My kids teach me things daily—like what amount of blood requires an emergency room visit, how to get grape juice out of brand-spanking new carpet and the nicest way to explain to a 4-year-old why that fish he was trying to catch in our tank (a forbidden activity) is no longer swimming. Of course, they also teach me patience, compassion, anger management, how to really love unconditionally and much, much more. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned through parenting.
1. Watch your mouth. The worst thing any parent can say is, “My kid will never do that!” Once those words leave your mouth, the universe will ensure that your kid does do that, whatever it is, repeatedly and in front of as many people as possible. Seriously, not ever saying those words is the very best advice I could give any parent-to-be.
2. Make your own rules. You really don’t have to do things by the book. Guidance is always nice, but if letting your baby cry herself to sleep just doesn’t work for you, there’s no law that says you have to do it. If you’d rather rock her to sleep every night and deal with the consequences, rock on. Every mom should do what’s best for her family, and that will undoubtedly differ from one house to the next.
3. We grow weaker, not stronger. Children are the toughest creatures on the planet. While I strongly advise trying not to whack your baby’s head on the door frame while putting him in the car, if you happen to do so, he’ll probably cry for about 2.5 seconds and then forget all about it. Believe me, you will suffer from the experience much longer than he does.
4. We’re all at the top of the class. All parents are more capable than they give themselves credit for. I don’t know any mom who hasn’t doubted herself, envied the uber-parenting of someone else or beat herself up for not being “perfect.” When it comes to parenting, there is no such thing as perfection. We should all just strive to be good enough—and really, no matter how inexperienced we are or how lousy we think we’re doing on any given day, a mom who tries to be a good mom is a good mom.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff. You will spend a great portion of your time as a parent stressing over things that just don’t matter that much. If your baby hasn’t taken a step by her first birthday, there is probably absolutely nothing wrong with her. Once she takes off, you’ll long for the days when she couldn’t. Your baby will grow to be your perfect, wonderful little human being, whether she was the first in her playgroup out of diapers or the last. There are plenty of big things to worry about, so please, save your energy for those. Let the little stuff go.
6. All you need is love. You will be amazed by how much you love your children. Until you hold your own baby in your arms, there’s no way to imagine just how wonderful it feels or how wholly it completes you. Things can be crashing down on your doorstep, but there will always be one pure and wonderful thing that you have contributed to the world: your baby. You can be poor, exhausted and barely hanging on, but you’ll always be one of the most fortunate people on the planet, simply because you are a mother.