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14 Years of Motherhood: 14 Things I’ve Learned
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been over 14 years since my first born was placed in my arms. Fourteen years and seven children have taught me many things along the way. Of course, I’m still learning all the time, and I know I’ll be learning for decades. Actually, you could say that’s one of the first things I learned:
1. Nothing has taught me more about myself, my strengths and weaknesses, than being a mother. There is no job as self-revealing and humiliating as motherhood. And in this 24-hour pursuit, it’s often the kids you find the hardest who teach you the most. If you pay close attention to what makes them tick and what touches you about them, you will have discovered the most valuable lessons about yourself that you could ever learn.
2. My children’s journey from childhood to adolescence is a journey for me too. As I guide them along the paths of life and watch them grow, I find myself growing right along with them.
3. Watching my child grow up is more enjoyable than growing up myself. I can remember a lot more about their process than I can about my own. Indeed, I don’t remember my own birth very well, but as an adult, I can remember every detail about my child from the first moment they enter this world. In addition – as an adult – I see everything from a completely different perspective.
4. The longer I’m in this business, the more fun it gets. Certainly, it is also more complex, more demanding, and often more incriminating. But if you are open to growing and learning about yourself and others, you will naturally become more flexible and less overwhelmed – two very valuable life skills. I can laugh a lot more now than I could years ago – at myself and at the typical situations we parents find ourselves in. I can stop in the middle of the action and pretend I’m a camera, zooming in on the moment, and just enjoy it.
5. There is almost no greater pleasure in life than watching your child’s mind work. How wonderful, how delightful, and how wonderful to watch your toddler put that puzzle together, your preschooler recognizes letters, your school-age child takes initiative and completes a project independently. When I know that my kids aren’t just spitting out information, but that they can learn and apply that knowledge in other situations, my smile just can’t get any wider.
6. As my children grow, helping hands multiply. As a young mother of very young children, I could never have imagined how much easier it would be when it wasn’t just me. I’ll never forget the first time my oldest was old enough to hold the baby while I put the others to bed. I completely forgot how wonderful it is that others can go to the grocery store, and that every loaf of bread doesn’t require getting everyone out of the house and taking them all with you for every errand. I need to mention how blessed it is to find dishes washed, laundry folded, or an older sibling surprising me and getting younger kids ready for bed. And no, this does not mean that you take advantage of them. It is good for children to help; it teaches them so many life skills and makes them feel so valuable. If you are afraid of overdoing it, always remember that they are not here to serve you, but that you are here to help them become balanced and useful members of society.
7. When the children are young, it is difficult to imagine a day when they will become pleasant companions. Yes, it really is more pleasant to do supermarket shopping with the company, help and input of your ten year old. Moreover their pleasure to spend time with you becomes yours pleasure And it’s fun to leave everyone else behind and focus on just that one kid and spoil him or her a little.
8. I had to grow old and have older children to enjoy my younger children as I never could have from an earlier point of view. Younger children are more physically demanding, but they are much less complicated. They delight in simple things. Sometimes it’s much easier and much less draining to read a picture book or build a block tower with your three-year-old than it is to discuss social issues with your twelve-year-old.
9. Experience is a wonderful thing. The more times I do something, the more familiar it becomes, and the easier and less threatening it becomes. When you’ve been there before, you know it will pass; you know that you and your child will be okay even if things are hard right now. You might be losing it, you might feel like you just can’t do it, but because you’ve done it so many times, deep down there’s that voice telling you that you’ll survive.
10. It’s good to stop and observe my children as if I were an outsider – just to enjoy their beautiful faces, their intelligent speech, their talents, their helpfulness, and even how they look in that nice outfit. Sure I know there is the other side: dirt, mess, whining, fighting and complaining. But the more I focus on what is pleasant to see, the more I find, and the more I enjoy everyday life. I am learning that happiness in life does not come from spectacular events, but from an accumulation of pleasurable moments.
11. I have become grateful for so many “little” things. For washing machines that clean those smelly, dirty clothes (even if I can’t handle every stain), for bedtimes that work according to a schedule and the quiet that follows, for enough food to feed my children, for decent clothing. , for the ability to keep my family warm on cold nights and cool on sweltering days, for healthy, developing children, for… Yes, the list goes on and on. And that gratitude definitely makes for a happier life.
12. I have learned that eventually my children will internalize much of what I tell them. Yes, they will learn to flush the toilet and wash their hands afterwards, yes, they will pick up dirty clothes, and yes, they will learn not to stand on the kitchen counters with their shoes on. They will learn to behave graciously in public places, to be kind to a younger sibling without being told, and to be sensitive to the outcast in their class. Not always, not always, but it happens. If our relationship is fundamentally sound and positive, my values will carry over.
13. Starting and maintaining relationships with my own friends is good not only for me but for the children. Above all, it keeps me sane – which is good for the kids. Whether it’s a five-minute emergency phone call to a friend when I feel like I’m losing it that takes me back, or getting together with friends and their kids, a truly caring adult network makes all the difference. I also feel that it is good for my children to know that friends are a good thing, and that lifelong friendships are something they should aspire to. And as they and I get older, it’s healthy for them to know they don’t have to be Mom’s friends; if she needs someone to lean on, it doesn’t have to be them.
14. You don’t need all that attractive baby equipment, all those toys that call to you from catalog pages and toy store shelves, all the flashy, trendy or even basic children’s clothing. Our world today is full of stuff, and full of people selling that stuff to you. Over the years I have learned a lot about what to buy, when to buy, how much to buy, and often just not to buy at all. If I wait and see, maybe I’ll do just fine without it and save myself the cost and storage of things that seem so necessary but are hardly ever used.
So here is my list – for now. I wonder what it will look like once we delve into the young adult years and beyond…
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