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Recently I’ve been thinking about how much parenting has changed me over the last few years. Being a mom certainly lends itself to looking inward and learning about yourself and why you do what you do, because there’s always a little person watching. We spend so much time teaching them everything we know, but I’m finding my kiddos are teaching me just as much.
Toddlers have such a refreshing (ok, sometimes totally insane) way of looking at the world. Learning from my daughter comes by seeing things from her perspective and from recognizing the things I do differently now because of her.
Our daughter recently turned 3 years old (I’m not crying, you’re crying!), so in honor of our sweet girls birthday I put together the top 12 life lessons from our 2-year old.
Ask for what you want in life.
If my daughter wants something, she has no problem letting us know. You better believe if she wants to wear a bathing suit and eat Cheeze-Its at 6:00am, she’ll make her needs known. Sometimes we say no, but other times she gets lucky and we give in to her outlandish requests. I could take a tip from her book, because people can’t read our minds. You feel like you deserve a raise? Ask for it. You desperately need a nap? Tell your husband.
Find joy in the small things.
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It doesn’t take much for us to have THE BEST DAY EVER! Making blueberry muffins and not caring about the mess. A new set of crayons that haven’t been used yet. Listening to baby birds in the nest outside our house. These little things that are easy to overlook when we’re wrapped up in the business of life, but kids are able to find so much happiness there. It’s important for us as parents to be able to do the same, because the joy we find in life is one of the best gifts we can give our family.
If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
The diligence of a 2-year old can really be incredible. If she doesn’t immediately succeed at putting together her puzzle or learning to put the cap back on the toothpaste, she keeps trying, again and again. (I hear “I’m going to do it ALLLLL by myself” roughly 1400 times per day.) Kids have an understanding that it takes time to learn a new skill. As an adult, I’m way more tempted to quit when I don’t immediately have success, so I ought to be taking notes.
Going to bed earlier makes you a happier person.
Seriously. Parents always talk about how much happier their kids are and how much better they sleep when their bedtime is a little earlier. (And how much less, ya know, crazy they are.) I’ll get the kids to bed early, but then I stay up and scroll through social media or start a movie when I’m actually ready for bed. It’s an exhausting time of life when you have little ones. (That’s an understatement. There isn’t a word in the English language to describe how tiring it is to be a parent sometimes.) There are days when I need to let the laundry sit in the basket and get wrinkly, forget about my current Netflix show, and just go to bed.
There’s always something new to learn, and learning new things is really fun.
Kids have an understanding of how incredible the world is because everything is new to them. At some point along the way, we start to feel like we’ve learned all we need to know and it’s just not true. There is an infinite amount of things to learn about while we’re here on earth, there’s no reason to stop taking it all in! It’s hard to find time as a parent to learn new things, but I’ve found that audio books are a great way to expose yourself to new information when you’re short on time. (I use Audible..you can get a free 30-day trial here if you’ve been thinking of trying it out.) Listen while you make dinner, while you’re trying to get stuff done during nap time, while you’re in the car.. I’ve started doing this more, and it feels like a little gift I’m giving myself.
Exercise does wonders for your mood.
When our kids get enough physical activity, they’re happier, they sleep better, and they are able to focus better. For some reason, I tend to forget that the same is true for me, too. Making sure your kids a good chunk of time for movement every day is a great opportunity for you to exercise too, even if it’s just your awkward (oh, I mean awesome..?) dance moves in your living room.
It’s necessary to fall sometimes.
Obviously, I can’t stand when my kids get hurt. But I have learned that sometimes it’s completely necessary for them to pinch their fingers in the cupboard door or bonk their head underneath the table to recognize limits and self-control. It’s true for us parents, too. We’ll make parenting mistakes, learn from them, and hopefully be better for it. We’ll challenge ourselves in our career and fail sometimes, and that can open doors we hadn’t imagined.
Sometimes you NEED to cry over spilled milk.
When my kids get upset about something (especially when it seems pretty trivial to me), my first reaction is to stop the crying or whining. I’m really making an effort to let them cry it out sometimes, because stopping the crying is not for their sake, it’s for mine (because frankly I just don’t like listening to it). When I decide to let them just feel their emotions for a minute and be present with them, they come out on the other side happier and calmer, and we end up on the same team in the situation instead of me working against them. It’s a hard shift to make, but it’s made me realize that it’s ok for me to feel emotions, too. I am the type of person that is quick to shove down frustration or irritation (I’m not exactly sure where I’m shoving it down to), but it doesn’t help the situation. If I take a sec to acknowledge how I feel, I get over things much more quickly and feel a lot more present in my own life.
You don’t always get what you want, but it’s going to be ok.
You know those days.. the ones where everything seems like a complete tragedy. The days of tears and tantrums because I turned on the wrong episode of Mickey Mouse or I put her water in the blue cup instead of the green one, or served her stick shaped pretzels instead of the square ones. Even though it seemed like the end of the world at that moment, life moves on and everything turns out ok. Things that seem impossible at the moment can turn out to actually be pretty trivial in the grand scheme.
Trust your instincts.
Being a parent has made me listen to my intuition more than ever before. Having offspring that you need to care for forces you to put aside what other people think and trust your own instincts. Being more in tune with my own intuition has made me listen to my gut more in every aspect of my life..in my career, in relationships, in decisions that we make as a family.
It’s ok to ask for help.
Our daughter recognizes that there are people in her life that know things she doesn’t, and she never hesitates to ask questions and seek out help when she needs it. She doesn’t worry about whether or not her question is silly, it’s inherent to being a child that you understand the people around you have information and expertise to offer. If you don’t understand something or you’re trying to learn something new, reach out to the people in your life with more experience.
There is nothing more important than love.
I’ve learned from my kids over the last 3 years that the #1 thing they need from me is love. When I hit a place where I feel overwhelmed and I have no idea what I’m doing, I remind myself that the most important thing I can do is love these kids through whatever challenges we’re facing. When it comes down to it, that is what they want from me. My attention, my affection, my understanding, and my unconditional love for them.