Thursday, December 22, 2016

10 things I got RIGHT as a mom

Mom2MomEd Blog: 10 things I got RIGHT as a mom
Let's face it, this whole mothering thing is HARD work! It's so easy to feel like we've made mistakes and messed up (as I wrote about HERE), but you know what?

For all the mistakes and regrets, there is so much more that we get right!

Although I never grew up wanting to be a mom--my life plan from a young age was to be a single, carefree, childless woman of the world, working in Emergency Medicine and to travel when not working--being a mom has turned out to be the BEST thing I have ever done. Truly the best. I wouldn't want to undo this aspect of my life for anything.

My son is my world.
My son is my life.
My son is simply wonderful.

It has been a a wonderful gift to be my son's parent, and I hope you feel the same about your own children. 

Here are 10 things I feel like I got RIGHT as a mom:

1.  I hugged him A LOT.
As noted in THIS post, I am committed to hugging my son with the single rule that I hold on until HE lets go. I started doing this about 15 years ago, when my son was three years old. These hugs fill us with a sense of connection, and I think the hugs fill my son with a sense of safety and belonging.

I actually still hug him a lot...even when he doesn't want me to do so.

My son may be 18 years old, but he still needs his mama and this mama still needs her son. I don't plan to stop hugging him anytime soon, and he seems to be OK with that most of the time, often coming up and giving me hugs for no real reason other than that he wants to. 

2.  I played with him a lot
After I left my son's dad and got us out of that toxic environment, I made it a point to play with my son as often as I could muster the time and energy. We might play together for only 10 minutes or a few hours, but the point wasn't how long we played together, but rather that I was fully in the moment with my son. I also made it a point that we spent that time playing whatever my son wanted to play. Some of our favorite activities together were (and, actually still are):
  • building with Legos
  • drawing
  • having a doodle war (more on that in another post)
  • kicking around a soccer ball
  • taking a nature hike or river walk
  • going for a bike ride
  • reading together (especially Read-a-palooza style--read about it HERE)
I wish I could say I played with my son every single day--one of my regrets is that I didn't--but I did the best I could and I know I played with him and gave him my undivided attention a whole lot more than some other parents I have encountered.

My son still asks me to play with him, but now it is mostly video games. 

3.  I gave him adventure
Although some of our adventures were huge (moving cross-country TWICE), others were more modest but still adventurous compared to how many of our friends live their lives. We made regular outings to the local nature areas in our town, accessing them in many different areas to have multiple different experiences, and we toured a lot of different museums, landmarks, and other places of interest too. At one point, we took to letterboxing, an activity where you follow clues to find a hidden log book in which you leave a mark (usually an inked stamp mark). Letterboxing took us all over our city! You can google letterboxing, but I'll be sure to come back to it in a future post!

4.  I made him order for himself at restaurants
When I was a kid, I hated it when my dad made me place orders for myself, ask sales clerks questions I might have, and so on. I hated having to speak up for myself--I'm not just an introvert, but I also tend to be incredibly shy. 

My son is the same way.

I started making my son order for himself and ask questions at an incredibly early age. If you can't talk to someone just to order a meal, you are going to have a really hard time getting along in the world! My son is flying alone for the first time next week, and I know he'll be able to ask for help, if he needs it, because I laid the groundwork early.   

5.  I made him write thank you notes
Do you like to be acknowledged when you do something nice for someone else? Me too. My grandparents were HUGE on thank you notes and I started writing them as soon as I could soon as I could hold a pencil and form letters. I started my son doing the same. Initially he required a lot of guidance, but now writes thank you notes entirely on his own--even for things he didn't want or doesn't like (see McKenzie's great post on teaching children about gratitude HERE).

6.  I prioritized reading and literacy over technology
As early as my son's first week of life, I began reading to him. I read everything from children's books to my college textbooks to my son. If it had words and was worth our time and energy, I read it to him. My son quickly picked up on reading himself and before long we were reading together. You can read a lot more about our reading experiences and tips and tricks to build a family of readers HERE.

Although my son had access to computers and technology at a young age, I made sure we read books every night at bedtime, had books all over the house (even in the bathroom) and in the car, and so on. We still both frequently take books with us when we leave the house. In fact, my son is traveling to New York City next week and every time we travel more than an hour from home, I buy a new book for each of us or check books out from the library.

Additionally, at my house if you claim to be bored, I am likely to hand you a pile of guess what???


7.  Although I let him watch television from an early age, I implemented limits
As noted above, my son had access to technology early on. This included television. However, I did place limits on his television viewing. This included such things as no television during meals or snacks, limiting content that I deemed to mature, and strictly limiting violent content. Whenever possible, I encouraged reading instead of viewing. I believe this eventually helped my son to make better informed decisions about what was worth watching.

In fact, although I started talking to my son about ratings and such regarding video games, the practice of monitoring his television and movie viewing had a large part in his development of critical thinking skills, particularly in regard to media messages such as in commercials and other forms of advertising. Given the recent abundance of "false news" on Facebook and other social media, these early precautions have proven invaluable. Read more about teaching critical thinking with regard to media HERE.

8.  I was honest (but age appropriate) when he had questions about s-e-x.
At some point, all kids become curious about where they came from. That, of course, leads into conversations about sex... And, even if your kids don't necessarily have questions specifically about sex, they will hear about it at some point from their peers or from television or movies or the internet.

Your kids WILL be exposed to sex before they are ready...

Think about it--when was the last time you watched prime time television and didn't hear at least a vague reference to sex, if not an all out explicit mention or discussion about it? Commercials and advertising are filled with sexual content.

While you don't have to give your children the whole scoop on sex until they are older, it can be beneficial to make sure they understand some basics from a young age. In particular, they should know the basics of how their own body works and that mommies and daddies have different body parts.

My son's dad did a terrible job of talking to our son and gave him all kinds of misinformation. Thankfully, my son was savvy enough to figure that out and one day said to me, "Mom, I think daddy told me some things wrong about sex. Can you tell me the right stuff?"

A great way to start off any such conversation is to ask your child what they already know or think and go from there. I did just that and asked my son what his dad had told him. We went piece by piece through what his dad had said, and we talked about each item and the truth about each. I then went just a step further.

I believe in telling your child as much as they are comfortable with and then just a tiny bit more. You don't want to gross out or disgust your child, but you do want to make sure they are properly informed and not relying on media or friends for information.

And, above all, make sure your child has information to help keep him or herself safe when it comes to stranger danger, improper touching, and using protection if and/or when they have sex (hopefully not until they are 40 years old, right???). I also believe in talking to kids about the realities of sex and how it is a responsibility to be taken seriously--Personally, I told my son, "If you aren't ready to have and take care of a child on your own, you aren't ready to be having sex."

9.  I was OK with saying NO (a lot).
If you want to raise a spoiled brat that believes the world owes them everything and they shouldn't have to work or be responsible, that is your choice. However, I wanted to ensure that my son was able to be a responsible, functioning member of society, capable of taking care of himself. I believe saying NO plays a big role in that!

Your kids don't need every single toy they want. They don't need every cereal in the row at the grocery store. They don't need to go to every single movie, have every single video game, or to stay up late.

It's OK to say NO. And, to say NO a lot.

Your children rely on you to enforce limits and boundaries. It is part of how they form their views of the world and their place in it. Saying no to your child also helps them learn to deal with rejection which they will have a lot of when they get old--rejection from playmates, from love interests, from jobs, and so much more.

If you don't say no often enough, your children will turn out to be spoiled brats. 

10.  I got us OUT of an abusive situation.
The absolute most important thing I got right as a mom was to leave an abusive situation. My son's dad was, unfortunately, an abusive person. He was primarily verbally, mentally, and emotionally abusive, but he also had started to physical lash out at my son in the couple of months before I left. Thankfully, my son doesn't remember a lot of that and I got us out before the damage and abuse were worse. 

I am sure there are other things I got right as a mom, and many more that I will get right in the future. There are probably a whole lot of mistakes that I've made beyond the ones in THIS post, but overall, I think I'm doing a pretty good job as a parent.

What about you? What are you doing right as a parent? What advice would you give to other moms and dads or parents-to-be on how to do a good job of raising their children? Post a comment and let us know!
Want to ramp up your parenting mojo? If nothing else, read THIS book! I read it when my son was three years old, and it changed everything about our relationship:
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