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So I’ve been a father for about 6 months now and over that time I’ve found that the life of a parent is essentially a series of experiments with real life consequences. Every day I wonder whether I’m doing the right thing for my daughter and when I have to make a decision about pretty much anything related to her, I must weigh the possible consequences of each option.
Case in point, I was feeding my daughter last night at 1am and my mind started wandering, as it usually does–this time about my daughter’s handedness. My wife and I believe she is left-handed, partly because we both are, and partly because she seems to favor her left hand, but it’s really too early to tell. Very early on, we found that she sleeps best at night when she’s swaddled nice and tight, but after a couple of months she stopped sleeping easily unless we kept just her left arm free, another check in the left-handed box. I now leave her left arm free every time I swaddle her, without exception, which leads me to the concern I suddenly felt last night –
Does keeping my daughters right arm tight in the swaddle stifle the development of that arm? Could she possibly be right-handed but we are only allowing the left arm to develop? Should I leave her right arm out next time? What is the consequence of continuing with the status-quo? She sleeps well with the status-quo, which means I sleep well. What is the consequence of switching arms? Would she have trouble sleeping and thus keep me up all night if I switch her arm? Or would she still sleep well and prove over time that she’s actually right-handed? Should I feed her apples or the chicken dinner? How do you handcuff a one-armed man?
The challenge here is that I don’t have a test-lab (aka: test baby) to experiment with different swaddling techniques or foods in order to answer these questions? As parents, we (the proverbial ”we”) are constantly experimenting with real-live children and hoping we don’t screw up. What’s worse is that humans are all unique, so even your first child doesn’t necessarily teach you everything you need to know for your second.
Out in the business world, there are test environments for all sorts of systems, software, electronics, cars, etc where experiments are tested and proven first, then put in place in production environments. The consequence for screwing up most of these systems? Somebody, somewhere, may not be able to buy an iPhone that day. The consequence for messing up in parenting? Ruining our children, ruining our own lives, or both. Sometimes when I have a stressful day at work, coming home to take care of my daughter puts things into perspective.