Parenting Lessons by Children #2
When we embrace each stage of our life, we can be more happy. This is the second parenting lessons by children article and it has taken longer than I thought it would to write. I think the wait to get it right has been worth it and I hope you think so too.
The more children I have, the more convinced I am that children are the most adaptable, flexible and generally content creatures on the Earth.
On the other hand, I have been talking with my sister who has two little ones and I have discovered that parents are less able to embrace where they are at. Some days I go with the flow of our family life and other days I am wondering why on earth I ever thought that I could take care of one child, let alone five.
My sister is in a stage of parenting that is different than mine right now. She has a six month old and a two year old, so she is the center of their universe all the time and, like most mothers in her situation, she would like a break from having to care for their every need without a break.
We both have days that the requirements of our family bring us to tears and make us want to run away. I wish that I could embrace my stage of life as readily and as easily as my children do.
So what is the trick to enjoying the present without getting too caught up in where you want to be or where you have been?
I found a great article, “Stages of Motherhood,” written by Focus on the Family and something I noticed was how much a mother is required to change with the changes in her children. And when parents are trying to keep up with more than one child, I can see why this can be overwhelming and challenging.
For example, between 3 months and 3 years, kids go through incredible, rapid growth and just as we expect them to grow and change, we can accept the same in ourselves as we try to help them along.
Kids do endure some pain sorrow as they grow, but many times I see them with equal or more joy as they experience growth.
After observing my children in their various stages, this is what I believe can help anyone embrace where they are at right now while still knowing that growth and change is to come.
How to Embrace Each Stage of Parenting and Life
Look for the good and be content with what you have.
Smile and laugh more at situations that could otherwise just drive you crazy. Here is how laughter and smiling can help your mental health:
“Laughter stops distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
Laughter shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and diffuse conflict.
Laughter draws you closer to others, which can have a profound effect on all aspects of your mental and emotional health” (Robinson, Smith, Segal, 2020).
The same article, Laughter is the Best Medicine, by Robinson, Smith and Segal (2020) outline how to cultivate a sense of humor,
“Laugh at yourself. Share your embarrassing moments. The best way to take yourself less seriously is to talk about times when you took yourself too seriously.
Attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them. Look for the humor in a bad situation, and uncover the irony and absurdity of life. When something negative happens, try to make it a humorous anecdote that will make others laugh.
Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up. Keep a toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a funny poster in your office. Choose a computer screensaver that makes you laugh. Frame photos of you and your family or friends having fun.
Remember funny things that happen. If something amusing happens or you hear a joke or funny story you really like, write it down or tell it to someone to help you remember it.
Don’t dwell on the negative. Try to avoid negative people and don’t dwell on news stories, entertainment, or conversations that make you sad or unhappy. Many things in life are beyond your control—particularly the behavior of other people. While you might view carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders as admirable, in the long run it’s unrealistic and unhealthy.
Find your inner child. Pay attention to children and try to emulate them—after all, they are the experts on playing, taking life lightly, and laughing at ordinary things.
Deal with stress. Stress can be a major impediment to humor and laughter, so it’s important to keep your stress levels in check. One great technique to relieve stress in the moment is to draw upon a favorite memory that always makes you smile—something your kids did, for example, or something funny a friend told you.
Don’t go a day without laughing. Think of it like exercise or breakfast and make a conscious effort to find something each day that makes you laugh. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes and do something that amuses you. The more you get used to laughing each day, the less effort you’ll have to make.”
Set realistic expectations for ourselves and others
If I wake up with the expectation to conquer the world, when in reality I will likely not get the laundry done, I am terribly disappointed with my life. I tend to take it out on my family because they are the ones that take up most of my time. My unrealistic expectations set me up for frustration and disappointment.
I also can’t expect too much from my children. It is so important to understand the developmental capacity of your children so that you are not asking them to do things that are simply above their ability.
Set goals, but consider all the circumstances of your life so that you can meet those goals in time frames and ways that will help you grow without burning out completely or ruining precious relationships to meet them. Don’t try to run before you walk and remember that time is the only commodity that you cannot get more of.
Live in the present instead of the past or future
Mindfulness is something that I wish I would have learned more about earlier in my life.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.Mayo Clinic
Practicing mindfulness requires me to step away from distractions like social media to really see and feel what is right in front of me. It is easy to get caught up in other people’s lives when others put their life on display all the time. Live your life, breath in the scent of your baby, the smell of a yummy meal and hug someone you love for at least 8 seconds.
Guided meditations can be a great way to practice mindfulness. Check out this popular guided meditation. Even if you don’t have time for a 5 or 10 minute guided meditation, you can take deep breaths during stressful situations and relax into the moment instead of trying to escape.
Enjoy things for yourself and not others; remember your overall goals
Like I mentioned before, it is easy to be distracted, but when we do things for personal and meaningful reasons, we are more likely to enjoy them and to feel fulfilled when you do the things that meet personal goals and not someone else’s expectations.
Trust that each stage brings joy and learning
Joy and learning is possible every single day, not just when the kids are grown. Progress can feel painfully slow when you are a parent with small children. My world revolves around my kids and I fit in other things when I can.
Many of you have probably heard an older person tell you to enjoy your kids while they are young because they grow up fast. I have a hard time trusting them as my kids complain, cry or disobey, but as observe other stages of life, and continue to experience new stages in my own life, I am a believer that I indeed will not have small children at home forever, despite how I may feel at times.
I saw a quote recently that said, “No mother ever thought, I should have snuggled my children less. Most parents are not going to regret spending quality time with their children. There isn’t anything as valuable and lasting as the relationships that we cultivate right now.
Don’t worry about what other people think and don’t compare. Focus on family.
Some of my worst, depressing, anxiety-inducing days are those that are spent watching Instagram stories or others or wishing that I could be more like someone else than myself. I become consumed with others opinions and compare myself to the snippets of people’s lives that I encounter in social media.
My children do not concern themselves with social media and focus on being present with their siblings and surroundings. Their worth does not have anything to do with what they own, who they know or what kind of life they can portray to others. Truly, children are such a good example of focussing on the fundamental and most important parts of life.
Let us take notes on how they engage with us, others and the world so we can more fully appreciate and enjoy all beauty and joy life has to offer. There is a well-written article called Pearls Before Breakfast: Can one of the nation’s greatest musicians cut through the fog of DC rush hour? Let’s find out.
In the article the children that are with their parents are the ones that try to slow down their parents to hear the beauty of Joshua Bell’s violin concert in the subway. Some might argue that they would stop for any music, so they don’t really distinguish between good, better, best music, but the point is that they slow down and the adults are too busy to notice great music.
Let us slow down and relish the beautiful mess that is parenthood. Let’s learn from our children and enjoy every single day.
Here is another parenting lessons by children article.