There are countless books, articles, and other resources designed to load expectant and new parents full of the information they need to successfully steer their children from birth to independence. They have all been written by well-meaning individuals, some of whom indeed impart wisdom that makes their resource worth the read. However, it won’t take any new parent long to discover there are some lessons you just cannot learn from a book. My children have decided that it is their duty to make sure I learn one of these lessons almost every day. I write some of them here in the hopes of alerting some starry-eyed new mom out there to the adventures that are coming her way. And if that starry-eyed, naïve new mom is reading this and thinking, “My children surely won’t act like that!”, I do have some sympathy from the shock that awaits you when your child discovers the joy of finger-painting in the ketchup. Read on, and learn from some of the things my children have taught me:
My children have taught me to carefully examine my vocabulary before I declare a
word to be off-limits. I never knew how often I use the word “stupid” until I told my daughter it wasn’t a nice word. I get in trouble with her quite often for using what she now thinks is a “bad word.” I think we’re going to have to get a “Stupid Jar” for me to put a nickel in every time she catches me. Another example is saying “I hate…” I told her not to say this after hearing for the 68th time that she hated the food I served her, but there are some valid times to use this expression, and now I get a lecture from my four year old every time I say “I hate…” for any reason.
My children have taught me the folly of leaving the pot of dirt in the playroom after the diffenbachia died. (I know: DUH! But after all, only hindsight is 20/20.) Sub-lessons learned here include: a) It takes less than ten minutes to fill every drawer, cabinet, shelf, and other surface in the playroom with dirt; b) This can be accomplished quietly while Mom is in the living room never suspecting a thing; c) It takes three hours to clean said dirt up from all of those drawers, cabinets, shelves, and other surfaces, and a whole garbage bag full of toys will be deemed un-salvageable; d) It takes two baths and two shampoos to fully clean each little body who enjoyed spreading that dirt; e) The tub will have to be fully scrubbed after each of those baths; f) And for the next week you will hear yourself say at random moments: “Ten minutes! I just sat down for ten minutes!”
My children have taught me that there will indeed be weeks full of moments like the one above. These weeks will also include moments of sweet little girls finger painting in the ketchup on their plates, jumping fully clothed into the wading pool that is full of dirty rainwater left over from winter, crawling in and out of the house through the doggy door, decorating themselves with markers, drawing pictures with ashes on the hearth, using the potty in places besides their diaper or the potty, pulling all the books off of the bookshelf because that’s where the doll wanted to sleep, and throwing huge fits in Target over which child gets to stack the cans of green beans in the grocery cart. Sometimes one week will have all of these moments. These are the weeks that you get to eat ice cream every night without feeling guilty.
My children have taught me that those mothers who make sure each of their children have the same number of identical everything are wasting their money. The toy or snack in one sister’s hand will always be better than the one in the other child’s hand. A determined little girl can grab her sister’s treasured toy in a death grip, ignoring the fact that she has the exact same toy lying at her feet, all for the joy of hearing her sister scream. I’m convinced of two things: 1) It doesn’t matter what one girl has, she will want what the other one has, and 2) Even if she doesn’t really want it after all she will grab it anyway because it’s just that fun to hear how loud her sister will wail.
My children have taught me that certain freedoms many Americans take for granted are indeed luxuries for moms of more than one or two children, and I should never fail to appreciate deeply the rare times that they allow me to partake of such freedoms. These include but are not limited to the following: 1) Spontaneous trips “just to look” to the mall. Our mall outings require a fully stocked diaper bag, two strollers requiring two adults to push them, and repeated advance warnings that, “No, we can’t get a cookie today but if you’re good we can go to the Mickey Mouse store on the way out.” 2) The freedom to browse in the grownup section of any library, bookstore, or video store. If you keep your kids with you, they may let you go to your favorite section and scan one or two shelves before they begin begging, fighting, or announcing that they have to go potty. If you deposit them in the kids’ section before you go look, you will be so preoccupied with looking over to check on them every fifteen seconds that you really won’t see a thing that you’re looking at. 3) The freedom to sleep late, make plans between 1:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon, or stay out past 7:30 in the evening, which basically includes the freedom to participate in most social activities. I must say, though, that it’s worth not having a social life for a while if it means my kids have good sleep schedules.
My children have taught me that they do, in fact, know how to share and take turns;
it’s just that they are selective about the times they demonstrate this. For example, they don’t share toys, but they freely share germs. The common cold hangs out at our house for a good three weeks each time one person gets sick, because all three kids share in the fun. They’re also very skilled at turn-taking when it comes to waking Mommy up at night. I’m convinced that each night they develop an intricate schedule of night-time feedings, bad dreams, coughing spells, and lost baby dolls, all cleverly designed to wake Mommy up every 87 minutes all night long.
Yes, all these lessons and more have been learned the hard way in my 4+ years as a mom. But my children don’t have only difficult lessons to teach me. Each day also brings some beautiful new truth about the world that I would not know without my children.
My children have taught me the sweetness of cuddles, hugs, kisses, and hearing a little voice say, “I just stay with my Mommy,” as she climbs into my lap.
My children have taught me the joys of dancing in the living room, running through the sprinkler, and taking puddle walks barefoot after it rains.
My children have taught me to find pleasure in simple things like stickers, lollipops,
My children are teaching me how fleeting life is as each year goes by in a blink
already and I know time will move faster the older they get.
Being a mother has taught me more about the grace of God and my own shortcomings than any other experience in my life. I see God’s grace every morning as they wake up healthy and strong, as they laugh and giggle, as they run and play, as their minds develop right before my eyes. True, some of the lessons they’ve taught me were not very fun as they were happening, but the good moments mix up with the not-so-good moments in a wonderful curriculum ordained for me by God Himself. And since the lessons my children teach me were lovingly designed for me by my Father in Heaven, I will choose to embrace each moment and study these lessons that I may one day hear from the Teacher, “Well done, good and faithful Mommy.”