My twins turn ten this weekend. That means I have a decade of experience in parenting. If I was building my resume, I’d say that makes me an industry expert.
But despite the fact I have spent the past 3,650 days mothering, there is still at least one moment in each day when I feel unsure. I feel inadequate. I feel scared.
I am constantly reminded of this quote: “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside of your body.”
But as I reflect, I can’t help but toast myself with a glass of chardonnay for my success. I have kept two human beings alive for ten entire years with only a few mishaps along the way.
I have totally earned the title “parenting expert.”
Even if one time my daughter’s infant carrier flipped out of the shopping cart…with her in it. But that happens to everyone, right? Or the time my husband and I caught the twins sled riding down the stairs in a laundry basket because we were cleaning out a closet. Or the time I let my two-year old speech-delayed daughter suck wine off my finger just so we could hear her say the word “more” just one more glorious time. Yep, I’ve got this mom thing nailed.
And even though my parenting score card is filled with errors, I figure there has to be a few things I’ve learned along the way…a few things that you moms who have only been parenting two or seven or maybe only nine years don’t know yet, such as:
10. Kids are incredibly resilient to new situations. I know, as my twins are already living in their fourth city in their short life. As parents, we worry so much about making sure our kids know someone at every activity or event they go to, but truth be told, most kids make friends easier than we believe. We need to stop spending so much time ensuring they are going to be in attendance with a friend, and start encouraging them to meet a new one.
9. There will never be a stronger advocate for your child than you. I don’t hide the fact that one of my daughters had a tough start to life facing physical, developmental and emotional challenges. Since she was very young, my husband and I have fought to get her every service, therapy, surgery and support mechanism available to her. My most important word of advice: never accept limits on your child imposed by someone else. Believe in your son or daughter and they will always exceed your expectations. This is also easier said than done.
8. Crying becomes a pastime. Your kid’s first step, you tear up. First day of school for your first-born, you have to swallow the lump in your throat and have a mimosa at the busstop just to get through. Your daughter and 11 other kids you barely know sing America, the Beautiful and your eyes are swollen before the last verse. Don’t even get me started on those Procter & Gamble commercials they play during the Olympics which are just a ploy for you to use more Kleenex. Yes, becoming a mom has forever cemented the fact that I cry at everything. And even if you have that ability to keep your eyes dry during such emotional events, I know you are crying on the inside.
7. Kids are born with several sixth senses. Like when they know the exact moment you shut the door to go to the bathroom. Or having to poop when you are running late. Or needing something only when you are on a phone call. Or getting the stomach flu at Christmas. Seriously, they are gifted.
6. No matter how hard you try, there will be times you sound exactly like your mother. Don’t try to fight the force. And sometimes you just need to say things like: “I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out.” It increases the dramatic effect.
5. Baking with young children is overrated. I could not wait to start family traditions of baking with my children. And then I actually did it and realized that keeping my children alive and me out of the sanitarium is more important. And going to the bakery to buy stuff can be a great tradition.
4. Your kids will embarrass the heck out of you. They will pass gas in the middle of church services. They will spit up on your suit. They will pee their pants — sometimes twice — at a bounce house party. They will say expletives when they drop a box of crayons in two-year old preschool. Embrace it. But they might also lie to their teacher, or send a mean text to a friend, or steal candy. All embarrassing, all important life lessons. Handle every embarrassing moment with thought, love and care because they’re probably embarrassed too.
3. Avoid the Mommy Olympics. So many of us use our kids as a benchmark to our own self-worth. As the mother of a child with some special needs, I discovered early on that we would not always be on the same timeline as other kids….and it was somewhat of a relief not to have to compete. It’s unfair to our kids when we gauge their success against their peers, and we should never feel shame because our kid is not measuring up to an imaginary bar set by their play group. Keep the focus on your child and celebrate their victories, whenever they may occur.
2. Judgment on your parenting is inevitable. It’s up to you if you want to accept it. There is not a single thing you will do as a parent that someone does not have an opinion on — and probably will share without being asked. And you certainly can’t read a blog (not mine of course), Pin or Facebook post that does not reek with self-righteous viewpoints on the many philosophies of child rearing. You can let it feed your insecurities or you can let it fly right out of your head. Choosing the latter means you’ll probably enjoy being a parent much more.
1. You will never know what you are doing — not even after ten years of parenting. Every time I feel momfident, one of my kids comes along and knocks me right off my parenting pedestal. All we can do is dust ourselves off, have a glass of wine, get a good night’s sleep and tackle it again in the morning.
Because there’s no getting your heart back once you are a parent.
Happy Birthday to my beautiful girls! I am a better person because of you.
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