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Surviving Parenthood: 50 Lessons from the Trenches

written by Christa Melnyk Hines

Fourteen years have melted away since motherhood planted itself firmly into my heart, wrapped its tendrils around my soul and lovingly commandeered my life. While I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned in such a short space of time, raising two boys to develop into responsible, generous, and kind young men is a daily work in progress. Nonetheless, here are a few golden lessons I can chalk up so far…

  1. When feeling mired in sick days, unappreciated and bone-tired, remember that tomorrow is a new day.
  2. The ring of dirt left around the bathtub after evening baths is a tell-tale sign that your child had a top-ten day. 
  3. Every mom needs a “been-there, done-that” seasoned mom in her life to help put parenthood into perspective, calm anxieties or provide resources.
  4. Keep a quotes journal for the funny, sweet and poignant things your child says. 
  5. The $100 interactive dinosaur exhibit isn’t nearly as fun as the free model train exhibit. 
  6. When your child presents you with a handful of sweaty, wilting dandelions, they become your favorite flowers.
  7. It’s okay if your son doesn’t like sports.
  8. Kids will forget their backpack, socks and a coat, but they’ll never forget a promise you regret making three days and 21 hours ago.
  9. Hugs make everything better. The run, tackle, squeeze hug nearly knocks me off my feet every time.
  10. Keep your favorite photo of your child nearby to remind you of his inherent sweetness, especially for those moments when he’s acting like the ultimate punk.
  11. If you want an honest opinion, ask your child. Chances are he’ll tell you anyway.
  12. Little boys’ pockets contain a treasure-trove of discoveries. 
  13. If you’re like me, the first time your child says he loves you, takes a step, or rides a bike without training wheels, you’ll cry.
  14. Mud, dirt and boxes provide hours of entertainment. 
  15. A parenting strategy that works with one child might not work with another. 
  16. Sitting in a bathroom in the middle of the night with the shower running to create steam helps a baby suffering with croup. The steam is also a great way to get a 3 a.m. facial.
  17. Teaching kids to say please and thank you matters.
  18. Talking with and listening to your kids matters, too.
  19. Follow your instincts. The pediatrician isn’t always right. Find a new one if he blows you off or is condescending. 
  20. The best time to find out about your child’s day is during car rides, when he doesn’t want to eat his dinner or bedtime.
  21. You may have to ask for your meal to go sometimes, but taking your children to family-friendly restaurants helps them learn social graces and boundaries in public places. 
  22. When stuck in an airplane with a toddler in melt-down mode, sometimes the only thing you can do is pretend you don’t know him.
  23. Experiences are more valuable than stuff.
  24. You’ll discover which of your children has the worst gag reflex when you bring home a new puppy who gets really sick in his crate.
  25. You won’t be the first parent to pick up your wailing child and abandon your shopping cart in the middle of the store. 
  26. Learn together and take as many opportunities as possible to explore science, nature, music and art. 
  27. Play board games and cards together. Not only will your children learn math and reading skills, they will learn how to win and lose gracefully.
  28. Parent time-outs can help you remain calm, cool and collected in a heated moment. 
  29. Counting together backwards from 20 helps an upset child (and parent) calm down.
  30. Take walks with your child. Walking side-by-side encourages conversation.
  31. Incentives and rewards work for kids…and parents.
  32. Going outside for a breath of fresh air while your spouse takes over the bedtime routine is a sanity saver on rough days.
  33.  A glass of wine works, too.
  34. And chocolate. Dark. For your heart. 
  35. Scheduling time just for you isn’t selfish. Self-care makes you a better parent.
  36. Pursuing personal interests and goals teaches your children that care-taking is only one of your roles.
  37. Share your interests with your child.
  38. Find a trustworthy, dependable sitter who your children like. Breaks are healthy for both you and your children.
  39. Spending time with your spouse making dinner and watching a movie after the kids go to bed is almost as fun as a night on the town.
  40. Little boys think it’s fun to sneak up on you and scare you. But if they truly catch you unprepared and you scream, you might make them cry.
  41. Save the notes your child writes you.
  42. Write notes to your child. 
  43. Warming up to sing opera in the middle of the grocery store will turn spotlight-averse fighting siblings into model citizens almost immediately.
  44. Teach your child that it’s perfectly acceptable to spend a little time alone to brood, create, read, pray and rest. 
  45. Boo-boos don’t hurt as much when you stick an Avengers band-aid on them.
  46. Nurture your child’s interests. Even if they seem a little unusual.
  47. Kids are curious. Be curious, too.
  48. Begin and end every day with a hug and a kiss.
  49. Forgive yourself. Parenting is tough and sometimes you do and say the wrong thing.
  50. Every child has the potential to change the world. Your child already changed yours.

Writer Christa Melnyk Hines is centered in her family, which includes a golf-impassioned husband, two busy boys and a pair of lovable mutts. She is the author of Confidently Connected: A Mom’s Guide to a Satisfying Social Life.

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