20 Lessons from 20 Years of Mothering

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Woman Reflects as Time Passes
Photo by Kaylah Otto on Unsplash

My teeny, tiny first-born boy recently turned 20. High-fives all around, mamas. I kept him alive for 20 years. And I’ve learned a lot along the way. Here are some lessons from these last two decades.

  1. Babies cry. Sometimes a lot. I wish I had figured out sooner to adjust my frenzied short-term goal from making the crying stop to considering the bigger picture of bonding that comes from responding to the crying, even if it doesn’t stop. Or even if you end up joining the wailing.
  2. Projectile reflux is no joke. Here’s to all the other moms who have to pack extra outfits for themselves and baby, along with countless burp cloths and beach towels.
  3. Trust your gut. Even your first-time, rookie-mama self. If your pediatrician blows you off and you feel shamed, consider building a new team where you are heard and affirmed.
  4. Write down all the hilarious things your child says. And that you say to your child. Someday you might forget how he said “maz-a-gine” or that you once said, “DID YOU PEE ON YOUR BROTHER?” Call it your “I need a laugh” journal.
  5. Keep in mind these tiny little humans will someday be teenagers with strong opinions on how much of their life stories have been stored on a permanent digital footprint.
  6. Let them wear the shorts inside out, the rubber boots with everything, or the superhero costume. Even out in public. Applaud independence and individuality.
  7. Duct tape can fix nearly everything. Including a toddler who likes to take off a dirty diaper during the night.
  8. Say it with me. They WILL NOT be going to college with the pacifier, with the lovey, or without being potty-trained. This too shall pass.
  9. Don’t get too bogged down if your child doesn’t “measure up” to the expectations of others within a prescribed timeframe. My delayed proficient reader is now attending college with an academic scholarship.
  10. Be intentional. Dream with your spouse about what kind of childhood you want your child to have. Then, make firm choices along the way toward those goals.
  11. Who cares about the Joneses? See #10. Be okay with swimming against the tide. Parenting and cultural trends shift, so don’t be so quick to feel you need to go along with it all.
  12. Celebrate the tiny wins. I mean, THE TINY WINS. When your child sleeps that extra hour or when you made it through a difficult mommy day. How about when your kid turns 20 and, for the love of all things parenting, you kept him alive!
  13. Write down the tiny wins in your “I need a laugh” journal. Read this journal on every hard day when you wonder why you ever thought you could do this.
  14. No matter how much you want to punch the sweet older lady who says, “Oh, enjoy these days,” while your child pitches a fit in the middle of Target – I promise. You will one day BE that older lady, and you won’t even be able to help yourself as this dreaded phrase passes your lips.
  15. Repeat after me (this is a phrase you can use from kindergarten through college): “I already did this grade. Now it’s your turn!” Then let your child do his or her own work, pass or fail, fall or fly.
  16. Some of the hardest things your child experiences can become an opportunity to teach an unforgettable life lesson. Like eating Oreos at midnight while you help your child process a trauma. You are teaching him that he can talk to you and that you have confidence he can cope with hard things.
  17. Middle school. Oh vey. Go with God. Bite your tongue. You’ll get through it. And so will they. Remember, their middle school selves are NOT their permanent selves.
  18. I thought Granny was crazy, but turns out she was 1,000 percent right. The older you and your child are, the faster time passes.
  19. NEVER, EVER, EVER use the word “just” when it comes to describing yourself as a mom.
  20. I’m borrowing the words of my friend Kelli because they cover so very much of the mothering journey; THROW GRACE ON YOURSELF LIKE CONFETTI.
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Heather has called the Fort Worth area home since 1995, after growing up as an Army brat and preacher's kid. She's married to her college sweetheart, Chris (Sic' Em Bears!). They're parents to three - Collin (1999), Cooper (2001), and Caris (2004), and they're gaining daughter, Elizabeth, after Collin's August 2022 wedding. Heather is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit organization, The Adoptee Collective, which offers lifetime adoptee support and post adoption resources, as well as pre-adoption education. Heather has authored and published multiple books, finding joy in using her gifts, time, and energy toward her life goal to finish empty.

2 COMMENTS

  1. “Don’t get too bogged down if your child doesn’t “measure up” to the expectations of others within a prescribed timeframe. My delayed proficient reader is now attending college with an academic scholarship.”

    “ No matter how much you want to punch the sweet older lady who says, “Oh, enjoy these days,” while your child pitches a fit in the middle of Target – I promise. You will one day BE that older lady, and you won’t even be able to help yourself as this dreaded phrase passes your lips.“

    Relatable and “Thank You” for this !

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