Sixteen years ago, my husband and I got married – we spent 6 years on our own before having kids. One of the few things that I remember from way back then was going out to public places, or to family events and saying things like “my kids will never…” or, “why don’t those parents….” — and at some point, I’m sure you did too.
When I think about the joy involved with parenting, I look back to how we were raised as kids. Much of our anxiety as parents probably stems back to that notion that as a child, your life must be magical – or you have failed as a parent.
I was born in 1979, and at that time, my mom drove a white Ford Thunderbird with red leather seats. She didn’t have a fancy Britax or Graco stroller, and we grew up playing outside with salamanders and drinking water from our water hose in the yard.
My mom never volunteered at our school. Neither of my parents went on field trips. We never went to Home Depot or Lowe’s on Saturdays for build & grow.. and we never really had magical birthday parties – in fact, my mom made chocolate cake and we sang happy birthday around the kitchen table.
Our Halloween costumes weren’t super fancy – we went as the same thing every year. The boys were pirates and the girls were witches. And we were content.
We rode the bus to school 90 minutes each way, and our summers consisted of playing on the tire swing in the backyard or riding our bikes to the neighbors to drink milk from the barn.
Sixteen years later, we’re parents of five kids, and if anything rings true, it’s that we have learned quite a bit along the way. It didn’t take us long to realize that we truly don’t have it together as much as we think, or thought we do..
Although we certainly are far from knowing everything about having kids, we have learned a lot from ourselves, our own kids, and other parents
After 5 kids, we have learned a bunch…… so what do we know now that we never realized before?
Expect the unexpected. Kids will try anything and do anything, common sense isn’t always too common. Our boys put green bananas in the washing machine to ripen them faster. We know that doesn’t work but they needed to know that for themselves. I don’t think they will do that again.
Messes are inevitable. A few weeks ago our 5 year old stuffed empanadas in his pants pockets and forgot to take them out before throwing them in the wash. What a MESS . I was mat at first, but then realized…a little mess is fine, and a lot of mess is actually okay too. In fact, messes and clutter are fine – in fact, it’ll give the kids a way to learn how to clean up after themselves and give me more patience than I had before.
Kids are so much fun. There is always something to laugh at, no matter where we go. Our kids can find fun in the most simple things.
Raising kids is hard work. I always knew parenting was work. But I did not ever realize the immense amount of laundry, dishes, cooking and fun involved. It truly never ends – there is no “catching up.”
Every child is different. With each, I worried about the baby… how they would handle the newest, and whether they thought I would love them less. Every child allows you to multiply your love – each kid is different. . and it’s so much fun to have many little people.
One child was easy. I definitely didn’t feel that way at the time, but looking back, one child was a piece of cake.
To pour out you must be filled up. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will burn out. Nobody else will take care of you but you.. so remember to care for yourself.
Expectations have a huge affect on mood. It’s one of our biggest triggers for anger in our children – and something we deal with frequently. Learn how to lower expectations without sacrificing mood, so as to prevent as much disappointment as possible.
Housework never ends. Those things like dishes, mopping, laundry and cooking are never ending. Just as you finish, you start again for the next meal, and just as you fold a load of clothes, there is a load right behind it. Learn to accept what it is and move on.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Most everything is trivial – and not worth the added stress of worry. If your kids are happy, that’s all that matters.
Moderation is key. Being extreme is never going to be helpful.
You can’t control everything. It’s common for people to look at kids that are misbehaving and pass judgement on the parents. Our kids are extensions of ourselves, but they are also independent thinkers too. You can train them, instruct and discipline them, but you can’t control them.
Kids might be small but they make a lot of noise. A five year old boy can be louder than 200 people in a crowded restaurant. Don’t ever assume that since they are little people that the noise level will be anything close to tolerable.
You can learn from your kids. The best thing you can do is to listen to them – kids are much more smarter than we think, and they typically know what they need.
Your kids and your relationship with them are far more important than things. Our house has markered walls, shattered windows and chipped drywall – our boys have broken a lot of things. Our thrift store books are markered up and our bathroom mirrors are covered in toothpaste spit. Sure, some of those things that have been destroyed were at one point costly, but none of them are more valuable than my children.
Thrift store shopping makes good parenting sense. It’s smart, fun, practical, green Paying $.49 – $1 for a book is much smarter than buying retail. You can find quality clothes at bargain prices – that won’t hurt as much when they rip or stain them.
Play is important. You won’t always feel like playing with them but you need to do it anyways. Sometimes you just have to jump in and go with the flow.