Over the next month, both my sister and sister-in-law will be having their first respective children, and I can't wait to find out if I'm an aunt or an uncle.

I'm looking forward to years of teaching my nephews and/or nieces the same kinds of valuable life lessons I was taught by my uncles: Obscene hand gestures; that hilarious pull-my-finger trick; how to make funny flatulent noises with my armpit; a songbook of limericks that start with "there once was a man from Nantucket..."

I was a very popular person in eighth grade thanks to the positive influence of my cadre of uncles.

But this column isn't about me and my juvenile record. It's about how young future parents like my sister and her husband and sister-in-law and her husband can be better prepared parents. I've been through that ringer - three times already - and have some sage advice/insight/warnings that all expecting parents should know and commit to memory. Following is my remedial guide for such first-time parents dealing with babies. Read it, know it, live it.

Prepare to be knowledgeable:

- First, there's a soft spot on the top of the baby's head. Although it may look like a button, it's not. You are not to press it.

- The first four months of a baby's life are not fun for the parents. Basically, your goal as a parent should be to keep the child alive. After the fourth month, the baby starts acting and looking more like a human being and it starts to be enjoyable.

- Fathers - treat an infant just as you would a can of Coke. If you shake it up a little, it's going to spew all over you - usually when you're wearing a suit.

- A normal temperature for a human being is 98.6 degrees. There is no need to rush your baby to the emergency room when its temperature reaches 99 degrees.

- At some point, your baby will be dropped on the floor.

The child may simply fall out of your arms, or roll off a couch or bed. Make sure you're not the first parent to do it.

- For a while after the baby is born, all kinds of people are going to come to your house to "see the baby." Why? I don't know. They aren't coming to see you, so I suggest you use that free time to take a nap. Trust me - you'll need it.

- Fathers - the mother of your child may show signs of psychosis (from what I've heard, of course) after the baby is born. Don't worry - this wears off after a decade or so.

- If you hold any pretenses that you'll still be "cool" after your first child is born - forget it. You are now a parent. Go ahead and pull your pants up real high, cancel your subscription to Rolling Stone, and purchase a mini-van. It's over. You'll never be cool again.

- On the other hand, you will be up a lot at 3:30 a.m., and it's a little-known fact that MTV still plays music videos when nobody is supposed to be watching. So you may get to catch up on the latest, hippest hits. At 3:30, the only other non-infomercial programming are repeats of "Gomer Pyle USMC," which I highly recommend.

- On that note, when the baby wakes you up in the middle of the night crying- loud, fake snoring will work for about two-to-three months until your spouse figures it out.

- Mothers - the father of your child may try to avoid certain parenting duties like changing diapers or feeding the baby or staying in the same room as the child. Don't permit that. Let them share in the parenting duties - not necessarily to give you a break, but rather because if they aren't allowed or expected to be a participating parent, they won't be. And they will be missing out on so, so much.

Like I said - sage advice.



Len Robbins is the Editor/Publisher of The Clinch County News.

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