“Jacob was 10 months old when I went with my mom and a friend to high tea,” says Joy Groblebe. “My mom barely dipped her finger in pistachio ice cream and put her finger in Jacob’s mouth. I went ballistic because kids can’t have dairy until they are a year old. When baby No. 2 came along, she was eating strawberry popsicles at six months.”

Talk with just about any mom or dad about being a first-time parent. Many of them will actually laugh out loud as they think back to those early years.

As a first-time parent, you are probably highly motivated to raise your child well. Since your child does not come with an “owner’s manual,” you rely on friends, family, books, the internet and your own ideas about what is appropriate and what to expect from your child.

While resources and tips for first-time parents are helpful, there’s no cookie-cutter approach that works magic with every child. It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to be the perfect parent and being uptight all the time. Not only does the baby pick up on this, it is exhausting for both mom and dad.

Cut yourself some slack and cut your child some slack. Instead of trying to be perfect, most experienced parents will encourage you to do your best and be good with that. You will make mistakes; everybody does.

Here are some additional first-time tips and words of wisdom from parents who have “been there, and done that”:

  • Relax. Babies do best with calm, confident parents. It gives them a sense of security, serenity and peace.
  • Sleep when the baby sleeps. No child will remember whether the house was clean or whether the laundry was in drawers or a pile on the couch, but they will remember that you played with them and spent time with them.
  • There is no “perfect” or even a “right” way. Don’t beat yourself up for what you (or others) assume to be a mistake. In general, just lighten up and have fun with it. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy the journey!
  • Avoid judging others’ parenting or saying “I will never do that.” Each child is uniquely created and responds differently to parenting … what works on one of your children may not work with the next.
  • Love, hold and snuggle them as often as you can because they will be toddlers, preschoolers and then teenagers in a blink!
  • Respect your children and they will respect you.
  • Pray for and with them.
  • Recognize that as little humans, they’ll have bad days just like you do.
  • As tempting as it is to want to buy stuff for your child, they quickly forget all the things you buy them. They’ll remember the time and experiences they have with you for much longer.
  • Keep your marriage first and your child second.
  • Surround yourself with people who will encourage you, give you a break when you need it and listen when challenges arise.

The birth of your first child can be exhilarating and intimidating all at the same time. Taking these wise words to heart will help you avoid unnecessary meltdowns and encourage you to enjoy your child.

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