Saturday, December 13, 2014

Reflections on a Decade of Parenting

So I know it's such a cliché, but truly, in the blink of an eye, my baby went from this ---

to this....

Ray is 10. The big 1-0. A decade old. Halfway to 20.
How did this happen?
Many of the days have been really long, but the years have been so very short.

There are a million wonderful things I could say about this boy for whom we longed and prayed. God gifted us with the privilege of raising a smart, intelligent, funny, quirky, sensitive guy. Ray loves figuring out how things work and dreaming up ways of making things work better. He's very musical. He's always been particularly fascinated with vehicles, mostly trains, but more recently remote - controlled helicopters.  He's a natural swimmer, with a body built like Michael Phelpps. He's a critical thinker. He can be oh so serious like his dad, but also just plain silly like me. I love talking with Ray about all the things he thinks about and hearing his developing opinions about the way the world should work. He thinks he's a real big guy now, talking with a deeper voice and replying, "Whatev's" to my questions and requests. I love being his mom and watching him grow into his own special person.

But what about those two "youngish" love-struck parents in the picture with the giant 10 lb. 11oz. baby? Jon and I have been parents for a decade! What would I say to those parents (us) if I could go back in time? I'd tell them,

"You're gonna mess some things up. Face it. Deal with it. There are no perfect parents. But you love him fiercely and you will be great parents. Just love him. Accept him for who he is and help him grow and learn new things everyday."

"He's not going to be 'that kid' who is a notorious terror. Well, sometimes he might be. But all kids are 'that kid' in some situation or category. He's ok. You're ok."

"He WILL learn to go in the potty. He will not go to Kindergarten in a diaper.... Actually, he won't even go to Kindergarten except in your living room, but you're not ready to deal with that whole homeschool decision just yet. Just trust me. He will eventually be potty trained."

"Yes, you will sleep through the night again someday, but not for several years. And, no, he won't ever learn to sleep past seven o'clock. Fortunately, he will learn to entertain himself and not wake you up at 5:00am anymore."

"Remember how your fretted about the wallpaper in the nursery and how you re-arranged all his clothes and stuffed animals and other 'stuff' while you waited for him to be born?  Well, that was a big waste of time. None of that mattered. If you could see his room today you would laugh and maybe cry a little. You should have used all that time and energy to sleep and be lazy and do civilized, grown-up things."

"Don't abandon all your own interests, friends, and especially couple time in order to cater to this kid's every sniffle, wish, or breath. Take care of yourselves physically and emotionally. It will make you better parents and better, healthier people. It will make him (and his brother who's coming along in a shockingly short period of time) a better and healthier person too. Seriously. Love him. Make sure he's safe and loved and cared for at all times. But he will not suffer or die if he's not held every moment or if he's left with a baby sitter for some short periods of time."

"Don't buy ANY toys or clothes for this child. Seriously, they will miraculously multiply and overtake your house. Family members and friends will lovingly bestow these things upon you. And he will want to wear the same outfit and play with a box anyway."

"Kiss him and hug him and read to him a lot. A LOT. Before you know it he won't want these things from you. And you will miss that closeness."

"Read the parenting and discipline books if you must, but it's more important that you communicate with one another about how you want to parent and why. And that you support one another and back each other up in these efforts."

"Challenge this child. Help him to do things for himself when he can. But also give him the warm cuddles and encouragement to help him feel secure. This is a tough balance that you will spend years trying to master. But keep at it. Don't be afraid to give him chores and teach him to contribute to the family routines."

"Take him to Mass as often as possible. Pray with and for him and for others. He's not too young."

"Don't compare him or yourselves with other kids and parents. This is so hard and you'll fall into this trap lots and lots of times. But don't do it."

"Don't let him watch television much at all. In fact, let him be bored. It's good for him."

"You don't need to (and can't) do EVERYTHING with and for him. Relax more. You don't have to go to every story time, parade, activity, museum, etc. Enjoy unstructured time."

"He's going to lose his front teeth when he's only four. Yeah, weird. Traumatic. It will be ok. But he's going to need braces and that's going to cost  A LOT. Start saving up now."

"Ten years from now you'll love him even more than you do today. You'll have learned as much from him as he will from you. You'll both grow and change and learn a lot. It's hard and wonderful and you wouldn't change any of it. Except for slowing it down a bit and savoring it more. Don't sweat the small stuff."

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