My daughter celebrated her 10th birthday recently. It seems like only yesterday that I was holding my newborn baby at 3am and having a quiet weep because I thought I wasn't up to the challenge. Somehow, we've made it to this milestone.
I've learned a lot from these ten years, including:
1) The fact that it's all a phase
It took me a while to grasp this, but both the good stuff and the challenging times are all just phases that will pass. From sleepless nights to teething to potty training to fussy eating. If you can't work out how to deal with it, at least you know it won't last for ever. Both my children were terrible sleepers at first, but all of that is a distant memory now.
2) Flexibility is your greatest asset
Don't like the way things are working in your family? Then don't moan about it, try a new way, and keep trying until you hit on the right solution for your family. Because there is no one size fits all solution for everybody.
3) There's nothing to feel guilty about
I will never understand this myth that somehow you deliver a baby and a big packet of guilt is stitched into its place. If you're doing your best as a parent, and making an effort to do better, what do you have to feel guilty about? Of course you will get it wrong sometimes, but we all do. This is what makes us human beings and not robots.
4) Sometimes less is more
Your children will talk to you more if you give them space to speak and don't bombard them with questions. Their confidence will increase if you let them do things themselves and don't micro-manage every aspect of their lives. This can be hard, because when they're babies we get used to doing every little thing for them. It's easy to become more controlling as a parent than you'd like to be without even realising it. But you have to let go, physically and mentally, for everyone's wellbeing.
5) Toys are great, and sometimes you get to play with them too
Sometimes I wonder if I only had kids as an excuse to stock up on the Playmobil toys and skateboards I was denied as a child.
6) Children are a great route into a community
I don't think I ever even spoke to my neighbours before I had children. But start pushing a pram and everyone wants to peek inside and comment. This can be a culture shock, but also a great way to make new friends and see that you're part of the bigger picture.
7) Boundaries are important
You're their parent, not their mate. Sometimes you will have to play hardball, even if it doesn't come naturally.
8) Children amass a LOT of stuff
How can such a little person come with such a lot of luggage? I've had to buy a car and move into a bigger house to accommodate mine. Maybe I should cut back on the toys a bit.
9) You don't need to smack them, but you do need a look
I've never smacked and never will. Just can't fathom the logic that it's OK for parents to hit kids, but not for kids to hit each other. However, I have developed a good line in frosty looks that can stop a misbehaving child in their tracks at 20 paces. Counting to three is good too.
10) A non-mummy life is important too
Whether it's work, a hobby, exercise or a book group – don't make your whole life all about your kids. That's not fair on them or you. Time away from your children will make you a better parent when you're back with them.
What has being a parent taught you? Leave a comment below.
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