who was attacked by a pet chimp, who severed the guy’s foot, nose, testicles, and a few fingers in the process. And while especially gruesome, overgrown chimp attacks aren’t all that rare.

It kind of leaves you asking yourself: what were they thinking?

You may be curious where I’m going with this. It’s just that when I saw that headline crawl across the TV earlier, the first thought that entered my mind wasn’t about the woman, her family, or even the bear. I thought about my son–or more specifically, that I am about to become a father.

If your first thought upon reading that last sentence was “What is he thinking?” you can probably understand my state of mind. Much like our deceased and disfigured former exotic pet owners, my wife and I, despite the experience of others, the laws of nature, and common sense, have decided to have a child. Continues after the jump.

In addition to an arsenal of unsettling and impossible-to-forget information I’ve encountered at childbirth class, I have learned exactly two things about having a child:

1) Whenever your friends buy something cute for your baby, you are supposed to thank them and say “Awwwww.” However, whenever YOU buy something cute for your baby, your friends will remind you that the kid will piss and vomit all over it.

2) Everyone–and I mean everyone–is quick and plentiful with copious parenting stories, horrific and uncomfortably intimate childbirth details, and an arsenal of local tips and guidance–even from people who do not have children and have no real experience on which to base their plentiful opinions.

So, dear fellow community members, I’d like to hear your advice. Let’s skip past the birth details (let’s put it this way, if you don’t know what a perineum is or what happens to it during pregnancy, you don’t want to know and shouldn’t ask others, let’s just say it involves the phrase “ring of fire”) and cut right to the actual useful information. Being a parent in an urban environment can be tough, so I’m hoping to hear your list of “musts” and “must avoids.”

Moms and Dads, in the comment section, we’d love to hear your advice for our raising one of Petworth’s newest residents (well, he will be when he’s born in December). Have you found a restaurant that has a kids menu with something other than chicken nuggets? Walking routes that avoid broken glass, garbage, and rabid bats? Is there a park with passable bathroom facilities for changing? Local business or service you found especially useful when your little pooper/puker arrived? And, most importantly, has anyone found a bar that gives free shots to anyone pushing a stroller?

As long as it doesn’t involve the words “effacement” and “dilation”–I’m all ears.

47 Comment

  • Parenting in an urban environment? It’s a good thing. Think about some kind of carrier for the baby and a diaper bag that is messenger style or a backpack. It’s easy to get around walking or on public transportation that way. Once they hit about 20 pounds, it’s nice to have a stroller. A jogger with wheels that can handle the bumps is good (if you have a place to store it inside) and one of those macclaren volo super-lightweights is awesome for the bus when they are toddlers.

    I’d avoid those plastic baby bucket infant seats. I think they probably work ok in the burbs if you’re moving from car to home, but we never had one with our kids. (Of course if you have a car you have to have a carseat installed, but I’m sure that one has been drummed into you.)

    In terms of restaurants, we’ve found ethnic joints are always happy to see kids. We try to eat early, around 5ish though. While these sorts of restaurants might not have crayons for the toddler set, they tend to like children and are happy to see them. It’s actually pretty easy to eat out with a “lap baby” before they get really grabby at around 6 months. It can be a contact sport after that, but again, ethnic joints tend to let children be children. Having a list of good delivery choices handy is nice for when you can’t summon the energy to cook or go out. If you don’t Peapod your groceries yet, start now.

    The building museum and the portrait gallery both have wonderful indoor space where you can sit with a tiny napping baby and have a cup of coffee. When the baby is bigger, the free art/crafts/education programs at the museums simply can’t be beat.

    While trying to make the public schools work can be a challenge, raising kids in the city is terrific. I’d like to think my kids are infinitely more interesting and understanding people for growing up in an urban environment. At the very least the bigger ones (10 and 7) can walk 3 or 4 miles without griping and they are pros on the metro and the bus. However, I failed to socialize them to the car, so road trip griping is profound, just to warn you.

    Everyone tells you the horror stories, but what they don’t always tell you is that being a parent is fun, especially in the city.

  • Get a Boppy and apply to daycare ASAP

  • We liked Baby Happy Hour at Wonderland. Not sure if they are still holding the event, but it was from 6-9 or something like that upstairs, on Wednesdays. It was fun to walk into a bar with baby seat in tow and plunk said babyseat on the bar and ask for a cold one. We met really great people and loved seeing all the little poopers crawling around, cheerios dispersed all over the floor.

    The park on 8th and Taylor was always a great distraction and we spent Christmas Day there one time. We decided not to go out of town and it was a perfect way to burn off the “opening gifts energy” that you will one day experience.

    I found that most places to eat in DC were friendly and open to having kids/babies around. The best however, is Two Amys. It looks like a daycare from about 6-9, but your kid can wail and no one would even notice. Plus the food is good too. At all restraunts we always pick up after ourselves, put the highchair back where we found it and tip really well. When I say pick up, we get down on the floor and pick up food, napkins etc, but we usually get stopped by the staff when they say don’t worry about it. It’s just a nice gesture to at least acknowledge the mess you kid made and clean it up. We found that this gesture goes a long way…

    Oh and really, sleep now before the baby comes. Enjoy lazy Sunday mornings reading the paper and sipping some coffee or whatever you like, enjoy the time with your partner, take a pre-baby trip if you can. Enjoy Friday night movies and dinners while seated, eat out at a fancy place and then get ready…but let me tell you – having a baby will change your life in the best way possible. By no means is your life over – it is only just beginning!

    Be prepared for the fierce love you will feel as soon as the baby arrives – it will surprise you.

  • I should let my husband answer this, but will give it a shot from the mom-to-a-6-month-old perspective.

    Changing facilities – any flat surface will do. Diapers seem difficult at first, but you get to be a pro really quickly. You’re changing 8-12+ per day, remember! You also can use your lap, if you really need to. Always have at least one more diaper than you think you’ll need, and an extra outfit. Baby WILL poop through his diaper whenever you don’t.

    As child-friendly as Busyboys & Poets seems to be, they do not have highchairs OR changing tables in the bathrooms. Always a WTF? moment for me. The “changing table” in the women’s room at The Heights is a tiny half-moon that will barely fit a newborn and blocks a stall and the exit door. Why even bother? Commonwealth has a good changing table.

    If the baby is fussy and likes to be/fall asleep in a carrier (we could not have done without the Ergo carrier – best $100 we spent pre-baby), eat dinner at the bar instead of at a table. My husband did this a lot early on, while I took a nap or just got some time sans baby. You can easily stand and bounce – and even eat! – if the baby is fussing. My husband will have to comment on the free shots, but people always did make a big deal over him being out with the baby. And Commonwealth does a lunch deal that includes a free half-pint and kids meal (I think) for those with kids.

    Target has a lot of what you need – baby department is upstairs, back right corner as you get off the escalator. Familiarize yourself with it now, so when your wife sends you out for something you know where you’re going!

    Some people like the snap & go stroller attachment for the carseat; I think it sucks. Hard to steer, bumpy, low handle. If you can, get a stroller with good tires and suspension – bonus points if it has a carseat attachment – that can handle the crappy sidewalks and broken glass. We got the Uppababy Vista and love it. Yeah, it’s really expensive, but hopefully we’ll never have to buy another stroller. If you have stairs, other moms I know love the City Mini.

    Buy the Ergo. Seriously.

  • Funny you mention birthing class. remember this, as a guy it serves you no purpose at all except one: As a guy the class prepares you not to be totally surpised or terrified by the birthing process. Basically guys attend the class os they wont do the following:
    freak the fark out
    ask questions
    vomit in terror.

    As for raising kids in dc. Most restaurants are tolerant of kids during the day. I dont know if Wonderland still does the wednesday parent kid happy hour upstairs anymore.

    BUY A DIAPER GENIE. TRUST ME ON THIS> Or stop by and I will give you everything you could ever need to raise a kid until the age of two. I mean it, my mancave basement looks like some kids stored exploded in it.

    Keep in mind that your wife and mother in law now know everything. especially since early on the kid really doesnt need you at all except for changes and swaddling late at night. once they hit the bottle you will have more purpose.

    its a heckuva fun journey, and they get better every year. congrats and good luck.

  • Do you have childcare? Wait lists for any decent daycare in DC are notoriously long. You can reserve at conception, and still not get in before the kid’s first birthday.

    Nanny shares are awesome, though.

  • my son is just shy of 6 months now, we live near Canton and Patterson Park in SE Baltimore. I think it’s been a big help for us living in the city because so many people are right here to help us, check in on us, etc. and so much within walking distance. just getting out and walking around will keep you sane. getting to know all the other new parents in our community has been a big help, because people in a similar situation tend to help eachother out a lot more.. the single people etc. will tend to be a lot less helpful.

    once that baby is born you won’t get any sleep for at least 6 months, and the breasfeeding will be a dozen times a day. You’ll need all the help you can get. Sleep whenever the baby sleeps – get one of those eye-covers to block out the daylight. Get one of those breast pumps (used if you can, the only ones worh using are like $300 new) that way the wife can put a couple bottles of breastmilk in an ice pack, and get one of those slings to cary the baby in (great for crowded places). Make sure to spend plenty of time in the park when it’s warm out and visit relatives, friends etc. so they can take the baby off your hands and you have another adult to talk to. The breastfeeding will cause a woman to loose the weight gained during pregnancy and keep the baby a lot healthier. You’re going to want to keep a calandar planned way out in advance like on Google calandars where you both have re-occuring activities like yoga or swimming laps at the local pool, bike rides, etc. so that you have a break from the baby – divide up the day so that she get the baby half the day, you the other half etc. There are some herbs that will help a lot with the beastfeeding – fenugreek, hops, rasberry leaf. Have her expecially drink lots of rasberry leaf tea every day from one of those vitamine/herbal shops. She’s going to want to take extra vit. B6 (60mg) and Vit. C (1000mg) during the end of the pregnancy and right after. Diet high in Choline+inotisol like lots of eggs, fish, milk, green veggies, meat, fruit, … and lots of nuts, especially wallnuts. When breastfeeding if she doens’t take calcium/magnesium supplements she will get muscle cramps, and if she doesn’t drink lots of water she will get dehydrated, both of those things will make her really irritated -take the supplements! Buy all the diapers on mass quantiites at costco/target etc. or online is even cheaper. for clothing you just want lots and lots of onesies mostly. The baby always needs one layer of clothing more than what you need, but make sure he’s not burning up / over-bundled. Keep a roll of small plastic bags in the diaper bag and a change of clothes for the baby in case the diaper leaks (it will)…. you may want a change of clothes for yourself in case of this too (trust me). Mostly just make sure you get out and do things so plan way way ahead all the time, ask lots of favors from friends/relatives, and be flexbible – but you can never give the baby too much attention – the more attention you give the baby the more relaxed they will be in the long run, which makes them easier to take care of… don’t throw the baby out the window… they will alway be testing you.. whenever you think you figured out what they want they are already moving on to another stage.

  • What FYI Says says…

  • I think the most important question is: will you really stay in the city once they hit school age? If you gots sidwell/gonzaga-type money, more power to you, but what about the rest of us?

  • Hey rg, the childbirth classes don’t serve any purpose for women, either. There’s basically no preparing for it, IME.

    Second the ERGO recommendation.

    As for a diaper disposal, if you have a balcony/ back porch convenient to the changing table, put a can outside. Dirty diapers in the house is a very bad idea. Even the diaper genie and whatnot can’t contain all the smell forever.

    Local businesses… it’s all about Target. We’re in there 3-4 times a week. Now that my kid is running around (she just has one speed – full) we go just for the wide-open running space.

    When stroller shopping, get the lightest one you can find that fits your needs. You’ll be hauling it up the bus steps, and trying to shove it through doorways whilst holding the door yourself ’cause no one offers to help, etc etc. Small profile is also an advantage. We have the Peg Perego Aria, and while we have our complaints (it’s not holding up terribly well, though still functional after two years of daily use), I would probably choose the same again: it weighs about 9 pounds and folds with one hand. Both essential features for an urban environment.

  • oh also must babies & mothers in the USA are vit. D defficient, espcially in winter months – my wife was taking vitamins that had vit D in them, plus OJ and Milk that was Vit. D fortified – and she was still seriously Vit D defficient when the doctor tested her… it’s epidemic and makes for all kinds of problems he said. Something about pregnancy just burns up all the Vit D. Get the gelcaps filled with liquid Vit. D3 form (2000 IU daily), the Vit D2 doesn’t work as well… she takes those the same time as the Cac/Mag supplements, then also give the baby this drops called Tri-visol, every day.

    If the baby gets diaper rash, get it really dry and apply DESITIN creamy -that stuff works the best… . You can also use it proactively say for overnight when he starts actually sleepign though the night.

    You want to wash the baby only say every 3 days or so, and put tons of cream on their head while it’s still damp-dryish, or else they will get really dry scalp. Use real cream like 100% cocoa butter / shea butter, etc… the cream they sell at stores with mineral oil and cleaners in them will only make it worse. baby cream is pretty useless too. Get the good stuff that’s 100%, like online if necessary.

  • Congratulations!

    I would really encourage your wife to meet other women in the neighborhood with infants once she’s up for getting out of the house, especially if she will be home or on leave for longer than a month or so. The first months can be tough and the support of other parents can make all the difference.

    If your wife plans on breastfeeding, definitely check out the Breastfeeding Center on K St. They have free classes before the baby comes that are *very* helpful and a free class once the baby arrives where you can ask questions and meet other moms. I made my best mom friends there — and they all live in/near Petworth.

    YogaHouse has a postnatal class if your wife likes yoga; it’s a nice way to meet other moms with babies in the neighborhood.

    As for baby gear, you really don’t need much at first. A baby carrier, however, will make having a baby in the city much easier. Like other posters said, we love the Ergo. However, even though it has an infant insert, it doesn’t work well for some infants. We liked the Moby a lot when my son was little (and still use it with my 14 month old). Other babywearers are really into slings for the tiny infants. We didn’t need a stroller for months, but it can be convenient if you want to eat, etc. without wearing the baby. (Once we got a stroller, we got the Bob and love it — so easy to get up our front steps and handles like a dream. Also have a Maclaren for the car.)

    Purchase and read “Happiest Baby on the Block.” Buy a velcro swaddler.

    Join the Petworth Parents listserv.

    The Petworth library has a nice storytime on Tues and Thurs for babies, but it’s worth it to walk down to Mt. Pleasant’s library for 10am on Thurs storytime which is awesome.

    8th and Taylor’s spray park is great in the summer and the playground is generally nice. (However, we’ve had some trouble with older kids there. But rarely.) The Wilson Aquatic Center also is a lot of fun once the baby is ready for the water.

  • Sorry, You’re comparing parenthood with being mauled by a wild animal? The analogy is neither funny, nor particularly insightful…

  • More from me: Ignore the people who tell you that daycare waitlists are impossible and you won’t get a spot until your kid is 10. 🙂 We got into several centers, all of which we would have been happy with. You will find quality childcare, even if it is not exactly what you first imagined. Likewise, don’t stress to much about school yet. Get daycare down first – then you’ll still have a few years to figure out school!

    With all due respect, and you’re probably smart enough to realize this already, please don’t take medical/vitamin/supplement advice from a total stranger on the internet. That’s the kind of stuff to ask your pediatrician/lactation consultant about – and if you’re looking to avoid having to go downtown for a ped, we really like Drs. McKnight and Washington at WHC. FWIW, taking fenugreek to keep up milk supply early on totally backfired on me and caused me to produce even less because the baby wasn’t drinking all I was making, so I made less, etc. etc. etc.

    If you do need breastfeeding support, the Breastfeeding Center on K St is great. Take them with a grain of salt – formula is NOT evil and no one will ever be able to tell whether your kid was breastfed or not – but good advice and support if your wife has any issues. Once she’s ready to get out a bit, I LOVED the weekly new moms discussion group there – Tuesdays at 11:30. I met a lot of great women there and we’re still in touch.

  • We also like Dr. Washington at WHC. She’s terrific, the hospital is very convenient to home, the practice is much less snooty than the downtown groups. And no crazy long waits to schedule routine appointments.

  • My 6-week-old may give me a little insight for you…but I am short on time so I am going to try to capture some advice quickly, although I have to say that your observation about the gifts is DEAD ON (and hysterical!).

    a) Birth: DOUBLE HIP SQUEEZE—they probably taught you this in your birthing class…it was about the only thing I could do during labor that brought any relief at all (other than walk around with her).

    b) ergo carriers are great.

    c) seriously, enjoy it. take pictures of the silly faces. change diapers with love and remember that it is an important part of caring for the little one (I guess the lesson isnt particular to diapers…just dont let yourself think you arent involved just because you cant breastfeed).

    remember that humans in all varieties have been having children (successfully) and raising them for a few years now (I think). USE COMMON SENSE and things will be ok. You will get more unsolicited advice after the baby comes than you are getting now…file it in the same “Isnt that interesting” file that you currently are, and try the suggestions that make sense. If you are NOT getting enough ‘advice’ please let me know, as my mother would prbably be able to help fill the void.

  • Good daycares should have a waiting list of about a year, which means pregnant women need to apply while pregnant, period.

    Get everything built by the time your wife is 8 months pregnant. Do not leave ANYTHING for the last two weeks or after the baby is born.

    Be prepared to be woken up every 90 minutes. and then kept up for about 30 minutes. There were days where I’d eat dinner and go to sleep at 8pm and then be fully, wide awake at midnight to deal with the baby and then wide awake at 4am to deal with the baby.

    If you don’t have netflix or a tivo, get one. If you’re the kind who likes to go out a lot, then you will likely need the variety that one of those devices gives you. Also remember that when someone wakes up with a 103 degree temperature at 3am you may want to watch something at 5am while rocking a sick child.

    Forget reading books for the next year.

    Make sure that both parents can and do drive. One parent forcing the other one to run all the errands is not cool and very common.

    Be prepared to never go on a date with your wife again. When going to our office Christmas parties costs us $40-50 in babysitting costs, we aren’t too excited about dropping $150 for a dinner out.

    This is definitely the most controversial statement: there are no communities in the entire district that are as family-friendly as some I’ve seen in MoCo or Fairfax. There simply is NOTHING in the district that compares to the suburbs for families. I thought the Smithsonian and the Zoo would somehow save us until I realized that toddlers have a hard time with the distance between the viewer and the animals. Most times we went to the Smithsonian our friends from Maryland met us there on the subway. If you want to stay in DC realize that you will sacrifice part of your children’s happiness for your own happiness. It took me five years before I realized I was fooling myself about that. I still think about the day we stayed at a friend’s place and in the morning they had a blockwide yard sale where the kids could play basketball in the street because there were so few cars, then a group of the kids (Indians, Arabs, Koreans, Jewish, Latin kids, etc- more diverse than DC) all walked two blocks to the private, over-supervised pool where they had hired a kids band to play, and we could see the kids at the pool from one corner of our friends’ deck and they had a 40 foot wide back yard with swing set and homemade sand box and 1960s BBQ pit and picnic table. And when we drove home, on our block, these two guys were fighting across the street from one another calling each other the N Word while my kids slept in the backseat and we parked in front of a house that was valued at $150k more than the suburban house we were at.

    So, you know, controversial but worth thinking about.

  • I highly recommend getting a midwife. We used Kathy Sloan at Mercy in Baltimore, she was fantastic.. regarding excess breastmilk – my wife followed the advice of our midwife – just pumped any extra into those storage bags that connet to the pump – then put a bunch of them into a larger freezer bag with the date marked on it with some baking soda thrown in there – freeze them up to 6 months. These are really handy if your wife is out on an errand and you need to pacify the baby – quck thaw one out in a pot of hot water. you can also use these as an ingredient in making baby food along with sweet potatoes, carrots, etc. puree later on. if you don’t pump off the excess the ducts will get sore or infected pretty quickly, so the pump is very handy. The more you pump/feed, the more milk will be produced the next day – provided the body has the right nutrients, etc, and vice-versa use less, less is made. Breast milk is mostly Omega-3 oils and DHA, with minerals, water, protein – remember Omega 3 mostly only comes from fish oils or flax-seed oil, or help-seed oil/seeds, nuts (wallnuts are best), and milk (if the cows are grass-fed, but not if corn-fed like commercial ones), so she needs to be eating those things to be producing the milk the way the baby needs it to be. A good mineral supplement is kelp, or rasberry leaf, because they have both the minerals and the necessary phyto-estrogens, anti-oxidants, phyto-estrogens etc.

    I recommend the glass bottes because they are easier to get totally clean and sanitize, boil, etc. and don’t leach chemicals especially common in hard plastics (endocrine disrupters, xeno-estrogens) which are really bad for babies. By the way she should avoid eating anything out of cans – all metal cans are still lined with heat-applied BPA – the worst offender – also way too much salt in canned food.

    For a stroller we used a folding universal stroller that holds any kind of car seat – very handy. If there is a basket on the bottom it ends up doubling as a shopping cart. or hold all the baby’s gear.

    One thing that worked really great is we replaced the light switches in the bedrooms etc. with cheap ($12) wall dimmer switches from home depot (only took a few minutes and a screwdriver) – that way you can turn the lights dim enough to put the baby to sleep but still just bright enough to see what you are doing.

    The breast milk contains melatonin which is the brain signal to go to sleep so it should knock them right out in a dark room, but as soon as the eyes see light, the melatonin is converted by the light back into daytime-awake brain chemicals… so dark rooms are important. The baby’s sleep cycle is 60 minutes, but for adults the sleep cycle is 90 minutes, so that’s kind of a bummer…. this is why you want your partner to keep sleeping that extra 30 minutes of their power nap, and keep trading off who’s watching the baby.

  • After reading Neener’s comments, I would also add, get used to ignoring people’s advice. As you can see from reading the comments, some of it is endearingly well-meaning and some of it is bat-shit crazy.

    The “advice” is the worst with your first. When they seem me coming now with three boys, people already think I’m a complete whack-job and steer clear.

    When I was out alone with my third son and the unwanted advice train started, I would just smile and explain that he was my third. That stopped them in their tracks.

    I give you full permission to use “this is my third” at any and all occasions!

  • Got two kids, boys 6 and 2.

    My wife loves the Ergo baby carrier – I like to use my shoulders.

    I hate strollers but the Caddy by Chicco has been rock solid – easy to put up, rugged wheels, have used it for two boys, works on a beach, street and in the mud and is pretty small. Great buy.

    Forget the diaper genie – if you get the Post delivered to your house, use the plastic bag it comes in, fill it with the dirty diapers, tie it throw it away.

    you do not need a changing table – use the floor, the crib, the table, the counter top

    The “What to Expect When You are Expecting” series are insufferable, know it all waste of time, Throw it away. use your own common sense. get a good Doctor Book – like the portable pediatrician.

    Moroni Bros delivers and their pie rocks. 2 Amys is your spot for great food and they do not care at all that you have a screaming kid – go early. Most Asian restaurants are cool about kids. Oh, if you end up at Ikea out in Beltsville, Pho Vn One down Route 1, near Behenkes is great Pho and they love kids.

    Kids suck in bars. No two ways about it. they don’t have much patience with you enjoying your adult beverage and they have finished their fries and they want to go home NOW!

    Turn off the TV – better yet get rid of it. If a kid watches even a little they get obsessed with it. There is no such thing as educational TV – it all sucks and is only there to get you to buy more garbage. And then, the worst thing, the kid proceeds to tell you all about it – repeating the same inane things over and over again. It drives me nuts. best thing we ever did was not upgrade to digital – if I hear one more episode of Cyberchase or Arthur I will kill everyone in my neighborhood.

    There is no right and wrong way to parent – as long as you cause no irreparable harm, it is all just getting by, one day at a time. People that don’t admit this are living in a fantasy. You do what you have to do – be kind, be as gentle as possible and just try and love the rug rat as much as you can. Everything else is pop psychology bullsh*t.

    Best thing about kids in DC – the free museums, zoo and programs. Walking. The Metro – kids love the Metro. On a raining day stuck inside, go for a Metro ride. The different foods to expose them to. Our 6 year old goes to Bancroft and he just doesn’t seem to care he’s the only white kid in his class (which is great. Kids are kids to him) – and he is learning Spanish. The Spray Park at Petworth Rec. The 6 year old loves to drive back into DC from out of town – he loves to point at the Washington Monument and say ‘we’re home”. The suburbs are nice and quiet but children aren’t so they fit.

    And most importantly, at the end of the day and they/he/she are in bed and the house gets a little quiet, pour yourself a stiff drink, sit down breathe in and breathe out, try and relax…because tomorrow it’ll be the same all over again. But that’s OK, you start to dig it and it all makes sense and slowly and surely it becomes a part of who you are.

  • I’m a mother of 16 & 20 year old kids raised (except for 2 years in downtown Denver) in downtown DC.
    My advice — listen to toes and ignore dcdude.
    and don’t move to the freaking suburbs for the schools.

  • Mom of two, 3 yo and 8 mos. Over in Brookland. So glad I will never ever ever have to be a first time parent again. Take a deep breath and know that time is the best cure for all the things you don’t yet know.

    ~ Ditto the Ergo. I used three or four different carriers and would not have survived the first mos of the second child without this. Used it from day one, just tucked her in like a burrito with a balnket, no need for the infant insert.

    ~ Pick a stroller to fit YOUR uses. My stroller is my second car, so I got a nice (but cheap) faux jogger. Yeah, I sometimes felt conspicuous with a large stroller, but I can live out of it for days and still have room for groceries.

    ~ Pack light. The huge diaper bag is a sign of a first time parent. You don’t need a whole first aid kit and three changes of clothes, and back up formula, and 12 diapers…. With two kids now, I can fit the snacks, change, bottle and everything in my bag. We have a small shoulder bag from REI for my husband. The only thing that I can’t live without in a ‘diaper” bag is a pocket for a cup, be it a bottle or sippy.

    ~ You will find a solution for daycare. Don’t panic. Some places have long lists, but we could not afford them anyhow. Move on…

    ~ The library has story time with old fashioned reel to reel films. The lil one LOVE that. Check your local branch. Building Museum is great, though packed on weekends and over the summer. All the museums have changing tables in the men’s rooms. Hubby says any federal building should have them in men’s rooms.

    ~ It takes some doing to sort out the elevators on the Metro, but once you do, you really feel like a local. DO NOT (PLEASE!) take the stroller up the escalator. I saw one topple once, with a kid in it, and I’m telling you, no joke, take the time to find an elevator!

    ~ Union Station is good for rainy days. Coffee and space for lil ones to roam.

    ~ restaurants: Pete’s Apizza is great. Get to know where they sell ‘real’ mac-n-cheese cause I hate paying $5 for half a bowl of Kraft Dinner. Forget the kid’s menu and start looking at the appetizers. A cheese and chicken quesadilla will feed several kids for the same price.

    ~ Get out and make the whole city yours. I’ve been to playgrounds in Van Ness and coffee shops in Silver Spring. Oxon hill farm, Old Town boat cruises, trikes in the Arboretum, climbing steps at Meridian Hill, waffles on Sunday AM at Tryst, Stanton Park and Lincoln Park playgrounds, Mt Pleasant Farmer’s Market, playing Pooh sticks in Rock Creek, visiting the horses at the Rock Creek Stables… it’s a whole new layer of life here in DC.

  • I am also due in December – and I have a 13 year old. First to answer NAB – yes I stayed, yes she is in public school and yes she will likely be in public high school.

    My advice is pretty short

    – They are completely portable. Buy a good stroller and a pack and go everywhere with them. Don’t totally change your lifestyle, incorporate them in. My daughter saw the Olmec Heads exhibit at the National Gallery at 1 week old. A pack or backpack (when they are older) is great for buses and places with lots of stairs. If they are expected to behave and learn how to at an early age – ok a newborn will be a newborn – they will do it as an older kid – i.e. restaurants, public places, etc.

    – They are resilient. Let them fall, fail, get dirty etc. They will bounce back. So take them to the playground and let them be a kid. Let them explore places you deem dirty (really dirt doesn’t hurt you). Don’t bathe them in antibacterial stuff – their bodies won’t know how to handle germs. Let them taste foods at the Farmer’s Market – they will live.

    – Don’t buy into buying all the crap. Bottle warmers, wipe warmers, etc make your life miserable and don’t really improve the quality of their lives. Only buy the basics and your life will be less cluttered and the kid will be just as happy.

    – Start early with a variety of foods. There is no such thing as kids food. My daughters faves since she was a toddler are sushi and Indian. If you start with the chicken nugget, plain pasta, pizza route that is all that they will eat and you will be hand-cuffed by their needs. Buy a small food processor or food grinder and feed them the stuff you eat in age-appropriate form.

    – Finally, don’t make yourself nuts. I totally agree with Toes – there is not right and wrong. Don’t let anyone tell you you are doing it wrong unless you are actually hurting the child.

    Good luck and I hope to see you around the playground!

  • I am not a parent… I just wanted to say that all of these tips are amazing! You guys make it sound so easy 🙂 My mom always said to keep it simple and let the kids be kids. I’m really grateful that my parents (mostly my mom) were slightly overprotective of me as a child; I learned my lessons, but I got to *experience* the things that brought on those lessons!

    Keep up the good work, PoP community 🙂 So nice to see such an outpouring of support for a parent to be!

  • I don’t have a lot of advice to share with you, but I would like to share my idea for a baby-related invention.

    Strollers are big, bulky, and annoying, both to the parent and to others on the sidewalk. So I would like to propose fashioning a helmet out of half a coconut shell, and a tiny bodysuit covered in little casters. All that’s left is to attach a dog leash to one end, and drag that little feller all around town! Keep in mind that it will probably work best on concrete sidewalks and not those fashioned from bricks. One should also be mindful that your little baby is not carried off by a dog.

    You’re welcome.

  • Do you usually take advice?

    I don’t think you need to be a parent to offer advice on parenting. I’ve got 3 of my own, but I think you’ll come to treasure advice from people whose views aren’t heavily influenced/biased by their own experience, but rather based on what they’ve observed or heard repeated.

    Plus, if you ignore your childless friends opinions too many times, you’ll lose them permanently. You don’t have to take their advice, but at least listen.

    So, that’s 1 recommendation. #2, get TIVO. #3, don’t call your kid a pooper/puker.

  • RE; Gabe Asher
    Strollers are not always the best option – my wife actually prefers to carry the baby in a sling. The baby likes to be close like that, calms them down. take up a lot less space. Mabye it’s a guy thing but I prefer the baby backpack things that holds the baby upright on your front, lots of guys seem to like them. it’s also a lot easier to walk the dog or do other things with both hands free and not having to worry about turning your back on the stroller.

    Forget the car.

    When the baby gets over 9 months you can take them around on a bicycle – I think the old raleighs and schwinn type upright bicycles work better for this… or a hybrid or cruiser type bike. If you are riding to the Metro or a Bus, just break out your sling when you lock the bike. The best seats for smaller children are the ones sold in Europe that attaches between you and the handlebar-stem area up front of you – if you look up vendors of Dutch Bicycles, they always carry these. By the way the Dutch granny bikes are the best for taking around kids. And By 6 years old they should be able to get around on their own bicycle. I did – and it was a big part of my sense of independence and freedom growing up in the city.

    When I grew up in Baltimore my dad took me everywhere on a motorcycle (I had my own small helmet) until I was old enough to ride my bike to school or take the bus. Baby food was whatever they cooked that day fish, meat, beans, veggies, whatever, for dinner, thown into the blender set to liquify. We didn’t even own a TV. I was outside playing in the street/sidewalk/alley or eating dirt and ants at the playgound – the only main rule I remember is to be home before dark.

  • Turn off the TV – better yet get rid of it. If a kid watches even a little they get obsessed with it. There is no such thing as educational TV – it all sucks and is only there to get you to buy more garbage.

    most ignorant comment of the day! The only way your children will be educated is through understanding a visual medium- a picture is worth 1000 words, never forget that!

  • Congratulations Eric.

    Sounds like you are much more together than I was going into fatherhood. I had nearly overwhelming fears that I mostly kept to myself about becoming a parent – that I wasn’t ready, I wanted my freedom, I already had too many responsibilities and that I didn’t like kids. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the love I felt from my daughter – it really changed me and years later, still does.

  • Get a really big stroller so you have plenty of room to fit both a baby and all of that litter you pick up!

  • I’m going to have to side with toes here- don’t let them watch TV – first of all it screws up the sleep cycle, and second they will be inactive and unhealthy, and when they repeat the same crap on TV over and over again it will annoy the hell out of you. if they aren’t watching TV they will actually learn how to entertain themselves and get some exercise, which is what they need to be doing.

    people will tell you that you have to let your kids watch TV and play video games all day, you have to take them around in a big car/suv and you have to let them each crap junk “kids food” etc. and keep them inside all the time and hover over them. and you have to push them around in a stroller and buy a billion accessories and new clothes…. and you have to move to the suburbs and santize everything and never let them wander. …. this is total crap. You will drive your kids crazy this way and they will grow up with allergies, overweight, uncreative, limited diet, fearfull, and they will hate you.

    my parents lived in Baltimore in the 80’s with a motorcycle and a few old-cruiser bicycles, a blender, a bunch of used hand-me-down clothes, and shopped mostly at the farmers market. Made a sling from an old sheet. Leftovers thown in a blender. Hug out all day at the public park. I turned out just fine and my wife and I are doing pretty much the same thing today.

  • I’ll try to be succinct. My wife and I had our daughter in DC almost two years ago exactly. I honestly think it was the best place on earth to have a baby. We recently moved away, but that was planned prior to parenthood.

    Buy a BOB stroller, they are worth the cash and best for walking in the city. For convenience, go with a cheap-ass umbrella stroller.

    Here is something that you might not realize… Go out (as in night life) with your child, just do it earlier than you normally would. if you go grab a few drinks at like 6pm, you will be fine. The good thing about DC is that there is no smoking in the bars, so you can still hit your favorite spots with the baby in tow.

    The museums are wonderful for babies. My wife used to walk through the national Gallery with our daughter whenever she wouldn’t sleep. It would calm her down, and my wife.

    Ethnic restaurants love kids. Open City is great for brunch with kids. They bend over backwards for them. I miss that place.

    In short, babies and cities mix well. I am not sure toddlers and cities mix well. We left when our daughter was 1.5 and I do not know how we would be handling her mobility these days. She is EVERYWHERE. We like having a yard, etc. We didn’t move to the burbs. We still walk everywhere, but our town isn’t quite as busy.

    best of luck!

  • “most ignorant comment of the day! The only way your children will be educated is through understanding a visual medium- a picture is worth 1000 words, never forget that!”


    Hmmm, Last I checked “The Lorax” has pictures and so does “Captain Raptor and the Space Pirates”. And well, looky here, so does “Goodnight Moon”, and “Busy, Busy Town”, “The Little Engine That Could” and gosh a mighty…there are LOADS of books with pictures…seems to be a whole section of my library has them.

    One last thing Eric – if you play an instrument, be sure to play it when the kids around. Kids love music and it’s a great way for them to see that people can actually make music and not just anybody, but their parents. It doesn’t have to come out of some insidious TV show, i.e. The Wiggles aka The Antipodean Anti-Music or some crap children’s music CD. Although I will say I kind of like some of Dan Zanes stuff …heck man, he used to be in the Del Fuegos! Also, it seems that kids really like The Ramones…go figure. This is important because if they like the music you will have to hear it often and often the same song over and over again. Make it something you can stand.

  • Wow–I was expecting a few tidbits, but this is quite…. voluminous. Thank you.

    Really, there is lots of useful advice here, which I’m grateful for.

    Just as an FYI: We’ve known since spring that my wife was pregnant, so we are on–count ’em–three daycare waiting lists and have been to a few childbirth classes. We aren’t ready, but we are almost foolish enough to think we are.

    And we are looking forward to meeting other parents, too.

    However, after reading I think I’ll add the following to my father-to-be knowledge list:

    3) Everyone says, “Ignore all the advice you get, except from me.”

    4) People don’t dig jokes comparing you child to attacking animals or referring to them but their projectile bodily fluids.

    Thanks again everyone!


    PS: Since someone mentioned it–I did go picking up trash on the corner this morning. Guilty as charged.

  • Good call. I forgot about music. Kids will like the music that you like. Don’t buy into the idea that kids only listen to Barney, the Wiggles and crap like that. My daughter LOVES all kinds of music, and sings along to it now. Her favorites are Bon Iver, AmAnSet, Paul Simon, Radiohead and Mogwai. She literally asks to hear them.

    I will say that it is fun to sing nursery rhymes with them, but in terms of simply putting cds in the car, etc. They will like what you like.

    Lots of reading to them, even when they are tiny and you think they have no idea what you are doing. That is important. Sing to them, and touch/hold them as much as possible.

  • No kids for me yet, but I will second the use newspaper bags for dirty diapers instead of a diaper genie tip – my bff does that (now on baby #2)!

  • Hi, I am the mother of a 4 year old boy living in Columbia Heights. I can’t imaging living anywhere else and raising my child. We have lived in the Maryland Burbs, Boston, and the midwest and love raising our little city kid here. We found great day care, got into a good DC public school via the lottery for Pre-K and we take full advantage of this great city.

    Best parenting tip I ever received – stay calm, be steady. If you freak out the kid will freak out. It is tough – but has worked for us. Congrats!

  • Oh god – I’m so glad I chose not to reproduce! old Auntie’s advice? Feed them, hose them off, give them lots of books, turn them loose, and shut up about them and hope for the best.

    I actually love some of the little buggers. Just bought halloween socks, glow sticks, clay, paint and have saved 53 toilet paper rolls for craft projects this weekend. But really, look at all the tedious, obnoxious people around you every day – they were all once someone’s bright tot. Obstructionist republicans were once cute babies. Hitler – well, that’s always a cheap shot. . .

    Yes, children are the hope of the future. They always have been. And where has that got us?

  • Best advise I ever received was… “They’re not as delicate as you think.”

  • Congrats! and good luck with yr wee puker-to-be!

  • I think everyone makes good points about having a young child in DC, but what about a child about to go to school? We love DC and would love to stay here when out kid gets older, but I just don’t see how one can experiment with their child and the DC public schools (or charter schools whose scores are not much better). It’s sad, but I see no other alternative to leaving before school age.

  • 1) Congrats!
    2) HAVE FUN! Enjoy your child. Every day. Don’t always focus on the next step, the next stage, the next skill. Wallow in the wonder of your wee one each day – when you take the time to stop, watch, and interact, you will learn SO MUCH from your child.
    3) LAUGH! At your child. At yourself. At stupid people!

    on to the practical stuff:

    4) SLING! I love slings! We used a Hotsling when they were newborn, and a Maya wrap as they got bigger. Who knew I could walk through the grocery store with a 10 month old in a sling, nursing away, while everybody just assumed she was sleeping in there!
    5) we have two strollers, and it is the best decision we made. One faux jogger for long walks, metro rides, etc. And a McLaren quick folding stroller for shorter walks and bus rides. But really, you won’t need a stroller until wee one is closer to 5 months old. . . because a sling is so much easier!
    6) I second the ‘don’t overpack’ advice. Yes, be prepared. But if you’re not, refer back to point number three.
    7) Yep, the daycare thing can be tricky. So can the school thing. But both are manageable. There are some GREAT charters in DC – Washington Yuying, Stokes, Two Rivers, etc. You’ll figure it out when you get there.
    8) Take advantage of all the free activities in this city, and take your kids everywhere! Museums, street festivals, parks, etc. Ask other parents you meet about good parks, good places to walk, etc. Remember that the littlest simplest things can fascinate your kids for hours. i.e. sitting under a willow tree down in West Potomac Park, looking up through the leave at a bright sky behind. . . you can get hours of joy from just this. take a picnic.
    9) Teach your kids road smarts as soon as possible. But don’t stifle them. Let them explore.
    10) I’m yammering now. . . so I think I’ll stop right there. Except this: TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    HAVE FUN!!!!

  • Welcome to Wonderland Wednesday Baby Happy Hour! $2 off draft and serving veggie chili, mac and cheese and pb&j.

  • I think everyone makes good points about having a young child in DC, but what about a child about to go to school? We love DC and would love to stay here when out kid gets older, but I just don’t see how one can experiment with their child and the DC public schools (or charter schools whose scores are not much better). It’s sad, but I see no other alternative to leaving before school age.

    I fought like hell to get my kid into a Ward 3 school and I would recommend that as the best option for most parents. I have friends who are on their third Charter School because the classroom didn’t live up to the Dog and Pony Show.

    Do not let ANYONE fool you about DCPS schools- some of the Ward 1 schools I’ve seen are HORRIBLE and the teachers weren’t teaching ANYTHING compared to Montgomery County Schools. I know that most people here won’t believe me, so I suggest going to both Ward 1 and Montgomery County Public Schools or Fairfax County and checking out both. I have been in schools in MoCo where there were more diverse students performing much better in neighborhoods where the houses cost 10% less than Columbia Heights.

    Read the NCLB scores over the past 5 years for your potential schools, educate yourself on how NCLB works, and then make an educated assessment. I have not found ANY NCLB scores that I felt were different than they should have been. Schools where 50% of the students were failing NCLB looked like they failed 50% of their students anyway!

  • I’m late to the party but it has been fun reading everyone’s comments. My wife and I have seven month old twins in Petworth and have loved every minute of it.

    My advice to Eric is to trust your instincts and do what you think is best for your child. As long as your kids know they are the most important thing to you, everything else works itself out.

  • Cheap diaper wipes are now your friend for life. Keep them in all available bags and use them for every purpose.

    Dried fruit and cereal will keep till enternity in a sealed baggie- your child may not turn out to be an eater, but they can also make pretty patterns on restauant tables.

    Bring along a long sleeve shirt, or you will regularly spend obscene amounts of money on a cheap shirt from the zoo, Smithsonian,etc .

    Everything must pass.

    Live in the city.

    Live in the suburbs.

    In the end, it doesn’t matter where a happy child grows

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