Motherhood – Lessons learned

As a little girl, I always knew that above all else, I wanted to be a mother.  I don’t know that I understood exactly what that meant until I had kids of my own… and some days I’m still utterly clueless.

Almost 15 {gulp} years ago I recall being in the delivery room with the giant.  Mom was with me, of course, but this was a new experience for us both.  Most of y’all know that I was adopted at the ripe old age of 18-ish months so mom never went through the joy of pregnancy, labor, delivery… This was all very interesting to her.  I remember her watching with anticipation the contraction monitor and letting me know that another “big one” was coming.  Thanks mom.  Couldn’t have guessed that… I also remember, in a moment of clarity after the epidural was administered, that I had to tell my very VERY honest mother to lie to me.  I remember telling her “Mom – I know that you are always honest but just this once, I NEED you to lie to me and to tell me that my baby is beautiful.  Just this once.  Fake it.”  Mom was never one for babies… and I couldn’t bear her brutal honesty on this thing I had baked for 9 months if it weren’t absolutely perfect. I think her comment was something about how his head was “barely misshapen at all.”

I don’t remember much else after that {thank you epidural} until I was holding this brand spanking new human being with a full head of dark black hair for the first time.  I remember his father holding him and beaming with pride.  It’s one of the few memories of my life in marriage number one that I choose to hang on to.

I remember two days after the giant was born, Mom and I went shopping for a new recliner because I needed somewhere I could sit and nurse and sleep with this very needy little person.  I still have that recliner and while it is in storage right now, it’s still one of my favorite places to sit.

Fast forward a bit and mini-me joined our clan.  Fast forward a bit more and that’s when the bottom dropped out.  I couldn’t take care of me much less my children as I recovered from the mental breakdown caused by the shattering of so many “truths” and again, my mother stepped in to save my ass.  That’s what mothers do.  They pick up the pieces when you aren’t able.

I’m much different now than I was back then.  Stronger for sure.  Wiser I hope.  More capable of love than I ever thought possible.  Mostly because I don’t have any delusions of perfection… from myself or my kids.

I still don’t have all the answers but I know the kind of mother I strive to be.  As with everything else, I’m still a work in progress but here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Play often.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve played the game a bajillion times, it’s the time spent together that matters.
  2. Laugh at all the jokes… even if they aren’t funny.  Self-esteem is a fragile thing.
  3. When your child hands you a drawing, don’t try to guess what it is.  You will likely be wrong unless you have a budding Michelangelo on your hands.  It is much safer to say “That’s Beautiful!  Tell me about it” and then listen.
  4. Love fiercely.  It’s easy to say this when all is right with the world and everything is in perfect order… it’s when your kid hits the terrible two-three-four-fifteen-whatever and gets on your very last nerve that the fiercely part comes into play.
  5. Be a cheerleader.  Kids need cheerleaders.  There are enough forces – internal and in the world – that will fight to keep our kids down.  It’s up to us to build them back up.  We’re the only ones who can.  Cheer loud.  Cheer often.  Show up.
  6. Time-outs are for parents.  Funny thing about the time out chair – that was the time I was able to regain my composure so I didn’t react out of anger…when I remember to think that clearly.
  7. Sharpie DOES come out of almost everything with the right tools, patience and elbow grease.  Almost.
  8. Captive audiences are magical.  Some of the best conversations happen when the boys and I are in the car.  Or the dinner table.  I will often turn off the radio and challenge them to entertain me on our commute home.  They probably don’t know how much I treasure these moments but someday I hope they do.
  9. Someday, you can become friends with your children… that time is NOT now.  My mom truly is my best friend.  Now.  After many many many years of parenting.  I’ve seen the destruction of parents who try to be friends with their teenagers.  It rarely ends well. {in my experience}.  My kids have friends at school, at swim team, in the neighborhood.  They do not need me to be their friend.  They need me to be their mom.
  10. You will make mistakes… especially now that we have the internet telling us how we are failing as parents.  Ignore the internet.  You are doing ok.
  11.  Hold your babies as long as they will let you… let them be the first to break every hug.  You never know how much they need to refill their tank.
  12. You will sound like your own mother at some point.  The words will just come flying out of your mouth when you least expect it.  The world will not end.  We are shaped by the mothers we have…in some way at least. We hang on to the things we liked and do the polar opposite of the things we didn’t.
  13. When your two year old screams a perfectly placed “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK” in the hospital when the nurse sticks him 5 times and still can’t draw blood, the nurses will find this adorable.  When he’s older, it becomes less cute and people start questioning your parenting.  When this happens, blame grandma.
  14. NO ONE will parent exactly like you.  They are not wrong.  You are not wrong.  Resist the urge to tell your fellow parents how to do ANYTHING.  Further resist the urge to punch them in the throat when they tell you what you are doing “wrong”.
  15. Pick your battles.  Not everything is worth losing sleep over.
  16. If you served pizza every single night, your kid wouldn’t care.  Don’t stress over not being Martha Stewart.
  17. Everyone learns differently.  The earlier you learn your kids learning style, the easier homework becomes.
  18. Enlist smarter friends to help with the above mentioned homework.
  19. If your kids don’t like someone, trust their gut.  BELIEVE ME.
  20. If your friends don’t like your kids, find new friends.
  21. Catch them doing good.  Spend more time talking about what they do right than what they do wrong.
  22. Take every opportunity to be a hero in your kid’s eyes.  They are plentiful when they are young and more scarce as they become teens.  Seize the opportunities when you can.

My boys are amazing.  I know everyone says that.  I will forever be the first to sing their praises and lose sleep when they struggle.  They still cuddle on the couch when we watch movies and hold my hand when we cross a parking lot because I once told them I was too scared to cross without their help.  Mini-me was 4.  They beam when I tell them I’m proud and their face lights up when I show up for swim practice or to cheer them on during a triathlon.  I try to do this often… I hope these are the memories they carry forward with them.  I will always wonder if I’ve done enough but I know that if I just love them, everything will come out ok.

I’d love to sit here and tell you I made these beautiful creatures.  The truth is, they made me the person I am and I think they are doing a fantastic job training me.

Happy Mother’s Day to all who fill a nurturing role in a child’s life.  You matter.  You are important.


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  1. You’re amazingly wise for being so crazy. Love you 😉

  2. Your kids are blessed to have a mother who is so involved and interested in what they do.

  3. Kids would probably actually be pretty pumped to get to eat pizza every night. I know I would be.

  4. Wise words, Shelley. Wise words. Kids are such amazing little creatures and it’s such fun to watch them grow. Happy Mother’s Day!

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