Recently my son went through a bout of Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease, a nasty bit of business if you’ve never had the pleasure of you or yours having it, and one of the things I’ve noticed recently is that the influx of things that They have to say has more or less dried up, and I find that sort of depressing. It’s like my brood of three children, my spouse, or I no longer rate for the often unsolicited and often unproven advice They have to offer. So few are the folk remedies, the anecdotes of They’s experiences that were probably somebody elses’, the pseudoscience They sincerely studied online, even the slightly patronizing hugs They dish out, are all but gone. I suppose I should take it as a sign that my parenting exp. points have leveled me up to a point where I should be doling out my own Wizardly wisdom to those noobs who have recently joined the ranks of parent or married couple, but the silence still stings a bit. It’s like missing an ex who drifted a little too far over the Hot/Crazy diagonal to warrant staying with.
I suppose I have myself to blame for the ebb and flow of advice that other’s have fostered upon me. (Actually, I can probably blame my spouse, but as she reads this blog, I think I’ll leave it in my arena) If we dial back the clock many, many moons ago, before my three darling *snort* children and my thirteen years of marriage, I can trace my willing acceptance of They and their advice to a single event: my Sister-In-Law’s pregnancy. At the time I was a fresh-faced early twenty-something who knew exactly Jack Shite about the world. Actually that’s not fair, I knew Jack, but I had yet to meet his father, James Shite, the ex military drill sergeant with big callused hands and a sour disposition for a fresh-faced anyone. Anyway, I was still wet behind the ears and madly in love with my future wife. We were soon to be married and were visiting her relations on the wrong end of PA (that’s the part that’s not Pittsburgh). As we sat down to some happy hour festivities, my SIL waddled over and sat down across from me, sparkling cider in hand. We conversed a bit when I noticed a slight disturbance around her middle. When I say slight, I mean a lump the size of a tennis ball traced its way across the equator of her stomach. It was like seeing that scene from Alien when John Hurt started writhing on the table but before Ridley Scott entered our nightmares forever. And I couldn’t stop watching it either. I kept waiting for my nephew to burst forth and shoot across the floor, hissing all the way. My SIL noticed my slightly panicked expression because she laughed and said something to the effect of, “Weird, huh? I told you I could see him move around in there.”
This was not “weird,” weird would be seeing ripples in her belly like after a bad night of all you can eat tacos. This was a million dollar special effect mind-blowing. She said she could see him move, she didn’t say you could see individual fingers as they grasped toward the outside world. Okay, that didn’t happen, but already in my mind, rapidly trying to be numbed by a few Jack and Cokes, it had. This was my first real experience with They and their advice and I would soon come to all but beg for it. After all, I had seen things no twenty year old boy should have to see and I had to get through it somehow.
What I soon discovered about They is that they want to help. Really, they do. They will tell you things they think you need to know about your new predicament, like your wedding, your honeymoon, your first house, your first child, your child’s first cold/flu/diaper rash. And they do these things out of the kindness of their hearts. But They also know that most of the time, the advice doesn’t work, or only works part of the time, just as it probably didn’t for them, because everyone is a little different and not everything works for everybody. And They know that you, as recipient of their advice, will come to them with your story of woe and misfortune, and They will feel sorry, but inside, They will laugh and laugh and laugh.
Let me give you some examples of what They have told me. They say, “Boys poop differently than girls; they are a bit more forceful, so you have to be careful!” What They mean to say is that your son has the ability to coat the far wall if he so chooses, so do not, whatever you do, place yourself at the business end of a baby boy. Change him from the side and have a blast shield prepared just in case. My wife, her belly button, and our couch could have used that full lesson, thank you. They say, “You know that playing airplane/superman with your baby is so much fun, and it establishes trust and a bond with them!” What they mean to say is, “Your baby will love it for about thirty seconds before his last meal is dropped directly onto your upturned face. And chances are, your mouth is wide open when it happens.” Yup, and I can still taste it. They say, “Try to take a nap when your baby does, it’s good for you and your baby.” What they mean to say is there is not a chance in hell you’ll get both of your kids to bed at the same time for at least three months, but I’m going to say I did to drive you bat shit. And if you do manage it, you’ll have so much crap to catch up on, your mind won’t let you sleep until about ten minutes before one of them wakes up.
It got to the point where every time They would offer me advice, I’d try to be patient, but I think it was clear I was humoring them. The glazed expression, the tight smile, the monosyllabic replies were evidence of my impatience. One of the last instances I can remember of They casting down advice on me was a dear friend of mine giving me a tub of natural honey. Did you know that natural honey (not that crap in the stores) can help or even cure the following: eczema, first and second degree burns, jelly fish stings, the common cold, GI issues, shallow wounds, a lost eye, and even baldness? Neither did I until my friend joined the ranks of They. I may have at that point “lost my shit” and went into full-bore Sarcasmo mode. “What? Why doesn’t my doctor know about this? Hell, the military? It’s the man, he’s making us use things like regulated and tested medicines. Thank God you brought this in…” and so on and so forth until I was on the brink of making her cry before I could pull back. It had been a long summer with my son, who newly described the word “Rage” for me and I may have overreacted.
They mean well, They really do, and what I’ve discovered is that They are human, just like you and me, but They need something to help them through their drudgery too, and really, misery loves company. What has occurred to me is that perhaps I no longer receive their advice because They know I’ll come crawling back. New milestones will be hit: my daughter(s) hitting puberty *hurk*, my son’s first trip to the ER, sending the kids to college, the death of a parent, a heart attack, you name it. They will be there, waiting for my red rimmed eyes to seek them out, looking for answers, and They will give them, because They care. So the next time you get some advice from They, take it with a grain of salt, because studies show a grain of salt is good for indigestion. Didn’t you know?