M: I feel extremely lucky to have already had numerous nieces and nephews before I had kids. I got to see my siblings’ struggles with parenting and some of their successes and failures. We all still laugh with my sibling over their decision to say “it’s best that we not” instead of “no” to their kids. That lasted about 2 weeks. One child reaching for an electrical socket with a paper clip? Yeah, “it’s best that we not” didn’t have quite the effect of screaming “NO!!!”
One of the biggest things I gained from watching my siblings with their kids was to realize that there is a lot of luck involved. Sure, we have an influence over our kids – I am not arguing that you don’t – but each kid is different and a decent part of it is just the luck of the draw.
T: I have to agree with this. Although I am the first of my generation (in my family) to get married and have kids, I have 16 first cousins on M’s side alone and am the oldest of 4 kids. I am certainly no expert but I do feel I have been exposed to way more than most first time moms have.
M: If I hadn’t had the experience with my nieces and nephews, I would have thought I was mom of the year with my first born – and possibly with my second as well. I would have been preaching all kinds of advice for other people. We are amazing parents! Look at us! This parenting thing is not so hard at all!
T: Wait….I’m not mom of the year? 😉
M: Luckily, we both know better. Some kids are easy, some kids are more challenging, some kids have more “personality” (I’m being nice here), some kids are more difficult from the day they are born. We can help to try to sway them and we can certainly help by using rules, discipline, etc. (a free-for-all rarely turns out well when it comes to raising kids). But if you have a difficult kid, it’s likely not your parenting that is making them that way.
T: Not going to lie I am absolutely terrified of having a second. I know that the second child could be great, but the second in my family was a terror. And my dad is the second….also a terror. But my 9 month old has been such a chill baby that it can’t possibly be this easy a second time around.
M: Well hold on! None of this is not to say that you just throw in the towel. It’s important to pay attention to the different needs of each child. I have found that each of my kids needs a different type of parenting. My first born is a rule follower. There is no need to yell, no need to harp on mistakes, no need to be overly strict. She listens to advice (so far), believes in moderation in all respects, and worries about her future. (When my daughter was about 8 years old, she asked her brother why he didn’t save his money. She asked “aren’t you worried about things like taxes, insurance, and other expenses?” Where do kids come up with this stuff?) Others of my kids are not affected by yelling, are ready to push the rules, and need to have emotional breakdowns. I don’t have them all figured out and don’t know what to do with each one – I just know that they are different, they each need different things from me, and when they are being more difficult, it’s likely not my fault. I’m just trying to do my best for each one. I also know that I’m likely messing up some of the times. That’s OK. There is no perfect way to parent and no one way to parent. Do your best and take the pressure off yourself.
T: You always make me feel so much better about messing up. I think one of the best things I’ve learned from you and the other moms in our family is to not sweat the small stuff. I’m still getting to know my son and he’s getting to know me and there are going to be a lot of bumps in the road. And knowing those bumps will be continuing for the foreseeable future…probably more like ever…helps keep me humble. But it does also make me feel good to know when I get things right and can say “Man I #crushed parenting today.”
M: And that’s great! All this is really to say, enjoy your successes – you need them to feel better about the failures. Just don’t get cocky. When things are going well, be humble because you never know when another kid will be ready to knock you off your parenting pedestal. We are all in this together and almost all of us will have our issues with our kids at some point.
T: I also think this is really important to keep in mind as you look at the moms around you. Everyone is in the SAME boat. That meltdown at Target is not their idea of fun and they aren’t letting their kid cry on the plane just because it’s fun. They are trying to figure it all out as much as we are. When my angel baby smiles, waves, and flirts with all of the girls at the restaurant I enjoy it…and also privately brace for a meltdown that could occur literally at any moment…with no notice…because I didn’t serve him bean dip fast enough (#truestory).
Hang in there mamas. Without the bad days you wouldn’t appreciate the good ones. And when you are really at a breaking point just know that it’s a moment and it’s not forever. Do what you can, hope for the best, and try to enjoy the ride!