The boy who made me a mom turned ten this month. After a decade of parenting, I have it all figured out. KIDDING! Anyone who tells you that is full of it. The past ten years have taught me I will never have it all figured out and that’s okay.
However, that tiny little boy we brought home, set on our kitchen table in his carrier (yes, I know you’re not supposed to do that) and stared at with a mix of love and apprehension has taught me a few things along the way.
Here are ten takeaways from a decade of parenting.
1. Don’t try to make a happy kid happier
A dear friend (and amazing mother) gave me this simple and powerful advice when I became a mom. It holds true as they grow up. Your baby doesn’t need a toy to play with if they are content (and don’t mess with them when they’re sleeping!). Your older kid doesn’t need a PS5 if they’re good with an old Wii.
2. Sippy cups and socks
I probably bought 100 sippy cups. Some important part always went missing! Buy bottles, sippy cups, and water bottles with as few parts as possible. Take this a step further and buy all the same socks to save yourself from a lifetime of mismatched socks.
3. Parenting is not a competition
If someone does things differently than you? Good for them. If some of their tactics work for you? Awesome, add them to your playbook. Parenting is a game you can’t win, you’re playing it against yourself and there is no finish line. You’ll spend a lifetime figuring out what works for you, your kids, and your family. Get comfortable with always evolving.
4. Leave them
Let someone else take care of your kids. Whether it’s an hour or a week, stepping away from parenting is a good thing. You’ll come back reenergized and be a better parent because of the time away.
5. Grandparents are learning, too
Your parents are learning how to parent a parent and how to build a relationship with their grandchild. Sometimes, learning is bumpy and relationships are always evolving.
Coupled with that, so many of us forget our childhood when we turn in to parents.
Spray cheese out of a can on Ritz crackers while chugging an Ecto cooler and polishing it all off with a few puffs on my fake bubblegum cigarette? That’s living when you’re a kid at grandma’s house.
Try to keep a little perspective in the cases where it really will be okay.
6. Most of parenting is showing up
It’s true. Your consistent presence and behavior in your kid’s life is what matters. It creates a safe space for them to be themselves. Life doesn’t need all the bells and whistles, it just needs you and you are enough. A decade of parenting has also taught me that I don’t always have to be the one showing up. When I can’t be there, a friend or family member works just fine!
7. Is it about you?
Having a baby instantly makes you the center of attention. As kids get older, that fades. You are just another person at the grocery store with a kid trying to convince you popsicles are a food group.
Hanging on to baby routines too long, pushing them toward an activity you like but they don’t or making them dress a certain way – is it about them or is it about you?
Believe me, I have tried all of the above and it didn’t work. They are in activities I don’t understand, look ridiculous most days and one of my sons has hair longer than I do.
If you’re holding your kid back or pushing them toward something based how whatever they’re doing impacts you, pause and reassess the situation.
My first decade of parenting also brought our second son who most definitely taught me he’s going to do life his way! Who doesn’t want to be a dill pickle for Halloween??
8. Fed is best
Formula or breast milk, carrot sticks or pixie sticks – fed is best. Sometimes dinner will be grilled chicken and potatoes with a salad and sometimes, it’s Casey’s pizza or a “snack supper” in front of the TV. Fed is best.
9. They got this
I have scarred our oldest for life because I sleep crutched him (and still do). Total fail. Our second sleeps like a rock because I didn’t have time to coddle him.
Starting at a young age, your kids can figure it out. Don’t get in their way. Let them fail, let them get frustrated, and let them get bored. They won’t learn if you’re in their way.
10. Time is weird
How cool would it be to pause time and put all your favorite people around a dinner table? I’d love nothing more than for my kids to meet their uncle or fish with their great-grandpa. But, life doesn’t work that way. Time will pass whether we like it or not.
Your kids will grow too fast. You will cry when you box up their baby clothes and you’ll often wonder where time went. That’s all okay. But, if we spend too much time in a past we can’t change wishing for time we can’t stop, we lose focus of the present and that’s where our kids needs us.
The next decade of parenting
I know the next decade of parenting means my son will be out of our house. The thought of that is totally unimaginable. But, then again, so was the thought of that tiny baby growing up to hit doubles and play the viola. Enjoy the ride, mom! It’s one that keeps going whether we want it to or not.