My firstborn recently turned 5 years old, and it has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. But I now feel like I’ve crossed some threshold in motherhood, and would love to impart the bits of wisdom I’ve accumulated to you.
These are five of the many lessons I’ve learned being a mom for over 5 years now. I’m now the mom of a 5-year-old girl and twin 2-year-old boys.
Motherhood is a wild ride, but one I would gladly take over and over again.
1. Everything is a phase
I remember the nights I spent hours trying to get my daughter to just go to sleep. I wondered if she would ever fall asleep on her own and sleep through the night. I wondered if I would ever get to sleep for more than two hours at a time again.
But tonight she just took her new Olaf doll and laid down in bed, said goodnight to be, and passed out in minutes.
For the most part, all the worries and problems we have with our children are just phases that pass. Teething, developmental leaps, no sleep, cluster feeding, growth spurts, etc.
The problem is that you just trade one hard phase for another most of the time. It’s just that the new phase is different with unique challenges. That’s the gig. It never is truly easy.
But that’s ok. Learning to accept that it IS hard, but whatever hardship you are in now will pass helps you feel like you can do it. Like you aren’t crazy, and you aren’t the only one struggling.
Everyone struggles at some point, and eventually, that struggle will pass.
2. Actions speak louder than words
Kids model what you do. They pay attention to what you say, how you say it, the actions you take, and tons of small things you probably aren’t even aware of.
The old saying of “do as I say, not as I do” really does NOT work with kids.
You are the first and greatest role model for your children. They will learn from you both the good and the bad. They’ll copy your best traits and your worst.
So pay attention next time they don’t speak respectfully, forget to say thank you, have a ‘tude. Where did they learn that?
Many times if I take a sec to assess the situation, I realize that I’m the one who has been short with her lately, and I need to tone it down and be more pleasant.
Likewise, sometimes I catch her doing something adorable, kind, or ingenious and I swell with pride knowing she learned it by watching me.
3. Put yourself first
A part of me still cringes at this advice.
For one, it’s basically a cliché at this point, but it is still so freaking true. You know how I said above that kids model what you do?
That means that in order to teach them the most important lessons and model the best life possible for them, you actually have to live it!
So, personal development, learning patience, kindness, self-discipline, self-care, self-love. These are all things that you must work on mastering yourself if you hope to impart them to your child.
This goes beyond the basic elements of taking care of yourself first as a self-care regimen. This is more about putting your own well-being, growth, and development above anything else.
Unless you are the only perfect human on this planet, you still have work to do to improve. This isn’t a reason to punish yourself for your imperfections, but rather just something to consider. What are some places you could work on? Maybe being more patient? What about reading a few more books instead of scrolling Facebook so much?
It’s about determining the traits that you hope your kids will have and then ensuring you have the first as a model.
4. You’re going to screw up, and that’s ok
As much as you might try, you will not be a perfect parent.
No one is.
So the flipside of putting yourself first and ensuring you are working on being the best parent, you also have to realize that you never land at perfection.
You’ll lose your temper sometimes, you’ll say the wrong thing sometimes, you’ll accidentally hurt their feelings sometimes. No relationship is perfect, including the ones we have with our kids.
The key here is to apologize and make amends.
I know when I’ve been a little too harsh or short with my daughter, and I go and apologize to her as soon as can as often as I can. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s modeling to her how to deal with conflict.
5. Enjoy it
New moms are so sick of hearing about how they need to enjoy being a mom, and it goes by so fast. But it does!
These 5 years both feel like they passed in the blink of an eye and seemed to go on for centuries. Sometimes it feels like life stands still, and others it flies by.
So be present. Be there. Pay attention. Let go of any and all bullshit. Let go of expectations you have that weigh you down and distract you from enjoying this time.
Time is the most precious thing we have. Spend it wisely.
Hug your kids, tickle your kids, kiss your kids. Be silly your kids, play games with your kids, take a break from the work to dance around the house with your kids.
Soak it in.
As proud as I am of my little girl, and no matter how amazing she is now as a big 5-year-old, part of me mourns the loss of my toddler. The tiny baby I carried all over and nursed for years.
The changes are amazing to watch, and they are so rewarding. To watch her grow and develop into a kid is incredible. But it’s also bittersweet.
So I take it in as much as I can and just hold her in the tiny moments I can.
Time moves on. Change is inevitable. But if there is one thing I can do it is be grateful for today.
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