Do you ever think about the mothering tasks you might do differently if you had it to do over again? Maybe, us moms are awful hard on ourselves at times; and maybe the things you might consider doing differently aren’t what you think.
We rarely get a second chance.
But I suppose in a way, that’s how it worked out for me.
Because it happened that I raised our first five children while in my 30’s.
Then the last three in my 40’s.
And those ten years made a surprisingly big difference in my perspective.
I’m not sure when it dawned on me – that dramatic change in my parenting approach – but I think it first came to light at a small birthday party we attended.
There I was chatting with a friend when I spotted our youngest boy tottering off a high bar stool – along with his fruit punch and gooey chocolate cupcake- and watched as he went tumbling down toward the tile floor.
I caught the entire dramatic event out of the corner of my eye and, without hardly thinking, reached out with an Elastigirl stretch and grabbed the little guy before he hit the ground.
The punch and cupcake splattered everywhere – spread out over our hostess’ spotless floor – but our son was safe. My next move was to snatch a nearby wet rag and wipe up most of the mess. All of this in about two minutes or less.
And so I resumed the conversation with my friend. Picking up right where we left off.
But my friend wasn’t as ready to continue. Still seemingly in shock over what just occurred – or maybe what almost occurred.
She stared and me and then finally found the words. “My! You must be an incredibly relaxed parent!”
I nearly blew my coffee out of my nose.
Relaxed? No, not hardly. Maybe not at all.
That would have been one of the last words used to describe my parenting style. Anxious. Uptight. High-strung. That’s more like it.
Or at least how it used to be.
And that was the moment I realized that something must have changed. Some significant turning point somewhere between that first child and then that last little one.
What a relief.
What had happened was an accident. Embarrassing and messy, to be sure—like a lot of parenting moments.
But I guess I’d finally come to accept it.
Maybe even embrace it.
And the result? I was a happier, more peace-filled mom.
And even better yet – our kids were happier, peace-filled kids.
That’s what got me thinking. All those things I’ve learned over the years? They really helped me when raising the younger crew.
And if it helped me?
Then it might very well help you too.
So if you’re ready for some candid, tried-and-failed, along with some tried-and-true parenting advice?
Then here it is – with love straight from me to you.
If I Had Mothering to Do All Over Again
I’d make hugging my main parenting technique.
Now I hug my kids all the time. When they wake up and when they go to bed. And countless times in between. I cuddle my young boys and hug our older kids too. Even our oldest son – now grown and gone – tells me that it’s my hugs that he probably misses most. Don’t underestimate the power of a hug in your child’s life.
Do less talking and more listening.
I just remember lecturing our older kids a lot. Telling them this and informing them of that. Not sure why I didn’t stop and simply listen more. Your children will carry your listening heart with them far past your talking words ever will.
Emphasize character over performance.
Make sure your kids know that it’s their character that matters in life. Their honesty, their kindness, their work ethic is FAR more important than good grades, a winning team, or just about anything else I can think of.
A good laugh is essential to a good parent.
I mean it. It doesn’t matter how sober or stressed of a person you are, learn to laugh with your kids. Chuckle at their jokes, get a kick out of their antics, and smile at the goofy moments. I took myself way too seriously those first few parenting years, but now I laugh—at both them and myself!
Learn to say I’m sorry.
Apologizing is a big part of parenting. I’m not saying that you should apologize for being the parent (please don’t!), but don’t be shy about owning up to your mistakes. Snapped at your kids? Tell them you’re sorry for losing your temper. Said something unkind – either to them or about someone else? Apologize for your meanness. And ask forgiveness where appropriate. Remember your kids are learning from you – whether you intended it or not. Walk in humility; it’s a beautiful example for them to follow.
Hurry less and linger more.
Please stop rushing around. There can’t be anything so important that you’d want to miss out on enjoying life for it! If you’ve got your kids signed up for 5 things, then cancel at least 3 of them. If you only have 15 minutes between activities, then get rid of something so that you have an hour. Maybe two. Make lingering your new goal. And when other parents ask you what your kids are up to? Smile real big and tell them, “Oh, mostly we linger.” They’ll probably be jealous. 🙂
Make fewer rules and stick to the ones you make.
We had a ridiculous amount of “rules” for our older kids. All the things they could, and couldn’t do. But we significantly simplified with the younger set. Decide on what is moral and priority for your family, and ditch as many of the other little rules as possible. Then ride hard on those non-negotiables. They’ll thank you someday that you did.
Don’t be so hard on yourself.
I can’t even begin to tell you all the mistakes I’ve made as a mother. I’ve literally wept in my bed over the things I wish I’d done differently. I’ve begged forgiveness from our older kids and their grace toward me was phenomenal. Their response was to smile and hug me back. It was either “I don’t even remember that, Mom!” or “We knew you didn’t mean it.” or “You were a good mom. You shouldn’t worry so much!” And I’m guessing your kids will say the same someday.
So I don’t know if you have a child who is tottering up on a high bar stool right now – either literally or figuratively – but let me encourage you. You don’t need to worry quite so much.
Mostly your kids need your love, your time, and a firm, but not rigid, line.
And your arms stretched out far- like only a mother can – to catch them if they start to fall.
See? You’re already doing a great job!
In His grace,
Lisa is the happily-ever-after wife of Matt Jacobson and together they enjoy raising and home-educating their 8 children in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She encourages women to embrace the rich life of loving relationships and the high calling of being a wife and mother. Lisa is the author of 100 Ways to Love Your Husband and her husband is the author of 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. Matt and Lisa are also the co-hosts of the FAITHFUL LIFE podcast where they talk about what it means to be a biblical Christian in marriage, parenting, church, and culture.