Whenever a friend asks me for any type of parenting advice, I can't help but stare back blankly for a moment. Me?! I'm only three years into this parenting gig. What the hell do I know? On the rare occasion that I start feeling pretty confident that I can handle anything my girls throw at me, I am presented with a new situation, problem, illness or question that reminds me I am absolutely still at the novice level.
It took having kids for me to understand just how challenging and intricate parenting really is. It takes an entire childhood for parents to really get educated about their role, but by then, of course, the child is grown and moves out. What a cruel joke Mother Nature plays on us! So, as a newer mom with only three years of experience, I have a few questions for you older moms with grown children who finally know what you're doing.
1. How can I best cherish these young years? I've heard that it "goes so fast" so often -- strangers have even stopped me in the grocery store to say something nice about my young daughters before adding, "Cherish it now. It goes so fast." I try; I really do. I have the privilege of being home with my girls, who are not yet in school all day, so I get far more time with them than the average parent in our society. I promise I do not take that granted. Still, these past three years have passed so quickly that it scares me. I can't seem to slow down time, so how can I best cherish these young years with my girls?
2. What do you wish you had done less or more? Since becoming a parent, I have marveled at the fact that my mom raised three kids and still kept a clean house. When I ask her how she did it, she answers honestly, "I probably spent too much time cleaning. If I could do it again, I wouldn't care so much if my house was a little messy. Those were minutes I could have just been sitting and playing with you." For the record, my mom was/is an amazing mom, and I have no memories of longing for her to play with me; I feel she spent a ton of quality time with me. The point is, however, she feels she missed out on a few more precious moments. I often think about that while I'm on my hands and knees scrubbing my kitchen floor.
3. Will I ever sleep well again? I do not support the cry-it-out method and, therefore, have spent a lot of nights going in and out of my daughters' rooms. My 3-year-old sleeps through the night without issues, and my 1-year-old usually makes it. However, I'm still up a couple times most nights to check on them, move the covers back up or getting up way before the sun to work so I won't be distracted by a work to-do list when my kids are awake. I daydream about the days when I'll sleep through the night too, waking each day fully rested, but then I imagine them as teenagers and don't see myself getting any more sleep. I think about them growing up and eventually moving out, and I actually imagine getting less sleep, as I won't be able to quietly peek in on them at night and see that they are okay. Tell me, experienced moms, does sleep ever become familiar again?
4. What do you really remember about these young years of motherhood? Each day with my girls is an adventure. There is laughter, excitement and drama throughout the day, and I always think to myself, I will never forget this. However, it's already become apparent to me that I will forget a great deal of it, and it makes me so sad. Of course I can't remember every moment, every story, every conversation, hug and snuggle we experience. But I want to. I want to hang on to every instant of it forever. I write down as much as I can and take plenty of pictures, but I know those aren't the same. So, experienced moms, what do you really remember about the first few years with your children? Which moments are embedded deep in your memory, available for your recall whenever you want?
5. What do your children tell you now? We'll always have our own thoughts about what we did right and wrong as parents, but as our children age, they can share their thoughts on it. What do your kids, now adults, thank you for? What do they ask you for advice on? What do they think you did so well and plan to (or already do) with their own children? The answers to those questions reveals more about your parenting successes or failures than anything else.
Parents -- experienced and new -- all have one thing in common; we love our kids and we're trying to do right by them. To the moms of grown children reading this: your own children are off living their adult lives, but your acquired parental knowledge will still be appreciated by the next generation. I implore you - please share.