parenting advice

Making Memories: How I Lowered My Expectations for "Fun" Mommyhood

When my twins were babies, I couldn’t wait for them to be old enough to do mommy-kid activities. I wanted to fingerpaint, cook, play Memory and Candyland, snuggle and read for hours, and make happy, rosy memories with my boys.
When they were around 2 years old, inspired by the success of my mommy friends and the parenting blogs I adored, I excitedly laid out paper and paints, prepared elaborate craft projects, bought games, and borrowed books from the library. We were going to have FUN and be happy and laugh and I would take pictures and make photo albums of my happy kids and my happy motherhood.
Here’s what really happened:
The paints were a mess. The paper got soaked and ripped. The colors were mixed into a color that resembled a really bad poopy diaper. The art project took longer to clean up than the boys spent "painting."
My boys played “Ants in My Pants” instead of moving their gingerbread men through Candyland. The colored cards flew all over the living room, joining the tiny demon-cherries from “Hi-Ho! Cherrio!” The homemade Memory cards were ripped and crumpled.
Cooking was a circus. Cups of flour were dumped on the counter instead of in the bowl. Eggs slipped and smashed on the floor. And one of my sons was so afraid of the hand-mixer that he ran screaming out of the room before it was even turned on.
There was no snuggling and reading for hours. My two year olds could barely sit still for one picture book. “Green Eggs and Ham”? WAY too long! I learned to flip through books at the library and throw back the ones that had more than 15 pages or 10 words per page.
I was discouraged, depressed even. I was failing at Mommyhood. Most days I thought, “Well, that was a fun 5 minutes. What am I going to do for the rest of the day? I guess I could start by cleaning up this mess.”
One day we made snakes with beads for 3 minutes. Then I cleaned up beads for the next 3 months. 
I wanted to make those special memories with my kids but every activity was either a failure or over before I could even snap a picture.
Plus I was going nuts and yelling things like “THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN! We are GOING to have FUN, OK???”
I was a real fun mom.
I eventually gave up. I lowered my expectations for fun mommyhood.
We didn’t do messy craft projects anymore. I threw “Hi-Ho Cherrio” and the memory cards in the trash. I made cookies while my boys napped. We read “The Foot Book” instead of “Green Eggs and Ham.”
And this was the best thing I could have ever done.
I discovered that the things I liked to do were not the things that my kids liked to do. The happy memories I had of coloring, playing board games, cooking sweets and treats, and reading on the couch with my mom for hours were not the same things that made my boys happy.
I had to accept that they loved running and wrestling, not sitting still playing board games.
I swallowed the fact that they weren’t interested in coloring or “making things.” And I realized that any craft that took longer to prepare or clean up than it did to make and play with was way overrated.
I still made them sit and read with me but we would read one board book instead of three picture books.
And when I did tackle that Pinterest Project from my “Fun Activities for Kids!” board, I learned to say “Well, that was fun!” after 3.5 minutes and really mean it.
Most importantly, I discovered that my kids are different from me and that is ok. And I learned that the best memories I could make with my children was not “doing things” together: it was seeing my boys happy, grins that lasted for seconds, not the “activities” that lasted for hours.

Words of Wisdom

January is often a time for self-reflection, starting new projects and making resolutions. Many of us begin the new year with hopes to improve ourselves. What a perfect time to feature a series of posts on gaining wisdom! Over the course of this month, we'll post interviews with experienced mothers and feature stories written by women about what they've learned, and are continuing to learn, about motherhood. Thank you for starting the new year with us. We wish you all a very happy and inspired year of growth! ~TMC--

When I heard the topic for January was "Words of Wisdom", I was so excited. Over the years I have been so blessed to have some amazing women in my life. Many of them have been mothers and I have had the chance to learn from them. Not all advice works for everyone, but I have been lucky enough to find some gems that I think apply pretty much across the board. I thought I would share them with you.

Say Yes: When I was 15, my first nephew was born. Over the past 13 years I have had the privilege of watching my brother and his wife raise three boys. One of the things that has always impressed me is my sister-in-law's willingness to say “YES!”. While as a parent we can’t say yes to everything, she has a policy of saying yes unless she has a good reason not to. Yes for her, a parent of three pre-teen boys looks very different than me saying yes to two pre-school age girls, but her mentality has inspired me. So often I find myself saying no. To bubbles, to play dough, to pancakes, to bubble baths at 2 in the afternoon. I can’t always drop everything and color with my kids, but I could say yes much more.

Holding a Child's Hand

This is Best Part: Up to my elbows in dirty diapers and sticky hands, I used to get so frustrated when my mother would tell me, “This is the easy part.” More than once I went to bed in tears thinking that if this was the easy part there was no way I would survive. And then one day, I finally had enough sleep to hear what my mom was REALLY saying. Yes, this is the best/easiest part. And the next one will be as well. When my children hit grade school and are dealing with bullies, I will look back on this and wish all problems could be fixed with kisses. When my daughters are fighting with me over clothes I will look back and miss the days of my child crying because her school uniform shirt isn’t “pretty”. If I spend all my time wishing for the next stage, or longing for the last, I will miss the now...and the now is the best part.

Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back: A few years ago, our pastor asked a group of us young parents to make a list of what we wanted our children to be/not to be in 20 years. While there were a lot of good things on the list, the first thing that came to mind for me was that I wanted my children to not be bitter. In 20 years, I hope that my children will be able to look back on their childhood and forgive my mistakes. We had a great conversation with our pastor about not letting fear hold you back. The fact is, as a parent, you will make mistakes. It’s just part of life. You will screw up. If you let the fear of messing up stop you, you will make even BIGGER ones. And that leads to...

Say You Are Sorry: The best mothers I know are the ones who are willing to go back to their kids when they mess up and say they are sorry. From yelling at a toddler to hurting your adult child, being willing to say you are sorry is often the only way to maintain a relationship.

And when all else fails, remember: “It’s just the first 40 years that are the hardest...”

At least that’s what my mother says...and my brother turns 41 next month.