I’m a first-time parent. So basically, I know nothing. And at first, this really bothered me. I truly thought that my baby would emerge from my body, and my maternal instincts would teach me all I needed to know. It’s the reason why I refused to read any parenting books while I was pregnant… or take advice from veteran parents. I wanted to learn MY baby. I just had a feeling that she’d be different from any of my friend’s children and I didn’t want to be tainted by their horror stories. I’ll admit that I humbly begged them for any tips to make her “go to sleep… and STAY asleep,” among other things. However, during my struggle to stay afloat in those SAHM days, I learned that you get better at “winging it” and begin to trust that you DO know your child best. I also learned that in their small ways, our children teach us a lot about life too.
1. Let it go
I’m not referring to those annoying *AHEM* amazing song sung by the ice queen. I’m referring to how easily my 4-year-old forgives and forgets. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally smacked her in the head when she’s insisted on being my extra appendage or yelled at her in frustration or broken a promise to go somewhere fun, or forgot to pack her stuffy on a trip. I’ve had to apologize A LOT as a parent. But she always forgives me (sometimes without an apology) and never keeps an account of how often I fail her. It’s such a testament to the unconditional love she has for me.
It’s also a great lesson in my own life. I don’t know about you, but I’m not that great at forgetting. Oh sure, I can forgive, but you better believe I’m keeping an account of every disappointment until the end of time. Sometimes it’s healthy to use history as a measuring-tape for trust, but sometimes it’s better to just let it go.
2. Just say no
I remember thinking to myself, “I can’t wait until she can talk, so she can just tell me what she wants *eye roll*. Now that she can talk, all she does is tell me what she wants. She’s even better at telling me what she DOESN’T want. I’m pretty sure that “No” is her favorite word. Even if she eventually gives in because, duh, she’s 4 and I’m paying the bills around here, you’re going to know that it was NOT her idea of a good time.
I, on the other hand, I’m constantly saying yes to things I want to say no to. I say yes and yes and yes until every free moment of my life is fully booked. As adults, we’re already obligated to do a ton of stuff. Why do we insist on adding more things to that already growing list? I need to be more like my girl. The next time someone asks me to cut out tiny trucks for their kid’s ‘construction’ themed birthday party when I have 5 loads of unfolded laundry sitting in the designated “clean laundry chair,” I’m going to politely decline.
3. Celebrate yourself
Kids are natural cheerleaders. They’re so amazed by the world around them because everything is new. And when they learn how to do something, it’s a little bit like they’ve conquered the world. Or at least their world. Everything from pooping on the toilet to mastering a zipper is like running across the finish line of a marathon. They’re literally pumping their fists and yelling “Hooray!”
How often do we celebrate ourselves for everyday accomplishments? When we get out of bed the first time our alarm rings or pack our lunch the night before to save time or remember a friend’s birthday or eat an apple instead of a slice of cake. Like I mentioned above, we have so much on our plate. Sometimes it feels like we’ll never get ahead. My girl reminds me that we’re conquerors. Every day is an opportunity to celebrate all the ways that I’m succeeding in my world.
4. Celebrate others
One of the best things about my 4-year-old is that she loves to cheer others on. She’s not selfish with her celebrations of everyday accomplishments. She’s well past potty training, but none of our potty affirmations have returned void. Not only did it motivate her to go, but it also turned a mundane skill (yes, peeing on the toilet is a skill) into an event. So much, that she cheers us on when we go! She also loves to compliment others when she sees them succeed or when her keen eye for fashion catches something pretty:
“Good job cleaning up, mama!”
“Your hair/shoes/dress/bracelet is so pretty!”
Being a parent can sometimes feel mundane and routine, but we create daily rituals so that life can go on (mostly) smoothly. When you notice that your partner or another parent is feeling overwhelmed, remind them of the things they’re doing well! I’ve definitely been inspired by my girl to compliment strangers when their outfit catches my eye or when a coworker is killin’ it.