Parenting Advice I Wish People Had Actually Given Me

Birth and Coming Home 532Here’s the thing: everyone knows more about parenting than I do. Actually, I think everyone knows more about parenting than anyone else knows about parenting. Which is why there’s so much parenting advice available on the market. It runs the gamut from old wives tales to bogus “facts” (mostly gleaned from internet mommy forums) that will go out the window with the rest of them when the next parenting fad comes into vogue.

The truth is, though, there’s not a lot of advice out there that can hold it’s ground in the real world. I mean, the nitty-gritty tantrum-throwing mess-making real world that includes life with actual children. There were lots of parenting truths that I wish someone would have told me when I started this whole mommy thing a few years ago. Truths like:

1. If you have to do something real quick, like fix your hair or make a phone call, and you think to yourself, “Ah, I’ll just leave the kids out here while I take care of that. I’ll only be 5 minutes. How much trouble could they get into in 5 minutes?”…well, just banish those thoughts from your sweet little head. Because the answer to “How much trouble could they get into…” is FAR MORE TROUBLE THAN YOUR 5 MINUTES OF PEACE ARE WORTH. For instance, they may take an entire tube of blue toothpaste and smear it all over your new couch. Or they may empty all of the drawers out of your kitchen cabinet, stack them in front of the snack closet, and climb up to your candy stash. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

2. You can use a whiteboard marker to remove permanent marker from a whiteboard, and you can use rubbing alcohol to remove whiteboard marker from your walls without removing the paint. Just tuck this one away for the time when your little Picasso goes a bit overboard–it’s already saved my buns on more than one occasion.

3. No matter how kid-friendly your cooking is, no matter how cleverly you work at disguising vegetables, no matter how much love and care you put into the food you prepare–90% of it will end up on the walls or the dog. Even if it’s organic.

4. After you bear children, you will leak out of seemingly every orifice in your body. And, no, it won’t stop after your initial 6-week “postpartum period” expires. Plan accordingly

5. Kids get sick. All the dang time, kids get sick. No matter how often you wash their grimy little hands, whether you are pro-vaccines or anti-vax, if you see a pediatrician or a shaman–it doesn’t matter: your kid will get sick. Just save yourself some grief: stock up on Emergen-C and perfect your recipe for chicken soup. Also, buy one of those disgusting-yet-gratifying baby nasal aspirators.

6. The stage you are in now IS the easy stage. Things don’t magically become simpler when your child gets older and moves on to the next stage. When they can feed themselves, it gets harder (and messier). When they transition out of diapers, it gets harder (and messier). When they LEAVE YOU and spend half a day at preschool, it gets harder (and your mascara gets messier). I can’t even think about what comes next, because I know how much harder and messier it will be. The takeaway: enjoy this moment while you have it.

7. If your child has a lovey (you know, that blanket or stuffed animal or pacifier that they CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT) run out to the store (seriously: RUN. Do not wait too long or your loveys may be out of stock or, worse yet, DISCONTINUED) and buy duplicate loveys. Like, 10 or 20 duplicates might be enough. Stash them in your car, the grandparents’ houses, under your bed, in your earthquake emergency kit, your underwear drawer–whatever. Just get a ton of those things and make sure you never ever EVER lose the only lovey your child has. Just don’t.

8. Forget saving up for your kids’ college funds. Start saving up for preschool as soon as you feel your biological clock start ticking. I mean, seriously, $$fj$$kl;ajdks$$…

9. At some point, you WILL touch poop with your bare hand. When the inevitable happens: be brave, finish what has to be finished, then disinfect All The Stuff like it’s going out of business.

10. Don’t listen to other people. Listen up, now, this is important: You know your child better than anyone else in the whole world. You know them better than that doctor, better than the other moms at playgroup, better than the well-meaning granny at the grocery store, better than the mommy bloggers (but do keep reading, I’m almost done here). You are THE expert in your child. So if something feels right to you, or doesn’t feel right for you– or if something works for you, or doesn’t work for you–then do what your gut and intuition and keen knowledge tell you to do. YOU know your child better than anyone else, and that counts for a lot.

Power on, parents, power on.

XxX Allison

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Carol

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I almost skipped out on writing a post this week because I’ve been a bit too busy lately. Busy with important stuff and “important” stuff. You see, I recently discovered that our library carries every season of Downton Abbey–you can see wherein lies my time management issue. Now that I am nearly caught up to speed with the most recent Crawley drama, I thought I’d come up for air and share a quick story with you. Because you all need to know about Carol.

A couple of months ago I met Carol, and she is now one of my dearest friends in our neighborhood. Carol lives kitty-corner from us in the cul-de-sac that’s out our back door. We would often see Carol out in her yard tending to her garden while we were out riding bikes or collecting “seashells” (vacated snail shells). Carol has the kindest eyes and a warm smile. When she greets you, her whole face lights up–you can’t help but be drawn to her.

Carol brings us flowers. She shares marvelous stories with us. She even invites my wild-banshee-boys into her house to visit her tiny dog (appropriately named T-Rex) and to play Legos with her on the floor of her living room.

Carol is 90 years old.

Carol and I are friends now, but we probably would never have even spoken if it weren’t for garbage day. Every Monday afternoon we bring our garbage bins out to the street for collection on Tuesday morning at the crack-o-dawn (I only know the ungodly hour they arrive because my children only ever seem to sleep in on Tuesday mornings–garbage day– only to be abruptly awoken by the crushing sounds of the ever-operational garbage trucks outside their bedroom window).

One Monday afternoon I was dragging our bins out to the curb and across the street I noticed this old woman struggling to move her bins. David (who actually adores tedious chores like moving garbage bins) and I decided to cross the street and see if we might help in some way. She smiled at us with those twinkling eyes of hers as we rolled the bins from her garage down to the curb and I knew that we’d made her day. We offered to return the next day after the collection so we could move the bins back up to her house. Then the next week we returned again, and the next, and the next…and now we just move Carol’s bins every week. It’s a simple gesture, but it has led to so many benefits.

For starters, there’s the friendship. David and Jacob adore Miss Carol as much as I do and she’s become a sort of surrogate grandma who dotes on the boys and worries about whether or not they’re wearing weather-appropriate clothing when they’re playing outside.

I also love that the boys are right alongside me helping Miss Carol each week. They are learning that when you see a problem, you can be the answer–and it feels good. Not because they’re getting anything tangible in return for their “work”, but simply because there is joy in helping others.

Surprisingly, there is another benefit I have gleaned from helping Carol–she helps me. You don’t live 90 years on this earth and not accumulate a vault of wisdom–and Carol’s vault is bursting. Every time I talk to her, she asks how I’m doing and what is happening in my life. Then she listens. I mean, really listens, to what I have to say. After, she’ll tell me about an experience she’s had (or that her kids or grandkids or great-grandkids have had) that relates to my situation, and we talk about what worked and, more importantly, what didn’t work. She prays for me (I pray for her). She says lovely things–like the time we were picking roses in her garden and she noted, “I’m glad for thorns because they bear roses.” I’m sure Carol wouldn’t see it this way, but she helps me in more ways than I’ve ever helped her.

And, so, that is Carol. I hope that each of you can have a “Carol” in your life–someone who you set out to help and, in return, have found great help from. Someone who is genuine and kind. Someone who will bring you flowers on a Tuesday. And even if you don’t have a Carol of your own, maybe you can be a “Carol” for someone else.

Go forth and pay it forward, friend–you never know what small gesture might blossom into something beautiful!

XxX Allison

The Important Thing About My Son

There is this boy.
He’s loud and silly.
He has an incredible memory.
He is a ball of infectious energy.
He’s usually vaguely sticky and covered in dirt.
He dreams about attacking gummy bears that he fends off with nun-chucks.
He’s feisty and passionate.
He’s strong and fearless.
His name is David. He is my boy, my baby, my son.

When I look at David, this is what I see. I am his mama, and I love him deeply. He is truly unique and wonderfully made. He doesn’t fit a mold, and I kind of like that. And it kind of makes me crazy.

This year has been–how shall I put this–challenging.  Throughout the course of this year it has become apparent that David learns differently from many of his peers. A lot of what we’d always done just wasn’t working any more, and it’s been frustrating. Preschool has been difficult. Our little Bible study group has been difficult. Discipline has been difficult. Even so-much-fun T-Ball has been difficult. We have shared our concerns with his teachers and specialists. And it’s all got me doubting. Doubting every decision I’ve made in the past that has led us to this place, and questioning every decision I’ve already made for our future.

The fact is, David has been weighing heavy on my heart lately. Sometimes (most of the time) I just don’t know what to do. So I pray, and cry, and pray, and laugh, and try something new, and pray again. And you know what? Something miraculous is happening.

God is changing our hearts.

He is changing my heart to be more compassionate about the struggles David is facing. He is changing my heart to embrace the person who David is, not who I want or expect him to be. He is changing my heart to accept that I may need to give up some of my own comfort to help David succeed. He is changing my heart to be more like His.

He is changing David’s heart to be more attentive to Him. To listen. To ask questions. To pray to Him. To tell others about Him. To love Him. He is changing David’s heart to be more like His.

A couple of weeks ago we were doing a family Bible study leading up to Easter. We were talking about the significance of the cross, and David was really excited about the story. He was attentive and asking heartfelt questions, and we could tell that things were starting to click for him. At the end of our time together, Jon asked David if he would like to pray and ask Jesus to come into his heart. David said yes–and in his sweet 4-year old boy voice, he asked Jesus to be his forever friend.

In that moment, I knew that the only specialist who actually matters is the One who created him. The One who intimately knows his heart and mind and soul. The One who knows David’s past, his current struggles, and the man he will some day become. The One who knit him together in my womb, who loves him deepest, and whose beautiful thoughts about David outnumber all the grains of sand in all the earth (Psalm 139). And suddenly all of the doubts and fears and confusion I’d had melted away and were replaced by joy. 

There will be challenging days, and challenging phases and challenging seasons in this adventure called parenting. But in the scheme of things, none of the challenges really matter. No matter how difficult things might get, no matter how tightly I’m grasping the end of my rope, only one thing really has lasting significance: Who is my son in Christ? Who am I in Christ? The answers to those questions change everything. We–my son, myself, and the collective whole of humanity–have been saved by grace, and the assurance of that truth never fades.

So, yes.
My son is loud and silly.
My son has an incredible memory.
My son is a ball of infectious energy.
My son is usually vaguely sticky and covered in dirt.
My son dreams about attacking gummy bears that he fends off with nun-chucks.
My son is feisty and passionate.
My son is strong and fearless.
My son has challenges.
But the important thing about my son is that he loves Jesus.

He is my son and I am his imperfect mother, but we are both secure in our Father’s hands.

And nothing will ever change that.

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