Raising children is part challenge and part opportunity. You have the opportunity to create a whole new person, and the challenge is ensuring that the person you have added to this already over populated planet is not a douchebag. You can never fully appreciate how important this role is until you become a parent. I have to say, being a mom has definitely made me less of a diva, and the skills you learn in parenting improve your social skills in most situations.
It may be worth mentioning, I did not have a very good childhood, and learned very little from my parents other than what NOT to do. This made me a stronger person, and for that I am grateful, but it was kind of clawing my way up a cliff with no safety harness, when there was a fairly safe road on the other side of the mountain heading to the same destination. I definitely got to where I am now on the road less travelled, and even though much was gained on that journey, I’m pretty glad THAT part is over. I’m still growing up, though, but now I’m doing it with the company of my 2 sons.
I never even considered having children when I was in my 20s – it was the furthest thing from my mind. I was too busy planning my own future, and having my nails done, because clawing your way up a rock face will wreck your manicure.
When I found out I was pregnant with my first kid, I literally fainted. I was utterly devastated, this was not part of the plan. “There must be some mistake” I thought, “isn’t there someone more qualified – I didn’t even apply for the job”. Ha! Little did I know. Life has a way of throwing you a curve ball to put things into perspective.
There is no manual for raising kids, but some people have a bit of a “template” to work with. I was starting from scratch here, and I was way over my head. Or so I thought. All I knew was what NOT to do as a parent, and I knew I wanted my kids to be travelling up that mountain in a securely fitted car seat, learning along the way and enjoying the journey. And so we began our journey together. This was my opportunity to improve the recipe, but I never anticipated how much I would learn along the way. Not a day goes by that I don’t learn something from my children. I’m more patient, compassionate, forgiving, and accountable for my own actions than ever before. I’m so conscious of how my actions affect those around me, and instinctively I’ve applied the same approach I take with my kids to all other humans.
To a child nothing is impossible, especially to a toddler. I found that I approach a lot more things with a “why not” attitude as opposed to “you can’t do that”. Spontaneity makes parenting much more fun, and as a person I take myself less seriously and am more fun in general. I frequently sing instructions to my kids, we sometimes have breakfast for dinner. Dress up in silly costumes, or I’ll let them paint eyebrows on the dog. No harm done, so why not?
My son once wanted to wear his flippers as shoes to playschool. My first reaction was to say no, but instead, this is how I handled it.
Me: honey, you know if you wear your flippers, people will stare, some might laugh at you. You will battle to walk and you may not be able to play on the jungle gym. It’s not very practical. Are you sure you want to wear them to school?
3yr old: Yup, I don’t mind mom
Me: Ok honey, wear your flippers and I’ll pack an extra pair of shoes in your backpack just in case.
We then proceeded to walk very, very slowly across the road, him in his bright blue flippers and me in my red stilettos – ignoring the irate glares of less patient parents. Which brings me to my next point. Enhanced Patience – with some empathy on the side.
Before I go on, let’s get one thing straight – I’m nowhere near perfect in this regard. Anyone who has lived with a toddler knows patience is very much a limited resource, and we run out quite frequently. What I can say however, is that the stock levels are much better managed. I don’t think I need to go too much into the various things that require patience as a parent, but what I realised to my surprise, was how much more patient I am with other people. When a car stalls in traffic, I will smile sympathetically rather than hoot aggressively. I’ve even been known to let a taxi in at rush hour. I’ve learned to be a better listener too. Little children really can’t articulate themselves very well, and often those temper tantrums are caused by the frustration of not being understood. I’ve realised, that even though adults can speak more eloquently – loads of people struggle with being misunderstood. Communicating with a toddler has taught me how to not only listen, but understand what people are trying to say. Once you get a good grip on the psyche of a kid, you would be surprised at how well you decipher passive aggressive communication. It’s just grownups letting their inner child take the stage, really.
I’ve learned to live in the moment, while keeping the bigger picture in mind. Every day I teach something, and learn something. I see the silver lining and often miss the cloud. I have meaningful, frivolous and downright ridiculous conversations with my kids daily. I’m less judgmental of other people, and shrug off criticism if I feel it’s unwarranted. I’m less critical of myself and others and I don’t judge as much. I still have my own views, but accept that just like me they are doing the best they can with what they have in their own way and if that works then good for them.
If you are ever having doubts that you are doing an excellent job as a mother – I strongly advise you to listen to what your kids have to say. They really do give the best feedback. Nothing is more reassuring than seeing the evidence of your hard work as a parent. When your 3 year old holds the door for a lady, or when they write “mom” as an adjective for wonderful. When you see them being kind and compassionate to a smaller child or an animal. That’s the stuff that makes being a parent kind of awesome.