The best tips and advice for new moms and moms of toddlers, preschoolers, kids, or teens. Good for boys or girls. Wise words from an amazing grandma.
The following is a guest post from a grandma that I originally published in May 2008 when Grace was barely walking. It wasn't from a member of my own family but someone I knew. Her advice is directed at moms of littles: babies and toddlers and preschoolers, but it's no less applicable to me today as a mom of a tween and a teen. I hope you enjoy!
I've been a mom for 4 decades, and I've learned a few things that I want to pass on to you. Here goes:
Love your kid to bits. Unconditionally, always.
Don't expect your kid to be an extension of you. Keep boundaries to let her be her own person. Respect her as a person. And take delight in finding out who she is and how she is.
Don't be afraid of your kid's exceeding you. Take pride and pleasure in your kids' being better than you!
Be selfish enough to want them to embrace your values and your faith. Work to achieve this, then toss them out there into the world. Let them soar! And pray that they are better than you.
For the first, let me say that I did not set out to be my daughter's friend. I loved her to bits and was the best mother I knew how to be. In retrospect, the "method" went something like this:
Love. Respect. Share. Care. Treasure. Thank. Encourage. Nurture. Listen.
Love 'em to bits.
Remember where parental authority comes from: we are stand-ins for God. "The steadfast love of the LORD endures forever," and so should a parent's.
Steadfastly endure. Do not expect an end.
Care for and love yourself in order to better do the same for your kids. For the terrible twos, you need to get enough sleep and not over schedule yourself.
Never forget what it's like to be a kid.
Make time to do your favorite things. Allow your kids to know what tickles your fancy. Cultivate humor and have family jokes.
Laugh with, never at. Laugh often. Laugh with abandon and delight.
Say "I love you." Say it again.
Be glad to see one another.
Light up when your child comes into the room and when you talk to her on the phone.
Show as much courtesy to your children as you would to your visiting clergyman! Yes, please. No, thank you. Here, I'll get that door. Do you need a hand? Oh, thank you; I needed that!
Be reasonably frank about who you are. You're not Superwoman. But retain your dignity.
Putting yourself down in front of your kids is dangerous. NEVER do it!
Allow yourself and others to make mistakes without losing face. Turn mistakes and wrong choices into learning experiences.
Analyze. Discuss. Evaluate. Plan.
Make extravagant plans. Make small plans. Plan surprises. Plan parties. Plan gifts. Plan projects for the good of the community.
Build dreams. Acknowledge them for what they are: dreams. And then brainstorm what it would take to change them into realistic goals.
Indulge in "what-ifs."
Be creative. Ask open-ended questions. Experiment. Play word games.
Challenge one another. Rent movies and share the Kleenex box! Cook for one another. Cook together.
Show consideration. Expect it in return.
Raising children to be selfish does no one any favors.
Let your children participate in your "good works." How many bouquets and loaves of fresh bread I delivered to neighbors and single schoolteachers throughout my childhood! How many Sundays I was sent to answer the door and entertain dinner guests until my mom was ready to call people to the dinner table (which I had helped to set)!
Give fair rewards. Praise when deserved. I still have a doll quilt Mom gave me as thanks for helping cut out forty-seven quilt blocks, which she sewed into doll quilts for the church bazaar. I was about seven, and took satisfaction from being entrusted with an important task, as well as knowing the pleasure of teamwork with my mom. I heard the bazaar lady exclaim over how pretty the quilts were, and I knew we'd done it together. But Mom decided to give me one for helping. I remember being a little bit mystified. You see, I had already internalized her way of taking satisfaction from the doing, the giving, the anticipation of others' pleasure, the creative process, the Lord's work.
I think it's important to your relationship to keep on being yourself, even after you also become Momma. There is something unhealthy about giving up your life or sacrificing for your children. I don't mean you shouldn't make the child the center of your life at the appropriate time. But you rob the child, as well as yourself, of all those interesting talents, hobbies, foibles and quirks in your personality if you abandon your sense of self – humor, whimsy and all that attracted your spouse. Indulge your kooky side, don't pass yourself off as infallible – what a shock to the poor kid the day she discovers that lie!
Have a personality and allow your child to have one, too. Encourage and appreciate, applaud and chastise. But beware the urge to mold. Especially when she's grown up and it's too late!
Share your faith. Practice it with your child. 1925
Love. Be an example. Let go. Pray. Stand by.
Never stop loving.
Have I said anything about respecting privacy? This is a touchy area, because there are some times and some topics where intervention is necessary – a breach of privacy, I suppose. Yet, even before the child has become adult, for a mom to honor her need to keep some things to herself just may result in a smoother relationship because both sides hold their tongues.
When it comes right down to it, to be a good friend, you need to feed and nurture, love and respect. And if you want your child to grow up to be a friend, you need to start early with love and respect. Give as much freedom as is age-appropriate. It is far more rewarding to have your child come back freely than to come only out of guilt.
Guilt is one kind of obligation, a destructive one practiced by those working out of grasping and mean-spirited impulses. A better sense of obligation is the one built on love and gratitude and a sense of duty to those with whom one allies. So a loved, respected child, by example, is likely to lavish love and respect back, and seek the company of that wellspring. Yet a child made to feel guilty and that he owes his parents can only struggle to pay what is due despite the crummy way he feels. He makes contact reluctantly. And that, too, makes him feel guilty. Controlling by guilt is a good way to drive your adult children away.
Be merciful. Apologize when appropriate. Forgive freely, yet uphold standards. Don't change the rules to make bad behavior right. Your first job is to be a good parent, which means you teach the rules of living. You mustn't declassify a sin for the sake of avoiding controversy, for being a friend. It doesn't work. In the end, it feels better to be called to account and forgiven. That is freeing.
AND LAST OF ALL,
Once your kids are adults, hold your tongue until asked.
Thank you for making me examine the subject of being a good momma. I feel very blessed to have such forgiving kids. I wasn't always as exemplary as I would like to recall. I was a yeller. And I'm sorry.
I have been very blessed.