Things I’ve Learned as an “Older” Mom

This week I spent quite a bit of time with my teenager this week as he had a mild bout with the flu and had to be home a couple of days.  During that time I was able to play board games and talk with him during the day while snuggling up to my toddler at night.  I was really able to reflect on my experience as a new mom at 26 and a new mom again at 36.

As a result, here are some of the things I’ve learned as an “older” new mom:

  • At 26 I was so focused on the next milestone that I couldn’t fully enjoy each stage along the way.  At 36, I just let my child develop in his own time.  There’s no hurry to move out of the crib, out of the diapers, get rid of the pacifier, or to walk.
  • I have finally begun to realize that the more committed I am in my plans or routines, the more likely my child is to have a tantrum.  Ironically enough, this is true for the teenager as well as the toddler.
  • There is no need to have a massive first, or second, or third birthday party.  Parties for one year olds are really for parents anyway.  The kid doesn’t know it and won’t remember it.  And skip singing “happy birthday” until they’ve been in daycare long enough to have heard it 10,000 times.  Otherwise, it’s just an invitation for your child to cry.
  • Putting them in soccer at 4 does not guarantee he/she will be the next Pele or Mia Hamm.  The same is true for basketball, baseball, swimming, or any other sport.
  • It is completely okay to let them sit in front of the tv for an hour so you can get some housework done or just so you can have a break.  A mommy meltdown does nobody any good and is far worse than an hour of Yo Gabba Gabba or Frozen.  Honestly, let it go…..(yes, that was my horrible attempt at a pun.)
  • If you’re the kind of mom that jumps and runs to your child every time they cry, that’s okay.  You’re being attentive to their needs.  If you’re the kind of mom that lets them cry a bit, that’s okay.  You’re teaching them independence.  If you’re the kind of mom that doesn’t listen to your gut and only follows the opinion of family or friends, that is not okay. Do what you need to do so you can feel good about your decisions.
  • If you’re the kind of mom that breastfeeds, that’s good.  If you’re the kind of mom that bottle feeds, that’s good, too.  Everybody has their reasons for the choices they make and shouldn’t be bullied, or made to feel guilty or taboo.  Life is tough enough.
  • When you have the second child you exercise so you can keep up.  It has very little to do with weight loss or appearance.  You’re not eating anyway because you have a toddler hanging on your leg begging for a pop tart when you’d like to saute vegetables.  And by the time you clean up the food that was dropped, thrown, and fed to the dog, your food is cold anyway.
  • Choose the less confrontational path with teenagers and toddlers.  Diversion is an effective tactic with both age groups.  So is bribing.
  • Skittles is the ultimate motivator.  Works for potty training, putting away toys, completing homework, and a myriad of other tasks.
  • If your kid only eats chicken and fries, go with it.  Introduce foods one at a time and when you can.  If he refuses to try something new, don’t sweat it.  At some point, he will graduate to pizza.  I promise.
  • Remember that your child will repeat everything you say.  Everything.  And typically at the most inopportune times.
  • Be much more concerned about what your child watches on television than on if they walked out of the house with a coat.  Watching too much adult television such as drama shows and the news results in high anxiety in your kid.  It makes them believe the world is an unsafe place.
  • If your kid wants to go “help with the kids” to get out of sitting in church, let them.  First, it’s not worth the argument.  Second, he’ll learn more through being a helper than being resentful during worship.  Sometimes the best way to learn is to teach…..or at least help the teacher.
  • Stare at your child often.  Watch him while he sleeps.  Rock him and read to him until he is so big he cuts off the circulation in your lap.
  • Use big words around your kids.  Do not use baby talk.  If you speak to him like he is an adult, he will speak that way, too.
  • Laugh at the embarrassing things.  Laugh at the silly things.  Laugh at the times he is precocious.  Laugh when he is ornery.  One of the best things I ever did was document a day of tantrums.  Hilarious and now that it is six months in the past, sweet.
  • Look at your child.  Stare at him.  Tomorrow he will not look like this.  He will change before your very eyes — both as a toddler and a teenager.

Being a parent is hard work, but there is nothing that has brought me such joy.

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