Family

10 lessons from 10 years of parenting

What this parenting editor has learned after a decade of being a mom.

10 lessons from 10 years of parenting

A decade ago I gave birth to my daughter, Chloe. Now I view my life pretty much as BC (Before Chloe) and AC (After Chloe). BC was full of travel, nights out and a lot more time spent on my hair, but it was nothing compared to the richness of life AC. Parenting has both thrilled and confounded me, and it still does. But time has given me the perspective to realize that along the way, I have figured out a few things.

There will never be enough time to do it all, ever. Read with your kids every day. Eat healthy family dinners. Be active together. You’re making every moment a teachable one, aren’t you? For the modern family, there are more supposed-tos than a day can possibly hold, yet we feel guilty for not fitting them all in. Choose sleep as the #1 to-do, which increases the probability of accomplishing all of the above, and then do your best on the rest until someone figures out a way to bend the space-time continuum to create a 27-hour day.

Kids never forget. That time I OK’d a snack right before dinner in November 2013? It has kept hope alive for my son, Julian, who continues with this 6 p.m.-ish request daily, despite minuscule odds of success. For me, consistency is the crucial struggle of parenting, because sometimes I am weak, and kids are elephants.

But kids do forgive. I have totally lost it on them, more than once. They still give me cuddles. I apologize and I try to forgive myself, too, because my kids seem to remember the good more than the bad. And how else do you keep going and do better tomorrow?

You’re two weeks away from getting it right When I’ve hit a parenting wall, I’ve found that with united, consistent effort, it only takes a couple of weeks or so to change an annoying behaviour, whether it’s giving up the binky or getting screen time under control. I can withstand a lot of whining if I know it has a two-week shelf life.

A different parenting decision than the one you made isn’t judgement. Just because I breast-fed doesn’t mean I think you, uh, suck if you didn’t. There are a lot of right ways to parent. And if I’m threatened by your choice, that probably says a lot more about me than you.

If they hate you, you’re probably doing something right. We all practise path-of-least-resistance parenting sometimes. However, I think placing limits on your kids is one of the hardest, but most important, ways you love them. Sometimes I get a perverse thrill out of my kids thinking I am the meanest mom ever, because it usually means I played the heavy with consequences, which is what kids need to learn.

We all need help. Did you hear about the parenting editor who attended parenting classes? I’m not ashamed to say they helped. Counselling can also get you out of a discipline rut. Not everything about parenting is instinctual and there’s nothing wrong with seeking out help.

It’s OK to claim something for yourself. I would walk through fire for my kids, but I reserve the right to have things in my life that are my own, whether it’s my career or just the privacy to pee alone. Sure, your kids are the centre of your universe, but you don’t want them thinking they are the centre of the entire universe.

Potty humour kills. BC, I was totally repulsed by fart jokes. But now I see their power to bring us all together. Seriously, the key to world peace might involve more discussion of butts.

We’re all just making it up as we go along. I read studies and talk to experts daily, but in the end, there are still moments where I feel like I’m playing the part of Responsible Parent Person. Don’t tell the kids, OK?