I am the mom of two daughters, my oldest is 20 years old and my youngest is 15 years old. My oldest daughter is out of the house living in another town here in Montana with her cat and is currently working as a manager at a local coffee/ lunch restaurant. My youngest is still living at home.
I have leaned a lot in my 20 years of being a mom. I would say I have gotten a lot wrong and I have also gotten a fair amount right. My oldest was the one I probably got the most wrong with as I was working off trail and error and what I thought was right. I still strongly believe in that Mom’s instrict thing. I think we have a sense of well being when our children are doing well and a sense of unrest when they are at unrest. I believe I made really good decisions, because they have always been based on love, support, and their safety. But I was a lot stricter with my oldest, I was fearful that she would get hurt or get herself into something that would be bad for her in some way shape or form. But what I did not do enough of and if I could go back I would be a lot more trusting of her own instincts. I would have trusted her own opinion of people more that I did. I would have given her more opportunity to talk to me about why she felt people were good or bad or whatever. I would have wanted to hear more of her side of the story. I feel like we had a good relationship but I wish we could have had a great relationship. We do not and I am so thankful for her and who she is.
My youngest daughter (15 year old) I have raised differently to an extent. I feel like I have learned a lot about trusting my kids. We have very open lines of communication and we have a mutual understanding as long as she is open with me I am a lot more trusting. Just as me understanding she is going to tell me things I may not always like but in the effort to keep my communication lines open with her I have to not flip out. And trust me Moms that can be hard, but if you want your children to really talk to you about what is going on in their lives you have to be understanding or they will stop talking to you. I am proud of my relationship with my youngest too. I feel like I have stepped out of my comfort zone and given her a judge free environment to communicate. When I feel like she is not going down the right path, instead of flipping out we talk about it. What the good and bad or possible outcomes may be. This gives her the dependence she needs and gives me the peace of mind that we have had a good conversation about what choices she may be facing. I am not so naive to believe she tells me absolutely everything that is going on in her life, and I am fine with that but what I do know is if she gets herself into a bad situation she will never be so afraid of my reaction she feels like she can’t talk to me.
If I were to give my younger self advice about what I have learned here is what I would tell myself.
- Just be quiet and listen. Don’t feel the need to always give your input. Just listen and process then talk, don’t react.
- Kids deserve more credit than they often get. They also have really good instincts and trust them to make good decisions. After all they are the only ones who can keep themselves safe. You can’t follow them around every minute of every day. Trust them to be smart and make good choices.
- Compromise. Everything does not have to be set in stone. Its fine to have some hard NO’s. But pick those hard no’s carefully. Why are they a hard no? Is this being nitpicky or is there a really good reason?
- What is the long term goal and does this accomplish or get us closed to the long term goal?
- Your kids may not be anything like you, and that is FINE!!! They don’t need to be anything like you, they may have completely different views and opinions. But what matters is their desire to do right. Even if their right may be different than mine. That is ok. There is so much that will change in you and the people around you, and your children, we all grow and develop. We will change opinions on matters and have a lot of different views about all sorts of things throughout all of our lifetime. But the desire to do right, that is what care about and hope will never change.
- Let them fall, let them fail. Support their failures just as much as their victories. They may learn more from the failure than the victory. Its ok if they fall, and they don’t need you to pick them up, just maybe give a little extra support.
- If you want to raise capable people start helping them be capable, give them the tools to succeed but don’t do it for them. They need to work and struggle in order to be proud of their accomplishments. It needs to be their accomplishments and not yours. And brace yourself, support and teaching is going to be much harder than just doing it yourself but it will be worth it in the end.
- Love them no matter what they choose. It sounds simple but when you are faced with a child that believes in all the things you do not its hard not to look at yourself and what you did wrong. NOTHING!! You did nothing wrong!! Celebrate their individuality. Give them support as its got to be hard to make choices completely opposite of your family’s choices and views and stick to it. Help them stay true to themselves. Celebrate it and honor it.
- It is discipline not punishment. There is a big difference. Think about what the difference is and live be it.
- You will not be a perfect parent, just do your best and it ok to admit when you screw up. It’s better to admit to our mistakes then to try and justify them. Learn from your mistakes and try to do better next time.
- You are enough, your best in enough. Don’t be so hard on yourself you are doing your best.