Six and a half years – my age as a mother. I was once cradling a teeny Hannah in the NICU, and the future seemed so big and far away. Now I’ve got an elementary student, a preschooler, and a toddler. I’ve done the baby thing three times and survived, and now I’ve earned some perspective on parenting that comes with three little people. And it has come in the form of paradoxes.
Children are more different than you think
We’ve gotten a few comments about “three girls, all the same,” but this is far from the truth. Sure, they all like to play with baby dolls, but their personalities and preferences, communication and energy levels, strengths and weaknesses are all different.
I think this is fun! Sure, it keeps us on our toes and tweaking parenting techniques for each kid. But it is a joy to see each one’s gifts and talents develop. With each addition, it is clear that each one has a special place in our family.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14
Children are more alike than you think
When you have one child, it’s hard to picture anything different. And with little to no other experience, it seems easy to tell yourself that your child is so special. Your child is extra sensitive, or your child is so smart, or your child is the most amazing artist, and all these things must mean your child deserves special treatment by the rest of the world.
While each child has unique gifts, there is actually very little reason that your child should be treated more specially than another kid. Because children are really more alike than different, and they are far more adaptable and resilient than they are often given credit for.
It’s not that big of a deal
Failure, discomfort, sadness, disappointment, inconvenience. Nobody is a fan. And with our first child, we were under some impression that life could somehow be manipulated so that she wouldn’t have to experience them. But that’s not life. And with multiple children, you would work yourself into a helicoptering frenzy trying to maintain the bubble you feel is necessary.
Equipping children from a young age to deal with these things means they’re not that big of a deal. Obviously, this is done in an age-appropriate way, but a realistic life experience helps even small children learn it’s not a big deal. Failure does not have to cripple you, disappointment does not have to consume you, inconvenience is not the end of the world.
This also applies to letting go of the ideal. Maybe you can’t afford all organic food, maybe you can’t find a preschool that meets everything on your list, maybe the housework is never caught up, (maybe you want to finish blog posts instead of accidentally emailing drafts to everyone), maybe it’s not that big of a deal.
It really is a big deal
Parenting with a vision – raising independent, responsible adults – is a big deal. While parents are focused on the next milestone and developmental stage, there should really be more focus on the big deal of the big picture. This is tough as life with littles requires so much in the moment as you’re meeting needs and sometimes just want to get through the day.
But the little decisions affect this. Equipping or enabling? Now, with one in elementary school, I’m starting to observe the impact of enabling that I don’t think is as evident at younger ages. And as my dad would say, “Smart people learn from their mistakes, and wise people learn from others’ mistakes.”
Viewing children as little people who will turn into big people is a big deal, and that perspective was much harder when I had one child.
There are a lot of parenting books and arguments about methods and blogs of opinions (hahaha) but these are the things I know for sure. With each child and each week, I am learning! I don’t know it all, but almost seven years into it I know more than I did at one year or three years or five. And that knowledge has come through much failure and some success. I’ve figured out who I am as a mom, and I have a vision for my kids.