I’m not the best at this mom thing. There are times, I’m selfish. I’d rather write a blog post or go for a run than get down on the floor and play Legos with my kids. There are times I don’t listen the way I should. There are times I yell.
I have come to look upon motherhood as a work in progress. In some instances, I have let go of certain ideals. In other instances, I have adopted new ones. Just when I think I have something figured out, I realize how very little I actually know.
My oldest child, Miss F., turned nine on Saturday. There is a distinction about celebrating the birthday of the oldest, because it also marks the anniversary of the day you became a mother. And while I still have a huge learning curve ahead when it comes to parenting, these are the nine truths that I live by.
1. Putting myself first makes me a better mother
Martyr mom I’m not and have never been. For the one week I tried it back in 2005, I was miserable. I adore my kids more than anything and I want what’s best for them. But I’ve also learned that when I take care of myself, whether that means getting my “run” in before Lego time, or closing my office door for an hour in the evening to write a blog post, I am a much better mother.
2. My kids will become who they are supposed to be despite my parenting mistakes
My family would be a great study for nature versus nurture. I have often said that I made all of my mistakes on Miss F., with her being my first child. Given my misfires, which include taking behavioral expectations to a whole new level, she could have become the most obedient, uptight child known to man. Fortunately, nothing stops this girl from speaking her mind. And I mean nothing. And while she could easily resent me for being stricter with her than my other two, she has grown into the kindest, most compassionate soul there is.
3. I am more likely to score a date with Justin Timberlake than retrieve my pre-baby body
Women I know everywhere lament over that post pregnancy weight or the physical changes they embark after baby. I actually weigh the same as I did before I became pregnant, but the weight is in different places than it used to be. Do I love this fact? No. But there is only so much I can do within the realm of reason to work with this. I have a choice. I can channel valuable mental energy into counting calories and performing grueling workouts, or I can live my life.
4. Your kids will not die from eating crap
If you have followed my blog from the beginning, then you know what a freak I am about clean eating. And while I do believe that processed foods have a huge contribution to our health problems, there are times that I can’t be bothered with more than making mac and cheese from a box for dinner (which, I suppose, may explain all those different places the weight has gone to???).
5. Teach them the best you can and then let it go
Just as I have fumbled and made mistakes as a parent, your kids are going to fumble and make mistakes too. And it’s going to drive you crazy, especially when you see it coming. Miss F. had some social problems in school last year that had me acting like a helicopter parent. I was hovering, all right. I was totally trying to control the problem.
Here’s the ugly truth about my micro-parenting – when I am trying that hard to manage her life, it’s because I am motivated by my own agenda and baggage.
I was “that kid” back in the second and third grade, awkward, not very popular, the last to get picked for kick ball. Most of us would rather throw ourselves in front of a locomotive than want our kids to have that kind of social status, but we can only do so much to secure their ranking in this world. If your kids have a place to come home to where they are loved and accepted unconditionally, the rest won’t matter quite as much. Furthermore, than unconditional love goes a lot farther than your trying to control.
6. Love them for who they are
Unless my kids are putting themselves or someone else in danger, and unless they are breaking a significant social or moral code, I have learned to teach without trying to change and I have learned to suggest without trying to control. Embrace them for their flaws in a way that you wish someone would embrace you for yours.
7. Have mentors
Supposedly this parenting thing is instinctual, but at times, not so much for me. I am lucky that I have great role models. Some of the best, most inspiring advice I have gotten of recent has come from Kim Hall, one of my favorite bloggers. Go meet her. She rocks.
8. Never use your children as an excuse to not pursue the things you love
There is no better surefire way to die with regrets and resentments than to use your kids as your excuse to not chase your dream. If there is something you really want to do, whether it be go to school, change careers, or pursue a hobby, find a way to do it. You might lose sleep. You might go into debt. You might have to give up a substantial amount of time with your children for a specific period.
Remember you have choices. It’s ok to choose your kids over another life goal because after children, priorities shift. But if you have that burning in your heart to do something, you’d better find a way.
Also, have the honest conversation with yourself. Do you really not have the time because of your children or are you using them to mask your fear?
9. Give into missing socks
Is the missing sock worth losing your serenity over? They are going to go missing. Give up on trying to find them and accept they’re gone forever. Go to Target and buy a new pack.
It’s messy, this parenting stuff. It has humbled me the way nothing else ever has. But it has also made me push myself harder than I ever thought possible. It’s as daunting as it is rewarding and as terrifying as it is cool. I have some more mistakes in me, for sure, but hopefully a victory or two as well. I’m thinking mac and cheese would be the perfect main course for that next victory dinner.
What are your tried and true lessons of parenting?
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