My eldest child and beautiful only daughter turned 10 in February. Amongst feeling a sense of grief about where did that time go, I also took time to pause and reflect on the many lessons I’ve learned in this past decade. I wrote a blog to share my reflections, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In no specific order, here are the 10 Lessons I’ve Learned:
1. Trust your Intuition as a Parent
Parenting is one of the most heavily ‘watched’, commented on and observed tasks we’ll ever take on. As soon as you’re expecting, the advice comes. Well-meaning people in the supermarket, parents, grandparents, friends. Then there’s Google, specialists, parenting specialists. The amount of information at our fingertips is both expansive and overwhelming.
Then our precious children arrive. Suddenly we are making decisions on the fly. Are they cold, sick, or sad? Do they need more, less, or no stimulation? Should they start solids, or should we give them more tummy time? As they grow older, the questions grow in complexity. Are they making friends, are they settled, are they being bullied? Do they have additional needs?
As a parent, navigating your way through to create happy and balanced children can be an absolute mind meld. One thing that has rung true for me all alone, is to trust and lean into your intuition when it comes to your kids. Noone knows your child better than you. Dont allow yourself to be be put off by a well meaning ED doctor or a child health specialist, or your own family and friends. If you have a feeling in your gut that is telling you something about your child, follow it!
You also know what works best for your child in terms of their temperament, personality, and likes/dislikes. Even which time of day they function best, how much sleep they need, and what interaction they require. Parenting is a fine art, and using your intuition to navigate is one of the most powerful tools you can have to support you on your journey.
- Your children’s behaviour is not something to be taken personally
This is a big one for me. The idea that when your child is behaving a certain way or doing a certain thing is a reflection of you, is a slippery slope to anger and resentment towards yourself as a parent and your child. Although challenging at times, I have learned that a child is a free and independent soul that is seeking to express itself in the world. Their behaviour is not a reflection of me!
- Allow them to express themselves in their own way
My second child likes to express himself loudly, vocally and frequently. When I go head to head with him, it’s mostly because I want him to express himself in the way that I think it should be done (e.g. quietly and calmly), but this is not him. It goes hand in hand with the point above, the sooner we stop trying to control our children, the sooner our relationship with them will improve. I am painfully aware that all my ‘shhhs’ and ‘be quiets’ have probably already created a narrative in his head that he is ‘too loud’ and ‘too much and ‘always in trouble. All I can do now is adjust my expectations on what is the ‘right’ way to express yourself, and let him be!
My daughter has the most vivid imagination. She creates elaborate play scenes, cutting up paper and making creations from coathangers, velcro and paper. I find myself feeling annoyed and peeved at the mess. But what I’m really doing when I ask her to stop, is trying to control her and in doing that I am stifling her own personal expression. Again, with this awareness, I can let go and realise a bit of mess is far less of an issue than a child that doesn’t know how to create.
- Listen to them and choose to be present
In this digital age, we are often so attached to our work, the outside world, and external connections, that we forget to be present. I work predominantly online and a lot of my business is created through social media and online connections, so I have to be extremely careful about my phone usage and being disconnected from the kids who are right in front of me.
I try to have ‘phone away’ times and also dedicate hours/days where its just time with the kids. Whatever they want to do, that is what we do! Yesterday involved making reusable water balloons from sponges and pulling out the water guns and chasing each other around. Nothing makes them happier than when their parents are there and ready to play with them.
- Listen to their stories
All my kids are elaborate storytellers. They love to tell me things in great detail, often repeating points and going back to the start. In my impatient moments, I hurry them along and ask them to get to the point. But I know that these stories will not last forever. My 10-year-old daughter is already shifting to wanting to spend time alone in her room, instead of out near the family. Young children love nothing more than to feel heard and seen, so lap it up whilst it lasts.
- Hug them, squeeze them, tell them you love them all the time
My kids love big cuddles and moments of affection with their mum and dad. I love that my 7-year-old son will still crawl onto my lap (long limbs and all) and grab a close cuddle with me. I never want them to feel like they’re too old for a hug, and I make sure I tell them how much I love them every chance I get. In my opinion, there is no such thing as too much affection. Build that secure connection now and enjoy a lifelong strong relationship with your kids.
- Our kids are our greatest teachers
When I first became a parent, I thought I had the job of teaching them all they need to know in the world. Boy was I wrong. Each of our kids is sent to us with a special role, usually, it is to reflect aspects of ourselves that we need to consider or pain points that need to be addressed. My kids have been the best mirror for me to see where I have opportunities to grow and develop. They have been my biggest lesson in letting go of control, the idea of perfection and of what parenting looks like. They have also taught me about a love that knows no boundaries, a love that goes so deep and can never be taken away.
- Teach your children to trust their intuition
Kids are naturally tuned in to the world around them. They instinctively can read a room, observe emotions and follow their gut with ease. As parents we can sometimes try to override these instincts, for example, insisting that a child hug an adult they don’t know, for the sake of social niceties. There is a reason their instinct makes them hold back or be shy, and it’s a primitive survival instinct that we unwittingly unteach them. Kids should be encouraged to trust their ‘tummy’ and go with what feels right for them, rather than what we think they should do as adults.
- Go on that adventure now, not tomorrow
Time has a way of slipping through the hourglass, it is a precious resource that we never get back. So, I beg this of you, don’t delay the adventure – do it now. Don’t wait til you have more money, more time, the kids are bigger. You never know how much time you or they might have on this earth, so why hold off and wait? Eat the bad food, watch all the movies, go to the beach. Do it all. Make memories and live a life you cherish and love.
- Each phase is hard, just different
There are so many variables that impact how you view each stage too. My first born was reflux and screamed a lot, so I didn’t enjoy the first six months with her. My second was super chill but didn’t rate sleep (still doesn’t). He catnapped his way through til he turned 2. My third was a dream sleeper and all-round easy baby til 18 months when he suddenly decided that he didn’t want to do independent sleep anymore.
My 10-year-old was the most rule-abiding, intrinsically motivated and quiet child, until she reached about 9. Then she developed some sass, talk back and messy habits.
The point is, they all change so rapidly, the only constant is that everything is always going to change. In fact, it’s usually as you’ve got used to one phase, they change!
I only have a pre-teen so I can’t talk about the teen years, or young adults .. or adult children. But I’m sure I will when the time comes.
What I do know is that with everything shifting so quickly, it’s a good idea to remind yourself to be kind to yourself and your children. You’re both learning together, there’s no such thing as the perfect mum or perfect kid.
I have a bonus lesson too:
- You can afford to be more relaxed than you think!
With baby number 1 we were so rigid and stuck to schedules, food diaries, and naptimes with military precision. Number 2 came along and we had to throw that rulebook straight out the window, he wasn’t having a bar of it. By number 3, we were well and truly outnumbered and life became a lot of triaging needs and just learning to relax into the journey a bit more.
And you know what? They’re all turning out to be beautiful little humans.
So if you’re feeling stressed and worried about getting it right, chances are you are doing a superb job and you just need to cut yourself a little slack.
I hope you enjoyed my lessons as a mum. I’d love to hear what your reflections are.
Live, Love and Laugh,