||to my daughters
wednesday, january 10, 2007
dear baby-girls who will always be my baby-girls,
next month, one of you will make me a grandmama, so i started thinking about my first days as a mother. i had done extensive reading, my husband was there, and i had a lot of friends willing to advise and occasionally help. these things apparently helped make me quite ready for mothering, at least back then, as more than one nurse commented that i seemed like an experienced mother right after kitten's birth. but i know kitten's experience is going to be so much different, just based on circumstances. so here's your mama's mother advice -- what meant most to me as i raised you three and your brother. it is your decision to use it or not -- your lives, your families, your beliefs are and will be so different from mine that what i write here may not be any use to you as you raise your own children. and, of course, every child is different too.
the most important advice ever given to me as a new mother was the following:
1) don't start doing anything you can't see yourself as willing to do for the next 3 or more years, and
2) if the baby is fed, clean, not being hurt, has been social, and is tired, it will not hurt him or her to cry.
a lot of people don't agree with that last one. they say you can't spoil a baby, but i disagree. a baby can come to expect to be picked up at the slightest provocation and it becomes a lot harder to train him or her out of that expectation than if you don't begin it. yes, children need to be loved and need to feel secure, but mamas need rest and time to themselves too. if you aren't rested and cared for, you are no good for your child. let the baby cry. take care of yourself, get rest, spend time on yourself. you will be a better mama for it, even if it's hard to ignore the baby at first.
and it does get better. they grow up, they learn. you grow and learn too. be open to the wonder that is your child and you can't help but learn.
other than those two things, there are other pieces of advice that i took to heart, advice that carried me not only through the infant years, but through to teenagerhood. some of it is pretty scary, but i believe a lot of parents of lost sight of some of these things and that's why we have the problems we have with a lot of kids today. so, they need to be said.
3) you are your child's first and most important role model. you can never expect your child to do as you say and not as you do. if you don't believe in lying, then don't lie. even when your child starts talking about other adult influences, it is you they watch most of all. we're all human, we all make mistakes, it's how we own up to (or don't own up to) those mistakes that says a lot about us and either keeps or loses the respect of our children. don't hesitate to apologize when you make a mistake. you are the example.
4) remember that you are raising your child so that you end up out of a job. every parent's goal should be to raise an adult who is self-sufficient, responsible, and a productive member of society. this has to start at home because no child can become a productive member of society until they've learned to be a productive member of a family first. you can't teach a child self-reliance if you clean their room and do their homework. and you can't teach a child to live in the world if you give him or her everything he or she wants because the world doesn't work that way. have reasonable expectations, give extras in moderation (no child needs everything he or she wants), and remember that chores never hurt anyone. show them how, but expect them to do.
5) you are not your child's friend, you are his or her parent. children need boundaries, but they also need to know those boundaries will be enforced or the world becomes a lot bigger and scarier than it should. spanking shouldn't be the first option on the list, but, if done right, it is an option. 3 or 4 swats on the behind after trying time out or taking away privileges is okay, even if the world says otherwise. and, honestly, if a behavior will harm your child or worse, then spanking first thing isn't out of bounds. humans learn from pain or we would keep touching a stove after we've been burned. just remember to love your child with a hug and soft words when it's all over and make sure they understand that it was the behavior that was bad, not them.
6) you are not raising your child to be you or to fulfill your dreams. let them find and follow their own dreams, don't force them into what you think would be the best career or to do what you were denied for whatever reason. do your best to nurture their individuality, but also remind them that not everyone who wants to be can be the basketball star. you want them to succeed, but you want them to eat too. and be prepared for resentment from your other children who may not understand why one of them could go out at 15 but he or she has to wait until 16 (just make sure your reason for the difference is because the kid is different, not because you're being more protective for some reason). all you can do is hope that one day they will understand why you chose differently for them.
7) in the end, you can only do your best. children are not blank slates or unformed balls of clay even at birth. i'm still learning this -- i blame myself for a lot of what's gone between me and jewel. and, yes, there is some blame on my side, but, in the end, she has her own personality and that has reshaped a lot of what i tried to teach her, just as your children's personalities will reshape what you try to teach them. and sometime, like in mine and jewel's case, you just have a chid who doesn't quite mesh with your personality. it's not their fault, it's not your fault, but you are still their mother and must love and raise them the best you can. you do the best you can do, raise them to the best of your ability, and then . . . then you have to let them go.
these things formed the foundation of how i raised you girls and your brother. i wasn't perfect, i sometimes "forgot" and did the wrong thing. i wasn't always able to be the mother i wanted to be. i'm human, there was a lot of unexpected circumstances that came up between the time i dreamed of being a mom and the time i actually became one. i did the best i could.
and now it's your turn to do the best you can. trust your heart. i know you will be an even better mama than i was.
i love you, babies.
|word of the moment: feria
(in Spanish speaking regions) a local festival or fair, usually in honor of some patron saint; a weekday on which no festival or holiday is celebrated, particularly in the roman catholic church; a surname
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