In honor of all the amazing mamas out there, I want to celebrate MOTHER’S DAY with some messages I’ve received since becoming a mom. Our children are always teaching us…in quiet ways and in voices very loud…and these are not just lessons about being a mom, but about life in general. As humans, we should always be open to learning, growing, and evolving. We do this by keeping ourselves open to receiving messages, vulnerable to admitting weakness, reflective to changing practices, and strong enough to follow through.
LESSONS OF MOTHERHOOD
1. You’ve gotta walk the walk, not just talk the talk. It’s easy to say “use your indoor voice” or “don’t forget to say please and thank you” and so on…but what makes the greatest impression is modeling these behaviors. Don’t want your kids to yell? Don’t yell! Want them to eat healthy meals? Offer nutritious dinners and show them you enjoy your veggies! Maybe even get them to pick out veggies in the market or help you in the garden! Treat your children with respect and they’re more likely to be respectful. Of course, they might need reminders for all of the desired behaviors, but if they see you demonstrating over and over, the message will be clear. You are an example for your children.
2. You’re going to make mistakes; and that’s ok! Sometimes I actually bathe in my mistakes…talking about them over and over, laughing at my own mess, apologizing if I was wrong, and showing my kiddos how I correct my wrong-doings. I’m not trying to raise perfect kids; and I’m definitely not perfect myself! It’s important for our kids to not have unreasonable expectations of themselves…or of their parents! And it’s a great learning moment when you can admit you were wrong and move forward.
3. You win some, you lose some. Pick your battles carefully. Some days, especially with toddlers exploring their boundaries, you might come head to head withyour child on every decision. A little trick is to offer a choice of two things (Would you rather eat an apple or an orange? Do you want to wear the pink jacket or the white one?) so the child feels in control, but that control is somewhat limited. However, there are ample occasions when the battle can be resolved by you taking a step back and giving your child a little space. (Sure, you can wear the tutu to the market.) Another trick is to prepare your child for transitions as those can be challenging sometimes. (I want to let you know, we are leaving the playground in five minutes…..Now you have three more minutes to play….It’s time to go!) Know when you need to be strong in your conviction, when there is wiggle room, and when to let go. Sometimes it’s ok to let go.
4. Children thrive in structured, supportive environments. The dictator style of parenting doesn’t work with today’s children, but neither does being a push-over. Kids are best prepared for the real world (and happier!!) in homes where limits are clear, parents are consistent, and there is structure created by the adults. Established bedtimes, daily routines, chores and responsibilities…all contribute towards raising successful people. What are your favorite family rituals or routines?
5. Once in a while, it’s ok to break the rules. Sometimes changing things up ~ spontaneously or not ~ can add some unexpected excitement & joy. Breaking the rules can be anything from staying up past bedtime to play games or watch a movie to cutting out of school early to have quality time bowling on a Tuesday afternoon. Do something unexpected once in a while and have FUN! Can you think of a rule you might want to break in exchange for a surprisingly good time?
6. Screen time needs to be limited. There are articles about children being addicted to television at the ages of two and three years old! The AAP recommends NO screen time until after the age of two, but even then it should be quite limited. What I’ve found, as the mom of three, is that television can cripple creativity. We often go for several weeks with no screen time (for the kids) and we find they play more harmoniously and happily during those periods. When tv (or iPad or Wii) is part of the routine (reserved for weekends when present in our home), the kids ask for it incessantly and claim to be “bored” when it’s turned off. It’s like they are re-wired to think the screen is the only entertainment they can enjoy! While I’m not proclaiming that every family turn off their screens, I am suggesting you set good limits and consider how it might stifle their imaginative play. The technological pacifier might buy you some undisrupted time, but it can easily become abused and interfere with connection, play, and creativity. And, this is a lesson for us parents too: take some breaks from the screen and be more engaged in the present. It all passes by sooo quickly!
7. Sometimes they need you, and sometimes they need space. This is tough sometimes, but it’s part of growing up. For moms with younger babes, give your little one time alone on the activity mat or let him play in his crib when he wakes up happy. As your child becomes a bit older, knowing how to play by his/herself will be a valuable skill. As they get into the school years, they may occasionally push you away…but when you give them a little space, you’ll find they come around and bring you in even closer.
8. Sometimes you need space too. It’s perfectly okay to need a break for yourself! Maybe you’re tired of hearing the baby cry and you put him down for a few minutes and step outside. Maybe you let your toddler watch a show and you drink your tea in another room. Maybe you leave Daddy in charge and head out with girlfriends! Be sure to take space ~ however big or small the moment are ~ and refresh yourself. This job -being MOM- is hard work! To prevent from burning out, you need to take space for yourself. What can you do to create some space for yourself?
9. We mothers need to stand together, not judge one another. I have learned ~ undoubtedly so ~ that we, as mothers, have more in common than we do different. We all want our children to be healthy and happy; and we are doing the best we can for our family. It doesn’t matter whether we breast or bottle feed, use cloth or disposable diapers, co-sleep or sleep train, stay at home or work full time….we are doing what we is best for our family. Trust that and support one another. One big MAMA HUG to each and every one of you! Keep on rockin’!! You’re doing it! Right now! You’re amazing!!
10. I LOVE YOU. Say it every day; say it over and over. Show it. Mean it. LOVE THEM. They make mistakes, as do we, and they deserve quick forgiveness. They’re challenging, joyful, frustrated, excited, silly, focused, exhausted, sensitive, ridiculous, playful, disappointed, affectionate, needy….and what they need is to be loved. Unconditionally. Let them know it’s ok if they’ve had a bad day, you still love them. It’s not right to hurt others, but you still love them. You’re not happy that they weren’t listening, but you love them. Say it over and over again. I LOVE YOU!
I love all the mamas I’ve met…as well as those I haven’t!
Happy Mother’s Day to you all!!