After nearly sixteen years as a mom, it stands to reason that I would have picked up a few parenting tips along the way. It would be bloody awful if I didn’t. It would either mean that I was untrainable, unobservant, ignorant, or all of the above. I would like to share some of these “Mom” lessons with you.
But luckily, though I am a bit of all three at times, I do have the odd moment of clarity. Where I am receptive to learning. And learn I have. Simply loads and loads and loads of it. More than I ever thought possible. More than I thought a person was able to learn.
Now it’s true, that some of the things I’ve learnt along the way, might seem obvious. Even logical. But here’s the thing – until you’ve had kids, you’ve never really had to learn these skills. And therefore, a fair bit of what you’re doing is unchartered territory. Like you’re an explorer of old, plotting a new territory. Which a child truly is.
You learn that you have to burp them for an extraordinary amount of time, to get the smallest little burp from them. And that this spot of belching, would make you happier than a new pair of shoes.
That it takes about half an hour to bath and dress a new baby. And that it only takes them about fifteen seconds, before they ruin all of your efforts. Requiring another bath yet again.
You learn, that leaving them to cry for a little bit when it comes to bedtime, might seem terribly cruel and break your heart, but that you’re teaching them a kindness in self soothing. Making them realise that you’re the boss, and that when you say sleep, you really mean it.
It also makes you learn, that sometimes, this just won’t work.
It teaches you the remarkable nuance differences in a baby’s cry. That you can listen to them and understand with absolute clarity, as if they’ve said it to you in words, exactly what is wrong. Whether it’s a hungry cry. A please-change-me-cry. A pain-filled cry. Or an I-just-want-a-cuddle-from-you cry.
That kids very often say they’re not hungry if they hear what’s on the menu (and it happens to include veggies). But if you take away the other, less healthy alternatives, likes chips and snacks, they’ll knuckle down and eat the veggies just fine. And if they don’t, they’ll come around soon.
That nagging will continue, as long as your kids think that there is a chance they will sway you.
That if you threaten them with consequences to an action, you better have the balls to go through with it. Because otherwise you look and feel like a fool.
Yes, there are many, many practical, obvious things, that you will learn along the way.
Yet of all of the myriad things I have learnt – just five stand out by far:
1. Follow your heart and your gut.
Chances are your internal compass is spot on. If you have a feeling for something, you’re usually right. You are the parent. You know best. Not someone, who wrote some book on parenting. By all means, take the advice. But listen to your inner voice. She’s rather clever.
2. Don’t judge.
Either other children, or other parents. Remember not having kids, and watching a family, with one kid misbehaving terribly? Perhaps throwing a tantrum. Or whining about sweets in the aisle at the shops. Perhaps chewing with their mouth open. Being an unruly and ill-disciplined teen, experimenting, etc. Well, chances are, that once you’re a parent, someone else has judged you. For your parenting skills and for your misbehaving child. Because this is what children do. They test the boundaries.
They step out of line. Perhaps they are tired. Maybe just plain naughty. It’s usually a phase. And none of us escape this fate. Experience has taught me, that my kids and I are very fallible. It’s the only way we learn. And become better people. Hopefully not making the same mistakes again. The second I stand in judgement, over someone else’s child, the odds are that I’ll shortly meet with an unpleasant parenting surprise from one of my own kids. It has made me realise, that being judgemental is absolutely awful. As parents, we should support and encourage one another. Not be critical. It takes a village to raise a child.
3. Each child is an individual.
No two kids are the same. If you’re not sure, just look at them physically. Even identical twins have some or other differences. If siblings can be so very, very different on the outside, just imagine how different they are on the inside.
4. Don’t compare your kids.
It is not fair on your kids to compare them. Not with their siblings. Not with their friends. Not with the unrealistic memories you have of yourself as a “perfect” child. It’s ridiculous. Though an oak tree and a cactus, are both from the plant family, they couldn’t be more different. It would not be fair to expect the oak tree to have edible fruit. Nor to expect the succulent plant to have big, heavy branches, providing lots of shade.
5. Just love them.
Parenting is hard. You make yourself unpopular with your kids, because you have to discipline them. And say “NO!” lots of the time. But eventually your kids will realise, that you are doing what you are doing out of love. If you just love them enough, despite all of your mistakes along the way, chances are, they’ll turn out just fine. And will forgive you for your mistakes, cause they were made out of love. With the very best of intentions.
I still learn every single day. I’ve never had to parent a fifteen year old before. This is all new to me. And though I have parented a twelve and nine year old before, they were different kids. What worked with the one kid, did not necessarily work with the next kid.
I suspect the learning, never ends. And though I rejoice in every single stage and phase of my kids, I also look forward to learning even more.
Luke, Amber and Cole – you’re awesome teachers!
A FEW HANDY TIPS FOR PARENTS TO USE DURING THOSE RESTLESS NIGHTS:
When kids are still up and about when it’s getting close to bedtime or when teens are stressed during exams and struggle to relax or fall asleep, try using any of the following…it works like a charm:
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