Mother's Day is this Sunday, May 8th, and the perfect time to learn some lessons from a mother about motherhood! In the guest post below, Lee shares over 14 years of personal experiences raising her seven children. Have a wonderful time with your mother this weekend!
14 Years of Motherhood: 14 Things I've Learned By Lee P.
It's hard to believe, but it's over 14 years since my firstborn was placed in my arms. Fourteen years and seven children down the line have taught me many things. Of course, I'm still learning all the time, and I know I will be learning for decades yet. Actually, you could say that's one of the first things I learned:
1. Nothing has taught me more about myself, my strengths and weaknesses, than being a mother. There is no job as self-revealing and humbling as motherhood. And in this 24-hour occupation, it's often the kids you find the most difficult who teach you the most. If you pay close attention to what makes them tick and what ticks you off about them, you'll have discovered the most valuable lessons about yourself that you could ever learn.
2. My children's journey from infancy to adolescence is a journey for me too. As I guide them along life's paths and observe them growing up, I find myself growing right along with them.
3. Watching my child grow up is more enjoyable than growing up myself. I can remember much more about their process than about my own. After all, I can't very well remember my own birth, but as the adult, I can remember every detail about my child from the first moment they enter this world. Plus - as an adult - I'm seeing it all from a whole different perspective.
4. The longer I'm in this business, the more fun it becomes. Sure, it's also more complex, more demanding, and often more guilt-inducing. But if you're open to growing and learning about yourself and others, you'll naturally become more flexible and less overwhelmed - two very valuable life skills. I can laugh a lot more now than I could years back - at myself and at the typical situations we parents find ourselves in. I can stop in the middle of the action and pretend I'm a camera, zooming in on the moment, and just enjoy it.
5. There is just about no greater pleasure in life than watching your child's mind work. How awesome, how gratifying, and how wonderful to watch your toddler put together that puzzle, your preschooler recognize letters, your school-age child take initiative and complete a project independently. When I know my children are not just spitting out information, but that they can learn and apply that knowledge in other situations, my smile just can't get wider.
6. As my children grow, helping hands multiply. As a young mother of very young kids, I could never envision how much easier it would be when it wouldn't be only me. I will never forget the first time my oldest was old enough to hold the baby while I put the others to bed. I've totally forgotten how amazing it is that others can go to the grocery, and that every loaf of bread doesn't require getting everyone out of the house and taking them all with me for every errand. Need I mention how blessed it is to find dishes washed, laundry folded or an older sibling making me a surprise and getting younger kids ready for bed. And no, this doesn't mean you're taking advantage of them. It's good for kids to help; it teaches them so many life skills and makes them feel so valuable. If you're afraid of overdoing it, always keep in mind that they aren't here to serve you, but that you are here to help them become balanced and useful members of society.
7. When the kids are young, it's hard to imagine a day when they'll become pleasurable companions. Yes, it really is more enjoyable to do supermarket shopping with the company, assistance and input of your ten year old. Plus their pleasure in having time with you becomes your pleasure. And it's fun to leave everyone else behind and focus on just that one child and spoil him or her a little.
8. I had to get older and have older kids to enjoy my younger kids as I never could have from an earlier vantage point. Younger kids demand more physically, but they're much less complicated. They delight in simple things. Sometimes it's so much easier and so much less draining read aloud a picture book or build a block tower with your three year old than to discuss social issues with your twelve year old.
9. Experience is a wonderful thing. The more times I do something, the more familiar it becomes, and the easier and less threatening. When you've been there before, you know it will pass; you know you and your child will be okay even if things are difficult now. You may be losing it, you may be feeling like you just can't do this, but because you've done this so many, many times already, deep down there's that voice telling you that you'll survive.
10. It's good to stop and observe my kids as if I were an outsider - to just enjoy their beautiful faces, their intelligent speech, their talents, their helpfulness, and even how they look in that cute outfit. Sure I know there is the other side: dirt, mess, whining, fighting and complaining. But the more I focus on what's pleasant to see, the more I find, and the more enjoyable daily life becomes. I'm learning that happiness in life doesn't come from spectacular events, but from an accumulation of pleasurable moments.
11. I've become grateful for so many "little" things. For washing machines that clean those smelly, dirty clothes (even if I can't deal with every single stain), for bedtimes that run according to schedule and the quiet that follows, for enough food with which to feed my children, for decent clothing, for the ability to keep my family warm on cold nights and cool on broiling days, for healthy, developing children, for... Yes, the list does go on and on. And that gratitude definitely makes for a happier life.
12. I've learned that eventually my kids will internalize much of what I tell them. Yes, they will learn to flush the toilet and wash their hands afterward, yes, they will pick up dirty laundry, and yes, they will learn not to stand on the kitchen counters with their shoes on. They will learn to behave graciously in public places, to be nice to a younger sibling without anyone telling them to, and to be sensitive to the outcast in their class. Not always, not all the time, but it happens. If our relationship is basically solid and positive, my values will get across.
13. Initiating and maintaining relationships with my own friends is good not just for me but for the kids. First of all, it keeps me sane - which benefits the kids. Whether it's a five-minute emergency phone call to a friend when I feel like I'm losing it that puts me back on track, or getting together with friends and their kids, a truly caring adult network makes all the difference. I also feel it's good for my kids to know that friends are a good thing, and that lifelong friendships are something they should aspire to. And as I and they get older, it's healthy for them to know that they don't have to be Mommy's friends; if she needs someone to lean on, it doesn't have to be them.
14. You don't need all that enticing baby paraphernalia, all those toys calling out to you from catalog pages and toy store shelves, all the eye-catching, trendy or even basic kids' clothing. Our world today is stuffed with stuff, and full of people selling you that stuff. Over the years I've learned loads about what to buy, when to buy, how much to buy, and often just not to buy at all. If I wait and see, chances are I'll manage just fine without it and spare myself the cost and storage of items that seem so necessary but are hardly ever used.
So here's my list - for now. Wonder what it will look like once we get deeper into the young adult years and beyond...