The other day at the grocery store, we saw a young mom with an adorable little girl. You know, the kind of child who draws you in with her bright eyes and sweet smile. The kind who plays peek-a-boo with you behind her mama’s shopping list and looks ever so cute in her sparkly Tom’s slip-ons.
Yeah, that kind of kid.
As Molly pushed our cart and Lilly zipped around the store collecting the items on her half of our list, I couldn’t help but feel a bit nostalgic. How well I remember those days when I was the mom pushing the little girl around in the cart. Talking quietly as we perused the aisles. Answering one question after another. Smiling sheepishly at the kindly, older gentleman when one of the girls (I won’t say who) invited him to our house for lunch.
Fasten your seatbelt, mama, I thought as I smiled back at the little girl. Before you know it, your daughter will be the one chasing all over the store with her own shopping list.
I kept these thoughts to myself, though, because I remember what it’s like to be where that mom is now. It’s quite probable that her inward response would be more gracious than mine would have been, but still. There are things you discover as you go along in life, things that you have to experience for yourself to truly comprehend. Things that are better left unsaid when you’re talking to a mom with kids who are younger than yours.
For example, “You’re gonna miss this.”
Maybe she will, but maybe she won’t. Maybe what she’s facing right now is so hard or so exhausting she can’t imagine ever looking back on it with anything but relief that it’s over. You just never know.
Or, “It goes by so fast.”
I’m not sure why, but this statement really irritated me when my girls were younger. Now I get it. I see it happening right before my eyes. Back then, however, I much preferred insights that applied to my present situation.
These days, I pretty much stick to “your child is so cute” kinds of comments when interacting casually with moms I don’t know. But when the relationship is more than just a passing one, I try to share words that I think might have helped me when I was in their shoes—and still help me now.
1. “You’re doing a good job.”
My heart craved affirmation like this when I was newer at parenting, especially from the important women in my life. I felt so inadequate, so unprepared, so unsure of my ability to train up my little girls in the ways they should go. Which is why, whenever possible, I want other moms to hear this bit of encouragement from me.
2. “It’s not all up to you.”
You are not the ultimate authority in your child’s life; God is. Your job is to get to know your children as well as you can and make decisions based that knowledge and the timeless truths of scripture. And remember—in God’s eyes, their story doesn’t end when they turn 18 or 21. In fact, it might be just beginning.
3. “Don’t believe anyone else’s opinion about the worst of times.”
I know. There’s a reason those early years often are called the “terrible twos” “terrifying threes” or “horrible fours.” There’s a reason people shudder and roll their eyes when the topic of raising teenagers, pre-teen daughters or strong-willed children comes up.
But every kid is different. Don’t automatically assume that your child is going to fit whatever stereotype people want to pin on her. Don’t expect that the next phase is going to be all sunshine and roses, but don’t expect the worst either. Take what comes, do your best and refer often to No. 2.
4. “Educate yourself. But when in doubt, go with your gut.”
When the therapists, teachers or dental hygienists tell you one thing and your heart tells you another, you’re not obligated to do what they say—now or ever.
5. “Apologize often.”
When you’ve overreacted and everyone knows it. When you’ve raised your voice unnecessarily one too many times. When it’s your tone that needs correcting, not theirs.
Kids are forgiving, but it’s often up to the adults in their lives to give them that opportunity. And trust me on this one. You never know the difference your apology today might make in their lives when they are much older.
6. “Pray like your children’s lives depend on it.”
Because they do.
One more thing … If you just can’t get enough encouragement from moms who are a bit further down the parenting path, you might enjoy reading this insightful post by my blogger friend Christi at The Cheerio Trail. (Her third point is my favorite.)