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Parenting Advice From a Mother With Almost Grown Children

Photograph by Getty Images

Now that I am on the back-end of parenting, I look back at all the things I used to stress over and they seem silly. At the time I lay awake at night fretting over a litany of mistakes, issues and questions.

It went by so quickly. I wasted many hours second guessing and feeling guilty. Below is a list of total wasted time and energy that I hope you will take to heart.

  • The No. 1 thing I wish I had done differently was play more. I was so busy doing "stuff" I thought mattered at the time. I have said "Not now, I am busy" around a million times. I have gotten better at this, but I missed many a game of hide and seek or LEGO making because of a to-do list. The to-do list never goes away, but the cherubs do.

  • They will give up their binky, thumb or blanket without you making an issue. No one goes to Jr. High with any of those things. No one becomes a bad person because they kept a security device a little longer.

  • I wish I had let them fight it out more. This was mostly self-preservation because the arguing drives me to the brink of insanity (sometimes over the brink). But I wish I had let them work it out with less interference from me. I started employing this technique a few years ago, and it has ironically cut down on the bickering. I feel surprised on the direct correlation of how little I care = how little they care.

  • I wish I had taken more one-on-one time with my husband. I was so caught up in raising little ones he took a back seat. My cherubs would have thrived just as well if we had gone on more dates.

  • I wish I had gotten more exercise. This is about getting away, getting your head on straight, taking a break. We all feel better if we go on a walk or do yoga. I always felt like I shouldn't take time away, because there was homework, dinner, practice or insert any of your to do list here. They would have turned out the same way if I had taken a half hour to go for a walk.

  • I wish I had prayed out loud more. I pray all the time in my head, but I wish I had been more vocal in front of my children.

  • If you are running late, they look fine if their clothes are wrinkly. Really, no one notices. In fact if they go somewhere in Spider-Man PJs, no matter where you are going (even church), most people think it is cute. Is it really a battle worth fighting?

  • Someone close to you will say something hurtful about your parenting. Just let it go. If they are right, change your behavior. If they are wrong, stand strong in your conviction and don't let it eat at you. I have had occasions where someone tells me something that may or may not have been true. It bothered me for far longer then it should have. I laid awake at night second guessing. Don't do that. Turn it over to God, and let him handle it.

  • No one feels scarred because the house was messy. In fact, having one less thing to nag about probably was a good thing.

  • If they stink at a sport as a child, it doesn't mean they will stink at it as a teenager. All those times I fretted because my cherub was the one looking for four-leaf clovers during the soccer game became wasted hours. They all play sports in high school just fine.

  • The complete lack of desire to do homework works itself out. Provide the quiet space to do homework. Be available for questions. If they don't get it done, let them suffer the consequences. I used to drive myself crazy with one of my cherubs, trying to engage him. Over the past couple of years I have just let the nagging go. We are all happier and he is doing fine. I am not saying to avoid intervening if there is a problem, but all the years of almost rupturing a blood vessel when it took him hours to get through first grade homework were completely wasted energy.

  • If they feel exhausted, let them sleep in on occasion. It is only elementary/junior high school. Missing an hour will literally do nothing harmful.

  • In fact, everything in elementary and junior high ends up OK. The dioramas, school projects and book reports are all pretty irrelevant in the overall scheme of things. Don't get me wrong: They teach them great study habits, research skills, and get them set up for success. But how they look doesn't matter. Just ensure your child is doing their best work. Don't sit up all night "fixing" things or managing the project for them. We all know the parents completed the projects. Those kids get the same grades as the kids who did it themselves. It really is about the effort, not the quality.

  • Let them go hungry. If they don't want what you made or "forget" to eat breakfast for the 10th time, they will be fine. I know the rationale. "What if they can't concentrate?" "What if they pass out from hunger?" They all make it. I promise. A little discomfort is a good thing sometimes. I bet they won't forget breakfast an 11th time if you let them go to school hungry.

  • We were total food dictators. We stressed over the sugar, fat, soda, non-organic whatever. Honestly it was all for naught. Now that they are mobile and have their own money, they eat whatever they want. They drink Starbucks. Go ahead and provide three squares a day plus healthy snacks, but don't freak if they have a soda at a birthday party.

  • They will sleep by themselves. I know there is all kinds of advice on sleeping with parents vs. sleeping by themselves. Each child is so different. We chose to let ours get into bed with us whenever they wanted. Personally we loved this snuggle time. They all grew out of it on their own. No long-term damage.

There is a country and western song called, "You're Gonna Miss This." Part of the chorus goes, "You're gonna miss this, you're gonna want this back, you're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast."

Speaking from experience, I can vouch for that sentiment. What do you want to see when you look back at these years? How do you want them to remember their childhood?

You cannot look at any mom-geared publication and not find an article on how hard parenting is. They all write this because it is true, mommas!

Parenting is hard, and you will make major mistakes; give yourself a break.

If you love and care for them, your cherubs will be fine.

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