My 10 year old son walked up the stairs this morning and if I hadn't known better, I could have sworn he grew over night. To all the people who told me this the days after he was born...you were right. It goes way too fast. Looking at him today makes me look at the days behind us and in the replays in my head I have some things that stand out.
So for today, with so many things I could write about as my firstborn turns ten... I've found a top-ish 10 list of what I've been learning as a first time parent up to this point. That first one always makes you feel like a beginner with each new stage, no matter how many follow after. In 10 years, he has grown so much... but so have I.
1.) It really does go fast. Choose wisely as you never know what or if tomorrow will come. Little people become big people and all those extra books read, dishes left dirty, games played, snuggle sessions after naps, laundry left piled up, walks through the woods, committee's left unattended, and snack times under the trees matter. When you can, choose them. Choose wisely, as these years aren't refunded. You can not get them back. It's a once in a lifetime gig. And it really does go fast.
2.) There are no perfect parents. No perfect kids. But I am the perfect mom for my kids. Once you can accept that what and how you do things in your home will be different from everybody else, you will be much more confident to just be the mom God created you to be for your kids. Cheer yourself on in the way you were made. Cheer your friends on in the way they were made. And be a mom from that place instead of the Mom always keeping score.
3.) Celebrate when you can. Life is full of hard things and a little celebration goes a long way for the heart tanks. Celebrate in big and small ways. A trip to the ice-cream store can speak volumes just as much as a trip to the Metro-dome. Just don't get caught up in what isn't going well and remember to celebrate what is going well. There is always good to be seen in the eyes of a mother.
4.) Manners and people matter. Don't let your kids get away with the chance to learn how to use both as young ones. How to use manners and how to treat people goes hand in hand. Teach it, be it. Please, thank you, I'm sorry, how can I help you, excuse me, and please and thank you (yes, again!). A simple word goes a long way as we learn to live with others. Speak kindly and treat each other respectfully. I wish I would have molded this more when my 10 year old was little. Manners and people...This goes for us Moms too.
5.) Eating well and sleeping well can alter an entire day. Many moments of chaos, drama, and tears can be avoided by simply having a consistent eating and sleeping routine. Eat real, good foods to set your children up for success physically and set solid sleep patterns that allow for comfort, stillness, and recovery. This applies to us Mama's, too. I always deal with life better when I'm fed and have slept!
6.) It's okay to ask for help. I wish I would have learned this much earlier then I did on the new parent journey. Nobody can do everything on their own and if they try they will end up wound up, worn down, and wiped out. Asking for help isn't a weakness. It's honesty. It's truth. We're not meant to do this life alone, so just ask people to be a part of it. Chances are... they need some help too.
7.) One of the best things I ever did was listen to Elizabeth George's advice and found a mentor. I prayed about and looked around my community of people. I looked for someone who was a little ahead of me on the journey, seemed similar to me in personality, and loved Jesus in the way she lived her life. I found the guts to invite this gal to coffee and ask her to be a mentor to me for awhile. Well, that "awhile" is still happening and I've been blessed beyond years through this friendship. She is real with me, she prays for me, she encourages me, she's honest with me, she loves on me, she reminds me that Jesus loves me when I forget. Having a mentor is a beautiful gift as a Mom. Being a mentor is life-giving too...so when it seems right, pay it forward if you can. Let the wise lead you and don't be too busy to not encourage those behind you.
8.) Pray often and about everything. Anything related to your kids needs prayer. Trust me on this. Praying first can conquer much pride, worry, stress, uncertainties, fear, and must I go on? Prayer gives you a foot in the door on every situation. The time you spend in prayer before anything, sets your heart up for the tools to know how to handle a situation. You may not have the answers, but when we pray we show up with Him. Doing things with Him always gets done better then without Him. Pray often and when you can't...ask a friend to pray for you.
9.) Speaking of friends...If you haven't found one yet, pray for one. I'm serious. Motherhood can get lonely if you don't have your girlfriends along for the ride too. There are a lot of therapy bills avoided by simply hanging out with your friends! And a lot of chocolate consumed. The ones who really know you, watch out for you, celebrate your victories and cry with you when you fail. The friends who show up, who really pray for you, want you to do well, believe in you, laugh with you, laugh at you, stay up late for you, watch your kids for you, bring you meals when you're sick, pick up that sweater for you just because it was on clearance and looks just like you, text you, call you, meet you at the hospital, or wait for you in the parking lot. Whatever it is going on with you, chances are these few friends you've invested in during this journey are a part of it in some way. So give your heart away to a few gals who will give theirs back to you. It's a beautiful cycle of give and take that mama's need for this marathon called motherhood. It's vulnerable and risk-taking, but the chances are God will answer a few prayers and lead you to your nest of ladies who probably need you as much as you need them. God's pretty awesome like that.
10.) I laugh at my first year version of myself. And cry for her, too. Of many things I've learned in 10 years, this one could have saved a lot of burnt-out blow-ups and crying sessions in my closet. Are you ready? Take a break. Send the kids to said friends from above or your parents or the neighbors. Give yourself time to step out of the role as mom and step into the role as God's child. I don't know what fuels you up... a good run, a walk through the park, hike in the woods, coffee at Starbucks, a pedicure, a dinner out with friends, or whatever your heart needs... But give yourself a break. Mothering until you have nothing left to give or worse...until you have nothing but negativity to give... does nobody any good. Give yourself space to breathe and be filled up. You will step back into the game with your shoes tied, uniform on, and game face ready by doing so.
Oh, these lessons I've learned mostly came painfully for me. I suppose that is why they stand out. I've come a long way in 10 years. I've got a much longer way to go. My 10 year old keeps giving me more reasons to let go and I'm firmly trying to hold on... not to him, but to Who has led this path to this place on the journey so far. In all the lessons and learning and letting go, He remains the only constant thing. Through the days of our children, He uses them as a tool to mold me more and more each year. One decade down. Breathing deep...heading back in...