This write up by Paula Davis made me think about my own kids. They are teenagers now, but her story rings true for me in so many ways. If you’re a parent, see how it makes you reflect on your own parenting style!
As my 50-year-old-self planned a birthday party for my toddler, I noticed that my to-do list was markedly different from the one I made when planning my older daughter’s same birthday all those years ago.
The cupcakes weren’t going to be fancy ones ordered from the local bakery with painstakingly detailed special instructions. And they weren’t going to be home-made ones lovingly baked and decorated by my own hands. They were going to be picked up from the grocery store the day before the party and were undoubtedly going to be decorated in unnatural colors with gobs of sugar and fat. But they were sure to have sparkle, and that’s really all I needed.
That’s the part that was important to this particular child. It wasn’t about impressing the other moms. It wasn’t about choosing the most exclusive bakery or the fanciest design. I didn’t need the oohs and aahs of the guests. I just needed to please one little girl who loves chocolate and sprinkles.
This time around, I realized that half the kids were going to take one bite and then head off to play. A few more were going to eat the frosting and leave the rest. A couple dedicated kids (like my daughter) were going to eat every bite. These kids aren’t cupcake connoisseurs. They just want a sweet treat that looks cool. The grocery store can provide that at little cost in little time.
But it’s not really about the cupcakes.
That one decision represents a lot of what I’ve discovered about being an older mom. This time around, I’m better able to distinguish what the important bits are. Holding her in my arms and singing silly birthday songs mean more to her than time spent planning a two-hour party.
What else don’t I do now as an older mom?
I don’t raise my hand for every volunteer opportunity that arises at her preschool.
I let the young eager beavers have dibs. Some of it may be for selfish reasons, but a lot of it is because I know how much it means to them at this point.
They want to be involved and help out and have opportunities to interact with the teacher and maybe even show off some of their organizational or social or managerial skills. And there is not one thing wrong with that. Schools always need volunteers and would be lost without them. I was that mom. I actually competed hard for some of those opportunities.
This time around, though, I realize that most of those volunteer positions I held (and there were a lot of them) were for me and not for my child. I now have other things that fulfill me. So I volunteer when I’m needed and happily relinquish that position when there are others at the ready.
I don’t fret about enrolling my child in every available extracurricular opportunity.
The old me, or I should say the younger me, would go into a minor panic if one of the other moms mentioned that their child was taking lessons or playing on a team or participating in some class or other.
That mom ran herself ragged toting her child to various activities on afternoons and weekends. She also wore out her kid with over-scheduling. And I was also the mom that insisted my child finish what they started, so even if things weren’t going well and neither of us was enjoying the experience, we persisted until the bitter end. Which leads me to the next change.
I no longer suffer through things that are unpleasant as a matter of principle.
If my child consistently resists an optional activity, I’m more likely to accept it now.
That doesn’t mean that I’m raising a quitter who can’t handle when things get a little rough. But she’s a toddler. If I can see that she’s not having fun at dance class and she hates going every week, is it really serving anyone for me to force her to complete the term? For whatever reason, it’s not a good fit for her right now. We can try again later. Or not. But the fact that her best friend is loving it doesn’t mean she has to, also. I move on more quickly and with less angst. Which leads me to another change.
I’m much less likely to compare my child to others.
As a Type-A personality, I used to find myself engaging in a subtle competition with other moms.
I’m not proud of this and I’m not sure I knew it at the time, but I see it more clearly now. Was my child mastering things more quickly than theirs? Did she seem smarter, more athletic, more social that theirs? Was my parenting superior to theirs? This cut both ways. Why hadn’t she mastered skipping yet? And was it bad that she still confused “b”s and “d”s? Sometimes I was “winning” and sometimes I was “losing.” Neither was true, of course. But it still caused me a lot of stress. As a wise mom once told me, “They all learn to read.” Somehow, that one sentence gave me the perspective I needed. I just wish I had embraced it from the beginning.
The biggest and best change is that I no longer judge my style or anyone else’s.
It doesn’t matter what another family is doing. I don’t need to worry about missing out or keeping up or “winning” at parenting (Spoiler Alert- there’s no such thing).
I do what works for me, my child and our family. I recognize that there are competing interests and they don’t all get equal weight, but neither do the wants of a toddler outweigh the others. Part of it is having an older child who also needs my time and attention. Part of it is being at an age where I have many things that interest me and being a mom is just one really important aspect. But the biggest part of the change is realizing that every child is different and understanding what makes this particular one tick. Trying to force her into a different box isn’t fair to her and it makes my job a lot tougher.
I listen to her more and watch her more for cues as to what she needs. I read the situations more clearly, without the lens of my own insecurities or competitiveness. I know she will hit those important milestones in her own time. My job is to support and help her as best I can. I don’t have to force it. I just have to keep buying those cheap cupcakes and holding her tight.
By: Paula Davis
Cover Photo By Deva Williamson of Big Laugh Kitchen