Thirteen years ago I took C home from the hospital. My dear, darling Mom took care of us for the first week. I think it was the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me - she stayed up all night with C did all the laundry and did most of the cooking so I could half-sleep. Since that first day when I left the hospital utterly terrified, literally crying, "how am I going to take care of this baby?" I have learned a lot of things and my confidence as a parent has grown exponentially with each passing year. In fact, it is the area of myself where I am most confident. I didn't totally ruin my kids - yet.
So here I will share with you 13 things I have learned about motherhood and child rearing. One for each year.
1) Breast is best. For you, for the baby. She literally sucks the fat right out of you. It's easy and nothing makes you feel quite as intimate with another human being. And, even for a long-term breast feeder, it's a short term commitment.
2) How do you pick the right day care situation (pre-school, center, babysitter)? If you fee like you could stay there the whole day, your child can. If you can't wait to leave, it's not the best environment for baby either. Money doesn't always equal quality. Let your gut guide your decisions. What is right for the neighbor's cherub might not make your kids happy - and vice versa. And working with babies in day care, contrary to popular opinion of at-homers, is not bad for your child! I've had a variety of situations, and I have to admit my child who had the most day-care is the most confident of my kids and the one who is most willing to try new things (except foods). Lots of her greatest attributes came from being in a kick-butt day care. My son who went through a pre-school that pushed academics (where my daughter went they didn't even teach the alphabet, but they did teach them to bake bread, to hike in the woods and to street safety) has had a much harder time in school despite having had several years of an "academic start".
3) The more your children are outdoors, the better. It isn't a bad idea for you to lead by example, either! Fresh air helps Mommy sleep better at night too.
4) Yes it is all a phase: Tellytubbies, refusing to wear pants, sleeping only on the top bunk (or bottom), demanding milk at 3am. I will let you know when the "no veggies" phase ends! I wish I had more patience when these things were driving me crazy.
5) Reading to your kids every day develops their brains and you may grow to love the stories just as much as they do.
6) Yes, if TV means safety in the kitchen while you chop up and cook dinner, TV is fine. TV is also an acceptable babysitter anytime before 8am. And letting your kids see things they shouldn't doesn't turn them into serial killers or sluts (at least, not mine, yet).
7) Other cultures have different ways of raising kids - if you are a little different it's OK! There are probably children in X country that only eat Z... In Norway people let their kids nap outside in the rain and snow (wrapped in down comforters). Guess what, babies don't die of pneumonia from this even though to me it seemed like child abuse! And when we get a cold, we close the windows and turn on the steam, they open the windows to give fresh air - even though you get colder. It's OK if your family does things differently from the norm - lax bedtime routines or feeding your kids unusual foods. What, do you think they save sushi for adults in Japan?
8) Take a day off to see their silly play. Watching kids perform The Three Billy Goats Gruff was better than any meeting I've ever attended. "I want to be the Troll this time!"
9) If you are looking to move into a town because of the reputation of its schools take the time to go to a board of education meeting and a PTO meeting. Go to any random soccer game and find a Mom - both the ones who look like they just left the office, and the ones who look like they help out at school (not necessarily mutually exclusive). It is important to hear what the issues are, so you don't get surprises. Test results aren't everything - but they are an indication of a school's strengths and weaknesses. Maybe your high school is known statewide for soccer, but you want a music program for Mr. Future Cellist. Maybe you want your kid to learn Japanese or Hebrew or French.... or maybe you don't know what you care about yet because your kids are a future thing (or a thing of the past). Go to a BOE meeting anyway. It's probably 80% of your tax dollars at work!
10) Get to know your kids' friends. Get to know their parents.
11) Kids do bad things. I tend to think my kids are worse than they really are. I tend to over-punish. You might not. Whatever you do, make the punishment linked to the crime. From the youngest age, make sure it teaches a relevant lesson, otherwise kids don't learn from their mistakes - and neither will you.
12) Give your kids the benefit of the doubt. Say yes when you can. Even if everyone else says no. Who knows they might get something out of the experience - whatever it is. As far as my husband is concerned there is no such thing as too much TV or video games. Maybe he's not wrong....
13) Never forget how lucky you are to have the children you have. When you are sick of the activities, the laundry, the whining, the...insert pet peeve... remember that many people want kids and don't have them.
People are going to give you tons of advice - from A to Z. It's OK to listen and just like here, you don't have to take all of it. In fact, you don't have to take any of this either.......13 years ago I knew NONE of this and so far my kids have survived me as their Mom. So far....