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22 things I learned in my first ten years of parenthood

As I was sitting here thinking of all the awesomeness that this wonderful, new, non-2013 year will hold, it occurred to me that my oldest child will turn ten this fall. Ten! I have officially been a parent for a decade now, and I’ve had six kids during that time.

When I took a step back and considered that I’ve been living in Baby Central for the better part of my adult life, it occurred to me that I must have accumulated some knowledge during that time. I mean, surely I’ve learned at least one or two things about this whole “keeping small human beings alive in your home” thing, right?

Yaya and I behold the new baby, my first child, in 2004. I had no idea what I was in for.

Since I have a bunch of important but not-fun work I’m supposed to be doing, naturally I decided that creating a list of everything I’ve learned about parenting since 2004 should immediately become my top priority. All of this is probably obvious to everyone, but I need to procrastinate, so here it goes:

1. It’s important to carefully select the parenting philosophy that you will use to ensure that you have happy, well adjusted children. This will provide you with some long, loud, much-needed laughs after the 857th time you find yourself violating every principle you hold dear just to get through the day.

2. Having a romantic dinner alone with your spouse is one of the best things you can do for your kids.

3. Never in human history have mothers had kids all up in their faces all day, every day. If you feel like you desperately need to get away from the kids for a while, it’s not a sign that you’re a bad mother. It’s a sign that you’re a normal person who’s doing her best under very unnatural circumstances.

4. Don’t pile a bunch of unnecessary rules on yourself during pregnancy. Listen to Kendra on this one and have that glass of wine with dinner.

5. If you think you smelled poop, you did.

6. If your child reads at age four and sits quietly in church and joyfully eats a wide variety of healthful foods, it probably has less to do with your parenting skills than you think it does.

7. If your child is behind in school and often acts like an animal and refuses all food except noodles and ketchup, it probably has less to do with your parenting skills than you think it does.

8. Breastfeeding is a priceless gift you can give your child. So is being a sane mom. If nursing doesn’t work out, don’t waste energy beating yourself up about it.

9. The ability to enjoy baking with young children is a rare super-talent that God bestows on only a select few people. Carefully discern whether or not you have this gift before announcing to a group of toddlers that we’re going to try that fun cookie recipe mommy found in Gourmet Magazine. (This life rule is known as The Insight I Came Up with After that Time Joe Found Me Twitching, Muttering to Myself, and Covered in Flour on the Kitchen Floor.)

10. No matter what your family size, there is always going to be someone out there who disapproves of it.

11. Whether or not Goldfish crackers constitute a reasonable main course for dinner depends on what kind of day you’ve had.

12. It’s more important to raise kids who love to learn than it is to raise kids who get into impressive colleges. The two aren’t necessarily the same thing.

13. Think very carefully about your sleep personality before following the old advice to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” I have never been closer to having my head actually explode than one of the many times a baby woke up just as I was finally drifting off for a much-needed nap.

14. Almost every mother has had a moment where she stares at one of her children and wonders if he or she is seriously insane.

15. It’s not always possible, but if you can make a habit of getting up an hour before everyone else in the house, it will change your life. (I say this as the biggest non-morning-person in the universe. There are vampires who enjoy watching the sun rise more than I do.)

16. In our culture, there is no parenting decision so insignificant that it won’t be debated on blogs and discussed on news programs and argued about on Facebook. Don’t get sucked into that. That time you spent wondering if you’re a bad parent because you didn’t put sunscreen on your kids’ elbows before that trip to the park is 15 seconds out of your life that you can never get back.

17. That mom whom you perceive only cooks organic foods hand-picked from her garden probably fed her kids PBJ tonight.

18. Before you commit to the opinion that the world is a terrible place and your whole life is a hopeless mess made entirely of fail, take a moment to ask yourself if you’re suffering from tired-think.

19. It would be awesome if your kids could have a mom who had the holiness of Mother Teresa, the energy of Mary Poppins, and the domestic skills of Martha Stewart. But if you’re not there yet, saying “I love you guys and I love Jesus and I’m doing the best I can” works too.

20. If you find yourself spending a lot of time ignoring the kids to stare at your smartphone, it’s probably because you desperately need breaks you’re not getting, and you’re clinging to these little virtual escapes. Or maybe you discovered Kim Kierkegaardashian on Twitter, in which case, carry on.

21. It never feels like a good time to have kids. There could always be a little more room in the house, a little more money in the bank, and a little more time in the day. There are times when you really do need to avoid pregnancy, but don’t let perfectionism deprive you of the gift of a son or daughter.

22. If you have recently pretended not to see a child who was drawing all over her face with marker because she was finally being quiet and you were in the middle of reading something really funny on the internet, you probably shouldn’t write lists about what you know about parenting.


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