August is "Back to School" Month at The Motherhood Collective. Over the next few weeks, our writers will be sharing their teaching moments, the ways they encourage learning, their thoughts on education or the things THEY are learning as a parent. Even if your child isn't heading back to the classroom in a few weeks, we hope that our thoughts on learning will inspire you. ~TMC ---
Confession: I’m a college-educated 28 year old. I’ve worked in laboratories, universities (including a stint at Harvard), and very busy veterinarian offices. In April 2011 I took on a new position: stay at home mom, with a diverse farm which needs a lot of tending. My new “boss” is Olivia, a cute 16 month old girl with darling curls and a huge personality. Like the best of bosses, she expects a lot out of me and makes me want to do better than my very best. While it’s a dynamic job, where no day is ever the same as the one that came before it, it’s also an experience in humility and humanity.
With August being “Back to School” month here on The Motherhood Collective blog, I thought I would share the top five things I’ve been learning from the little person I spend the majority of my day with:
This is one of those lessons we’re taught our entire lives, but it really comes into play once there is a tiny human being depending on you for everything, day and night. It can be overwhelming, especially at first. The good news: They DO become more self sufficient. I remember rejoicing the first time Olivia played on her own while I made dinner. So just remember, between the constant calls of “Mama!” and sippy cups, and snacks, and sharing your dinner with your child … it will all be worth it in the end.
2. Slow down. Take your time.
Early on, even before Olivia was born, I was being taught that I needed to go a little slower. Prior to finding out I was pregnant, I remember several road trips where I was hauling my horse back to Virginia after a weekend of showing in North Carolina. I would be so tired, that I would have to pull over in a shaded parking lot, lock the doors, and take a nap before I could continue the drive home. Nature rewards us after a lengthy, sometimes exhausting, gestation and parturition, with the period of newborn amazement: that span of time after the arrival of our precious babes where every moment is a miracle. (Of course, I’m wondering if that phase lasts as long with subsequent children?) It’s a period of time where we move slowly as our bodies heal, and we look upon our babies in awe. As our children grow and develop, their needs change, but it’s always important to remember that every baby develops differently.
3. The world is marvelous.
In her room, Olivia has a piece of art that contains the following quote from Robert Louis Stevenson that says “The world is full of wonderful things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” Since her birth, Olivia has always been calmer when outside. The clouds, the trees, the sun, and the wind – there is so much there for observation and exploration. From Olivia I have learned to appreciate the smallest of pleasures – the breeze on our face as we drive across a field, the feel of soft fabric on our skin, the joy of splashing in a puddle of water. To see her delight and engage in our environment is one of my greatest joys. Children encourage us to explore the world with them; but helping a child experience the world can be frustrating because it requires us to slow down and experience the world on their terms. A simple walk to the mailbox could end up taking an hour, with many detours to check out a tree, a bug, a leaf, etc. I have come to value this time of exploration, because it usually lends itself to a period of quiet, a time for some inflection, and amazement at watching my child discover the world that surrounds her.
4. Friends are essential (for mamas and babies).
I wouldn’t so much as say that Olivia has taught me this, but being a mother has definitely highlighted the importance of friends. Support groups, play groups, they are an important part of my life. Whether you attend The Motherhood Café and its playgroup, La Leche League, or just simply catch up with other mamas over coffee, getting their perspectives and help go a long way to stretching out a mama’s sanity. I am blessed by a core group of mama friends, and I’m pretty sure Olivia enjoys playing with their little ones as well. We both benefit from their friendship.
5. Don’t forget Daddy (or Mama).
As parents, we play critical roles in the lives of our children, and it’s far too easy to allow children to overrun the family. However, for the sake of the family unit, we must remember to make special time for ourselves, as husband and wife, not just mama and daddy. (Trust me on this one.) It can be as simple as a quiet chat in the evening after bedtime, a surprise lunch date, or even as luxurious as a weekend getaway to a fancy hotel. It doesn’t take much effort to keep the flame alive, and everyone in your family will benefit.