Take the leap.

‘Trust yourself’

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Dipika Kohli, boss-man Kush, and Akira Morita are Design Kompany (and Orangutan Swing)

The conversation on Saturday about PARENTING made me feel I’d just given birth.

Not in the way that you’re thinking, though.

Sure, there’s all this stuff with labor. Sure.

But what I’m talking about is the few days after a baby’s here. The just-here newborn arrives, and suddenly, there are no textbooks. I asked the nurse if I was holding Kush right, and she sort of shrugged. ‘I can show you the football hold. But really, you’ll just have to trust yourself.’

We go through regular school and we’re taught that you can solve things. If you just study enough. If you just reach out, research, interview, if you do those things, then you can Be Prepared. I majored in civil engineering. My schooling said, even if there’s no exact right answer you could probably look up an approximation on a table. Concrete mix design, for example, relies on brackets of conditions. You get enough data, you make an educated guess. Then you multiply by like, 5, or whatever makes sense as a factor of safety.

But kids?

No manuals. No anecdotes or lore (at least not for me, personally) or storybooks that I could have studied to get a jump start on this, the Master Test of All Tests.

There are no ‘if-then’ statements

‘Here,’ I said to Akira, when Kush was just three months old. ‘If you hold him sideways, like this, he’ll stop crying.’

‘Yeah, I tried that.’

‘Oh. Well, it worked this morning.’

‘And singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star worked last night.’

‘You know what? There are no if-then statements.’

Truth is, nothing can prepare you.

At PARENTING, our first dialogue on the topic in Durham, we were happy to meet with new perspectives. That’s the idea of a roundtable. We met a woman whose kids grew up in Trinity Park. She told us she decided to have them after visiting Thailand, and seeing how beautifully the villagers raised children together. That was a major takeaway from the conversation: to do parenting well, to feel like you’re not going to get overwhelmed, to feel connected to something broader than your nuclear family (and less than that, when your spouse is off to work), you have to have something important.

You have to have community.

People you feel like you can talk to about different things going on. So you can at least feel like you’re not dealing with it alone. People who might have tried other ideas, so you don’t have to be at home with your little ones trying to come up with the Best Way Ever Thought Of to do something. By yourself. Alone.

Yet, it’s very hard to create community when it’s not built-in for you.

Another guest was a local parent in our neighborhood who chooses to ‘unschool’ her children. She said that she grew up that way, and that as a result, she’s able to figure things out on her own. ‘I don’t have to go to school for it,’ she said. It showed me and Akira, whom I’d been chitchatting with just recently about some mundane subject like where to send Kush for school, something new.

Wait, let me clarify. Something new, and something old.

From our conversation PARENTING on Saturday, something dawned on us that we’d already experienced, during Week 1 with Kush.

And that was this:

Nobody has any answers.

We’re all just winging it.

When the afterglow of birthing starts to wash away, you forget. You think about burping, and rolling, and teething, and toys (‘preferably in wood,’ you say). You forget that there are no hard, fast, rules about how to deal with questions like, ‘How much to feed? How often? Is it okay to hold on to my kid at home for an extra year, or should I put her in day care? Do I really need to listen to what my mom says? No, right? No!’

Peer pressure, social pressure, those go away if I can trust my gut.

The last time I experienced this thought?

Day one.