Ask anyone with kids and they’ll tell you, “It’s not easy being a parent.” I have yet to come across a bigger understatement.
Just as my son’s first birthday recently passed, I wanted to reflect on a few things I’ve learned as a parent over the course of my first year as a father.
1. Do what works for your family
Every parent says they won’t do this or they won’t do that when they became a parent. But let’s face it, we’ve probably all caved in more than one facet of parenting. It’s easy to say you won’t let your child use a pacifier or you and your significant other plan to nurse your child. But when the pacifier soothes the crying baby like nothing else will, or you’ve decided to feed your baby formula instead, there’s no shame in doing what works best for you and your family.
Not only are there the instances of not doing this or that as a parent, but there’s also the parenting advice from others that never seems to be prompted or warranted. Sure, go ahead, and tell me again how it is I should be raising my children. I think, not.
Every family is different, and what works for some parents and their children doesn’t work for another. The dynamic of any family is shaped by the members that make it up, and sometimes your preferences aren’t necessarily what you, your children, or your family need to succeed. Families have to adapt to the changing needs of its members to thrive.
2. Get down to their level
What I mean by this is physically getting down to the level of your kids. My son has just turned 1, and he absolutely loves when his mama bear or myself get down on our hands and knees to crawl around on the floor with him. He gets so extremely excited and starts to giggle.
We like to ‘run’ from him (on our hands and knees) into the other room, and he’ll chase us close behind. Hearing and seeing how ecstatic he becomes when we play with him on ‘his level’, really just melts my heart.
Forget letting all the toys or TV keep your kids entertained, spend time with them from their point of view. Lay on the floor, or crouch down to their height, and you’ll find the world is a different place looking up from below.
3. You’ll need patience more than ever
I’ve covered this before but no matter how much patience you think you have, you can never have enough when you’re a parent. Sometimes, it tends to run out rather quickly.
Times when you’re absolutely stressed and feel your patience waning, remind yourself to breathe and that it’s OK to get frustrated. Take a few minutes to yourself. Yes, even if baby is screaming at the top of his/her lung’s in the other room. Parenting is a no-pay, never-ending job, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a quick break to calm your nerves when you’ve all but lost it. Taking the time to step away, breathe and collect yourself will benefit, both, baby and you.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some other pretty important lessons in parenting, but these three things have helped me to enjoy parenting more than I think I would otherwise. You can only listen to so much unsolicited parenting advice, let the toys and TV do the entertaining, or reach your wit’s end so many times before you learn to throw the parenting advice out the window and do what works for your family, to get down and play with your children from their perspective of the world, and learn to step away in moments when you feel defeated.
Our family has learned a lot over the last 365 days, and we’ll keep growing and learning as the needs of our family evolve on the wild adventure that is parenting. This has only been my first year as a father, and I know I have much more to learn as a parent in the years to come.
What are some important things you’ve learned as a first time parent, or as your kids got older?