Sherri is a loyal Letters for Lucas reader and comments on almost every one of my posts. Her words always make me feel better about myself, what I've shared and what I'm going through as someone who still considers herself a new mom.
If you don't already follow Old Tweener, you should and if nothing else, please check out one of my very favorite posts, Exit Interview. It's a superb look at the changing role of mother as our children grow up.
I am honored to have Sherri guest posting for me today on what she wish she had known when she first became a mother. Thank you and cheers, Sherri!
Reading Letters for Lucas always takes me back to those early mommyhood days, and I love how much heart and honesty Tonya puts into her writing. I was so happy when she asked me to do a guest post! I tried to imagine what advice I would give her, as an old mommy to a newer one, if we sat down for a virtual glass of wine.
When my son was first born and I was wading thigh-high in the overwhelming details of new motherhood, there were some things I thought were so important. Things that if done properly, would ensure that my little guy would be the perfect child.
You know which child I am talking about. They are usually seen only in tear-jerking movies or in commercials for diapers or baby food. They smile on cue, are early readers, easy potty-trainers, sleep through the night from the start, and never drool or blow out a diaper.
Now I know that child doesn’t exist. What a relief.
I wish someone had told me that sooner, rather than me having to spend the better part of 16 years to come to that astonishing conclusion. That some of the things that seem so important when you have small children really don’t matter. Things like:
There, I said it.
Did you know that some of these milestones have huge windows during which they can happen? I didn’t. And I spent a lot of time observing my kid, other kids, reading mommy books, and making lists.
Get a bunch of infant/toddler/preschool moms together and the topics turn rather quickly to milestones. Has yours rolled over? Crawled? Babbled? Got teeth yet? Used a straw? Written his name? Dressed himself? Learned Morse code? And so on.
And for the most part, kids find their own way of doing things; maybe not even in the “right” order. Unless it really seems like something to consult your pediatrician over, it seems like a lot of these can just be things to let go.
My son never did a “true” crawl; his style was more of a butt-scoot with crazy legs and arms propelling him all around the house. He went on to actually walk, ride a bike, run, and develop the standard teen slump in his shoulders. Talking? I don’t think he’s ever stopped. And while he does now dress himself, I would like to see more of his clothes in the hamper than on the floor.
As soon as the toddler phase started, along came the whole academics phase. Unfortunately, this phase is still going on at my house, and will continue as he goes off to college next fall. It starts with letters, colors, sounds, naming things, and just explodes from there.
I worried about selecting the best books from the library, reading him Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, teaching him all the right names for the dinosaurs, and sending him to the right preschool. Did it matter in the end? Not really. What mattered was that I spent time talking to him, reading to him (whether it was Sports Illustrated, Garfield comics, or Dr. Seuss), being involved, and answering his questions. So many questions. And now that he’s a teenager, the preschool he attended doesn’t matter at all. Nor does the fact that I actually pulled him out of preschool the spring before he went to kindergarten because I decided he didn’t need it. And he was fine.
We all want the best for our kids, and at no time does that ring truer than when we buy them stuff. I really, really wanted the right stuff for my son…whether it was the Little Tikes car he could drive, the adorable playhouse, or the dinosaurs he obsessed over.
And now? All that stuff is long gone or crammed into boxes in the attic (if I can’t bear to part with it just yet). I think what really mattered wasn’t so much that he had the latest and greatest toys when he was little, but just that he had things to spark his imagination.
Some of our best times were spent with sand buckets at the park or in the kitchen with utensils, pots, and pans doing a pre-Wii version of Rock Band. Sometimes I filled the sink with water, pulled up a step stool, and let him have at it. Food coloring in the water made it an instant ocean for his dinosaurs; bubbles made it a volcano; ice cubes were perfect for the polar bears.
Don’t get me wrong; I still bought him way too many things when he was little. Add the fact that he was the first grandchild/nephew on both sides, and he got lots of loot. And we had fun with it.
But looking back now, so much of it was overkill and unnecessary.
If I could go back and do the infant/toddler years again, I would:
- Leave the dishes in the sink now and then. They aren’t changing, but the kids sure are.
- Make a mess more often. Mud washes out, water dries, and paint fades. Memories don’t.
- Cuddle on the couch when they want to. Because they won’t always want to.
- Break the rules more often, just because it’s fun.
- Be more spontaneous. I worried so much about my son’s schedule that we may have missed out on some fun things. Not anymore.
- Remind myself that the days may seem long, but the years are short.
- Laugh with them more. Even if I don’t think it’s that funny. Because it’s good medicine.