I originally wanted to write this post as a great, self-serving nod to the five parenting lessons I learned in 2013. You know, giving myself all the credit for the amazing job I did this year... but as I sat here, looking over pictures of the past year, I realized that the tables are turning a little bit. Until now, I've done a lot of teaching, the instructing, the guiding. We made it through potty training all the way through learning to change your underwear even if you don't shower that day. Our lessons on manners are more about people's feelings than the simple, "Say please and thank you." They understand the importance of family participation in chores and photographs and events.
But my work here is not done. I recognize I have a lot left to teach -- and a lot left to learn.
2013 began that turning of the tables. My two boys have taught me a lot this year. Here are five lessons I hope to keep with me over the years.
Be In the Moment
When my sons are doing something that they love to do -- like jumping through the sprinkler on a hot day -- they are not simultaneously worrying about 52 other things. They are in the moment. They surrender -- fully -- to the joy. They don't think about their messy bedrooms or the homework that needs completed or the mean thing that so-and-so said on the playground earlier that day. I want to live joy like that, to be fully immersed in the moment so deeply that I don't care about the dishes, the laundry, the deadlines.
This Too Shall Pass
When you're six- and eight-years-old, you do some things that end up getting you in trouble. It happens. You tell a little white lie -- and you get caught. You argue with your brother. You were too caught up in the joy of doing whatever it is that you were doing and forgot to clean your room like your mommy asked -- twice. Consequences for actions are an important pat of life. Also important: Being able to accept the consequence, do what you have to in light of it, and move on or forward. Sometimes that means offering an apology. Sometimes it means doing what you were supposed to do, and doing it right. Sometimes it means sitting quietly and reflecting on the hows and whys. But then once those things are done? You go back to being in the moment. As I've watched them do that this year, I am inspired to quit dwelling on the little things, the consequences of my own actions. This one feels hard, but necessary.
It's Not THAT Serious
Sometimes you just have to put on a costume. Or belly laugh at cartoons. Or fart jokes -- especially at fart jokes. My life as a mom this year has been one endless fart/poop/penis/butt joke. I get annoyed, aggravated. Those two kids (and their father)? Laugh deeply. I've learned that laughing at jokes -- or more importantly, at life -- is a requirement. It feels good. It lessens the tension of the moment. It brings about perspective. And really? The jokes are kind of funny. In all of this, I have learned that not everything is life and death and maybe I need to lighten up. Just a little bit. Because we don't tell penis jokes in church, OKAY?!?!?! Ahem.
ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS
I live in a real life 20 Questions game, but instead of 20 it's like FIVE BILLION QUESTIONS. All day long. As we were dropping off the boys to spend a day with Grandpa this year, he commented that he had been practicing all of the answers to be ready for all of the questions. It's funny and sometimes ear-numbing -- but it's awesome. These two guys aren't afraid to ask a question of anyone at any time. Where do babies come from? Check. How do you make a video game? Check. Why do we eat meat? How is poop made? But how does the sperm get to the egg? Check, check, and omg, check. In accomplishing one of my parenting goals -- making sure my children felt they could ask or tell me anything -- I have created this non-stop stream of questions and it is my job to answer them. If I don't know an answer, they simply say, "Well, ask Siri!" I love it, because I think it's good for our future relationship. But it's also taught me to stop being afraid to ask questions, to search for answers when I don't know them, to seek out solutions when they aren't immediately evident. It's also taught me how little I know about the world at large, but we're all learning the answers together. Pretty cool, if not slightly deafening.
Be Quick to Forgive
Having a brother (or a sibling in general) can be difficult. These two boys argue over the stupidest of things at times. Video games. Books. The red crayon even though we have 17 red crayons, four red markers, three red colored pencils, red paint, and red pastels. It can be frustrating to listen to the non-stop arguing as the parent. I frequently remind them that "he's the only brother you're ever going to have," which is usually greeted with a muffled apology. What I love about the arguing however is how quickly they offer their forgiveness to one another. Yes, we've had some "I don't want to forgive you right now, so I'm going to my room with my toy for awhile" type of moments. Even still, a little while later the offended party will come out of his room and start right back into playing whatever they were playing before the issue at hand. There's no blame game. There's no jabs with words or elbows. What's done is done, what's in the past is over. Move forward with your brother. Every time I watch this play out, I think of those situations in which I have not readily -- or ever -- offered my forgiveness. I definitely need to work on this lesson that they repeatedly -- almost daily -- teach me.
There were other lessons, of course: Check to make sure the seat is down before you sit down on a toilet in a house full of men, big and little. You don't have to like a game/movie/character/book just because someone else does, even if that someone else is your brother. Don't pick your nose and eat it -- or your ear wax. (OMG.)
What did your kids teach you in 2013?
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