13 Years and 13 Lessons on Being a Better Parent

So by the time this post comes out, my daughter will be thirteen years old.  It has been a journey.  From the time I birthed her, to her thirteenth birthday 13 lessons on being a parent(Mother’s Day 2013), my daughter has taught me so much about being a mom and being a woman worthy of being called a mother.  I’ve learned to be a great parent.  I still have struggles but once I learned a few of these lessons, I became a much better parent.  These tips may be able to help you, too.

Lesson No. 1:  Don’t be afraid to love

SIDS was such a large part of my parenting classes, and being aware that your baby could die.  Infant mortality information roiled around in my head like storm clouds.    I worried all of the time about her dying.  Then after infancy, it was the thought of her being older and something happening or abduction or any of the other myriad of reasons someone could do or something could take my baby away.  It was so hard for me to connect with her for fear of something happening to her and me being so in love with this baby that I wouldn’t be able to survive it. I had to finally let it all go (it took a while) and just threw caution to the wind to love this amazing kid.

Lesson No. 2:  You are not your mom, nor will you ever be

Comparisons are evil.  I had a mom who was superwoman, or so I felt.  She cooked, cleaned, worked a full day, would pick me up from work when I was a teen at midnight and still wake up in the morning to cook breakfast.  The woman was a rock and she did it alone as a single parent.  I compared myself to my mom all of the time.  I should want to get up and cook breakfast, I should want to _______________.  You name it, I compared it.  I finally had to stop it because my mom and I are decidedly different people and that difference in personality and being is why we are different types of parents.  I had to create my own way of parenting my daughter and it works for us.

Lesson No. 3:  This kid doesn’t want toys, the kid wants time

As a little kid all she wanted to play with were balls–basketballs, little golf balls, footballs. She also wanted to write, pens and pencils, paper and she’d be engrossed for hours.  Dolls grew dusty, stuffed animals were tossed on the floor cars and trucks with noise makers were also discarded.  She hated loud noises and didn’t want any parts of a noisy toy.  But often times she would want to just be with me.  Crawled up in my arms as I designed a website or logo on the computer.  She’d just crawl into my lap and lay her head on my chest as I continued working.  She loved story time and singing with me to the radio.  If I was alone in bed I’d wake up and she’d be laying next to me.  She just wanted my time and when I realized that, I spent more of it with her.

Lesson No. 4: You didn’t have a boy but the sports …oh the sports…

I thought I was going to skip having to go to basketball games and football games.  I have a girl!  Yay!  Yeah no, my daughter loves sports and has played soccer, baseball, basketball, softball and I have taken her to almost every game.  I have cheered, hooted and hollared, yelled plays that I didn’t even know were real and have helped her run soccer plays in the yard of our house.  I am so not into sports, but she is and I have to support her interests.

Lesson No. 5:  The library is the best free trip out of the house

I taught her to read before her winter break of kindergarten.  But we read all the time any way, I raised her in the library.  In those early days, I didn’t have money to take her to Chuck-E-Cheese or any of the popular places little kids frequent for sugar highs and jumping into ball pits.  So the library and the park were the places we went most.  I fostered in her a love of reading and kept nourishing that desire so til this day she reads voraciously and we go to the library once every two weeks.

Lesson No. 6: Teach the kid the things she’s going to have to learn

As a woman, I know what she’s going to have to know.  Before she was eight she was cooking full meals, cleaning her room and she had chores.  By six, she was ironing.  My mom taught me how to iron at six too, I have the iron marked scar on my knee to prove it.  But at this time her mortality was no longer my biggest fear or worry, it was my own.  What if something happened to me and she didn’t know how to take care of herself?  So every day I try to teach her something new, even if it’s a small thing.  I talk to her constantly about relationships and life, business and career choices.

Lesson No. 7:  Laugh, color and blow bubbles

So she thinks she’s a comedian.  This weekend she told me my butt looked small in my jeans and I told her that she’d inherit these genes, small butt and all.  She didn’t find that funny.  But we laugh together all the time.  She has my sense of humor and I love that we can joke with each other and the respect still be there.  I taught her how to draw, we color together (yest at 12 almost 13 years old)  we blow bubbles and we are cup cake connoisseurs.  I take time to enjoy life with her, before I know it she’ll be 18 and headed off to college (let’s hope).

Lesson No. 8: Style is a relative term

Nerd chic is her style.  The faux glasses, buttoned up shirt to her throat, some skin-tight skinny jeans and a tee-shirt with a random saying.  It also must have a hat, let’s not forget the requisite cap.  She doesn’t like dresses, won’t put one on unless I’ve threatened her or won’t take her with me unless she’s in something suitably feminine.  She hates it, but I bought it so it shall be worn (at some point–unless she hides it in her closet until it’s too small.  Then it ends up in the Goodwill bag with tags on it.)

Lesson No. 9:  Grades don’t measure intelligence

Two years of magnet school and a year in an international baccalaureate school and my daughter’s grades do not reflect her intelligence.  Now don’t get me wrong, she gets As and Bs and has been on the honor roll for most of her young academic life, including this year but I don’t believe the education system is designed to measure intelligence.  I’m a former teacher and I realized this a while ago but it has never been more evident than now with my own child.

Lesson No. 10:  No concept of money

Maybe this is just my kid but she will spend $20 on candy as easily as if it’s $2 and then look at me with the confused expression of, “What?”  She will be happy if you give her $1!  Then she will promptly spend the $1 (not save it until she can accrue more) on some cheap bauble.  An actual conversation between us:
“Are you buying that?” I ask.
“Yes,” she says.
“Why do you need that?”
“Mommie it’s my money.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I couldn’t ask you about your precious dollar.”

Lesson No. 11: The sex talk and when too much is enough

I began the sex talk when she was six.  She had to know about good touch, bad touch.  Then as she’s grown older, the sex talk has become more progressive.  Trust me, I am a liberal parent but I hate having this conversation.  It is really uncomfortable.  However, it has to be done.  I’ve told her everything, used the most clinical terms but I have had to break down a few of them.  Her father even said, enough because he has buried his head in the sand and believes that his little girl (out of all little girls) is only interested in playing sports.  She has no interest in boys, right?  So, recently she came home and said, “Mommie, I have a crush” Two weeks later, that was over and she was sad about it.  Personally I was relieved.  I don’t want to have to deal with that yet, lol.

Lesson No. 12:  Set boundaries

So I told you earlier how much she loves spending time but sometimes that can be overwhelming when you want some time to yourself so I have learned to set boundaries.  Three times a day you are allowed to come into my room before you are no longer allowed to even stand at the door.  Sounds harsh, well it’s not.  Kids need boundaries, they need to respect rules.  That will then cross over into every single area of their lives and you don’t have to worry so much about them not following laws.  I’d rather set boundaries now than bail you out later.

 Lesson No. 13:  A therapist is a cheat sheet for parenthood

In the past three to four years, we’ve lived in three states.  At our last location, I put my daughter in therapy so she could adjust better to us moving as frequently as we have been.  The therapist helped her to adjust but also helped me with my parenting skills.  He was exceptional.  Having a therapist for your kid is like having a parenting cheat sheet.  A lot of his methods worked better than mine were and he counseled me on how to be a better parent overall, as a responsive measure to the kid I am raising.  It was great.

So I am now a parent to a teenager.  I’m excited and it will be another six years of adventures.

Yay me.

Jaha Knight

Jaha Knight is a a blogger, author, life and business coach. In short, she is a Soulphisticated(TM) Lady who believes in teaching women how to live a life of purpose.  Her new book, 39 Days to Your New Lifescape will hit Kindle’s virtual shelves on June 30, 2013.  She blogs at the speed of type at http://www.jahaknight.com.

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