What would I change if I could do it all again?

OfficeMommy_logoI was asked what I would do differently if I were to have my children now — only, knowing what I now know. Wouldn’t that be nice to be able to do that in life? Just go back and do things once you know how you should have done them the first time around?

Well, I am unable to time travel, but I can tell you what I would change and what I would do the same. Perhaps you’ll find it useful.

1. First of all, spend quality time with your children. Sure, the more time, the better, but really — it’s about the quality in your time. Be fully present. That is without question the most important thing I can tell you.

I’m pleased to say I did this. I absorbed every moment into every cell of my being.

2. Stop with the guilt already. Just stop. It is useless. Do the best you can and let the rest go. Guilt fixes nothing and it makes life less fun for everyone.

I wish I could have gotten this into my pretty little head. Guilt is something I still struggle with from time to time, but I’m here to tell you that it is something that you create in your own mind. Guilt will rob you of your joy and it is fruitless. Fight it with everything you have.

3. If your child doesn’t want to dress like a pirate to go to the freaking pirate birthday party, don’t make him. (Oh, did that seem a little too specific? Sorry.) But seriously, those little things that your child puts their foot down on — let them have their way. It won’t matter in the long run to you, but it may to them. Plus, when you get to the pirate party, you’ll find that half the kids are dressed like Barney because they don’t like pirates either.

I have always been a rule follower. If there is a rule, I will find it and abide by it. Some rules are trivial. Don’t suck the fun out of things because you are afraid to bend the rules a bit. I’m still learning this.

4. Make them do some sort of team activity for a while. Learning to work with others who aren’t necessarily their friends is an important skill.

I believe in this wholeheartedly. My kids fought me on this and sometimes I gave in, but the lessons learned from the commitment and the cooperation are important and they carry on into later life. Plus, when they look back, they will have some good memories of the time they spent on a team — even if they complain about it now.

5. Let them dress like a freak if they want to. Who really cares?

I always let this slide. If you’ve read my prior articles, you know this. Clothing is an expression and sometimes they need it to escape. Sometimes they need to stand out. Let them have this.My son wore his winter coat for weeks one summer because he thought it made him look like a superhero. My daughter wore some crazy outfits as well. Those things helped them in that moment.

In the long run, it matters none at all that you walked around with your child dressed in a silly outfit. What does matter is that you stood behind them and let them be who they needed to be in that moment.

6. Never make them be friends with a kid just because you are friends with the parent. Not awesome. And, they remember it forever.

I did not learn this lesson soon enough. I had some friends with children who were downright awful, and my kids were subjected to this. Looking back, I realize now that I should have gotten together with those friends without our children in tow.

7. Sleep in blanket forts with them. Trust me on this.

Ah, blanket forts. This is a way to enter a magical world that consists of only you and your sweet little child. We used to set them up and watch movies inside and then fall asleep giggling. Do this. As often as you can, do this.

8. Frame their artwork. It’s the most precious art in the world.

My home is filled with dragons and ballerinas. Why would you go out and buy some meaningless artwork to fill a wall when you could boost your child’s self esteem and display a beautiful memory forever. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Look at Picasso and Dali, their work is a brilliant mess.

9. Don’t worry about what the other parents think.

There were many times that I was worried that the other parents were judging my child’s behavior. I would catch myself scolding my kids for things that didn’t even bother me. It is confusing to your child to be scolded for something that would not normally be an issue. Everyone has their own rules. Stick with yours and don’t worry about the nitpicking of others.

10. Help your child to pursue their dreams and try new things. If they are suddenly interested in fencing, find a fencing school nearby. Whatever bizarre or silly thing they are interested in — let them explore it. This is the time in life when it is easiest for them to try any and everything.

I went to a million hip hop dance competitions, robot building excursions, etc. They learned things, gained confidence, figured out what they liked and didn’t like and had a lot of fun. Now’s the time to explore. Really, there is no time that’s not good for exploring, but let it begin now.

 

Let’s see, what else?

 11. Never — and I mean never — make your child try new food when you are guests in someone’s home, if your child is resistant. Never. If you have to, say your child’s stomach hurts (and then make them something to eat when you get home). Trust me on this. The slight uncomfortableness that you feel as you tell the host that your child isn’t hungry is far less awkward than the level of discomfort you feel when your child throws up after the first bite.

I learned this one the hard way.

12. Always tuck them in at night.

Even as a high school senior, I told my son goodnight each night. I went in to his room, kissed his forehead and told him I loved him. Do this. There is no way this could ever be a bad thing, and many times they will end up talking to you about things that are going on in their lives because they are happy to have a moment alone with you.

 

I’m sure there are a million other things, and perhaps when I think of them, I will write a continuation of this article. For now, I will leave you with this all-encompassing word of advice and the recurring theme, which you noticed if you were paying attention:

Your child is smart. They are small but wise. They know what they like. They know what makes them feel comfortable. Listen to them. Sometimes they are wrong, and yes, it is your job to guide them. But, hear them. Their confidence rides so much on whether you treat them as if they are actual humans with thoughts and emotions.

 

The Office Mommy blog written by a pool of mommy bloggers is hosted by Baker Creative at BCrelativity.com. For all things mommy and business, click here.

Parent or pal?

OfficeMommy_logoWe’ve all heard it before: “If only children came with instructions!” While that would be nice, unfortunately that’s not how it works. We just have to figure it out on our own.

There are plenty of people who are willing to tell you exactly how you should parent. There are plenty more who are happy to advise you whether you want them to or not. It would simply be impossible to listen to every bit of advice you receive.

Eventually you come to the realization that you have to do things your way. You have to decide — in each moment and in each situation — what feels right for you and your family.

I’ve always had a close relationship with my children. We have a lot of fun together. I also lead and discipline them when necessary. We’re all familiar with the expression: “It’s not my job to be my children’s friend. It’s my job to be their parent.”

That’s true, it’s not our job to be their friend. But it is a gift. I’m friends with my kids. I am. It may not work for everyone, but it works for us. I’m their mother as well as their friend. We laugh. We joke. We play. I guide. I teach. I scold. I help. We’ve found a balance.

As parents, we have many responsibilities, and it’s important for us to teach and influence our children. It’s vital for us to set a good example. We must care for them physically, emotionally and financially. We also need to protect them. Having done those things, we could consider ourselves to be good parents.

In order to be a friend, we need to listen. We need to remember that sometimes our children aren’t asking for our judgment, guidance or an anecdote. Sometimes they just need us to hear them.

To be a friend, we must show support. That’s what friends do — support and encourage. Friends care. Friends also spend free time together. They compromise and find things they both like to do. Friends work together to find common ground.

I am a parent. I educate, I lead and I scold when necessary. I tell my children when I am disappointed and I remind them to make good choices. I am also a friend who makes jokes and laughs with them.

We have midnight dance parties in the living room, play with Legos, jump on the trampoline, camp on the floor in blanket tents and sometimes eat ice cream for breakfast.

I cherish my kids and I want to enjoy every moment that we have together. I love that they know that they can lean on me as well as laugh with me. You decide the relationship that you will have with these people you’ve made.

Your children look to you to set the tone. Some parents feel much more comfortable leaving the warmth and silliness out. I find that it adds so much. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There will always be someone to tell you how you should do things, but it’s really up to you. If you want to be friends with your children, then do it. As long as they know you’ll be there to guide them and to catch them when they fall, you can be both their parent and their friend.

So, go ahead and build that blanket fort. Just watch out. You may be setting yourself up to have a fabulous relationship with your kids!

The Office Mommy blog written by a pool of mommy bloggers is hosted by Baker Creative at BCrelativity.com. For all things mommy and business, click here.

And now, off to college we go (How’d that happen so fast?)

OfficeMommy_logoI began the countdown to college when my children were infants, and not in a positive healthy sort of way. No.

At Wyatt’s 3rd birthday, at Chuck E Cheese’s, I began to sob. When asked why, I replied, “We have only 15 more birthdays until he’s grown.” I wept for hours, and I meant it. It was the first time in my life I had wanted to hold on to time and slow it down, yet it seemed to be slipping away.

And, all of this was before kindergarten and elementary school, before middle school, high school and college (where he is now, but we’ll get to that in a bit). Yes. I was already sad that one day he would grow up and move away.

Deep down, I knew that I wanted him to, for that is the ultimate goal in raising children. But, I think I’ve always had a secret place inside of me that hoped he would grow a ponytail and decide to spend the remainder of his days gaming and eating Cheetos in my basement. I could gripe endlessly about how he should get a job and make something of his life, but secretly, I would be thrilled to have him there.

Sadly, that side of me rarely gets its way. I’ll always wonder if I had been more of a s’mother and less of a mother, could I have raised him to be awkward enough to never leave? But alas, (sigh), he did grow into a well-adjusted, handsome and intelligent man. Where did I go wrong?

The years kept rolling by — fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh birthdays, and the next thing I knew… bam! It was his 18th birthday and college was closing in.

It’s funny how time does that, in a very unfunny sort of way. It just keeps on going, even when you desperately wish you could find the pause button, especially when you wish you could find the pause button. It just keeps going.

Graduation from high school happened, and just like that, it was time to send my precious little 7 pound, 11 ounce baby off to college. Of course now he was 6 feet 3 inches and wore a size 15 shoe, but in my mind he was still my baby — the one with the robot lunchbox that I’d packed lunches in for the past 12 years.

How it went so quickly I’ll never understand, but it did. And, it will for you too.

Those nights when you just wished for a good night’s sleep versus a crying baby, those times you had to speak to the teacher because your child wasn’t focusing in class, all of those are distant memories. The things that seemed like such a big deal in the moment, they all congeal into this memory of 18 years with your baby. And now, off they go.

I will say that nature has this beautiful way of allowing them to slowly break away over the years so that it’s not as painful as you’d imagined it would be when you were watching them laugh at their third birthday at Chuck E Cheese’s. But, I’d be lying if I said it still wasn’t hard.

And now, here I am, nearly a year after sending my baby across the country to attend college. It’s not too shabby. I miss him and the absence of his laughter is felt daily, but we talk, we text, we visit each other. Time goes on.

The best advice I can give you (and this is coming from a avid photographer, so listen up), put down the camera. Put it down. Stop photographing and videoing every moment, every performance. Just stop.

Enjoy the moments with your heart instead. Things are different through a lens. Be there. Be all the way there, feeling, loving, being. Be fully there in every moment. And, keep a journal where you write the funny things, the emotional things, the profound things. Journal them.

And, in between, write letters to your baby, no matter how big they are now or what their shoe size. Write them letters reminding them of how proud you are of the person they’ve become. Cherish every moment. They don’t end, they just change. Love each moment for what it is.

The Office Mommy blog written by a pool of mommy bloggers is hosted by Baker Creative at BCrelativity.com. For all things mommy and business, click here.