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12 most important parenting lessons learned

My daughter at one week old

Twenty years ago today, I gave birth to my first child. She was followed less than two years later by my son.

At 28, I was one of the first of my friends to have a baby. I attended a Lamaze class to prepare for childbirth and a Red Cross class to prepare for bringing our baby home. I read as many books as I could about parenting. But there were still many age-old lessons I needed to learn for myself.

  1. Parenting is difficult. From sleep-deprivation to not knowing if you’re setting the right rules to the pain of watching your children suffer physically or emotionally, parenting is tough not only when they’re infants, but clear on through the teenage years and probably forever.
  2. Parenting is rewarding. I’m purposely adding this right after the previous point. It’s amazing to see your children grow, learn, and become their own people. This far outweighs the difficulty. Or at least, thankfully it has for me.
  3. Mama Bear is real. Don’t intentionally hurt my children. Ever.
  4. You are not a puppeteer. Even when you teach kids what they should and shouldn’t do, they may still make bad decisions.
  5. Our children aren’t perfect. Neither are we. And that’s ok.
  6. Forgive. See previous two points.
  7. Your children are not you. They’re amazing in their own ways.
  8. Every child is different. And it’s not usually attributable to gender or birth order.
  9. Don’t judge other parents. We’re not in their shoes.
  10. Throw a lot of stuff against the wall and see what sticks. I introduced my kids to lots of different activities and sports and let them decide that they liked. Thankfully, they found what they liked.
  11. It’s ok if you become your parents. This was never an issue for me, since I think my parents are wonderful. It’s amazing how much of my parenting style comes from what I was exposed to.
  12. Appreciate every age. When I look back at photos from when my kids were little, it seems like a lifetime ago. What I’d give to return to those innocent days sometimes…but I guess that’s why God gives us grandchildren. But not soon, please!