A Message To the Mother of My Children: Advice and Encouragement for Young Moms
Hindsight is 20/20
I know what you’re thinking. Aren't I the mother of my children? Yes, you are correct. I did not steal them. I, indeed, birthed them myself. However, I was thinking today that I wish I could go back in time and tell my new-mama-self a few things. I decided to write these things down as a message to the mother of my children, for posterity's sake. Maybe a few other new mamas (or relatively new mamas) can benefit from my hindsight.
First, allow me to tell you my qualifications, so you know you can trust me. Usually, it’s the people with no children who try to give all the advice, so I just want to confirm that I do have children. (Although I’m pretty sure I had more answers before I had kids. Now, I have no clue how to handle them most of the time!) I have a 16, almost 17, year old boy and a 12, almost 13, year old girl. Apparently, I had a fertile time of year, because my children were both born in the same month. In fact, my daughter was due on my son’s birthday, but she had other plans. Even before she was born, she didn’t want to share with her brother.
I think back to when I had little kids, and there were so many things I worried about and wasted time on. If I could go back in time, I would help myself out with these words of advice:
Life is really short. I mean REALLY short. I knew that, I guess. I mean, I know people told me that, but I don’t think I understood what they meant. When teary eyed old ladies would say, “Enjoy them while they are little,” I would roll my eyes and think, “What else am I doing BUT enjoying them?” Now, I get it. So, I’m telling you, enjoy them while they are little. (I’m pretty sure this means I’ve become a teary eyed old lady.) Your babies are only little once. If you fill their days by plopping them in front of the TV or handing them an iPod to play with or dropping them off at day care or the babysitter’s house, you’re missing out. Spend time with them. Laugh with them. Play with them. Before you know it, they won’t want you to play with them anymore.
It’s okay to put them in front of the TV sometimes. I know, I know. I just contradicted what I said in number one, but hear me out. There were days, especially when I was pregnant with my second child, that I really wanted a nap, or five minutes to fold laundry or to go to the bathroom alone. I felt guilty putting my son in front of the TV. I would do it sometimes, but I beat myself up every time I did. Now, though, I am telling you, Mama, it’s okay. Give yourself a break! Everyone deserves to go to the bathroom alone occasionally. Why, you might even get take a shower! How luxurious! A few minutes of TV will not hurt your child.
Stop beating yourself up! I spent a lot of precious time feeling guilty. I thought I didn’t do enough for my kids. I wasn’t the most loving mom. I thought I wasn’t attentive enough to them. I didn’t even bake fresh bread for them to eat daily or hand-sew their clothes. I would see other mothers who had it all together, and I would feel guilty. I would feel sorry for my kids that they ended up with me - The Failure. Now I know, I wasn’t a failure. I wasn’t perfect, but feeling guilty only robbed me of precious time. (See number one.) Life is too short for unnecessary guilt. Newsflash…You aren’t perfect. Get over it and move on.
The other moms who seem to have it together really might not. You know them….the doting mothers, the ones who live and breathe for their children’s every happiness, the ones who make you feel inadequate and like a failure. Their children are perfect. They are perfect. Their lives are perfect. Well, now that I’m a teary eyed old lady, I have a little insight into this situation, and I want to provide you with a prophecy for the future. Many times…I would even venture to say, most of the time….the children of these perfect mothers don’t turn out so well. I’ve seen it over and over again in my years. I find myself watching the same perfect mothers of those perfect and adored toddlers who are now dealing with self-absorbed, conceited, inconsiderate teens. So, quit feeling guilty that you don’t exist solely for the purpose of serving your child. You’re doing that little boy or girl a favor by not adoring their every precious blink. Trust me on this.
Adore your kids. There I go, contradicting myself again. Listen to me, though. Adore your kids. I don’t mean you should live and breathe for your kids or grant their every wish because they are so precious. We already discussed what will happen if you do that. No, I mean LIKE your kids. Laugh with them. Appreciate them. Remember, even when they are driving you crazy, how precious they really are. I mean, they are a piece of you, so they must be great, right? Don’t forget to notice how great they are. There will be days, weeks and even months when you want to choke their little necks, but stop and adore them. If you wonder why, refer to number one.
Stop doubting yourself so much. One thing I did not realize for several years is those gut feelings I got about my kids were usually right. I believe God gives mamas those gut feelings. Daddies don’t usually have them. This is definitely a mama phenomenon. Listen to your gut. Usually, you are right. You know your kids. You know what’s good for them. If you have a strong feeling about something, listen to yourself and trust yourself.
It is okay to say, “No,” even to doctors. This is something I wish I had figured out earlier in my kids’ lives. I have a double whammy – I’m a good southern girl who was raised to be polite to all people, and I am a people pleaser. What that created was someone who wouldn’t speak up, even when she needed to. If I could go back in time and say to a certain doctor or two, “Take your hands off my child…,” things might be different for us. As it is, I went against my gut feeling a few times on medical issues, and I ended up with one child who has a full-blown medical phobia and one who is not far behind. If only I had listened to myself and stopped the insanity, I could have spared my kids some issues. You know what is best for your kids. Listen to yourself. If you've already failed in this category, refer to number three.
Never, ever let others determine the value of your child. This is so important, so please listen to me. There will be well-intentioned mothers who will say, "He sure moves a lot. Maybe he has ADHD." There will be the grandmothers or aunts or other relatives who will give you articles to read about childhood disorders. There will be teachers who say your child isn't as smart as the rest of the class. Don't allow these people to tell you your child is anything less than wonderful. Okay, so maybe your child will have issues, but that does not make him or her less awesome. Focus on your child's strengths and talents. We all have them, so don't forget that. If you start focusing on the negatives, before you know, you'll be convinced there is something terribly wrong with your child. If you believe it, he'll believe, so don't believe it. One of my favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein. He said, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." Remember that, and let your little fish swim.
Don’t fear the future. Just the mention of the teenage years used to be enough to make me shudder. When my babies were babies, I was terrified of having teens. Now, I can tell myself or you that it’s not so bad. If you do what you’re supposed to when they are little, they’ll be fine as teens. Sure, there will be days when you want to send them to Australia, but I think that’s just God’s way of getting you ready for them to leave home. The teen years aren’t as bad as everyone says.
Ten. Realize these ARE the simple years. I remember when my kids were little, and I wondered when it would get easier. I felt so physically tired all the time from chasing them, serving them, being with them and taking care of them. I felt like my ears were bleeding by bedtime because they talked to me so much. I remember wishing things would get easier. If you feel like that too, I hate to break it to you, but you are in the easy years! Although having bigger kids and teens isn’t so bad, it’s definitely not easy. Life becomes much more scheduled and hectic, and the worries get bigger. Playdates, diapers and discipline turn into peer pressure, dating and driving. You won’t be as physically tired, but the mental fatigue will be worse.
So, mamas, this is my wisdom for you. Stop worrying so much. Stop being so hard on yourself and so hard on your kids. Breathe and enjoy the easy years while they last.
Now that I’ve written this, I wonder what my future self will have to say to the mother of my teenagers. I guess only time will tell.