I have had the privilege of being a mother for seventeen years. Being a teacher was my calling-I always loved being around children. Teaching them the required curriculum was fun and sometimes a challenge; teaching them life lessons that were not in our textbooks was also something I believed to be very important. But becoming a mother has been an invaluable teaching experience for me.
Here are six things my children have taught me over the years.
Never Make a Promise You Cannot Keep
Has someone ever made a promise to you that s/he never kept? It doesn’t matter what reason the promise was broken, it just was. How did it make you feel? Have you ever forgotten it?
From all of my years in the classroom, I knew that kids are like elephants-they do not forget a thing. As an important adult in their young lives, they looked up to me and believed what I told them. I would lose all credibility if I said something and would not follow through on it.
When you are a parent, that lesson is even more invaluable.
I have never broken a promise to any of my three children. My kids know that if I say the words “I promise” to them, then what they want will happen. In fact, my kids will pressure me to say those two words because they know I will not let them down. However, I am always upfront and tell them I will not promise them something I may not be able to deliver.
That’s how I know my kids will always trust what I say.
Always Tell the Truth
In the movie The Lion King, Mufasa is killed in a stampede. When my older daughter and her friends were around two and started watching Disney movies, other moms told their kids that Mufasa was sleeping. Huh? While the concept of being dead was not something my daughter could grasp, it was the truth. I certainly did not want her to have any sleeping issues!
Many adults do not realize that children have sensitive and powerful radars. You may think that you are being successful in hiding what is going on in your life, but trust me, you are not.
Of course, you have to tell the children the truth in terms that they can understand. For example, in May my aunt died from lung cancer. It was two weeks from diagnosis to death, and I spent a lot of that time taking my mom back and forth to the hospital which was an hour away. When my mom’s other sister flew in from the other side of the country and stayed for a week, my younger kids had to know something was amiss.
My kids knew she was sick. How sick? My mom tried to sugar coat an answer to them, but that is not how I do things. When they asked if she was going to die, I told them the truth. We talked about it and they knew that they could ask me any questions at any time.
Children want the truth. Children need the truth. It is hard for us to tell them unhappy things, but they internalize so much. Kids need to be assured that whatever is happening is not their fault.
Necessary Conversations Are Not as Hard as You Imagine Them to Be
If you come from the Baby Boomer generation, many of you learned the facts of life from people other than your parents. Those difficult conversations never took place.
One of the most challenging conversations to have with your kids is telling them how they were created. Remember, when you are young, it just seems gross! (especially when your parents are concerned!)
I can tell you from experience, the worst part is the build up in your head. Once you tell them the truth, it is like a weight off your shoulders. You can fend them off with answers using big words for only so long. I know, I tried.
My older daughter was in third grade when she asked where babies come from and I told her. Can I tell you the relief I felt once she knew? My friends were shocked that I told her, but I had to (go back to the first thing my kids taught me). For a long time I listened to them as they told stories about how they fended off the inevitable question. I told them just to get it over with, you’ll feel better.
Little People, Little Problems, Big People, Big Problems
As you journey through motherhood, there will be challenges along the road. I remember as a young mother the burning question, “When should I let my daughter eat Cheerios?” Seriously, this is big stuff to new mothers who have never fed an infant before!
Now the burning questions are, “Should I let her drive a friend to the party?” and “What colleges should we be looking at?”
See the difference?
Along the way, hurdles to cross such as potty training, letting your children fail because they did not finish an assignment and when (or if) you should let them get their own Facebook page become more important than feeding your baby solid food.
The Days Are Long, The Years Are Short
If mothers are truthful, especially mothers of young children, they will tell you it is the most difficult job they have ever had. When you have several children close in age, a chunk of your life becomes a blur. In fact, many moms wish their kids were in school all day already because it is so darn hard (and sometimes boring).
When you are mired in the middle of early motherhood, especially if you are someone who has no help, the days at home are endless. Some days, bedtime does not come soon enough. It is hard to tell a woman who is experiencing this that these are really the best days, that before she blinks her eyes, your kids are driving off to college.
But it is true.
Motherhood is Sweeter the Second Time Around
Probably the biggest lesson my children taught me is that motherhood is sweeter the second time around. The seven-and-a-half years I spent with my oldest daughter are incredibly precious to me. We are very close, especially since it was just the two most of the time of us because my husband worked so much.
But when we adopted out twins, I got to relive all of the joys and problems of early motherhood again with a new perspective. Being an older mom who has the wisdom of having done this before made me a freer mom in many ways. Because my second journey to motherhood was so difficult, I was able to set aside a lot of hang-ups and mompetition many women who have their kids close together have.
Since I had “been there, done that”, it was, in at least some ways, easier. Because I waited so incredibly long and worked so hard to be a mother again, I believe I appreciate things more than others.
When my older daughter leaves the nest next year for college, I will not be as sad as some of my friends who have all-or almost all-of their kids gone, as I will still have two kids in elementary school. I can savor the last class parties, the last field trips, and be really appreciative of doing these things one last time.
These six things that my children have taught me prove that we can all learn from our children if we just listen to them.