Eternally gyrating Jerusalem is comprised of every shade and shape of man and woman. Yet, the city’s holiest and most profane inhabitants are singularly united by an urge to dispense good parenting advice. Indeed, raising a baby girl in Jerusalem has exposed my wife and I to the leers, jeers, slights and snubs of a stunning human kaleidoscope.
Everyone from the gold-toothed Shuk huckster to Ben-Yehuda Street’s Bible-thumping dispenser of red kabbalah strings has an opinion to express.
And neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night can deter these couriers of homespun notions on how to raise a child right. Words of questionable wisdom have been hurled at us while navigating the tightest corner of a Nachlaot alleyway on a fine spring day; riding in a fast moving Cinematheque-bound taxi in the dead of winter; during a stultifying 40- degree August heat wave and as the first soft rains fell during Sukkoth.
And so, without further ado and as a public service to all first time moms and dads, allow me to present:
‘The 10 Absolutely Most Worthless Parenting Tips’
10) Collecting Sleep Interest: “Better get in as much sleep as you can now because after the baby is born…” Thing is, we are not bears. We do not hibernate. Based on such logic, being put into a medically-induced deep coma before our daughter’s birth would’ve have allowed me to go without sleep until she turned 18, after which she becomes the army’s problem anyway. Ah, well, maybe next time…
9) 40-Day Quarantine: Our precious little one was 11-days old when we first took her out of our apartment. That very night, in a taxi en route to a family dinner at Cinematheque’s Lavan restaurant, we were scolded by the cab driver. The direct quote: “It pains me to see you doing this to her.” After being told about the 40-day rule, we parted amicably, with said driver having taken a break in the middle of his diatribe to show us some recent pictures of his grandchildren.
8) Swaddle…or Else: Early on my wife was implored by the good nurses at Jerusalem’s Bikur Holim Hospital to swaddle (wrapping a baby in a blanket so that movement of the limbs is tightly restricted) the child: to prevent SIDS; improve neuromuscular development and help our daughter sleep better. From the get-go our child fought the swaddle, screaming and squirming whenever one of us tried to mummify her. Despite the admonitions of well-meaning professionals, we followed our instincts on this one. Incidentally, the blanket once used as a straitjacket was last seen collecting dust up in our old apartment’s attic.
7) Synchronized Sleep Patterns: This one is nothing less than asinine. To prevent sleepless nights, simply adjust your sleep patterns so as to match your child’s. Last time I checked, human beings are not iPads that can be powered up and down upon command. Too bad. If I were an iPad, I’d be able to tune out of the next department meeting at work without anyone around the conference table suspecting a thing: simply crinkle my nose to download some choice iTunes…
6) She is what you Eat: The rules regarding what to eat while nursing, though based on solid research, have devolved into junk science: if you eat garlic, your baby will develop chronic bad breath; if you consume caffeine, your child will develop Attention Deficit Disorder and on and on. What my wife found is that the same healthy eating habits that she had employed before and during her pregnancy proved equally effective while nursing. One genuinely useful tip: don’t eat cabbage!
5) The Nose Knows…Too Much: “When it’s your own child’s pooh, it won’t bother you…” What the crap? Feces is feces: sometimes gooey, sometimes chunky, sometimes brown, sometimes yellow and always disgusting. Might as well make peace with this fact as soon as possible.
4) Lazy Crawler: A couple of good friends of ours, also first time parents, were told by a nurse at one of Jerusalem’s ‘Tipat Chalav’ (baby wellness) clinics that their little boy was a ‘lazy crawler’, a condition that needed to be addressed posthaste. Miraculously, the baby overcame this dire diagnosis and has gone on to charm every female Super-Sol cashier from Gilo to the French Hill with his feats of acrobatic strength.
3) The Breast of Times: Parents-to-be best brace themselves for the heated breast versus formula debate that continues to rage. Which way of nursing is best, you ask? The pro-breast faction tends to talk up bonding and the fact that a mother’s milk is filled with good bits that will more quickly build up a child’s immune system. The pro-formula camp cites convenience and the fact that some mothers are simply unable to breastfeed. Unfortunately for those seeking the reassurance of an immutable law, this decision is a purely personal one, based on comfort, lifestyle and medical considerations. Viva La Difference!
2) Movin’ on up… to Modi’in? The City of Modi’in Maccabim-Re’ut is Israel’s ‘Happy Homemaker’: a nice, stable, clean, well-planned suburb filled with green parks, good schools, a big mall and at least one lake. In contrast, Jerusalem is a blur of untamed energy; an incongruous hodge-podge of Ein Karem’s secular strivers and Mea Shearim’s holy rollers and everyone in between. Where would you raise your kid? Though we’ve been preached ad nauseum about the virtues of Modi’in living, we’ll be sticking it out here in J-town: Israel’s elementally unstable – yet endlessly entertaining – ‘Freewheeling Hipster’.
1) Double her Pleasure: Now that we’ve had our first child, making a second is a foregone conclusion, no? Of course there are potential benefits to being raised with brothers and sisters (I have two of each). Yet the stereotype of the lonely, spoiled, self centered and aloof only-child is a bit played. Based on the frequency with which my wife and I hear this piece of unsolicited advice, it tops the list.
To end things on a high note, I’d like to pass along one very good piece of parenting of advice that has proven its worth time and time again. My Auntie Jonie, mother of three terrific kids, assuaged any fears I may have had regarding my impending fatherhood:
“Just love the little monkey. The rest is commentary.”
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must change a rose scented diaper…
To read other essays of mine that have appeared in the Times of Israel, click below:
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