Monday, December 28, 2015

My parenting rules

These little guys turned 3 today!
Birthdays, at least the early ones, are more of a celebration for the parents rather than a celebration for the children. Today, my kids turned 3. We've been to their peers' birthday parties and have been talking up their "Happy Birthday" for weeks. But, today I reflect upon the way the "twin tornadoes" have impacted my life. They turned me into a mother, but also a "mother of multiples," which I suspect is slightly different than parenting singleton children (that's what us mothers of multiples call offspring not born in sets). So, without further ado, here are a few lessons I've learned. 

Children (and everything else that really matters) are washable. Yep, truth. From newborn excrement and spit-up to 2-year-olds who draw all over themselves and sometimes the walls and stick stickers to my floors, it all can be washed. If it can't be washed, say that onsie has had it (throw it out!) or a magic eraser doesn't do the trick on wall art (hasn't happened to me yet), it didn't really matter in the first place. I didn't buy my babies $40 outfits because they'd likely sh!t all over it, and I don't buy my 3-year-olds $40 outfits because they really enjoy avocado (it stains!), play doh, and markers. 

Children are expressive individuals who operate on their own timeline from the day they are born (or sooner!). This is a lesson I attribute to having given birth to two babies at once. I see the insecurities of parents of singletons as they wonder if their child is "on schedule" for milestones such as rolling over, talking, walking, etc. My two never seemed to do the same thing at the same time (except poop). Rather than fret over why one of my boys walked at 11 months and the other one not until closer to 14 months, I just accepted their status as individuals. Not to say I don't experience insecurities about my children's development, because of course I do, but there is a wide range of normal.

Your children will embarrass you, but everyone else's children embarrass their parents, too. (Or they're lying or delusional.) I'm a fairly confident individual, if I do say so myself (or I'm just oblivious), but my kids do cause embarrassment occasionally, and by occasionally, I mean nearly every time we're not at home. They run (because toddlers don't walk), they throw balls inside (because what the hell else are you supposed to do with balls?), they throw tantrums (because they're expressive individuals, see above). I can handle the above embarrassment with a certain amount of grace, sometimes, but the worst is when your child is an asshole to another child (who isn't related to you). Thankfully, since my two came as a pair, they have been used to competition and most often respond to other children with either kindness or indifference, but, sometimes they are a-holes. It happens. We intervene as necessary, but we can't always prevent them from being a-holes. 

"Just wait" should be a phrase banished from discussions about children. My husband is super guilty of this one. I catch him telling his friends newly granted parent-status "just waits" all of the time. If what you are about to say to a fellow parent starts with "just wait," you're probably going to describe a negative aspect of having children. I'm amused by the "Just wait until your kid eats blueberries for the first time" (because it's super gross), but if you say something like "Just wait, your sleepy newborn will soon keep you up all night!" - just shut up. Don't say it. There are a bunch of "just wait" moments in parenting, but focus on the wonderful, especially to those new to the job. I am happy to have this life experience, even if it involves sleepless nights and other unsavory things.  

Strive not to make other people feel bad about their children or themselves. If I had made this a numbered list in order of importance, this rule would sit closer to the top. Before I had kids, I recall a colleague saying that becoming a parent really changed her as a teacher. Not how she interacted with children, but how she interacted with parents. I really, really understand what she meant now, three years into the gig. As an educator, I never, ever want to make parents feel bad about their child. For one, their child is their entire world. They know their child's weaknesses and really want what is best for their child. My own kids are in daycare, and I can honestly say no one there has made me feel bad about them. I know they're in the right place. I really only have experience as a parent up until the age of three, but I can honestly say I deliberately try to lift others up rather than make them feel bad. If you are reading this and I have ever made you feel bad about yourself or your child, I am sorry. I didn't mean to. 

Strive to make your child not feel bad about him or herself. As parents, we all lose our "game face" at times. Sometimes, I get overwhelmed and yell even though I know better. At my school, when the adults lose their "game face," we say that we "leak." So, yep, I leak. But, I really don't want to make my children (or anyone else's children) feel bad about themselves. You won't catch me referring to my child as a "bad boy." I cringe if I hear that kind of language. You might catch me saying "good boy," but know that was a slip of tongue rather than a deliberate choice of words. Am I saying I don't correct behaviors or offer praise? Of course not. Feedback should be immediate and specific, in my professional opinion, "professional" referring to my teacher self rather than my parental self. So instead of saying, "You hit your brother! Bad boy!" say, "We do not hit. That is not nice." I am not saying I've got this parenting thing all figured out, I'm just saying I don't believe in labeling children. Label behaviors. 

So, Happy, Happy Birthday to the guys who took everything I thought I knew and up-ended it. It's been a real trip.
The newly 3-year-olds this morning. 

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