My son just turned 12 – this is the final year before I’m the parent of a teenager. If that’s not a wake-up call, I don’t know what is. Every year, on the morning of his birthday, we have a big breakfast of his choosing – usually some sort of chocolate chip-studded pancake – this year it was a little more sophisticated (apple pancakes with caramel sauce), which was completely befitting of his late-tween status. While my mom (who is the most amazing cook in the world), was whipping up the aforementioned pancakes, my husband created a birthday placemat with a picture of our son as a baby juxtaposed with a current photo. I cried. How could this little baby have grown up so fast? It happens right before your eyes and you don’t even see it. Maybe that’s a good thing, because if parents were aware of how quickly their kids grew up and away from them, they would probably hold on that much tighter. That’s the thing about being a mom or a dad, your job is to raise your children to leave you and it happens slowly from the moment they are born. Along the way, you learn a whole lot about yourself – and I can guarantee you won’t always like what you see. There are, however, moments throughout the journey, equally good and not-so-great, that have defined my role as a parent…here are my top 10.
I had a baby…now what? Oh, I thought I was so smart…so savvy…HA! At 35, with a high-flying career under my belt and 10 years of living in New York City, I thought I could handle anything – then our son came along. I thought I was prepared – after all, I had read every pregnancy book, I had friends and family with kids…it didn’t look THAT hard, and I babysat as a teenager. Yhea, I had it covered. I knew what I was doing. Then we brought our son home and I realized that I didn’t know the first thing about being a mom and I was scared out of my mind. Lesson learned: Nothing zaps you into adulthood faster than knowing that you, quite literally, had someone else’s life in your hands.
He ate pureed veg until he was almost 3 (and yes, it was from a jar). Among my other follies was trying to make my own babyfood. I boiled, chopped, and pureed all sorts of tasty combos trying to get my toddler to eat his veggies. It wasn’t until I broke down and bought a few jars of Gerber’s’ would this kid eat his greens. Ok, I could live with that. But when I tried to introduce actual vegetables he would have nothing to do with them. I was panicked – all the other babies were eating tiny broccoli florets, gnawing on carrot sticks, and chomping bits of green beans – not mine. Finally, when he was approaching his third birthday, he decided he would give up the jar. Today, he is an adventurous eater and enjoys a wide range of food including sushi, oysters, and eel. Lesson learned: Don’t force the issue – kids develop as individuals on their own timetable.
One and done. There was a moment when we considered having more children. But it wasn’t until I was taking a pregnancy test and found myself praying that it was negative did I realize that I was absolutely happy with one child. Fortunately, my husband felt the same way. Lesson Learned: The right size family is the one that feels right for you.
It’s a sensory thing. When my son started pre-school/daycare at 18 months, his teacher noticed that often he would cover his ears when the room became too loud, or walk in circles when the classroom seemed chaotic, but when she asked if he spoke at home, I panicked. Why didn’t he speak at school, he was an unmitigated chatterbox at home!? His teacher suggested that we have him evaluated for sensory processing disorder, a disorder that occurs when the nervous system doesn’t receive the right messages from the body’s sensory system (taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing, and two others vestibular/balance and proprioception/knowing your body’s “place” in the world). I was distraught – how could there be something wrong with my perfect baby? How would this affect him for the rest of his life? After two years of occupational therapy he no longer displayed symptoms. Through a variety of movement exercises, listening therapy, and other modalities the therapists were able to “re-wire” (for lack of a better term) his brain. He now thrives and shows little or no evidence of any sensory issues (he doesn’t avoid them, but he’s still not crazy about loud, over stimulating places). Lesson learned: Your child is perfectly perfect regardless of any perceived disability or issue – we all have our little quirks, embrace them as part of their essence.
Kindergarten A.K.A. The End of Babyhood – My son was so excited the day he went to Kindergarten, so ready for both the intellectual challenge of school and social interaction with an entirely new set of kids. I was a little nervous. Would he completely freak out? Would he cry? Would it be too hard? Too easy? Would he be bullied? And what about those older kids… Of course, none of that happened. Thanks to an amazing kindergarten teacher, he developed a love of school and learning, but more important, he matured in a very real way. Lesson learned: Trust in the process and let go.
It’s Official…I’m a Yeller – We’re late! Get your shoes on…Get Your Shoes On…GET YOUR SHOES ON!! That’s me. I yell when I am under stress. It’s not one of my better qualities and I’m working on it. Lesson learned: Controlled calm is overrated.
Fifth Grade Graduation – After six years in the same school, one is ready to leave…and I’m not ONLY referencing my son. I enjoyed being part of the school PTO and on various committees, but there comes a time when you are just done. I look at that June day as a graduation for both of us. Lesson learned: All good things must come to and end…and when they do, you are more than ready for it.
Not everyone is a good friend – There’s the friend that blows you off at the lunch table for someone cooler, the friend who talks behind your back on the playground, and the friend who is only nice to you so you’ll share your snack with them. These people are easy to spot if you open your eyes and trust your gut. Lesson learned: False friends come at every age – trust your intuition – it will never lead you astray.
Walking to middle school – In September, my son began walking to school with his buddies. As I watched him walk down the street, backpack tossed over one shoulder, I felt tremendous pride at his confidence and independence. He could get where he was going on his own. Lesson learned: All the little things you do every day to get your child to a place of independence will someday blossom inside them. Take pride in a job well done.
Turning 12 – I’m still sorting through this one… Lesson learned: Not all lessons are immediately observable and will come with time.