While I have certainly never won any parent-of-the-year awards, I have five good kids. I get asked often, especially by young parents anxious to raise good kids of their own, what I did right. But I won't ever take credit for who my children are. They were born good, and the only thing I have ever really "done" is loved them unconditionally, fed their hungry faces a million times, read or told them a few stories (a day), and beamed from ear to ear over every little thing they did.
The only thing I have done is what mothers instinctually do: sacrifice. Everything I do as a mother is related to making sure my kids have what they need and are becoming awesome people! Many mothers like myself have temporarily put aside many of their previous hobbies and passions. Instead, they are diligently working to provide for family and are deeply committed to motherly responsibilities. A mother will drop anything on the spot to soothe a teenage daughter's broken heart, to make sure kids are all packed and ready to go for summer camps, spend countless hours counseling newly adult children about life choices. These are just a few of the things I was needed for over the last couple of days.
As a mom, you never know what tomorrow holds. How does a mother decide what is essential and what isn't? We don't. We try to do it all because it is all important! We learn as we go, and we grow as we learn. Here are a few things I have personally learned through my short 18 years of being a mom:
- Our kids are not ours. Our job is to help them recognize their divine potential, and in return, they help us realize our own. Additionally, your community helps! The old African proverb "It takes a village" is a wise observation. For best results, involve as many other good parents, people, and influences as you can in your child's life.
- Legos are both friend and enemy (ouch!). But when they get boxed up because kids no longer play with them, you will miss them. This goes for all childhood phases, cherish them all.
- Children prefer to be taught and not told, this will also facilitate growth and a desire to learn.
- Doing the bare minimum for kids (or leading them to believe that's what you are doing) helps them to become more self-confident, self-sufficient, and appreciative. Requiring them to pay for part of activities they want to participate in, adds value! Encourage lemonade stands and silly business ideas, those will turn into bigger and better plans in the future.
- Dont parent in fear! If you love them, let your kids learn, get hurt, jump off things, experience, express emotions when appropriate, talk, play in mud puddles, and grow in any way possible without parental interference. Sometimes being too strict backfires. Kids want to try their own hand at life, why not let them figure things out while you are by their side instead of when they are on their own (excluding drugs, alcohol, etc.)? The more you encourage this while they are still under your supervision, the more prepared they will be to become a warrior at life!
- Don't get a pet to teach kids responsibility. Pets are little lives that need full care from a mature individual that is committed and caring. Get a pet to teach your children how to love! They will become more responsible through love than if you just throw a critter, cage, and supplies at them telling them it's up to them or you will get rid of it. Living things we love are NOT disposable.
- Be an example. Kids will pick up on EVERYTHING you do, good and bad, even if you think they aren't paying attention.
- Service is valuable, but kids hate it when you force it on them. Be an example yourself and volunteer. They will eventually pick up on this all on their own.
- A mom is a mom 100% of the time. But being a good mom means you absolutely must find a moment, or a minute, or a day, or even a week when possible, to recharge. We still need time to remember who we are outside of being a mom. Whatever makes you who you are, hold on to it tight, and revisit it often. The sacrifices we make for our kids are worth it, but so are we!