It's the eve of my ninth anniversary of parenthood (also known as the day before my oldest daughter's birthday), and it strikes me that I have a very different perspective on parenting than I did nine years ago. I thought it would be easy, I was great with kids, and motherhood would be a cinch. And in a lot of ways, it is easy for me. I'm aware of how well suited I am for this job - I truly enjoy being a stay at home mom, and have the luxury to do so. I have a lot of patience, and a lot of experience with children. I was the oldest of four (or six, depending on if you count the stepsiblings) with dozens of cousins that I used to babysit for.
But this is still the hardest thing I've ever done - and while the demands of parenting a nine year old are vastly different from the demands of parenting a nine week old, I can say officially and for the record, that it doesn't get easier. It just gets different. I'm also fortunate in that I have many children. My stepdaughters are almost thirteen and ten. I'm able to experience life with adolescence from a safe distance, and I have to assume that it'll make it easier when my own kids reach that age. With three to four years separating my three, my kids are all at very different stages.
Some of what I wish I had known nine years ago today - before I had my first child, before I was a mother...
- It really doesn't matter when they hit their milestones, as long as they do. Nobody really cares, other than you, if your child is potty trained at two, or three. If they give up the pacifier at six months or four years. If they sleep thru the night. And you won't care six months after they've done it either.
- It's totally worth the cost of a co-pay to hear that it's NOT an ear infection.
- Everyone has brought their child into the doctor in at least once for what turned out to be a temper tantrum. (Or was that just me??)
- If you don't want advice, don't look for it. People LOVE to tell you how they would raise your child, but if you are calm and confident, they're much less likely to think that you need their help.
- The best thing you can do for your child is to NOT entertain them every minute. Encourage them to play, to make up games on their own. Give them opportunities to think of their own fun, and make sure they know that your job is not to play with them.
- Sometimes, it's really fun to just play with your kids. Enjoy the stage they're at, because it won't last long.
- Bribery works. Call it positive incentive if it makes you feel better, but don't discount it as a parenting tool.
- Make sure you know what the rules are. In our house, whining is okay. I don't love it, but don't mind it too much either. What I really hate is disrespect. My kids aren't allowed to speak sarcastically or disrepectfully to either of us. Other parents may have different rules, but for us, that's a line in the sand. if you decide ahead of time what matters to you and stick to it, you're in a much better position to enforce them.