First-time Parent Memo

[Unpublished, June 2000]


To: David
From: Mom & Dad, Inc.
Re: Offspring

Congratulations! Mom & Dad, Inc., are pleased to hear that you and Marcella have had a baby. Good work. Though a new baby is a demanding project (for further reference, see top end, bottom end, intermediate regions, etc.) we anticipate that this investment of time and effort will be as rewarding to you as similar endeavors have been to us (see family scrapbooks).

While the project has been labor-intensive so far, with Marcella even pulling a couple of all-nighters there at the end, the workload in this initial phase is nothing compared to the years ahead. However, despite all this parental effort, you can take full credit for neither the original concept nor the final product. The developer of the entire line launched with a simple dust-and-breath model quite a long time ago (see Genesis). Since he still holds patent on the process, in these projects we can only claim to be collaborators.

For your inaugural project you have elected to give birth to an eldest child. Excellent choice! When Mom & Dad, Inc., began operations twenty-something years ago, we too made the same selection. An eldest child can be a delight, but comes with some distinctive characteristics (see your sister).

On further examining your situation, it appears that your wife is an eldest child, as is your sister, both your parents, and now this baby as well. Starting out with an eldest for a baby might indicate that you are in something of a rut. Mom & Dad, Inc., recommend that you try for some variation next time, keeping in mind such adjectives as new, daring, unexpected (see your brother).

It also appears that in selecting a candidate to fill the position of baby in your household you have chosen a boy. As you know, opinion is evenly divided worldwide on this score. Boy is certainly an excellent choice, however. While boys can provide some distinctive stresses in the first decade of life (see your brother, emergency room visits), girls typically provide their own in the second decade (see your sister, phone calls from college). Final outcome can be equally satisfactory in either case.

It is not clear why God developed the line in two models, male and female. An efficiency consultant would probably recommend consolidation, in order to avoid repeating past negative experiences (see Adam, Eve). However at present production requires participation of two existing models, so it does not appear that such an improvement is currently feasible.

You may have already noticed that a new baby in the household means the appearance of surprisingly large quantities of baby supplies. To wit: materials to prop up the baby, materials to clean up the baby, materials to cheer up the baby, materials to dress up the baby, and so forth (see nursery). The cumulative tonnage of these materials have been known to cause a slight bowing in the center of the nursery floor, and transporting baby to Grandma’s house for the day may require two cars.

You will note that among this vast quantity of material there is very little you, personally, purchased. Most of these materials arrived in your possession as gifts, and as donations from other families with slightly older babies. You have been caught in a subsidiary effect of El Nino, in which swirling tides of second-hand baby gear circulate just above ground level across the entire United States in an unpredictable but steady pattern. If a charming gray-blue sweater with red reindeer comes by, hold onto it; it was yours when you were three (see left cuff, mended seam).

You will notice that your baby is not yet fluent in English. This is no cause for alarm. Indeed, some babies continually gain in fluency to the point where their verbal output exceeds the auditory capacity of their parents (see your sister, phone calls from college). Admittedly, a new baby incorporates an array of features that would be dismaying in any other houseguest: incontinent, unreasonable, incoherent, autocratic, and prone to tears. It is like hosting a tiny, hyper-emotional, non-English-speaking emperor, with wet pants. Why God thought this particular assortment of traits would be irresistible to parents is unclear. Other factors more than compensate for these negatives however (see top of head, sweet smell).

You will find, likewise, that your baby is not initially an effective member of the complete household team. Few babies gain the praise of management in such terms as “competent and well-organized” or “he’s a real team player.” The task is to find assignments that suit the baby’s level of competence, to wit: staring fixedly at an empty corner, rapidly shifting among random facial expressions, production of magnificent explosive digestive noises, sleeping. Praise for accomplishing these objectives can ease the baby along into more advanced responsibilities. However, be aware that when a growing child begins to exhibit traits that might earn such descriptives as “strongly-motivated self-starter,” it is not necessarily to management’s advantage (see your brother and various wall, floor, and ceiling repairs).

Finally, let us repeat our congratulations. For all the effort and maintenance required, nothing equals a baby in terms of the joy and satisfaction provided. The daily task of rearing the child and seeing it learn and grow is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Crowning this is the experience of seeing a grown child move into adult responsibilities and parenting of his own. The child who provides his parents with such satisfaction will bestow joy all the years of their lives, and is a incomparable treasure (see mirror).


Mom & Dad, Inc.

About Frederica Mathewes-Green

Frederica Mathewes-Green is a wide-ranging author who has published 10 books and 800 essays, in such diverse publications as the Washington Post, Christianity Today, Smithsonian, and the Wall Street Journal. She has been a regular commentator for National Public Radio (NPR), a columnist for the Religion News Service,, and Christianity Today, and a podcaster for Ancient Faith Radio. (She was also a consultant for Veggie Tales.) She has published 10 books, and has appeared as a speaker over 600 times, at places like Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Wellesley, Cornell, Calvin, Baylor, and Westmont, and received a Doctor of Letters (honorary) from King University. She has been interviewed over 700 times, on venues like PrimeTime Live, the 700 Club, NPR, PBS, Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times. She lives with her husband, the Rev. Gregory Mathewes-Green, in Johnson City, TN. Their three children are grown and married, and they have fourteen grandchildren.

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