I know I’ve only been at this gig for almost three years but I’ve developed some philosophies about parenting in that short time. The internet is a treasure trove or minefield so take this as nothing more than my own experience and mantras, both as a high school teacher and a mom.
1. The days are long but the years are short. I originally heard this phrase while listening to the Happier Podcast with Gretchen Rubin (and her sister Liz Craft). I know I’ve discussed this podcast on here before but we’ve reached a point where the munchkin can be raging like a wildebeest let out on parole and this phrase helps me remember that this to shall pass. Now that we are in full on toddler-hood, complete with crazy temper tantrums over using the wrong color cup or kind of silverware, but I know that some day my time with her will be getting shorter and I don’t want to waste whatever minutes I have left worrying about what color cup her milk is in.
2. They will be adults much longer than they are children. This is one that comes directly from my teaching experience and I try to put into practice in my child rearing. If the universe allows it, my daughter will live to be ancient. She will outlive me, hopefully many years over, but in that time she will also be an adult trying to function in this world much longer than the child I want to hold a protect. It’s my job to prepare her for that and the 50+ years of adulthood, not make the 18-20+ years under my roof the easiest. I am here to teach her things. I am here to help her but I’m not here to control her or do it for her. She needs to learn her own way. For example: a couple days ago she had climbed up on a bar stool and then wanted to come down. She’s gotten down off these bar stools multiple times but for whatever reason this particular day it was very scary. Since I knew she could do it, I refused to pick her up and put her on the ground. After about 5 minutes of coaxing, support, and help she finally landed safely on the ground to hugs and kisses. I’m not sure why it was really scary this particular day but I wasn’t going to take away her fear, I was going to make sure she conquered it.
3. There is nothing wrong with celebrating bedtime. After working really hard at numbers 1 and 2, sometimes you just need to celebrate that you made it through another day keeping a tiny human alive when sometimes she seems actively trying to go against that wish, making yourself look reasonably presentable, keeping the house sanitary, and the four-legged family members healthy too. There’s a lot that goes into a day when you’re an adult whether you have kids or not and keeping your head in the game can feel like quite an accomplishment. It’s completely appropriate to take a load off and do something not productive when the day is done.
4. We’ve been having kids as Homo sapiens for approximately 200,000 years, using all we know now I can’t be worse than fighting off lions on the African Savannah. While I’m not sure the Homo sapiens of 195,000 years ago had to fight off lions, I’m reasonably assured that their living conditions were probably way worse than my comfortable house in suburbia with heat and air conditioning. While I’m glad for all the leaps and bounds in safety technology (did you see the car seats in the 70s and 80s?) and yes, by today’s “standards” we’re lucky any of us born before 1990 survived. However at the end of the day, many things we beat ourselves up over as moms/parents/humans can’t be any worse than the ancient human who let the fire go out in the middle of the night. I’m going to make mistakes, and some days they feel insurmountable but children (and humans in general) are way more resilient than we give them credit for.
I’m sure this list will continue to grow and change as the munchkin gets older and new problems grace our lives but I try to stay grounded in the fact that parenthood is the ultimate long game. If I’m lucky there will be some return on my investment about the time she’s 21; sure there will be great times between now and then but from my own experience as a daughter it wasn’t until I was an adult that I could truly appreciate my own mother and all she did for me.