I have been a mom now for almost 20 years. Not only that, but a mom to ten kids and a pseudo mom to more than 45 daycare kids over the years. That's a lot of kids and tons of experience on my part. Sometimes people come to me and ask my advice. Sometimes! Potty training, discipline, parties, holidays and vacations, plus more. It goes on and on. Most of the time I am flattered that they ask because maybe they think after all these kids that I might have something good to say. I won't go into the darker corners of my mind that say "Maybe they ask so they can do the opposite of what I did, to get different results!". Either way, I get questions. Here is some of my advice for any mom, mom to be and friend.
1. Laugh. Day, night and every time in between...laugh about it all. Yourself when you lose it over something stupid. Over the kids when they do something stupid that you have to fix, or clean. Over yourself and your husband when you make wonderful plans for "alone time" once the kids are in bed and you find yourselves too dang tired for anything of the kind. Laughter is the best medicine and it is contagious, I promise. Jon often finds himself laughing about something that normally would make him mad just because I can't help but laugh and vice versa. Laugh away folks, it might just save your sanity.
2. Potty training. First off, don't compare your kids to each other or your friends kids. After ten kids I can tell you every child is different! No two kids are alike. I had one child that was potty trained literally in one day. One day...no joke. I refused to put a diaper on him one morning and by noon he had underwear on and had no accidents. It was that easy. On the other hand, I had a kiddo that wet her pants well into the third grade....so moral of the story? Try, try hard, don't cry over a little pee and just hang in there. They all eventually do it where they should and when they should. After that it's just an issue of teaching the boys that the toilet isn't a moving target and the girls that toilet paper is better used in moderation!
3. Staying sane. How do I do it? Do I look sane to you? Yeah, don't answer that! Staying sane has several tricks to it. One of them I have already discussed...laughing. There are other ways though. One would be to go on a regular date with your hubby. These times usually are spent unloading on my spouse all of my frustrations about the kids. He also unloads on me. It may be unfair to the kids, it might just save their lives. Either way, it's good for both of us. I also like to go out with a friend once in a while. Since Jon has worked two jobs it only happens once a month or so, but it's better than nothing. There are other ways to preserve sanity. I like to take long showers followed by a bath. I relax, listen to the poundings on the door and pretend I don't hear them. They eventually go away. One more way is for me to sit up after the last kids are in bed and watch my tv programming and eat food I don't like sharing, like chocolate and soda, and sit wherever I want and enjoy quiet time. It can sometimes be a toss up between the extra sleep or the time alone, but either way it's to my benefit.
4. Love unconditionally. This can be the hardest thing for any parent to do. We think we all do it, but do we? We place expectations on our kids, rules, guidelines and exceptions. "Get all a's in school and you get money", "Stay by mommy and you get treats when we get in the car", "Go to church", "Go to college", "Get a job and pay your own way!". When all is said and done we want what we want for our kids, because we know ways in which they can be happy, but we need to trust that they know what's good for them too. We may want our kiddo to go to law school, while they want to go to art school. We should never underestimate our kids by confining them to our own standards and expectations. Not only allow them to spread those beautiful wings of theirs, but be completely supportive while they do it. If they fall and need help, we can be there to help nurse them back to health, with our unconditional love.
5. Offer choices. Oh how I hate to offer choices sometimes. "Sweetie, just get on your jammies and get in bed....NOW!" No choice there. I want it done, now do it! However, parenting is evolving and our ideas should evolve with it. The idea that children should be offered choices is a brilliant one, in theory, but much harder in practice. When my kids were little it was a bit easier, because the choice was much simpler and smaller..."Pick up your toys right now and then let's watch a movie, or I pick them up and they get put away....your choice". Choices as the kids get older are much harder for them, and much harder for us to follow through with. But so essential.
6. Inspire them. Never stop reaching for your own goals and dreams. They will model you. Be the kind of person that says to the world " I will never quit, no matter how hard it gets!" Be the kind of person that says "My mind and heart will ever strive for more, more knowledge, more adventure, more spirituality!", and they will mimic you. Be the kind of person that your children will praise to the world, just the way you have spent your life telling the world about your amazing children.
7. Love the life you've chosen. So many men and women grow up, have kids, get jobs and then realize they are miserable. Figure out what started you on your journey and then remember it everyday. Your life does mean something, it is worth something and learn to love it just the way it is. My life is anything but glamorous, but it's mine. I mean something to my kids when I praise them, love them and lift them up. I mean something to the friend that needed a good laugh that particular day. I mean something to the neighbor that needed some help just when I offered. I mean something to my sweet mom who loves to talk to me everyday, even if we don't have much to say. I mean something to my husband who wants to know he means something to me. We have each other. My life matters, make sure your kids know theirs do too.
I am sure I could think of much more, but I will stop here. If you have questions, ask me. I can't guarantee that I will have an answer for you, but I can try. And please, if you feel there is something in my life that needs improvement, just say so. Don't be offended if I hang up on you, I will later realize you were right and try to be better! :)