Friday, February 6, 2009

Dear Tired Mom of Preschoolers,

Missy asked some of us old fogies who have survived and lived to tell about the early years of parenting to share the wealth of knowledge we have accumulated over lo, these many years. Ahem. I don't know about any wealth of knowledge, except to say you do the best you can with the information you have at the time and leave the results to God! But here are my thoughts, and I think this probably qualifies as a record post for taking me the longest to write. Which just goes to show that 1) I'm really not that wise, and/or 2) I've simply transitioned from being a Tired Mom of Preschoolers to a Tired Mom of Teenagers!

Dear Linda,

You may not believe this, but I'm you. And you're me. Or you will be in about a decade or so. See, right now you have 2 little ones and your days are filled with naps and juice and diapers and all other things toddler and preschool-related. But as hard as it is to believe, before you can blink twice, that little boy will be filling out his schedule for his junior year of high school, and that little girl will be eagerly getting ready to head over to the high school as well.

I don't know if I'm all that much wiser than you, but I have been around the block a few times and I've learned a few things, both from your/my mistakes and triumphs (it's easy to focus on our failures, but you're doing lots of things right!!) as well as from hanging around some friends. So here are a few things I think it would be good for you to know.

  • You don't have to be perfect. While it's important to do the very best you can, you are going to make mistakes as a mom. Accept it, seek forgiveness from God when it happens, and move on. Your kids won't remember most of the things you agonize over, and in a few years neither will you! That also means give them jobs to do even if they don't do it as well as you would. Or as neatly. It's more important that they load the dishwasher when they get big than that it is loaded a certain way. There's a very fine line between structure/efficiency and obsession.

  • YOU are the mom. Not the people at the grocery store, the church, the school. Not your own parents. Don't worry so much about what other people think, either of your parenting or of your kids' behavior. You & your man are accountable to God. No one else knows the exact circumstances, personalities, or situations that impact your decisions. Do not let anyone usurp that authority. Those cute shirts that say "When mom says no, ask Grandma"? They can be innocent fun when it involves cookies, but Grandma and your child both need to know that you and Dad have the last word. As you remember from your growing-up years, some issues matter more (and have greater ramifications) than another cookie.

  • You ARE the mom. It is very important that you realize this and that you teach your children this. If you do this when they are small, it will prevent many issues later. I have seen too many parents give in to their little ones because it was easier and more pleasant, only to see the result as those children grew that there was no respect for parental (or any) authority. I know it's hard to make the tough calls and let your child cry if they don't get their way, but they will be much more secure in the long run. It's okay - and important - to say NO.

  • You are THE mom. The one God chose for these children long before He knit them together in your womb. Treasure this time. It will fly by in a blink. Stop wishing even these tough days away. When they are teenagers it will be hard to even remember the days of tousled hair & snuggles after naps or tears & tantrums (yours and theirs!). You'll have plenty of time to yourself later.

  • You are the MOM. You are not the child. You are not the friend. Enjoy your children, but don't try to be their best buddies. Play with them some, but don't be their constant playmate. Do not let them think the world revolves around them. Do not be at their beck and call. Do not videotape, photograph, or talk about their every move. Do not shield them from the consequences of their decisions. Teach them to care about others. Let them be bored occasionally. Turn off the TV, the computer, and let them entertain themselves. Take them places where they need to learn to act appropriately and where it's not all about them. Establish a bedtime for your kids and stick to it. And while I know you see bedtime as "the end" and you're ready to make it quick, cherish the time of pillow talks. When they are teenagers you will reap the benefits.

  • Laugh with your kids. Make home a happy place.

  • Prioritize two relationships above them. One with God. And one with your man. You will be a better mom. And they will be healthier, happier children.

  • Teach them that life isn't fair. Let them lose sometimes. Don't try to always keep everything perfectly equal. Let them do without. It's okay if "everyone else does/has it" and they don't. Don't shower them with toys or the latest gadgets. Teach them delayed gratification and work ethics.

  • Praise them appropriately but not excessively. Let them know that while you and God love them unconditionally, you both love them too much to let them stay the way they are. (Read this for more clarification.)

  • Be heart-oriented, not behavior/task-oriented. This is one of the hardest things, because it's so much easier to focus on what they do. Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart. Don't get so focused on behavior that you forget about the heart motivation. Instead of always saying "Don't hit", teach "Be kind." Instead of "Go to church and read your Bible", focus on "Love God." Otherwise you end up raising legalistic well-behaved kids who perform like robots without genuine feeling.

  • Pray for them. And with them.

  • Keep reading to them! That is one of the sweetest memories you are making, and you are growing two bookworms.


Above all, LOVE THEM. That's all any child really needs. Or wants. Or remembers. And love covers over a multitude of sins.

See you in a very few years,

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    26 comments:

    A Stone Gatherer said...

    Oh that is good advice! I think you've learned a whole lot and have alot to share! I love how you did that "you are the mom" for times. I so needed to hear this this morning and I'm not that far behind you! A little crisis in our house involving our son has left my husband and I a bit overwhelmed and frankly so very sad! I could use your prayers this morning, if you would!

    2nd Cup of Coffee said...

    You quoted a scripture I'm using soon for a column. This is great stuff, Lid. I found myself aligned with all of your points. I do wish I had let them be bored a little more often. That was a good one. Anyway, we made the same joke in the first paragraph. Two peas in a middle aged pod.

    Mel said...

    Sitting at my computer clapping my hands and cheering!!!

    Amazing woohooo..

    Where you write "You are the Mom" those well those all moms need to read!!!!!!!

    sara said...

    that was great, Linda! All great points and so true! I love this idea, wish I had time to do it before I left....maybe when I get back!

    Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

    Linda,

    This was so well written and just chock full of great advice. I especially liked:

    "And while I know you see bedtime as "the end" and you're ready to make it quick, cherish the time of pillow talks."

    So often I am rushing them off to bed, ignoring the pleas for another story because I am just ready for some time alone with Trevor. Thanks for the reminder that I need to seek every opportunity to talk and get closer to them before they reach the age when they want to draw away.

    Thank you, my friend!

    Xandra

    Sandy at God Speaks Today said...

    Linda,

    Thank you so much for this. I was looking forward to reading all these letters (I know God wants to talk to me today through them!!). Yours is the first one. And you did not disappoint.

    It's really hard to think these days will be gone. I've been in Baby Land for 11 years now. Feels like my whole life. It's also hard to think there will be time for me. I feel like if I don't carve it out now and fight for it like crazy, it will never happen.

    Also, I loved what you said about teaching your kids to do chores and not freaking out if it's not perfect. We're going through that right now. I'm trying to delegate some daily things to them and biting my tongue all along the way. It was such a good reminder.

    Bless you, dear friend!!
    Love,
    Sandy

    Cheryl said...

    Thank you for your words of wisdom!

    lisasmith said...

    Such good words and reminders. I will be remembering that I am the mother today.

    Wanda said...

    Oh so sweet! And oh so true!
    This week my oldest was accepted to IU pre-med! How fast these years have flown by.
    I have found being a mom to be the greatest thing ever.
    Each year (we have 3 teens now) hubby and I have thought..."this is the greatest year yet!"
    They just get better and better.
    Thank you for this post.

    laura said...

    oh my goodness, thank you so much for posting this. i needed to hear this so much. every word. i don't know you- i just jumped over here from missy's blog (i actually don't know her , either!) but God has used you to speak to me, a young, tired mom of little ones.
    thanks for sharing your wisdome!! means more than you'll ever know.
    -laura in ohio

    Debbie @Like a Rose said...

    Awesome letter. I agree with so many of your points. I love the YOU ARE THE MOM headings - perfect.

    Julie Stiles Mills said...

    I just LOVE this! I referred someone over here for this post. It's Amy from Diaries of a Not So Super Mom. (she's in my widget bar).

    thanks!

    Chatty Kelly said...

    I'll have to come back and read this later. I just read the "titles" and started getting all teary! I don't have to be perfect? I AM the mom? OH dear, I'm too weepy today to read this.

    It's nice to know that someone understands. :-)

    Thanks!

    bp said...

    Linda, I just love this. There is SO much wisdom here for me as the mother in the "preschooler stage." This really blessed me. Thank you!

    Julie said...

    I enjoyed reading your letter. I came from Missy's blog.

    You've got some great advice here.

    Thanks for sharing your heart.

    Lizz @ Yes, and So is My Heart said...

    Oh, thank you! This was so encouraging!

    Colored With Memories said...

    all of this is so good to read...i especially love the "pillow talk" info...i can see that to be true!

    thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us "younger mommies"!

    Lindsey @ A New Life said...

    "You are the mom" over and over is making me laugh. I needed to hear that as I am really struggling with feeling out of control of my household, my kids, and my sanity!!!!

    Have a blessed day, and thank you for the encouragement on my own post!

    Chatty Kelly said...

    I back and read it all this time. Linda, this is such good writing. I wish you could get it published in a parenting magazine. Every word spoke to me. Thank you so much!

    Yes, I am a "perfectionist" and a "control freak." I'm trying to break free of it, but some days.... It is hard to be a mom, but I really love it.

    Thanks for the encouraging words!!

    Cindy-Still His Girl said...

    Such wise words! I love the way you wrote it out, especially the You are the MOM paragraph. Wish I'd had YOU five or six years ago!

    Lisa @ The Preacher's Wife said...

    You are awesome.

    That's all I got. :)

    Beverlydru said...

    I love this letter. All true. Yes ma'm. Well said.

    Lisa said...

    Good stuff. I'm always happy to take advise from a godly woman who has gone before me.

    Thanks for taking the time to impart some wisdom to us.

    Julie, the mama said...

    This rookie mama needed to read those words! Thanks for sharing.

    Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

    Linda, that was brilliant. I loved every word of it. Thank you so much!!

    Lisa writes... said...

    Wise thoughts! Where were you when my kids were preschoolers?