Last week, a friend and I were talking about parenting stages. We both have college aged kids now so we’ve “been there and done that”. When she asked if I would go back and do anything differently, I paused. I was pretty sure I had most of it figured out. I’m not saying my husband and I did everything right. On the contrary. We definitely did not get everything right, but we raised two kids who made their share of mistakes, and still survived to adulthood, so I suppose we must have done a few things correctly?
Seriously, our daughters are turning out to be really good people. I know, I’m probably a little biased. Maybe even just a smidge more than a little? Still, they’re pretty awesome in my book. Isn’t that the whole idea though? Parenting with your best foot forward 99% of the time, so you can send intelligent, curious, kind, and socially responsible people out into the world, to make it a better place. Well, that’s the way we approached it anyway.
That said, there are some things that I didn’t fully understand back then.
- First things first! Don’t second guess your capabilities. I have repeatedly heard parents wonder out loud if they’re doing it all right? Of course you’re not! None of us are. How could we? Those little wonders don’t come with a manual and all the parenting books in the world won’t completely prepare you, or keep you from making mistakes. There will be “bad” days. Shoot, there might even be a stint of them. If you’re doing your best, YOU ARE ENOUGH! Look in the mirror and ask yourself “Am I using all the tools I have to be the best parent I can be?” If your honest answer is yes, you are doing enough.
- Speaking of “bad”days. Let’s just get this one off the table now. We have all said or done something (if you haven’t, you will) that makes us cringe. We are human after all. We get overwhelmed and tired. It’s OK. Just don’t unpack and live there. Stop, take a deep breath, or a few of them…apologize, and LET IT GO!
- You can’t do it all at home and you shouldn’t feel like you have to. Looking back, our girls could have had more chores. Put your little angels to work. They can help fold laundry and unload the dishwasher. They should be picking up their rooms and making beds. Will three of those four chores turn out the same way they would if you did it yourself? Probably not, but it will be close enough, so who cares? A perfectly starched and spotless house is overrated. Martha Stewart doesn’t live here. Nothing against Martha, but I’m certain she has “people” who do all that for her. Perfection is for model homes. It’s getting done and that’s all that matters. As they grow, give them a weekly chore list. You are lessening your work load and teaching them simple lessons in the process.
- School isn’t a competition. “Oh, my goodness, my little SallyJane just wouldn’t know what to do if she got a B!” If that works for SallyJane, so be it. My kids were never straight A students and at times I agonized over my girls grades even though with a mix of A’s and B’s, they were doing just fine. We ended up putting undue pressure, on our oldest, in math. Unfortunately, she inherited my math skills. (Sorry TT!) We tried everything and she would work her rear end off for a C. The thing is, there was nothing wrong with a C. We finally accepted she was doing her best and that’s what mattered!
As it turns out, both of our daughters got accepted to the colleges of their choice and she only needed one math class for her major. There really is a reason for everything!
- You don’t have to be BFF’s with all the other parents at school. Be friendly to everyone, but it’s OK to pick and choose who you really want to get to know. Let those relationships grow organically. There is only so much energy to go around and none of it should involve forced interactions.
- No is a complete sentence. An explanation is not always required. Practice in the mirror. Own it.
- Take at least 15 minutes for yourself daily. I didn’t do this and I should have. Make some tea, read, take a nap, sit outside on the porch in the sun, do some gardening. If you don’t want to take 15 minutes, devote an evening to a class. Whatever is good for you, do it!
I will also add (and this is not to be lumped in with your 15 minutes of “you” time) that it’s not OK for your kids to follow you into the bathroom. My mantra was always “I get to pee by myself!”
- There will be days when you don’t feel like playing another round of Candy Land, Go-Fish, saving the world, or attending the Barbie dance party. Take a walk to the park and save your sanity instead.
- Mom guilt is real. Don’t give in to it – go back and review the bullet point about being enough.
- Date night should be a regular thing. Once a week. Once a month. Every other month. It can be as simple as going for a walk, or out for an ice cream. Another friend of mine schedules stay-in pool side date nights. I love that idea! My husband and I didn’t begin regular date nights until our girls were older. We always spent lots of time together as a family, so we have no regrets in that department, but we could have carved out more time for us as a couple when our girls were younger.
I’m sure there are a few other things I would do differently. Maybe I’ll write about those, down the road, in another post. For now, these were the most obvious. Maybe you would do a few things differently too?
#Parenting; would I do most of it the same? Absolutely.