My parents will be the first to tell you that motherhood did not come easily to me. I have awesome parents, and they’ve raised six children and fostered so many that I’ve lost count. Yet, when I became a mom, I thought I knew better than they did and wouldn’t really listen to their advice.
Except for when my mom stayed the night with me in the hospital after my oldest son, Caleb, was born. My giant husband couldn’t fit on the tiny couch, so my mom graciously stayed with me. After about the third hour of Caleb’s incessant crying, she suggested that I send him to the hospital nursery where sweet nurses, who hadn’t endured fifteen hours of labor and a C-section the day before, were more than willing to care for him.
“The birth class instructor said the nursery is available but isn’t suggested for moms who want to bond with their babies,” I told her. I cringe now to think that’s what I was told and am even more horrified that I believed it.
My mom wisely replied, “Once you leave the hospital, you will have a lot of nights alone with your baby. I would take advantage of the help while it lasts.”
So I did. Oh my gosh, am I glad I did. With each of my four children, I sent them to the nursery every night I was in the hospital, only seeing them when they needed to eat. By the time I got to kid #4, I sent him there for the entire night, where the nurses gave him bottles of formula and brought him back in the morning. With three kids awaiting my arrival at home, I needed all the rest I could get to recover from my C-section.
No one stole my babies as I feared they would. I’ve definitely had many nights alone with them where I could only dream of a sweet nurse’s help.
My mom was right.
A smart woman would have realized that she had a lot more experience than me and her advice would be very helpful, but apparently, I like to learn lessons the hard way.
After all, they had raised children in the dark ages (DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IT IS NOW???), and I had read THE BOOKS. My childhood was the best, so it makes it even more weird that I didn’t listen to my parents.
Nonetheless, I didn’t.
Having spent a lot of time trying stuff that didn’t work and finally landing on what does work for my family, my parenting style doesn’t look much different than the way I was raised. Shocker.
On a recent trip with my parents, with this book on my mind, I was talking with them about raising kids.
My dad said, “We weren’t the best parents, but we sure had a lot of fun.”
Contrary to this story, he actually was the BEST dad.
These words resonated with me because they also describe my family. I can barely get my kids fed, much less make their food into works of art. I yell too much. I forget to brush their teeth. I don’t make them eat their vegetables. I over coddle them. They watch too much TV. Eat too much sugar. I am definitely not the best mom.
We sure have a lot of fun, though.
We laugh every day. We dance. We take mistakes lightly. We forgive quickly. We play outside more than we do school work. We make cupcakes on a Tuesday just because. We sing together and dream together.
If you had a difficult childhood, then it may be hard to believe this because the bad memories are raw and memorable, but having had a good childhood, I can honestly say that I really only remember the good.
I remember movies nights with Coke and popcorn.
I remember dancing (terribly) with my sister.
I remember sushi nights and morning runs with my dad.
I remember my mom redoing my hair five times to “get all the lumps out”.
I remember playing Run Down (a game we invented) with my older brother and cousin.
I remember playing in the sprinkler, in our playhouse, and in our barn.
I remember driving with my little brother while listening to Lil Troy.
I don’t remember my parents losing their minds, though I am sure they did.
I don’t remember being forced to eat broccoli, but I eat it now.
I don’t remember if I was good at sports, but I remember seeing my parents at every game.
I don’t remember if my mom breastfed or bottle-fed me, because, honestly, it doesn’t matter.
Organic food didn’t exist, and fast food was king.
I don’t remember my parents reading to me, but I slept in their bed when I was scared.
I remember sitting on the bench for an entire softball game in third grade, feeling devastated, but laughing with my mom by the time we got to the car.
My dad never cared about my grades, but he helped me write the most fantastic papers. Technically, he wrote them *for* me. No need for semantics.
My mom never threw a Pinterest-worthy birthday party, but she invited every single person in my grade so no one felt left out.
My dad wasn’t necessarily a strict disciplinarian, unless I crossed my mom, but he played the best practical jokes.
You don’t have to do everything right to be a really good mom. You don’t even have to do that much right. Raising kids is so much more than right and wrong. Parenting has changed a lot since I was a kid, but I can’t say that it’s always been for the better. My parents weren’t obsessed with every little detail being perfect, but they came through in the ways that mattered most. That’s all I actually remember.
They loved me unconditionally.
They met my basic survival needs.
They created a home where I felt safe. I could make mistakes. Failure wasn’t punished.
They let me be little. I wrote on the walls. I broke valuable items.
They taught me to be confident.
They encouraged me to dream big and to never say no to an adventure.
They taught me to take life as it comes and not to worry about what might happen.
They turned the lemons of life into delicious lemonade.
And they bought me Doc Martens when my unfortunate seventh grade self wanted desperately to fit in.
According to the perfectionistic standards of today, maybe my parents weren’t the best ever. I mean, my dad taught us how to lower each other down our laundry chute from three stories high using a bed sheet. I think he could be arrested for that these days.
We definitely had the most fun, though, and we still enjoy that relationship today. The dad who took the time to help me write amazing papers in middle school inspired this chapter.
In my most favorite words of the late Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
In today’s parenting language: “I’ve learned that your kids will forget when you yelled, they will forget the details of their birthday party, but they will never forget when they blew it and you loved them anyway.”
We’ve already established that I won’t be winning any parenting awards. I can say, though, as an adult who finally started listening to my parents, my kids will definitely say, “We sure had fun!”
This is an excerpt from my book I wrote a hundred years ago. Cupcakes on a Tuesday is FREE for a limited time, if you’d like to read more about my average parenting. Doesn’t that promise entice you? I am nothing if not great at promoting myself.
I took a nearly two year hiatus from writing. Around the last time I published a blog, my already wild family was surprised with baby #5. My precious Ellie was born in November of 2017. Between my terrible pregnancy, Ellie’s very early arrival (she was born at 32 weeks), parenting FIVE CHILDREN, homeschooling, working from home, and losing my amazing dad…my brain had nothing left to give.
I am hopeful that life will give me a bit of a break from the overwhelming stressors of the last few years, which I am hopeful will include dusting off this ole writing space.
Until then, you can enjoy some of the highlights from when I used to write:
This made the front page of the Huffington Post. Internet trolls came HARD for me and suggested I divorce my husband since our marriage was obviously in shambles. Raising five children doesn’t exactly look great on a Tinder profile, so I think I will keep him around.
Sometimes I forget that the internet is forever.
This is my most popular post to date. Since its original publication, I now have some tweens and a toddler with some more kids sprinkled in…more than ever, I needed to be reminded of this.
This is my most important post to date. Since its original publication, I have spent a lot of time listening. I haven’t written much on the topic because I feel like I have way more to learn than wisdom to give, and I am thankful for the voices who have taught me so much.
Tbh, I just signed up for 18 more years of parenting. So I am feeling a little less emo about the whole thing, but perhaps you need a good cry today. And I am happy to oblige.