Welcome to your new life. It will involve the biggest give and take that you’ve ever seen: You give them everything from rattles to tuition, and they take your heart and carry it around with them for the rest of time. That’s the deal you’ve made. They will grow and you will grow. They give you access to the widest range of emotions you can imagine: utter delight to abject fear and all in between. If you are ever going to develop wisdom, this is where you will find it. Let me offer some ideas on how you can make it work for both of you.
1. Capture the moments:
Get an ordinary calendar and put it in the kitchen. Every day, write a note about what went on that day: new word, favorite story read, crawling/walking/running, funny phrases, weight/height, first joke, biggest dustup of the day, funny events, priceless phrases, you know, all the things that only a parent would notice. Even though you think that you will remember everything always because it is all so precious, you won’t. It will be layered over with all the important things to come.
No Hallmark baby books, no scrapbooking, no obsessive recording of every move your child makes. Just a new calendar every year.
Years 0-5 Talk, listen, talk, listen, talk, listen, etc. One of the great joys is finally finding out what they have on their little minds. They will frequently blow your mind with their wisdom, observation, and compassion, guaranteed.
Years 5-10 Same. Many parents stop listening and prefer to issue orders and corrections. The outside world will do enough of that, don’t worry. If you keep talking and listening just as hard as you always have, you will create plenty of openings to transmit your wisdom.
Years 10-15 This is where it starts to get a little harder to listen because they may utter ideas that come from elsewhere, words you can’t stand that they know, challenges to your authority, etc. Remain calm and keep listening, asking questions to draw them out, until they slam the door; then resume when it opens a crack. It becomes even harder to resist issuing orders and corrections all the time. But you will hear their character express itself as never before, and you can tell them so.
Insider tip: When you are driving in car pools, they think you can’t hear them and you may learn a lot, like which friends are loose cannons.
Years 16-20 Expect to be so proud and so sad – proud that they are getting ready to go out into the world and sad that you won’t be able to go with them. Demonstrate that you can handle tough conversations with respect and tolerance and they will keep talking to you. Expect to unleash a last-minute rush of things you forgot to tell them: how to cook/iron/houseclean/budget/breakup, etc.
Years 20+ You will be displaced by girlfriends, boyfriends, best friends, careers, husbands, wives, grandchildren. But you will never be replaced.
A raft of people have probably already told you that that it all goes so fast and that you’d better savor every moment. Well, good luck with that on days when you are juggling the competing demands of all the parts of your life and feel like you are failing in all of them. There will be days like that, but many more when you know you are succeeding.
Just never forget who you are to your child – the center of his world in the beginning, then the safe place to return to while exploring, then the guide on to how to navigate the wider world, and finally, the one place where they have always belonged.
What a wonderful ride it is.
Stick with me for the rides to come, and subscribe.
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