My oldest child turned 25 yesterday, and that amounts to 219,000 hours of parenting exactly. (Since each child has individual needs, I think we should get simultaneous credit for hours spent on other kids as well...) I still would never call myself an expert. I'm sure my kids would agree.
Here is some of what I've learned, though, in a quarter century of being a mom:
- While there may be predictable events, such as walking, talking, and learning to ride a bike, no child is predictable. Get some guidance from the baby books, but keep in mind that your child hasn't read them.
- You can do a lot of things wrong with your child as they are growing up, and they can still turn into decent people. To say there are things I wish I'd done differently is an understatement, but my daughter has grown into a compassionate, funny, intelligent, beautiful adult. She is the kind of person I would choose as a friend, even if she wasn't related to me.
- You can do a lot of things right, and they will still do things differently than we had hoped they would. I remember the first time Jessi sat up straight and pulled away from me. She was about 3 months old, and up until then had kind of shaped her body against mine. But on this day, she pulled herself forward and there was a space between us. I felt something akin to panic stir within me as I realized I wasn't just holding a baby, but a real person who would make choices and pull away from me no matter how hard I tried to hold her still.
- Time really does go quickly. I can remember well-meaning old women (45-ish) telling me to treasure these moments of childhood because they grow up so fast. I wanted to tell them to mind their own business and get on with my pity party of frustration. They were right. While hours and days might feel like they last forever, years fly by. I remember my own 25th birthday like it was yesterday, and can't believe my daughter is celebrating hers.
- You will learn more about yourself parenting than about your kids. Sometimes we learn just how selfish we really are as our needs/wants are often put on hold during the child raising years. Sometimes we learn that we have an amazing capacity to love, a love that has the power to break our hearts at times.
- I saw a t-shirt once that said "Parents of teenagers know why some animals eat their young." Yup. That's all I'm saying. Yup.
Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!