It was that time of the week – nail clipping time – and I thought I had seized an opportunity. Both boys were strapped into their high chairs and, having just finished a decent amount of food for lunch, were quietly sucking down their milk. The glazy-eyed look of impending naptime made the boys appear docile, and it seemed like an ideal time to attempt this wretched task.
How wrong I was.
This nail-clipping session turned out to be no different than any other in my home – an all-out, every-man-for-himself, battle of wills. Docile these boys were not. As I crouched down between the two high chairs struggling to keep grooming a priority, the kicking and screaming grew to fever pitch. My baby eventually clocked me in the eye with his foot (dislodging my contact lens) while my toddler simultaneously dumped half a carton of yogurt on my head. Fantastic.
In this moment, I had a sort of out-of-body experience. Time slowed down, and my former childless twenties-something self was watching the new thirty-year-old-mom self with great pity. What in the world had my life become? I used to go to happy hour after work with friends! There were snowboarding trips on the weekends! I could actually read a book when I went to the beach! Now I have to engage in mortal combat just to conquer their 40 little fingers and toes.
Parenting is hard. Yes, I am incredibly grateful to have two happy, healthy boys. After a long cuddle during story time and hugs and kisses from my little sweethearts, I feel like the luckiest woman in the world. And those good times FAR outweigh the bad. But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard.
So often, parenting is a prolonged exercise in on-the-job training. I’m still relatively new in my current role as mother, and I desperately don’t want to screw up. So where to go for advice? For help like this, I can think of no better resource than the veteran parents in my life. Between them, they have a combined 191 years of parenting experience and have raised 11 children. Think of all those diapers!! To these older and wiser adults in my life, I posed two questions: What are you most proud of as a parent? What is your greatest regret? Their answers are below. Enjoy!
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Point of Pride: My kids are kind and unselfish. I taught my kids to do this the same way my parents taught me. When my brother was getting a trophy at a swim meet, my parents and I would be my brother’s biggest cheerleader. We’d yell and clap and be so proud. We learned to be happy for each other’s successes and be thankful for each other’s talents. We learned that what we do reflects on the whole family. This is the best way to take away jealously among siblings and build a strong family unit.
Point of Regret: If I could go back, I would have given my children more chores around the house. At the time, I wanted to protect them from having too much work at home. I thought they already had so much schoolwork and, hey, they only get to be kids once. But, I was mistaken. Having chores helps kids develop work ethic and self-esteem, and it’s their way to contribute to the family. If you can find a balance between letting them be carefree kids but letting them take ownership and responsibility for certain things, it’s a beautiful thing.
Point of Pride: I kept it pretty simple. I always tried to show my kids that we were really happy and lucky to have them as children. They were wonderful kids, and I wanted them to know how much we appreciated them.
Point of Regret: Sometimes I didn’t deal punishment the way I should have. Sometimes when they break the rules, it seems like such a big deal. But calm down and relax, and put the youngster on your lap and just talk to him. That’s all you need to do.
Point of Pride: First and foremost, I taught my kids to be loyal to their family and friends. I stopped any negative talk I heard immediately, and did my best to promote kindness in our house. When you are loyal and kind, people trust you and know you are going to do the right thing. I think those traits allowed my kids to build and maintain healthy relationships.
Point of Regret: Sometimes it’s the littlest moments you remember and regret. It’s hard to let go and forgive yourself. Periodically a man would drive around our neighborhood selling farm-fresh fruit out of the back of his truck. It was the best you ever tasted. One day my oldest son took his lunch money and secretly bought some fruit. He brought it home and gave it to me as a present. I scolded him and reminded him that he was only to use his lunch money for his school lunch. He was crushed. I’m so sorry I disappointed him. Instead I should have thanked him and told him I loved him.
Point of Pride: All three of my kids found their own way. They discovered what they were good at and are now capitalizing on that. We never told them what to do but instead helped them find their talents. We did this by careful observation. When we saw that they were interested in something, we went out of our way to present opportunities for them to do that, whether is was a love of the ocean, animals, or art. We never put our children in a mold and always remembered that our dream for them was to fulfill their own dreams.
Point of Regret: I think I was overly consistent. Sometimes things get really, really hard. You don’t know what to do, so you cling to your formula – the rules you have set. Sometimes though it wouldn’t have hurt to let some things slide. It would have been easier on everyone. But in the moment it’s so difficult to determine when it’s ok to bend the rules and when it isn’t. I’d more often stick with the latter and come down too hard to the kids. If I had it to do over, I’d try and be more lenient and remember that, on certain occasions, rules are made to be broken. And that’s just fine.
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When stuck in the parenting trenches, covered in yogurt and sporting a black eye, it’s advice like this that helps me keep things in perspective. But, I can’t help but be painfully aware of a voice that is missing from this lineup. What would my mom say were she here to answer this question? Diagnosed with a terminal illness when I was in high school, she died the summer before my senior year. Not a day goes by that I don’t have questions for her. If I’m quiet, though, and really listen, I think I can just about hear her responses.
She’d tell me to stop stressing out about getting my kid into the perfect preschool. She’d tell me to forget about the giant pile of clean laundry waiting to be put away. She’d want me to wait a minute and let my toddler put on his own jacket before rushing out of the house, even though we’re already 10 minutes late. And she’d want me to enjoy the satisfaction he derives from doing it all by himself like a big boy. She’d want me to stop and savor all the ordinary moments of my life with these two great little people – even during those tough nail-trimming sessions.
Bye for now!