Today a new mom asked me for some advice. As usual, I began to sweat profusely and grimace as I do when anyone asks me for parenting advice. Like most moms, I am doing the best I can and yet I don't feel fit to advise a newt on parenting. I look around and always notice that everyone seems to parent better/more calmly/more happily than I do and I also notice their offspring are more well-behaved/more accomplished/ better at the cello than my own. But this mom is in her mid-twenties, full of energy and not used to taking no for an answer. She pressed me for some parenting advice, not sweetening the deal at all by referring to me as "a seasoned mom". Thank you, young whippersnapper. So before she shooed me off to the local HoJos to get the Early Bird Special, I cobbled together 4 pieces of parenting advice I felt comfortable sharing based on my own trials and errors.
I am not going to tell you to "SAVOR EVERY MOMENT". I'm not going to tell you that because I believe that most moms are already doing that. The highlight of my day is watching my 2 year old run to her big brother for a bear hug and a smooch every day when he gets off the bus. I know you are enjoying these moments also at your house. Of course you are. What are you, made of ice?
You don't need me to tell you to savor those moments. What I want to tell you is that you should forgive yourself for BLOWING A GASKET during the less adorable moments. Like when they throw a can of neon yellow slime into a load of white laundry that includes your favorite cardigan, dump chocolate milk on the floor for sport and throw a tantrum because you won't let them stay up until 10 pm to watch a re-run of Wonder Woman. All of which happened this past year in my house.
Forgive yourself for yelling, speaking harshly, shoving them into their rooms or designated time-out spots. You are human. You're entitled to hissy fits when you've asked your son TEN TIMES to put on his karate uniform and he's refused to do it and now his ride is here and he's wearing just a shirt and no shoes. You will not always make the right decision as a parent. You will fail. Forgive yourself for not being perfect because you are doing the best you can.
Forgive Your Children
Are you children the picture of perfect manners? Do you they always eat their greens, never whine, say hello to their aunts and uncles by name and do their homework without being told? Are they fair to others and never perseverate on the gumball they wanted from Toys R Us when you have just bought them a new stuffed Angry Bird? If this is the case, please leave this blog and NEVER RETURN!
As a former girly girl, I thought that my daughter would love to have tea parties and play dolls with me. She doesn't. She wants to shoot hoops and collect worms. My husband thought our son would love surfing as much as he does but he has somehow sired a son that loves water but not getting his face wet. Forgive your children for not being miniature versions of yourself. Let them be whoever it is that they are going to be. Forgive your children for sometimes embarrassing you in front of grocery clerks and entire birthday parties because, quite simply, they are children. Forgive them for not being perfect and sometimes sneaking a box of orange tic-tacs under their pillow that they got from Grandma when you specifically said no candy after 6 p.m.
Please don't expect these miraculous little creatures to be perfect. You are setting them up for failure. Expect them to be remarkable and they will always succeed! For example, it was remarkable that my two year old managed to lock everyone out of the bathroom today, including herself, while the plugged faucet was still running.
But Don't Be Your Child's Friend
I promise you that if you are very lucky there will come a time in your early twenties when you'll take in a movie with your mom and discuss politics with your dad and you'll realize that the pendulum has swung and your parents are less your care-takers and more your equals...even your friends. But if you're the parents to small children or teens that time is not now. Yes, that means being the bad guy. The one that makes them eat the broccoli, says no to the second ice pop, enforces the bedtime and teeth brushing and metes out the punishment when he karate chops his sister because she accidentally turned off Adventuretime. It means sitting down sometimes and calling your children out on their bad behavior so that they can learn to be happy and productive.
With great responsibility comes great power. Your children may not like some of your rules, particularly limits on candy, screen time and lights out but they sure as hell will respect you for it. It's tempting to think of your kids as your "little buddies" but they're not. They're a precious gift you've been entrusted to raise and teach until they can make it on their own in this world. Don't leave them ill-equipped to navigate this world by indulging in their every whim, letting them do whatever they want and, in short, not doing the hard work you signed on for when you became a parent. Wonderful teachers, Coach So-And-So, Sensei Whomever and their CCD leader may be great role models and part of a loving support network, but YOU ARE THE PARENT. One kid I know responds to any time-out his mom gives him by storming "You're not my friend anymore!!" She never was, kid. Children have plenty of friends, what they need is a parent.
Spend Time With Your Kids.
This is the fun part. Not counting church, not counting when you're on the sidelines of the soccer game or swim match, not counting when you have a gaggle of your child's friends and moms over, although that's fun. Spend time with your kids. Just you and your partner and your kids. Go to the park. Have a picnic. Pop corn and watch movies they pick. Swim with them. Ride bikes. Draw with them. Play board games with them. Let them help you make meatballs and cookies even though you will have to absolutely vacuum your floor and ceiling right after. Make your kids feel that they are your priority. And I hate to break this to you but the clock is ticking. They're not always going to think you're a rock star. Soon your child will be too embarrassed to hold your hand in public and your daughter will think you're the enemy for not letting her wear make-up. As hard as this time period can be (the time period of having small children) it will also be the best years of your life. Never have you been so loved before and never will you be this loved again. Don't squander it.
So in short, (dare I say it?) Savor. Every. Moment.