If I knew then what I know now: Parenting edition

I have had the opportunity to hear from several friends about hard stages in their kiddos’ lives this week and it made me think. Here are some things I wish I knew “then.”

1. Your child will neither sleep with you for the rest of your life or be ruined for the rest of his if he sleeps in your bed. Let it go. You both need to sleep. All kids are different. Some need reassurances at night-time too.

2. In many other countries they don’t use canned baby food, sippy cups or soft spoons. At my mother in law’s house they handed a 1-year-old a nice tea-cup with warm juice in it. She drank it just fine. She also ate small mushy table food. You don’t have to do everything the way your mother or mother in law or doctor or the parenting magazines say. If something seems right, try it, be flexible if it doesn’t work. There is no one way to do it, and there are a thousand right ways.

3. Everyone is different. That doesn’t mean everyone else is wrong. Every kid is different. That means no parenting trick will work the same on every kid. That is ALL ok.

4. Doctors don’t always have the answers. Or know what is best for your child. Listen to their advice, do your own research if needed, make up your own mind. Look for answers elsewhere if that’s what your gut tells you to do.

5. Your mother in law or mother might have some good advice…  I’m just going to put this here and walk away.

6. You will feel exhausted, dirty, cranky, hungry, uncomfortable with how full your bladder is, and overwhelmed when you are a parent. It’s ok. It happens. Trust me when I say you aren’t alone. When you are young you think your parents have it all figured out and know exactly what they are doing. When you grow up you realize no parents really know what they are doing and most are winging it much of the time. And you finally know what your mom meant when she said in exasperation “can’t I even go to the bathroom alone?????”

7. Kids are PEOPLE. I know, take a deep breath, this one’s a doozy. Kids are people. They come with their own little personalities and preferences. They will not always do what you say, what you telepathically try to convey to them, or what you are quietly hoping in every single bone they do. IN FACT, they often do the exact thing you don’t want them to do. Like take of their diaper in the McDonald’s play land, or yell at some little old lady who just wants to say hi. Here’s the thing, that’s ok too. Your job is not to dictate, force, or pressure your child into doing what you want them to do for the rest of their natural born lives. Your job here is to provide for their physical needs. To give them shelter and food and clothing to the best of your ability. To provide for their emotional needs – to give them love and compassion.Your job is also to help them find the way to making their own decisions, and hopefully most of the time, choosing the path that is best for them, the path that is healthiest, kindest, and most wise.

8. You can learn more from them than they will ever learn from you.

9. Childhood is about messes. Childhood should be about exploring and learning about the world around you. Stop worrying about where the paint lands or if the markers are getting on the table. If you can’t stop worrying, put down a plastic drop cloth and let them keep going. Let your child enjoy the sand/mud/bubbles/rocks/paint/tape/paper/fountains/straw/woods/streams/bugs as much as possible. Let them wear clothing they can get dirty in. Don’t worry if the hair is perfectly styled. There is a time for that – but on day to day basis, let them be kids. Let them get messy. Let them get chocolate ice cream all over their face, or sand in their hair. Kids wash. Clothes wash. These times are important for both of you.

10. There are moments. Truly magical, amazing moments. When your child plays with the garden hose and has a look of sheer wonder on his face. When you come home from somewhere and they yell MAMA and come running to you and jump on you. When the worst day can be turned around by a gummy toothy grin. I am not saying you need to follow your child around trying to capture every moment and not lose a one. I am not saying that if you do miss a moment you are lost. I am certainly not saying you should berate yourself for time away from your child. I am saying, be open to the magic that is childhood. Put down what you are doing once in a while and just BE with your child.

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