There is a constant war. It goes on between parents – mothers and fathers alike. We shame each other and we judge those who do it differently and we think that our way is the best way. Times change and opinions change and we attack those who may still do it the way we remember as kids. And we attack those that hold modern day values and do it differently. We have all felt the judgment. Or the tension. Or the fear that we are doing it wrong. Parenting is a tough sport and it is not for the weak. Those that are in it know exactly what I am talking about. #SoundOff
I will be the first to admit I’m not an expert. I have never read a parenting book in my life. Heck, I never even attended a birthing class during any of my pregnancies! I call it how I see it most of the time and sometimes my patience wears thin way too fast. I’m sure my kids will have plenty to tell their therapist when they are adults, but what I do know is right now at this very moment each of my children are happy, healthy and loved beyond measure. Our oldest just turned nine and I thought I would pass on a few tips I have learned in the past several years…
No. 1: There is no guidebook. For any of it. Parenthood is a ‘learn on the job’ type of situation. Reading “What To Expect When Expecting” can be really informative, but it can also scare the hell out of you, trust me. Every woman is different. No two pregnancies are alike and reading any literature is not going to change that. While pregnant I ate what my body wouldn’t toss back up and if that was chocolate for an entire day then I blissfully lounged on the sofa surrounded by Hershey wrappers. It was anything I could do to get through the day and whatever kept me from stressing out was best for me and Baby. Including caffeine when I wanted it.
No. 2: No matter what people say, do what is best for you. I co-slept with each of my children for the first 3 to 5 months of their lives. Each and every one of my babies slept through the night at one month old and each of them now sleep in their own beds without fighting it (Articles you read will try and tell you that your kid will still be in bed with you in their early twenties. I don’t know about other parents, but my nine year old down to my three year old under stand the phrase “Get out!”) It’s not for everyone and that’s perfectly fine, but I made sure pediatricians knew that my motherly instincts were more important than any statistic they could hand me. And let’s be honest, for moms who just gave birth, all we want to do is sleep. If having Baby with me allows the both of us to get some pretty fantastic beauty sleep, trust me, no one is fighting me on that one. I mean, we just carried them in the womb for nine months, of COURSE they are going to do best when they are near us and can feel that contact.
And never let the “new-mom” guilt control any of your decisions. My first response to breastfeeding? I hated it. It was not the bonding experience or the beautiful scene that I was sold while I was pregnant. And when I was in the hospital with my first born, I had a nurse that made sure I knew that I was wrong. And then my lack of sleep, lack of comfort and extra-new Mama Bear hormones came out and it was not pretty. Bottom line? Pay close attention to your feelings. I carried guilt for awhile after that thinking there was something wrong with me. I did what I could and pumped, but ultimately couldn’t produce enough milk. And I hated the entire process. I worked through it as much as I could with each baby and when my little Blair came into the world I decided I wasn’t going to force it. I wanted to enjoy her and feel normal again and after such a rough pregnancy, I allowed myself to do that. I stare at my four perfectly healthy, happy and intelligent babes and I don’t regret a thing. I thank God for the blessing of health daily.
No. 3: Your kid is going to get injured. Whether it be on the trampoline, riding their bike on the driveway or even walking down the stairs . Kids are kids and their need for exploration is endless. Don’t keep them in a bubble. Let them try new things. That’s how they learn boundaries and limitations. Just be sure and stock up on Band-Aids. And let them get dirty for crying out loud! Some of my greatest memories are making mud pies dressed up in my Grandma Bertha’s skirts. That’s a story for another time. And you better believe that when it rains here in the desert, my kids are out puddle jumping. And when the sun is out, they are digging up worms and bugs in the backyard. Kids need to be kids.
No. 4: Sanitizing the binky every time it hits the floor isn’t doing much. Allowing your kid to enjoy some Sesame Street on the TV before they turn the “proper age” for that activity so you can have a few minutes to do something else? It’s not going to ruin them. They will survive the experience and make it to adulthood, I promise. Feeding them all organic food is a great goal/accomplishment and if you are that mom, just know that in another life I would have loved to be just like you. However, in this life? Sometimes I thrive and sometimes I survive. And the most exhausting nights usually means pizza picked up from our favorite local joint and enjoyed with our favorite movie playing.
No. 5: It’s not a “one-size-fits-all” situation. Each of your kids are different and needs to be parented differently. We are learning this daily! Our two oldest are polar opposites and are treated as such. Get to know each of their personalities as best you can and try to keep up with the changes they will go through. It will make all the difference.
No. 6: It’s OK for them to lose. Not everyone is a winner and the quicker they learn that the more prepared they are for adulthood and the better chance they have at competing in the real world and winning. I’m not sure where this new philosophy started or why, but there needs to be winners and there needs to be losers. It doesn’t need to be a high stress situation, but we don’t need to water it down either. Healthy competition is a good thing and builds character. Teach your child to lose gracefully, but also teach them to not apologize for winning. We are still working on that ‘lose gracefully’ part.
No. 7: Sometimes your kids are going to hurt. And your heart will break. It will wreck you and you will be beside yourself. And you will want to protect them. And you should, but there is only so much you can do. Allow them the opportunity to work through some problems on their own as much as they can and learn from it. Step in when you need to, but have faith that you have raised a strong individual. We went through a pretty hard situation with our oldest this school year and as much as I wanted to step in and adjust the situation as his parent, I trusted him when he said he could handle it. And we have seen so much growth from him this year it’s amazing. It’s taught him a lot and as his mother I couldn’t have asked for more.
No. 8: Your kid doesn’t have to have everything their friends have. The competition with “things” can get ridiculous at times and if I hear one more time that someone has “this phone” I may just scream. Our answer is the same time every time, “it doesn’t matter what so-and-so has. We will decide when you are ready for a phone. Or for social media”. And trust me, it will be awhile longer. It’s OK for them to not get everything they want or what is cool or popular. The last thing we need in this world is more young people feeling entitled with no reasons to back it up.
No. 9: It. Goes. By. Fast. And it hurts. Your heart will ache with each birthday and when you are staring eye to eye with your child, you will wonder how it happened so quickly. Do the best you can to breathe them in. Know that life is busy and we parents are working our hardest to provide a life for these little ones – you don’t need to feel guilty about that – but when you are there be there. In the moment. Be present. Give them your undivided attention and unwavering love because at the end of the day, it’s all that matters.
Me and my brood at the family cabin last summer.