In no particular order – here’s a list of some of what I’ve figured out after what I just realized is almost a decade of parenting. Some of these lessons I have to relearn over and over again..
– Pacifiers work. Really, really well – but around a year old, it’s better to limit it to just before bed, in the car, and after a temper tantrum.
– Potty training is just messy. There’s going to be naked toddlers, urine everywhere and a lot of mopping and carpet/upholstery cleaning in your future.
– I read somewhere that you shouldn’t count how many times you nurse your child, or how many times you kiss them. Do it as needed.
– Pay attention to a child’s diet over a week, not over a day.
– As much as you can, encourage your child to play ALONE. Or with other kids. But don’t appoint yourself the cruise director, in charge of their entertainment.
– Put your kids first. Because nobody else is going to consider their best interests in making plans or decisions, and they deserve that. It doesn’t always have to be the deciding factor, but always consider them before making decisions.
– It might take a village, but more than that, it takes dedicated, devoted and thoughtful parents. Pay attention to their world, and make intelligent determinations about the childhood you want them to have.
– Don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve screwed up. Nobody, NOBODY, knows what they’re doing. We’re all winging it, and we all make mistakes. Own it and fix it when you do.
– Don’t be afraid to have your child hate you. Because they will. And that’s okay. It’s temporary, and they’ll thank you for it. Really. Kids like structure and rules and knowing what comes next. They also like knowing that they can count on you to make the rules.
– Always reassure your kids that you are on their side, that you want for them to succeed and be happy -and that you love them more than they’ll ever know. As obvious as it seems – they still need to hear it. Over and over again.
– You can make a meal more popular by naming it – we eat Jessie’s favorite shepherd’s pie, and Sammy Boy’s tacos a lot.
– Let your kids see you and your husband fight, not often, but show them that it’s okay to get mad, to talk it out, and then to compromise and make up. And make sure they see you loving each other more than they see you mad at each other.
– Pay attention, but not so much attention that you know, all the time, exactly what they’re doing. If the kids are playing happily in their bedroom, stay away.
– Go ahead and just accept that your house is going to be just a little bit of a disaster. For years. Stay on top of laundry, dishes and the floors, and just accept the clutter and mess. Towers will get built and not put away, army guys and princesses will battle it out and you’ll learn to hate Polly Pockets and tiny little lego guys with a passion.
– Periodically, throw away (or donate) a bagful of toys. They won’t notice, and it’ll feel great.
– Every now and again, you have to leave them. You have to walk out the door so that they know you’ll always come back. You have to let them form attachments and bonds with other people, even when they hate every single second of it. It’s a very fine line, balancing out meeting their needs and their wants, and even harder when they are completely opposite. But learning that they are okay without you there is so critical.
– Be strong when everyone else tells you that you’re wrong. If you know, absolutely, that this (whatever this is) is the right path for your child, know that you know your child better than anyone else. Everyone else can have an opinion, but not everyone else has the knowledge base that you do about your child. Consider the advice, but don’t be afraid to disregard it if it flies in the face of what you know is right.
– Remember to hug each one, individually, every day. Believe me, you can overlook this accidentally if you aren’t paying attention, especially as they get older. Take a minute, each day, and really connect on a one on one basis with each child.
– Every now and again, go ahead and have ice cream for dinner.
– Make traditions. Just go ahead and make them up – because really, that’s all a tradition is. The traditional ones are great, Shabbat dinner, or Passover Seders, and Rosh Hashana apple picking, but special hookey days from school on their birthdays – or watching The Looney Tunes Show or Scooby Doo all snuggled up together, or the night every year that you put on jammies and drive them around looking at Christmas lights until they fall asleep. Those are the traditions that they’ll pass down to their kids.
– Remind them that they are stuck with each other. That we are a family, and there’s a connection there that’s unbreakable. They don’t have to like each other all the time, but they do have to know that when the chips are down, their siblings are going to be there.