If you did something for 20 years non-stop, you could, with most things, call yourself an expert. I’ll celebrate my 20th Mother’s Day this year, and I assure you that I am no more an expert parent than I am about to join the trapeze act in a circus or be recruited as an NBA All-Star. While I definitely feel my confidence grow each year, I don’t think that “parenting” is something you can expert in, no matter how many kids you are blessed to love or how many letters come after your name on a business card. Moms with one day of parenting duty under their belt know the universal truth: You would do anything for your child, no matter the challenge. Full stop.
There is no one “right way” to raise children. In fact, parents with more than one child (myself included) will often tell you they use completely different methods for each child – I call it “individualized personality management" (I am no expert but that doesn’t mean I can’t make up fancy terms like one!). One of my kids did homework on her own, without any prompting from me, while the other, raised in the same environment, has to be reminded each morning what “school” even is. That said, 20 years in it has given me some insight (or at least lots of time to think about things while crying in my van.) So yes, there are some things I do know:
These will be made from materials found in Kindergarten through grade eight classrooms and while the artistic quality will improve each year, the love put into these items will never waver. Also, as much as you may hesitate when asked to wear your MOM salt dough necklace to your 40th birthday party, know that someday soon, the arrival of these sentimental trinkets will cease and you will cling to your now 18 year old’s Grade One pinch pot like it is a lifeboat.
Someone will always be asking you for food, they will show zero appreciation for it, and you’ll need to be outfitted comfortably in a proper uniform. “Momming” is work – fun, challenging, rewarding, frustrating, and joyful, fun, but work nonetheless. (Did I say “fun” twice? I am also very tired.)
You will need to dress for the stress – and feel good about yourself – as often as you can. Getting a last-minute lunch invite or emergency “we need an extra volunteer for the school field trip, STAT!” call from the school is easier to navigate if you’re already suited up and ready for whatever the day throws at you. I speak from experience here; I was once asked to “please pop into my office for a sec” by the school principal, and by doing so revealed that I had actually driven carpool that morning in paint-stained track pants and a pair of mismatched bedroom slippers. A few staples and seasonal items from the beautiful and fresh spring collection at Joe Fresh will help you here. (And to be honest, even their pajamas would meet the mark on those reallllly hectic days.)
It’s cliché, but true. You will bring home a baby so small, their seemingly massive car seat will engulf them. Okay, now blink: that same baby is calling you from Brittany’s house to say she’s headed to the library, but she’s actually calling from the basement party they heard about from some guy named Kevin on Snapchat. Here’s some advice to apply to your parenting moments no matter if you have toddlers or teens, because it is universally applicable: Cherish the mess and embrace the chaos of now. It won’t be long until they marry a guy named Kevin, moved to the Okanagan to become fruit farmers, and have grandchildren you’ll never see. SEE? Things don’t seem to bad now, do they?
Parenting is like fighting a long, protracted battle, except you adore your opponents and while they lob you with everything from door slams and eye-rolls to calls from… ahem… local authorities… everything YOU do will come from a place of genuine caring. Yeah; in short, you’re never going to “win” parenting. You will always be the one who cares more. Make your peace with it.
What you can look forward with hope for is a peaceful and equitable ceasefire, celebrated around kitchen tables with warm beverages. When the battle seems more like "The 100 Year Wait," make sure you take a break and get some time alone, even if it means going to the grocery store and shopping on your own for 45 minutes. Pretend you have a different life for half an hour; one where no one asks you to make them a sandwich or wipe anything untoward from a crevice on their body. I’d even advise you to skip the produce aisle and instead buy a stash of junk food you can keep secreted away for yourself. In fact, hit up a Loblaws or Real Canadian Superstore and maybe choose a new outfit for when you finally get to leave the house again to do something for yourself. (The time is coming; I promise.)
It’s never a good idea to hold your worst day up against someone else’s best, especially on Mother’s Day. One year my kids flat out forgot, while all around me, others were celebrating with breakfast in bed, trips to the nursery for spring celebration garden plants, and, I can only assume based on my Facebook feed, luxurious day spa trips on cruise ships manned by Fabio lookalikes carrying trays of bacon wrapped shrimp and Mimosas. So, you got a gold spray-painted macaroni picture frame or a popsicle stick th…wait, what the hell is this thing anyway? It doesn’t matter, not even a bit, because it was made with you in at top of mind and that is to be valued above rubies.
When your second born and/or more adventurous of your children – the one with “What would happen if…” running on loop in their heads - decides to shove a running garden hose down the dryer vent, effectively flooding your basement storage room, those tiny salt dough and macaroni painted projects will be the first thing you run to save.
I say, lean into it, Mama.