Obviously, I knew on some level that my life would be vastly different after having a child. You know, everyone feels as though it is necessary to tell you that, too, when they find out you’re pregnant. Yes, my life is going to change. Got it. Go away now. No, you cannot touch my belly.
I did not realize that there would be a series of valuable lessons I’d learn from each of my children that would make me a better parent, but that would more surprisingly make me a better version of myself.
1. SLOW DOWN —
Kids are like therapy, man. (And they cause a need for therapy, too, but perhaps that is for another blog post…) Before children, I was always a little anxious. I even suffered from a rather debilitating panic attack once while at work. That sucked. I’d worry about things I couldn’t control. Well, I still do that, I suppose, but now that I have children, I have learned to take things a bit more slowly.
This weekend, I decided to steal time away from the kids and do some gardening. I was very pregnant with baby #2 last spring, so my garden was neglected for a year. There were weeds, branches, dead leaves and even a little trash all over the place. The old “me” would have done a half-assed job of picking through the entire garden (which is enormous, by the way). I would have rushed and felt overwhelmed by the fact that the garden is so big and there is such a mess and Oh-My-God-I-Am-Never-Going-To-Be-Done. I would have been tired after an hour. This time, though, I took my time and did a really good job on one section of the garden. I tilled the soil, uprooted old, overgrown plants, potted some unwanted things to share with neighbors, got rid of weeds, threw away trash that the wind had swept into my flowers, cut a clean edge between the lawn and the flower beds. I only did one section, but I did it right. And, it looks good. And, I can go back out the next magical time I have free time and do the same thing on another section.
Because there is no rushing kids, I have learned that slow, deliberate, careful work is the ONLY way to get a job done well. There is no way to rush a toddler through the bedtime routine just because I know that it is past his bedtime. If I try to hurry him through brushing his teeth, getting his pajamas on, washing his face, using the potty and reading his book, he’ll have a tantrum or drag his feet or get distracted by the first shiny thing he sees. Or, he’ll do all of those. Small children cannot be rushed. It takes LONGER when you rush a 3-year old. So, I have learned to slow it down. It is the only way that anything works.
2. MARKSMANSHIP —
Personally, I am pretty against the use of weapons. Whatever you do is whatever you do, but I am uncomfortable with the idea of even holding a gun or bow (or Samurai sword?). But, I am pretty sure that I’d be AWESOME at it if I ever tried.
Have you ever tried to dress a cranky 1-year old? I have. Ever tried to feed a tired 8-month old? I have. Ever tried to catch a naked and wet 2-year old who is all riled up after his bath? I have. Ever tried to put shoes on a 3-year old who Does. Not. Want. To. Go. To. School? Yup. I have.
My life is all moving targets now. The deer of America better hope I never get a sudden urge to learn to love venison. I’m pretty sure I could successfully spear hunt. If I can get strained peas into a moving, crying pie-hole the size of a half-dollar with out spillage, I think I can hit something the size of a Toyota Camry with a giant stick.
3. TEACHING —
I spent four years of my life in college learning how to become a successful teacher. Actually, that’s a lie. I spent most of that time drinking beer. But, most (okay some) of the time I was not drinking beer, I was learning how to become a teacher. I then spent another three years part-time in graduate school to further my education on education. And, yet, nothing could prepare me like motherhood did.
I was a teacher for over a decade before I had a child of my own. I was always pretty sure that I was awesome at teaching. And, truthfully, I really was. For reals.
But, when I became a mom, I understood the gravity and importance of working with other people’s babies. Even though by the time they got to me, those babies were old enough to operate motor vehicles legally, they were all still the babies of other moms. That means something very different to me now.
I try to listen a little harder, empathize a little more and dial back the sarcasm a bit with the young ‘uns. My kids have taught me that every story they tell is important to them even if I can’t stand to hear about Thomas the Tank Engine one more time. He wants to tell about it and it is the most important thing to him at that moment. If I really hear him and show an interest in Thomas, maybe when he gets to be old enough to be my student, he will still tell me about the things that are important to him in those moments. I have a feeling that I’ll want to know about those.
And, if I try to remember that every child is someone’s baby, I am able to hear them all a bit better. And, I can feel for their situations a bit better. And I can be a bit more aware of how my actions and words impact someone’s day (or life).
What a journey this has been so far. I’ve learned much in a few short years. I know that more is yet to come. I look forward to growing with my children. And, I feel blessed that the universe has chosen me to share this journey with the two most amazing boys in the world.