If you know me well then you know that I always wanted a big family. My friends actually named my children for me when I was a university student (thank you for the creative names Amira M. ;)) because they knew that me being a mother someday was more important to me than anything else in the world.
Both, my husband and I wanted to have 3 or 4 children. However, after delivering my lovely first child at age 25, I suffered a near-fatal Pulmonary Embolism. I was advised against having more children for at least two years, if at all. God chose to gift us with our wonderful son one year and two months later. All the doctors following my case, except for one, wanted me to abort the pregnancy in order to save my own life. Everyone was thinking about me and how they could lose me forever within a few months. I love them all with all my heart and feel so humbled by their warm affections but, after discussing it with my husband, I decided that I will continue with the pregnancy. There was no way I could kill my child, even if he was just a few millimeters of existence. I started taking daily blood thinning shots in my tummy to try to prevent another blood clot from forming. My husband spent tons of money on follow ups with my cardiologist and OB/GYN to make sure everything was fine. Whenever I felt out of sorts he would rush me to the doctor as fast as he could. We did everything we could have possibly done to try and save the two of us.
I am on a restricted diet for the rest of my life. I had to give birth both times without any drugs because having a spinal or a c-section wasn’t an option with the blood thinners, and the gas did nothing for me. I have to get up and move every 2 hours, even if I’m in the middle of a drive. We chose not to have any more children since our beautiful little ones need both of us in their lives. We spent most of our income on doctors during those 3 years of our lives. Each and every bit of it made us parents to our amazing children today and we don’t regret any of it, not even one tiny bit! I’d sacrifice 10 times more just to wake up to my children’s faces every day 🙂
But parenthood isn’t just about having children. It’s the biggest responsibility you’ll ever have, especially as a mother. You are solely and completely responsible for the well-being of this tiny, defenseless creature who trusts you blindly and depends on you exclusively! You are their hero, their mentor and, for quite some time, their idol. You make them or break them, depending on how you raise them. You could be the reason they make it in this world and in the hereafter or you could be the reason why they are, essentially, “screwed up”!
In my humble opinion, not everyone is suited for parenthood! A parent has to be selfless, mature, aware, able to prioritize, able to sacrifice, compassionate, patient, motivated, grounded and so much more. I respect couples who are true to themselves and decide that they don’t want children because parenthood just isn’t for them. I also respect couples who sacrifice tremendously in order to become parents. Children are not possessions that you just must have. They are not a fashion statement that you’re making. They are real live human beings who need your unconditional love and undivided attention, not that of strangers that you throw them to as soon as you give birth or even leave on their own to face life. Don’t get me wrong, childcare is one thing and child-rearing is another. I put my children in part-time childcare as soon as they turned two because I felt it important for their social, emotional and cognitive development. But no one else is raising our children for us, and anyone who has tried to impose their opinions in our house was clearly told that advice was welcome but that’s the extent of what we’ll be accepting from anyone outside the four of us. We extend the same courtesy to those we care about. We speak up when we feel the need to but only do it once and we don’t impose anything on anyone.
So, what valuable lessons did parenthood teach us? Please allow me to share our mere 5-year-old experience:
1- Overwhelmingly strong unconditional love exists. You experience it from the moment you hear the sweet words, “Congratulations, you are pregnant” and you never cease to feel it.
2- Your children idolize you. They literally live to please you! So be someone worth looking up to and always show them how much you love and believe in them.
3- Encouragement is key when raising a child. Yes, of course you’ll need to discipline your child almost every single day (on some days it will be several times a day too) but if you want them to master a skill or try something new, encouragement is the way to go.
4- Patience, patience, patience. This is the one skill that you will have to learn even if you never were patient before. From their loud voices to their scattered toys. From their endless “why”s to their “I don’t want to do that”. From their picky eating to their potty training. From their public tantrums to their food that’s scattered all over the floor. Patience is essential when dealing with a child. They don’t mean to annoy you, they are probably just frustrated because they are tired, hungry, bored, in pain or can’t communicate their needs! You’re the adult, work together to figure it out but be patient in the process of doing so.
5- Don’t be afraid to discipline. Whatever style of parenting you choose is completely up to you. My only advice would be, don’t do anything that you wouldn’t have liked been done to you. In our house, we don’t spank, hit, pinch or call names. Not even for “fun”. We do time outs, we yell if we have to (not that we like it, at all) and we take away privileges. On the flip side, we reward, purchase that not so needed toy once in a while (but they do have to earn it with good behavior) and encourage in every way we can. In an ideal world, I’d ask everyone to positive parent rather than discipline … but we don’t live in an ideal world.
6- Don’t let your children depend on you for everything. Have them throw out their own diapers, make their beds, put away their plates after the eat, put on their own clothes and try to button that coat. You don’t have to give them “chores” per se nor have them do the heavy lifting (sorry daddy, you still have to take out the trash and maw the lawn) but you will be doing them a huge disservice if you don’t teach them to be independent and work hard. I see men and women in their thirties and forties who cannot function without their parents and spend every waking moment seeking their approval! To me, that’s abnormal and unhealthy. We all love our parents and we all want them to be proud of us but we should be able to make it in this world on our own.
7- Let them breathe! Don’t be on their case all the time. Loosen the reigns as much as you can but always keep a protective eye on them.
8- Don’t be afraid to let them make mistakes. As long as it’s nothing dangerous or life-threatening then let them have that heartbreak, let them fall into that tiny hole they dug in the sand, let them touch that dirty looking tree, let them make one mistake after the other. That is the only way they will learn to pick themselves up and stand high and tall. Protecting your children from every negative experience they face will deprive them of some of the most essential life lessons they need to learn. You are not helping them by doing so, you are hurting their future selves.
9- Do not, under any circumstance, compare your child to another (even a sibling). And I don’t just mean in their presence, more so in their absence. Your child is unique. Your child is awesome. Deep down inside you know that and you know that s/he has all the potential in the world. Don’t break them by comparing them to others. Don’t make them feel bitter towards a sibling or friend because they feel like they don’t measure up. Don’t make turning him or her into a copy of someone else into your obsession. Life is not a competition with others, it’s competition with ourselves. Teach your child to excel, to grow, to learn and to move forward. Compare your child to themselves, whenever they achieve something praise them and encourage them to take things further. The only person you should every compete with is yourself!
10- Be their guide and mentor but let them be yours too. We all learn from each other, we all need each other. Don’t think that because you are the adult then that tiny 3-year-old has nothing to possibly teach you. Listen, be attentive, care and you will be surprised at what you will learn from your children.
11- Treat them like adults. We don’t use “silly” or “funny” words to name things around the house. When we want to know if our child needs to go potty we ask her, “do you need the bathroom?”, we don’t say “does my little cupcake need to go wee wee?!”. It’s fine if others choose to treat their children that way, whatever works for one family and one child doesn’t necessarily work for another and we understand that. But we found that the more you treat them like adults, including the respect associated with that status, the more responsive they are and the more they listen. You still have to draw a line where they know that, yes you are treating them as adults but you are still the authoritative figures in the house though … don’t be a doormat because they will take the opportunity to walk all over you 🙂
12- Let them fight their own battles. Teach them the basics, give them the foundation and the self-confidence to do so, but don’t fight their battles for them. The most important thing to teach them with regards to that aspect in this day and age is to stand up to bullies and speak up to you and/or other adults about it. We’re working on that with our children and, let me tell you, it’s no easy task!
13- Nurture their kind side. Have them help others whenever possible. Make sure they are kind to those they deal with. Have them practice charity from day one by willingly giving away a toy or putting aside some of their allowance for a cause. Teach them to be God’s hands of good in this world. They will reap the results in this world and the next, God willing.
14- Have them proud to be themselves. Whatever their background, race, color, religion or origin is they have to be connected to it. Don’t let them become mainstream. They are unique and so they should hold on to that beautiful quality. If anyone doesn’t approve of them then it’s that person’s choice and they should not, under any circumstance, change themselves to suit anyone. Teach them about their heritage and surround them with their original culture and traditions. Celebrate who they are, every single day.
15- Let them know you are always there for them, no matter what. It doesn’t matter if my babies are 6, 26 or 66 … I am their mother and I am there for them no matter what. Give them that security and watch them thrive.
16- You and your partner should set an example to your children. Little girls will grow up and marry men who are just like their daddies; do you really want your daughter to grow up and marry a bully? Or a drunk? Or a man who cannot talk to his wife without swearing at her and the kids? Little boys marry women who are just like their mommies; do you really want your son to grow up and marry a woman who talks about him sarcastically behind his back? Or who shops her way out of every marital problem she has with her partner? Or who keeps comparing him to others? Be respectful, loving and kind towards one another. Always work as a team, and try to include your children whenever possible. If you have issues, discuss them slowly and rationally. Never ever speak ill of your partner or their families in front of your children. You may not think that they are listening, you may not think that they understand, you may not think they’ll be affected … but they are, to their very core.
17- Nurture their spiritual side early on. Children absorb so much when they are young so take full advantage of that.
18- Have fun. Try to do something fun every day, no matter how small. Children are innocent little creations that need excitement and laughter in their lives. No matter how tired you are, make sure to end the day with smiles with your kids.
19- Don’t dump your issues and problems on them. It’s not OK to come home from a stressful day at work and just start yelling at your kids or shun them when they run to you and hug you because they miss you like crazy. It’s not OK to start dumping your problems on them when you feel overwhelmed or upset, find someone else to vent with, you are scaring your children and making them carry a load that they still cannot bare. It’s not OK to show them how ugly the world is in your eyes, their outlook on life is completely different than yours and you are stripping them of any hope they have for the future. It’s not OK to discuss the problems of your physical relationship in front of your children, or with your children, for that matter!
20- Praying for your children is the best thing you can do for them as a parent! Many think that it’s passive, there are better things I can do for my children, but I say don’t underestimate the power of prayer. God hears you and your prayers do go through, so make sure to make use of God’s mercy and protection for the benefit of your little ones, no matter how old they are.