Parenting is hard work, and it doesn’t come with a manual. We figure the rules out on our own. Thankfully, we get a lot of do-overs on the job. — and the reward is when our kids grow up to become parents themselves. Funny, how after spending all those years parenting them, we realize we still have lessons to learn when they start teaching us a few things about this parenting gig when it’s their turn.
Here are seven parenting lessons I’ve picked up since becoming a grandmother, from my kids who are now the adults in their homes.
1. I didn’t do as bad a job as I thought.
I learned this lesson after a quick text one day to both of my kids, apologizing for my mistakes. “I’m sorry if I screwed up with this parenting thing. I hope you don’t need as much therapy as I did,” I wrote. Both my son and daughter responded almost immediately, “No way! You did a great job. Look at us now.” My son thanked me for teaching him how to be firm, yet loving, and my daughter always mentions, “I don’t know how you did this on your own.”
2. Kids are just as hard to raise as I remembered.
What a relief to realize you’re not the only one who had it rough. Now that you can you watch your own kids in action, trying to figure out how to coax a stubborn boy into his room to pick up toys or get him up in time for school in the morning or even eat a decent breakfast, you realize these were the same trials you had. And you did it. You’re sure they will succeed. The little kids, too.
3. I must have been stressed out during my kids’ entire childhoods.
What?! I now watch my adult children navigate their little ones through the day — all the diaper changes, the tummy times, the bottle feedings and pumpings — all of that before it’s even noon, and I realize I cannot recall much of these moments with my own kids. Where are the memories? For me, those days are all such a blur. But parents nowadays can relive all this wonderful stress. With Instagram shots, Facebook posts and cell phone selfies, they’ll never forget a thing — except the time Lola and Papa taught the nine-month old how to fly in bubble wrap. But don’t tell Mommy. We’re keeping those photos to ourselves.
4. I may have been a calmer parent had I waited till I was in my early 30s to have my children.
That’s what my daughter did, and I’ve noticed her parenting style is much more calm than mine ever was when I was swaddling her in a flannel blankie, trying to breastfeed. Was there even such a thing as a lactation nurse back then? If so, I never met her. But then I was in my teens, and I had homework to do! Apparently, you have more patience if you wait till you graduate college and have a career before starting a family.
5. Dads can also handle the day-to-day parenting job.
Who knew? My kids’ dad didn’t want to be called upon to change diapers, help the baby execute a burp, wash bottles. My generation didn’t call on dads to do that much. But my son, who is a single parent, and my son-in-law, who is a stay-at-home dad, are perfect examples that dads are just as disciplined as moms when it comes to the day-to-day schedule. They handle wake-ups and pick-ups. They pack diaper bags and backpacks — without even missing a single toy or water bottle. They make meals. They’re stronger, so can carry more, too. The younger men in my family seem to take the responsibility in stride. That’s not to say they are no less eager to hand the kids over to Mommy or Lola (Grandma), or someone else, when the time comes.
6. It still takes more than a firm voice to discipline a child.
When I was parenting, a firm voice and a spanking were the best forms of discipline. My parents spanked. Theirs did it before them. “This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you,” was the saying. And, sometimes, that was true. Thankfully, I didn’t need to spank often, but that was considered a norm. My kids don’t follow that tradition. My son generally makes use of a good, firm voice to get his girls’ attention, and a timeout for anything extreme. But my daughter’s voice isn’t firm enough. To get her son back in line, she often has to resort to drastic measures: She takes the iPad or cell phone away.
7. Parenting is fun.
This is not what I thought when I was the mom worrying about whether or not day care would be open during spring break when I still had to be at the 9 to 5 job. But now that I’m Grandma, parenting’s really not that stressful at all. It’s fun. I get to be the one who counts the number of seconds it takes the first-grader to run around the kitchen island, experience make-believe dragon hunts, and build forts in the living room with all the couch pillows. And I don’t even have to clean any of it up. All I have to worry about now is playtime.