As moms I think it’s natural to stress ourselves out regularly, wondering if we’re doing all the right things for our kids. Are we teaching the right values and behaviors? Will our actions help mold them into being amazing members of society one day?
We’ve taught them how to clean up after themselves, they know when to use please and thank you, and have hopefully internalized all those lessons on how to be a good person. But as parents, it may be harder to recognize and learn from lessons our children can teach us.
Practicing mindful parenting has made me realize that as much as I am my children’s teacher, they are also mine.
Here are 6 life lessons I learned from my kids.
Quality family time does not need a fancy backdrop.
During school vacations and breaks, I try to keep the kids active by scheduling vacations, or if we have to stay home, it’s playdates and visits to museums and zoos, or trips out for ice cream.
One spring break I even planned an afternoon of zip lining and tree climbing at an adventure park my daughter had been asking to go to. The night before school was going to start back up I asked her what her favorite part of break was.
“I liked when we took a walk around the neighborhood and talked.”
What, really!? Well, that was a humbling but honest answer. I could tell it was the first thing that came into her head.
That unplanned, spontaneous event was memorable to her, most likely because she felt connected, noticed and important. Maybe it wasn’t thrilling, but maybe she doesn’t want thrilling all the time. In that moment my daughter helped teach me exactly what the word quality meant.
All parents can relate to how funny, pitiful, scary and painful it is to watch a baby learn to sit up, crawl or walk. What does it look like?
A few alligator tears, countless head bumps, falls, tumbles, bruises, scratches, and probably a few more head bumps. The amazing thing is, those little creatures get back up every time. They don’t seem to be bothered for more than 10 seconds by the fact that they fell down 7 times to get in 3 steps.
They are too busy focusing on the accomplishment of those 3 steps.
If only we could all find the good that emerged through our failures and use it to keep propelling us forward. It is incredible to realize how much babies can teach us all about perseverance and resilience.
Never underestimate the power of a small gesture.
Last year when I lost my dad, no one quite knew what to do or say, as is the case most of the time with death. Adults often approach grievers by not approaching them at all, by just “giving them some time.”
I’m not saying that is a good or bad approach, but ignoring the situation is just not how my then 6-year old daughter wanted to handle it. She simply told me that she was sad too, which told me she realized that grieving was natural.
And then, she graciously offered me her second favorite stuffed animal to sleep with for the week.
I decided to give it a try, maybe for her sake. As I cried into that little bunny for the next several nights in a row, mostly feeling anger over my loss, I also tried to remind myself of how lucky I was to have had my dad.
It also made me think of how lucky I was to have my daughter and so many others in my life. I even felt kinda lucky to have Bunny’s support at that sleepless time, too.
Who would have thought that little gesture would have actually provided me with some comfort when I thought no comfort was to be had? I imagine my little girl thought about what helps console her when she needs it and decided she’d give it a try on me.
Through a simple act she figured out how to tell me she sympathized with me and that she wanted to try and help me feel better. She also taught me that support can often come disguised in an unexpected package and that a small, kind gesture is often better than nothing at all.
Give laughter a try.
Because, really, when you think about it, belly buttons are pretty funny. Everyone actually has a button hiding under their shirts, just waiting to be discovered by a baby. And when that little thing is discovered, pushing on it is really the only option. Discovering people’s belly buttons actually never gets old. It’s pretty hilarious.
Almost. Every. Time.
I’ve learned that laughing along with the baby makes me happy, and her even happier. Yes, she’s silly and often frustrating, but belly buttons are really a great example of taking advantage of an unexpected funny.
So is laughing at the snowman from Frozen, babies doing downward dog in their cribs at 3 a.m., and maybe even projectile poop, at times. My daughters are always reminding me to laugh and teaching me that finding humor is better than being an old, tired, grump.
Slow down and take notice of the beauty all around you.
This mantra can apply to such a wide range of aspects in my life, but my 15-month old really helped me realize there are natural wonders everywhere just begging to be observed.
It seemed like overnight that she started to take notice of nature. Suddenly, every time we stepped outside it was like an adventure. She’d listen to the birds chirping and look all around to try and spot them in the trees.
When discovered, she’d point excitedly and look at me as if to say, ‘Wow, can you see that!’
She’d wave to the ants crawling beneath her feet wherever she walked. She’d say hi to the trees that swayed with the breeze, fascinated by the fact that this big structure could dance, seemingly, on its own.
Her interest really helped me to stop and take a second to appreciate overlooked parts of nature that I walk by every day, often without a second glance.
Does that Dogwood tree really look that pretty when it blooms? And this happens every year in my front yard? Is that group of tiny ants really responsible for building that humongous ant hill?
It is true that we are often in a hurry to make it to dance class or the doctor’s appointment or the birthday party on time, but interacting with my daughter and practicing mindful parenting has helped me see the wonders of the world through her little eyes.
I am doing an okay job as a mom, regardless of what’s for dinner.
There are those nights when Cheerios in a bag on the run coupled with a banana is what we are going to call dinner. It’s been established that having children makes you consistently busy, sometimes even when there is nothing going on.
But even on those nights where I find the time to prepare a delicious, organic, homemade, and well-balanced meal, guess where it ends up? That’s right – each morsel, piece by piece, is chucked over the side of the high chair.
What is even better than allowing my baby to throw her food on the floor because at least she is quiet, which means I can actually enjoy a few minutes of my meal? The fact that the second she is out of the chair she picks up each piece of the thrown food and puts it into her mouth, and I allow her to eat off the floor as I pretend to look the other way and not see her. Well, at least she’s fed!
In addition to being fed, she’s cleaned up after herself and she’s smiling! How is that not a win? My kids will most likely survive if they don’t get a protein, fruit and veggie, dairy and whole grain with every meal. No matter what they ate the night before, or where for that matter, they continue to teach me that I’m doing ok.
They’re happy eating off the floor and like giving hugs, and laughing, and just looking at bugs, and going on walks more than fancy adventure parks sometimes. Maybe I put too much pressure on myself. Maybe they understand that I will be sad sometimes and giggly other times, and it’s ok.
I’m doing ok. They’re doing ok. Maybe we are actually better than ok.