Parenting: it is the single one thing in life that everyone wants to get right. Every person who has raised a child will tell you that there is no guidebook to parenthood, no right or wrong way, and no surefire way to tell if you were a child-rearing success until the kids are grown and gone. So, there certainly isn't a magic wand to raising kids, but there are some key tips and strategies to making sure everyone makes it out alive.
Surviving the Baby Years: A Crash Course to the Rest of Your Life
When you first become a parent, the entire universe opens up in a way you never knew was possible. Everything is more beautiful, colorful, funny, and wonderful. Wondrous as these years are, they are also scary, confusing, and exhausting. The baby years are an absolute whirlwind of every human emotion known to man. Getting through them can be a challenge, and most parents won't look back and describe these days as the easiest of days, but with a few helpful tips, they won't be known as the impossible years either.
Don't Compare Your Baby to Other Babies
You will undoubtedly think that your baby is the smartest, best baby that ever graced the planet. Every parent is sure that they are raising the next Einstein until they put their baby with other same-aged babies and start second-guessing whether a Pulitzer Prize will ever sit upon their mantle.
It is so sooooooo hard not to compare your little darling to other babies, noticing what other babies can do and what yours can't. Do not compare your baby to other babies. Little ones develop at their own pace, and they reach milestones on their own time. Comparing your infant to other infants will only create anxiety and worry where there needs not be any. If you are genuinely concerned about your baby and their development, make sure you discuss concerns with a pediatrician and not Dr. Google.
Share the Baby. She/He Is Tired of You!
Okay fine. Your baby isn't tired of you at all. In fact, he/she worships the ground you walk on. That said, share the baby and the baby duties. Some parents become convinced that only they can meet the baby's needs, and thus, all baby-related issues must default to them and them only. Recognize that you likely have a village of capable adults surrounding you, waiting patiently to take the baby off of your hands.
Let them. Start small and grab a shower, a nap, or a brisk walk while a trusted friend or family member cradles Junior, and then see where that leads. Asking for help doesn't make you weak or incapable. It makes you smart enough to know that if you don't care for yourself, then you can't care for anyone else.
Find a Friend and Don't Ever Let Her Go
The initial years of parenthood are amazing but also lonely at times. Some days it is just you, your kid, and Baby Shark. There is only so much baby bonding a person can do before they begin to wonder if they are destined to speak in baby tones for the rest of their days. You need a friend. Venture out to playgroups, mom and tot classes, and local parks to find your future dad or mom bestie. The baby years are so much more fun when there is someone next to you saying, "Yep! Me too!"
Buy Nothing With Buttons
There is basically nothing cuter than baby clothes. Long after your kids are well out of jumpers and onesies, you will still squeal at a cute frock displayed in a department store. It's like once you have a child, your brain gets rewired to lose your mind over tiny overalls and oversized bows.
Because baby clothes are so precious and irresistible, you will want to buy everything. Don't. Look past the prints and the styles and focus on what is truly important...the buttons. Buttons are the devil's work. Do NOT buy baby clothes with buttons. Parenting a new baby is stressful enough without having to match those bad boys up six times a day.
Learn the Art of Packing
When you become a new parent, your heart grows ten times in size, as does your handbag. Babies are the smallest things, but their gear is anything but light. They need bottles, diapers, outfits, blankets, pacis, wipes, toys, snacks, and so much more. Parents convince themselves that they can not run to Target unless they load up the diaper bag to max capacity and haul it around like a sherpa.
Learn how to pack and what to pack. Figure out which trips need what. Only carry the essentials and minimize lugging around random, likely useless items. When you return home, someone has to unpack all of that stuff...and it's you. Your back and shoulder muscles will thank you dearly for mastering the skill of packing light.
Know What You Actually Need and What you Don't
One of the most fun parts of expecting is creating a baby registry. Everything is so small and interesting. You need it all, says your pregnant brain. The truth is, you need about a quarter of what you think you do. Start with the basics when it comes to baby supplies. If you discover a need down the road, then go ahead and buy what tickles your fancy.
The Childhood Years: When Your Little Human Becomes a Person
Once you come out of the baby years and enter the childhood phase of parenting, you think to yourself, wow, this isn't so bad. A little independence, better communication, and more sleep make these years the golden years in parenthood. While they might feel easier compared to some other stages in your parenting career (looking at you teen years), there are still a lot of bumps on this parenting road. Use a few of these parenting hacks to make the best of the childhood years.
Embrace Beige Food for a Bit
Nutrition is crucial, and you want your kid to have a well-balanced diet. The childhood years are notorious for being strictly beige when it comes to food. Gone is your tot who woofed down pureed everything. That human has been replaced with a beige food monster, only interested in pasta, mashed potatoes, white bread, cheese sticks, and vanilla yogurt. Young kids are not the most adventurous eaters, and this drives some parents mad. Know that this too shall pass. Do your best to get him/her the nutrients they need to not develop rickets and consider a multivitamin if they are really waging war against certain food groups. Someday they will abandon their beigy ways and return to colorful cuisine.
Make Bedtime the Law of the Land
Babies are notoriously terrible sleepers, and some parents allow wonky sleeping habits to continue through the childhood stages. Freeze. Stop. Do not pass go, and do not collect $200. This stage is prime time for introducing bedtime routines. Set a bedtime, create a pre-bedtime routine, and get your child in their own room for 12 solid and ever-so-glorious hours. Nothing about this will be easy, and kids will fight the bedtime routine so hard that you will want to throw the towel in. Do not give up. Parenting has no room for quitters, people.
Welcome Back to School Parents
The childhood years transport parents back in time. When your kids start elementary school, it is like you are six years old again. Navigating the school experience runs the gamut of pleasant and wonderful to stressful and frustrating. Your experience will depend on several factors, including your own experiences, your child's development, and the elementary school you choose. Make the most of the elementary years by:
- Not sweating the small stuff. Determine what is a big deal and what is not. Schools are there to inform you of everything, decide what is worth sounding an alarm over and what will probably shake out just fine.
- Set the example. If you walk around the house mumbling to yourself how much you despise school and your kid's teacher, that will catch on like fire. Be positive and set the tone for happiness and success.
- Ask questions and expect answers. If you have questions about your child's education, ask them! Furthermore, expect answers. Educators don't get paid to say, "I don't know." They are there to help your family and WANT to help your family.
- Remember that not all kids learn in the same way. Kids are so incredibly diverse in how they learn and process information. Your child may learn in a completely different way than you did. That's okay. Recognize it. Embrace it. Go with it.
- Don't be a hero. Be involved with your kid's school, but know your limits. You don't have to be the PTO President, the lunch lady, and the room mom. You actually don't have to be any of those things. Be a good mother or father and know if that is all you choose to do, it is absolutely enough.
Get in on the Carpooling Game STAT
Parents of school-aged kids are busy people. The kids have school, clubs, sports, and friends. This chapter of your life is primarily spent in the car, as you are now your kid's underpaid taxi driver. Find a carpool. Sports and after-school activities are great places to find other thinly stretched parents who are desperate for an evening off of driving. Carpools for life!
Stand Your Ground
Limits will be tested in this stage of parenting. Kids want to know just how far they can push you before steam starts to pour out of your ears and veins begin to bulge from your neck. They will test your limits, and you need to stand your ground. Create consistency in routines and rules and stand firm on their demands. This is the time to do this; otherwise...the teenage years are going to wreck you.
Parenting a Teenager: Grinding It Out
Here you are....the teenage years. This stage in parenting is equal parts pride, as you see those glimmers of the incredible adult your kid will soon become and sheer terror; who is this hormonal monster who lurks around in the darkness of her bedroom all day long? These are the years where parents grind it out, hold on tight, and try not to lose their minds. There is no easy way to get through these years, but these tips might soften the blow that is raising teens.
Learn Their Language
The teens speak their own language, literally. Read a teen text, and you will see. There is so much jargon packed into a single line of social media texting. Parents seem to need translators to figure out what their teens are writing to their friends. Study their ways. Learn the language and Google the phrases and acronyms. You have to be in the know, kk?
Get a Crash Course in Social Media
Parents of teens today have timeless teen problems, and they have social media to navigate. Lucky them! Social media is vast, and your teen is probably on at least a few channels. Know what the current social media trends are and decide what or if you will let your teen engage with them. Whether or not to let teens have an internet presence is a personal family preference, but even parents who disapprove of social media should educate themselves regarding what is out there.
Take the Cheerleader Act Down a Notch
Teens are fickle things. They want you in their corner rooting for them, but not too loudly, not too awkwardly, and not too publically. Be your kid's advocate and their greatest fan, but temper the cheerleading so that you don't anger and isolate them. You want your teen to tolerate you at the very least. Sometimes, this is all a parent can hope for.
Never Skip a Teenage Invite
If your teenager invites you somewhere, realize that you are witnessing an actual miracle right before your very eyes. Say yes. If they want you to drive them around town with their friends, say yes. If they want to stay up on a Saturday and watch a movie, say yes. If they beg you to take them out to practice driving during a major sports game, say yes. Say yes to everything your teenager asks you to do with them.
Put Locators on All Glassware and Phone Chargers
When you are the parent of a teenager, you lose your baby, your cuddle bug, and all the glassware and phone chargers in the house. Teenagers hoard these two items in ways that make no sense, and it is so annoying. Consider putting tracking devices on all glasses and chargers, and hope you can locate them should you need them desperately.
Parenting Adult Children: You Are Not in the Clear Just Yet
Hooray! The kids are grown! You did it. It wasn't pretty, but you raised your humans to adulthood. Pat yourself on the back, pour yourself a cocktail, and kick back and relax. Kidding. You aren't actually done yet. Just because your children have flown the coop doesn't mean that your parenting days are through. Motherhood and fatherhood look different; you now get occasional breaks, but you are definitely still on the clock.
Know When They Need You and When They Want You
When your children are in the adult stage of their life, they will still call you and ask for things. The trick to this stage is knowing when they need you and when they just want you or want you to do something for them. Adulting is hard, and it often feels as if you should have sent your kid into the world with an adulting checklist. Determining what is a need and what is a want will help you decide what is helpful and what is a hindrance.
Supporting Their Wild Dreams
You know the term "fake it until you make it." Insert that mantra here. Young adults are full of hopes and dreams, and sometimes those dreams are nuts! You, the seasoned adult, will want to tell your kid the reality of their dreams, saving them time, money, and heartache. Sometimes, you have to just sigh, support, and hope that best-case scenario; they are a raging success. Worst-case scenario, they learn a valuable lesson.
Every Day Is Opposite Day
Your child is grown now, and newsflash! They know everything. With a young adult, every day can be opposite day. They want to prove to you that they can do everything and anything on their own, and sometimes this means that they might buck against your advice. If you have an obstinate adult child, know that every day is opposite day and adjust your advice. Don't trick them, but if the shoe fits...
Acknowledge the Footing Is Pretty Equal
They don't do things your way. They don't take your advice, and they still don't know how to properly clean dishes or fold a fitted sheet. In your eyes, they will always be your baby, but they are adults now, just like you. Recognize that you and your child stand on equal(ish) footing. Respect them as a budding adult. Adhere to their boundaries and their wishes in their home and let them evolve and grow because you know they are doing exactly that. This shift of thinking in parenting is tricky, but it will be key to moving forward in your relationship with your growing kiddo.
Parenthood: The Most Beautiful Mess in all the Land
Is parenting easy? No way. Is it worth it? Yep, 100%. With parenting, find what works for you and your family. March to the beat of your own drum and when you fall flat on your face, get up and try again...and again...and again. When you feel lost, confused, and desperate for answers, use what haggard parents before you have already learned. You can totally steal in parenting. Take any and every tip, trick, and hack and store it away for future use. You don't know when you will need those tips and tricks, but rest assure you will need them one day.