Luke turned ten in August. Ten years ago, I was a 24 year old new mom who had it all figured out. Funny. Ten years in. I have it less figured out that a decade ago. As I sat and reflected over my decade of parenting, here are a few things I've learned about being a parent.
1. All of that "stuff" you get for your first baby, most of it...isn't really helpful and is completely unnecessary. Aside from a good carseat, some clothes, a crib (not even that for a while for us) some diapers, and a good baby carrier, all that fancy stuff you somehow think you NEED just weighs you down. We went ALL out for Luke, had to have EVERYTHING and have slowly learned...less truly is more. Baby stuff quickly can take up a whole house if you let it.
2. Baby carriers are a gift from God. My personal favorite is the Ergo. I can wear two at a time, donning both babies and still take the older three out for a field trip. I can also get housework done and grocery shop more efficiently if the babies are close by and don't need to seek my attention. Keep them close, you can't spoil them. You'll never be sorry for holding them too much.
3. Our kids are ALWAYS listening. Even when we think they aren't, they really are absorbing everything, our words our attitudes and our demeanor, there has been nothing more humbling for me than parenting. Sometimes it is like looking directly in a mirror and sometimes the image isn't pretty.
4. Development and milestones are not a race. Every child truly does develop and learn on their own timeline and it doesn't do any good to compare children. We need to just let them enjoy being kids and not push our own agenda on them...childhood is supposed to be fun, we need to relax and let it be so.
5. No matter what parenting choice I make, someone will disagree and that is okay. Just as all children are different, so are all parents. We all need to truly judge less and go with what works for our own family.
6. You can't be a good parent and a lousy spouse. When I slack off and don't pour into my marriage, it directly affects the kids. It is true that one of the best gifts we can give our kids is a healthy relationship with their other parent. We model for them what a relationship should look like and that is more powerful than we give it credit for.
7. Always stop and try to see the big picture. In a chaotic moment, things might seem like the whole world is ending, I set a timer for 20 minutes and just endure in the moment and typically 20 minutes out, I can laugh, breathe and see that in the grand scheme of things that hard moment is just a moment and I am able to see the long view and show compassion and let go of anger and frustration.
8. My house will never be as clean as I'd like it to be and it has to be okay. A fellow foster parent shared her motto with me, "Trading sanity for love every day" and somedays that is how it feels for me as I do like order and a clean house, but in the grand scheme, the fact that we get to play a key part in helping to shape little people and love them is far more important than a house that looks like it belongs in Better Homes and Gardens.
9. Trust myself and trust God. Every one wants to chime in and give advice to a struggling parent, but the truth of the matter is that there is no one right way to do any of this. We all just have to wade through and find what works best. We know our own kids and we know what works for them. I often feel like I must be screwing my kids up forever, but the truth is that we make mistakes, I make a LOT of them and what is important is how we deal with those mistakes and move forward.
10. The biggest thing I've learned, that I am JUST realizing this year, is that God didn't give me kids because he wanted me to perfect them and make them better. He gave me kids because they are a gift. He is using them to perfect ME and make me better. They are a gift to me, and it isn't my job to fix them. It is my job to allow them to mold me and make me more Christlike. My kids have taught me SO much.
Okay, I had to edit to add number 11 because it really has been life changing for me:
11. NEVER, EVER look at the clock in the middle of the night when up with a restless child. Keeping score and adding up lost sleep is NEVER helpful. You can't get it back and there is nothing you can do about it, keeping tally of lost sleep won't bring it back, it just causes anxiety, you can't fret over what cannot be changed...one day we shall sleep again, right?
Above all, I have learned that these precious ones are truly His children, and each day I need to pray and hand them back over to Him. He gives the grace for each moment, even the really ugly ones if only we'll receive it, and our kids deserve for us to extend that grace on to them. Kids will be kids and we should expect that. I will probably never have this all figured out as I once thought I did. You can read every parenting book on Earth and still not have a clue. I've read most of them and I can finally admit, I don't have it all figured out, but I sure do trust the One who does.
What are some things you've learned since becoming a parent?