My girls are getting older. I have one that is just 2 years from graduation and at this rate she may do so earlier. (yes we homeschool). But looking back at the earlier stages of life there are some things I wish I had done. Each girl has a very different personality so I will say this is not the case for each one and I won't say who is who. That might result in therapy bills. But my thought is that if I share some of these you might implement them yourselves. As it stands, I can't go back so here is my list. Dear Younger Me-
I wish I had taught them to clean as they go. I had a friend who would constantly remind her toddler and preschooler to clean up one category of toys before moving on to the next. As I watched it felt exhausting to keep after them like this because at that age, play changes direction every 5 minutes (if you even get 5!) However, as I studied Charlotte Mason homeschooling approach, I saw it in there. It was an example about closing the door. The first mom in the example was sure to make the child close the front door every single time and if they forgot they must return immediately and do it. The second mom only reminded occasionally. The first mother's child quickly became accustomed to making sure he always shut the door and of course the second one took far longer and therefore the mother of the second child had to continue nagging. The simple consequence of always having to immediately come back became enough to change behavior. So in our example of the toy problem, I thought I was fostering creativity by letting the girls move from toy group to toy group when really I was fostering mess. Fast forward and I am still reminding girls to take their things out of the living room and “please put them where they belong!” I have to make them leave what they are doing to clean up but the consequence is not enough anymore. I am feeling like a nag.
I wish I had practiced better self-care. How many times I thought I had it all together and then came to the end of myself. I did not ask for help until it was so far past where helping would have prevented a meltdown (not in a toddler but in me). I realize now that this practice is something my children need to see me doing, especially since I am raising women. I am trying to make sure they see me taking time to do things that promote both growth and rest in myself. They saw me work for my doula certificate in Postpartum care. I also want them seeing me taking a Sabbath rest (not always on a Sunday). I want them to feel that home is a refuge and they can be at rest in their home. Now and in the future. I want them to see, like I had to learn the hard way, that it is good to take care of your body. We are not just a brain bag. Too often, my rest was not physical, my care was not relaxing to my body or my brain. Remember, what they tell you in the airplane, apply your oxygen mask first before assisting the less able. It makes sense.
I wish I had relaxed and enjoyed the baby stage more. Everyone tells you but it is so true, this goes by fast. There are fun things to enjoy about every stage of child development but blink and it is gone. There are only so many firsts. I wish I had not been so worried about doing it right and fearing mistakes. I am seeing how some mistakes, both mine and the children's are what God has faithfully used to make us better and closer to Him. Even if by some miracle you were able to do everything “just right” (whatever that is) you are still raising imperfect babies and they will become imperfect people. Sorry! I don't like that idea either on the surface but it is actually so fulfilling to see what they will do with their flaws and your parenting failures. Take the time to just sit and snuggle. Enjoy a smile and a giggle.
I wish I knew that child birth can cause memories to surface. I want you to know that hormones and Momma bear protectiveness in pregnancy and postpartum can cause memories to pop up. Abuse and trauma that were hidden for many years may be revealed. I was surprised by them but thankfully God had a friend who was a counselor ready for me. It can be hard to work through during this emotionally charged time. Mine was an abuse in childhood and I was comforted that it came up because my inner self wanted to help protect my new child from abuse. Please reach out for help if this happens to you. It can be a factor in postpartum depression and no one has been named a hero for struggling alone in these matters. There are lots of options and some, like church or government agencies can get you help for free. Saying you are sad or frightened never ever translates into “I don't love my baby.” “I don't love being a mother.” “I am a bad mother.” I think it is quite the opposite. It is brave to share your feelings and needs.
I think it is so helpful and empowering as moms to share our regrets and failures as well as our triumphs with each other. In a world where social media paints a perfect picture of some moms and a drudgery from others, let's tell truth. We are not perfect. I would love to see a post about how a child was nurtured even though it was hard to do. A picture of a moment of forgiveness after an argument. An “aha” tweet about how mom finally figured out why baby would cry the same time every day. A victory in patience. Instead of competing, inside our heads and out with other moms, can we say, “I see you and you are doing awesome things. How can I pray for you?” Because we all have some not so awesome things in our lives and motherhood can be isolating.
Hopefully your Dear Younger Me post will be filled with reminders that you overcame hardships in community and with Jesus.
Paula is a single mother of 3. Follow along on her journeys of motherhood and her fulfilling work as a postpartum doula