Words of Wisdom from the Experts: Seasoned Parents
“You’re not the only one facing these challenges. Other parents are your best source of information and advice.”
Advice from local parents just a few years ahead of you in the parenting game is priceless. Here’s a sampling of the best words of wisdom from our village.
Sage Advice That’s Real
Some of the canned advice new parents hear rings true, according to our experts:
“This too shall pass” – Especially in the early years of parenting, when you’re in the middle of a challenge it feels like it will never end. Will my baby ever sleep through the night? Will she never eat anything but French fries? But, seasoned parents say that remembering that every phase will pass can help you muscle through the tough ones.
“Take time for yourself” – It feels hard, and sometimes even selfish, to peel yourself away from your young family, but lots of experienced parents posted the reminder that it makes you a better parent. “Take care of you so you can take care of them,” they said. Reframing your time away and thinking of it as an investment in your ability to parent better in the future may help you get out the door.
“Do what works for you” – There is a plethora of parenting advice out there, and it can make your head spin and send you into a frenzy of guilt. One parent wrote, “Don’t let anyone convince you to discipline, sleep train, carry your baby, feed your baby – ANYTHING – that doesn’t jive with the way you want to parent.” Do what works for your family, and if something isn’t working, try something else.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps” – This may feel impossible, but don’t take it only literally. Also understand it’s message: “the laundry/dishes/thank you notes/photo-framing can wait while you rest.” Many parents looked back with regret on times that they refused a visitor because their house wasn’t clean. One warned, “Don’t miss out on opportunities to build community because your house isn’t cleaning or you are in dirty clothes etc. Invite people in.”
“Trust your gut” – One commenter summed it up this way: “Even brand-new parents know their kids best.” Be confident in your understanding of your kid. At the doctor, at school, when dealing with grandparents even, advocate for your kid and trust yourself. Confidence is key, and will make you feel stronger and your kids feeling safe and loved.
Enjoy It & Remember ItOf course, experienced parents looking back at the baby years felt nostalgic! Here are some things they wish they had done to cherish those times more.
Just Do It: Again and again, parents wished that they had read one more story when their child begged, played a game instead of doing the dishes, taken a walk or bike ride on a beautiful night, etc. When the opportunity for you to share a happy moment with a child comes, their advice is to seize it! Similarly, parents emphasized that “simple stuff matters: plant flowers, read books, play on the floor, look in their eyes.”
Capture the Moment…Or Not: Parents had differing views on photos and videos. Many encouraged taking as many as possible, especially video, and to be sure you get some of you in the picture. They suggested apps that automatically create photo books for you, so you’ll have all those photos organized and printed on the regular. But some parents said that memories of times they put the camera or phone away and focused in on the moment are more special than any photo or video.
Tradition! Many parents said that new traditions that they set up with their families create great memories. Leah Davies, M.Ed. states that “family traditions enhance children’s emotional well-being by helping to create feelings of security, continuity and identity” in this article, which also includes suggestions of traditions to try in your family. Traditions can be related to holidays, birthdays or seasons; annual adventures your family counts on; or even just favorite meals that you share each week.
Change Is the Only Constant
Expect It. Especially when very young, kids change at lightning speed and parents who are expecting this are most prepared. Many parents posted the reminder that “what works one week may not work the next” so don’t get too attached to routine.
All Kids Are Different. Lots of parents noted how different their kids were and that they wished they had not expected all of their kids to be the same.
Surprises Can Save You. Plans also change a lot, especially with young kids. Avoid meltdowns: “Don’t promise anything to your kids – they’ll take is a blood oath. Instead, keep it all close to the vest and then surprise them.”
The Kids Are All Right
“Don’t worry.” Parents of older kids regretted the time they spent stressing about everything from when their child accomplished milestones to if they were making friends. (At the same time, parents said that if your gut says something is wrong with your child’s mental or physical development, get help.)
“I do it myself!” “Sometimes kids do not know what they need or what is best for them…but sometimes they do, so don’t dismiss them just because they are little,” wrote one parent. Similarly, another parent warned, “Get out of your kids’ way – don’t let your own fears, anxieties, likes, dislikes hold your kids back.”
Stand Back! Many parents advised that, as hard as it is, let your kids try….and fail. “Let them do things themselves and their own way, even if it’s not how you would have done it or even not correct,” said one. “Don’t put your kids on pedestals they didn’t earn. Sometimes falling down and getting hurt is the only way to learn,” said another.
Tricks & Tools You Shouldn’t Live Without:
“Having a video monitor saved my sleep and subsequently some of my sanity.”
Using video on your phone or simple pen and paper, keep a sick journal to track kids’ symptom. Then, you won’t have to rely on memory when the doctor asks, how long has this been going on?
Your baby is safe in his crib when you have to use the bathroom or take a shower.
“There is no honor in suffering.” Hire whatever help you can. “Pay for whatever you can afford or barely afford: pizza, babysitter, cleaning people are all invaluable because they give you more time to be with your kids.” Get your diapers through amazon or anything else that delivers.
“Rock n Plays are literally the greatest thing ever invented…until they’re too big to sleep in it anymore and then you’re screwed…”
“Use a red lightbulb for night feedings – it doesn’t wake the baby as much and it’s easier for all to get back to sleep.”
Wear your baby. Member favorites are ring sling and Ergos.
Lots of members swear by a white noise machine or loud fan for undisturbed sleep for all.
Tools You Think You Need…but You Don’t
“You need a lot less stuff,” said one member. Here are the most popular items you should skip.
Nursing pillows are big and bulky and “have no home, and are still never where I want to nurse.”
Lots of members ranted about the Diaper Genie, and said it does not mask smells. Simply throw diapers in the outside trash.
Tempting as they are, don’t buy fancy clothes for your kids. Hit up consignment sales if you need something nice (and also for large items like swings that your baby may not even like.) Similarly, don’t waste money on crib décor.
Without a bottle warmer, your baby will be a lot less picky about temperature.