Five Parenting Lessons From My Five-Year-Old

It is true that the years pass quickly. Suddenly, I am the mother of an outspoken, creative, strong-willed little human being. Five years ago, little Boo made me Mommy. It has been quite the journey getting here. The journey has included a lot more grief than I ever could’ve imagined, but here we are, navigating the path together, and finding our way through this journey as a family.

As a parent, I have always thought about the many lessons that I want to pass on to my daughter. All the disappointments I have faced, I want to spare her from. The tears that I have shed are the ones I want to save from falling down her warm, round cheeks. However, she’s her own person, my little baby who blasted into this world, taking only six hours from the first contraction to being in my arms.

Here are five parenting lessons I learned from my five-year-old:

Forgive Myself
The mommy guilt is real. I should’ve done this or that better. I should’ve played with her longer. I should’ve used kinder words or a gentler tone. I should’ve had more patience. After she has fallen asleep each day, I can’t help but watch her, in her stillness and quietness, and replay our day and the things I should have done to be a better mom to her. It’s the moment I feel I finally exhale from the marathon of a day we’ve had. I sit and try my best to exhale the guilt because I know she has already forgiven me for each mistake, for the sharp tones, for the minutes of play cut short, for saying no to that fourth piece of chocolate. As she lays with her hair softly fallen on her face, arm around her security item, and breath drifting towards a snore, I know she has already forgiven my shortcomings, and it’s time I do too.

Accept Every Hug and Kiss Request
Boo had some big struggles with separation this past year. Mentally, I completely understand that the changes of a new sibling and my return to work could definitely cause this. While living in the moment, there were days I was in tears because I had no personal space. She struggled to let me shower, following me into the bathroom. Every day she would sit herself on the bathroom stool and wait for me while I was in the shower. Sometimes she cried, other times she played. “Mom, Mom! I just want to give you a kiss” as she threw her arms around me and gripped me around the neck. Her anxieties lessened and my hug and kiss progressed out of the bathroom, then to no hug and kiss at all. I didn’t realize how much I would miss her ritual until it was gone. As annoyed as I was the days it took me 10 minutes to get out of the house because of all the clinging, and hugging, and kissing, I’ve learned to make the time because once they’re gone, they’re really gone.

Plan the Event, Not the Outcome
This is something I actually learned in my postpartum support group, but I think it is definitely applicable. There were many days we had plans to make multiple stops while we were out, but little humans have their own agendas. My husband and I now plan our trips with the most important stop first. From there, if we get to the other stops great, if not, we pray for patience as we drive home with screaming kids. We’ve also taken the pressure off ourselves for attending events. It has been a learning curve of which events to attend, taking into consideration Boo’s anxieties, and our own. Sometimes we may only stay at a gathering for an hour before everyone has reached their limit. Learning that it’s ok to leave early has been hard, but attending to the mental health of each family member is important.

Play Builds Attachment
As an ECE I could ramble on about the importance of child-led-play for hours and how to enter this space with your child. As a mom, I was tasked with this from one of Boo’s doctors and it has been quite the experience being on this side. Can you believe that I found it hard to play with my own child? I didn’t have the patience on many days, but when I saw the difference it made for Boo, I knew I had to make one-on-one play a priority with her. Ten minutes of play with her in the morning allowed me to leave for work with no struggles. Thirty minutes of cuddles doesn’t fill her up the way play does. I continue to struggle with this one, but I’ve seen her anxiety fade through our moments of play. Also, I’m trying to let her boss me around more during play, still working on this one too.

Stop Looking at the Clock
I think most moms are wired to get as much done as possible. We are multi-taskers and are constantly racing against the clock. I am constantly calculating how many minutes until the next thing has to be done. We live in a go, go, go society. Many days I was replying to texts or emails while I was tucking Boo in and she fell asleep without my final kisses, hugs, or stories. (Major mama guilt.) So I try my best to avoid looking at the clock when I can. Living in moments is much more rewarding, but so very difficult for me. There are never enough minutes to complete daily tasks, but there are always enough moments to cherish with little ones.

Mommy-ing has been hard this year! I’ve learned some difficult lessons, and my five-year-old continues to be a great teacher. She loves to surprise me with her creative play. “Mom, close your eyes, I’ll guide you” as she leads me to her creation. I trust that I won’t trip over all the toys the baby left on the floor, the unfolded laundry, or the many pieces of lego. I let her lead me, guide me, and continue keep my eyes closed and live in the moment with her. I know when my eyes open, another five years will fly by, and I’m terrified to discover what a tween has to teach me. (All the wide-eyed, jaw-dropping emojis.)

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