I’M A MOTHER OF TWO, stepmother to three. With the kids all grown up and embarking on their own journeys, I think now is a good time to share a few tidbits of wisdom with you.
HINDSIGHT IS 20/20. I believe this advice is golden even when I didn’t always take it myself. And don’t think I’m getting all self-righteous. I’ve gone through divorce, the stress of raising kids as a single mom living in subsidized housing, remarried with a blended family and came out the other side. Been there, done that, and believe I’ve earned the right to expound on what I’ve learned.
AS PARENTS,WE JUST LOVE TO SAY NO. I think there may have been times when I said no without even hearing the question. Say yes more often. I read somewhere that the best advice for parents is, instead of the automatic no, try, “Give me five minutes and I’ll have an answer for you.” If the answer is still no, say, “Let’s try this instead.”
AS ADULTS WHO THINK WE KNOW IT ALL, the biggest mistake we make is stomping all over our child’s curiosity and imagination. We are forever telling them they shouldn’t do this and they can’t do that. Like we are some kind of experts on success? What we should be saying is if you can imagine it, it is absolutely possible. Do not put limitations on your children. Never say you can’t become an astronaut, the prime minister, deep sea diver, or a multimillionaire. Just remember, in your old age having a rich kid might just be a bonus.
WHEN YOU ARE WITH YOUR CHILDREN, be with them! Turn off your cellphone. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen mothers on public transportation who spent the entire trip – I mean 30 – 45 minutes – talking or texting on the phone. Man, I just want to rip it out of their hand and toss it. You could be playing I Spy or reviewing the alphabet. Geeze. It doesn’t take a genius to figure this one out.
I CAN REMEMBER ABSOLUTELY LOSING IT when my young son scribbled on the wall behind his bedroom door. If I could go back and slap myself, I would. It was his bedroom, his wall and for Pete’s sake, we even owned the house. What on earth was the big deal? This is the way it should have gone down. A wall is a canvas to a child. If your child writes on their bedroom wall, grab a crayon and join in. When the wall is full, buy a can of paint, 2 brushes and start a new canvas. It would probably do you some good to get creative. Just remember Michelangelo often required a massive canvas.
IF YOUR CHILD BREAKS a glass, plate or dish, remember it probably cost a few cents to a few bucks. In 30 years, who’s going to care? If it cost more, blame yourself for leaving it within reach.
FOR GOODNESS SAKE, DON’T YELL! Sorry, don’t yell. Children who are yelled at become yellers just as children of bullies are bullies-in-training.
DO NOT BE TOO PROUD to apologize to your children. It teaches them humility and that it’s okay to be wrong. That’s how we all learn.
SHUT UP AND LISTEN! Don’t interrupt and admit you don’t have all the answers. Discover the answers together.
STICK UP FOR YOUR CHILDREN. Always, no matter what, be on his or her side. If there needs to be a discussion, do it behind closed doors; don’t embarrass your kids in public.
REMEMBER, you took this job for a minimum of 18 years, 24/7 and anyone who tells you it’s not a job has a live-in nanny. It is the most difficult and important occupation you will ever have. You have no idea how important your actions and words are. If those words are mean or derogatory, they will be remembered forever. When your child becomes a superstar, everyone is going to be saying, “Wow, that kid must have a great parent!” And then you can take all the credit.
DON’T BEAT YOURSELF up too much. I don’t know of one maternity ward that issued manuals to take home.
AND TO MY CHILDREN, I’m sorry for all my screw-ups. But I promise to do better with the grandkids.