Dear Younger Me:
I know you weren’t really sure you wanted to have kids, but once you became a mom you wanted to do it right. Trouble is, you were always second-guessing whether you were doing it right as you went along. And there were plenty of people along the way who sowed doubt in your mind. Take heart.
Your daughters will grow up to be competent, compassionate, loving adults whom you like being around. You’ll experience a lot of joy over the next couple of decades, but the trying times will test your spirit as it’s never been tested before. Here’s a bit of advice to help you get through the worst of it:
Whatever stage your kids are going through, it will pass. So even though you may despair that you’ll be changing diapers the rest of your life, your kids will outgrow them. While you will watch in agony from the sidelines as your daughter struggles to find a circle of friends, she will eventually find her social niche. While you will feel as though you argue about everything with your teen, you’re going to become close again.
Share your low moments with close friends and neighbors. Remember the time you locked yourself in the bathroom just to get a few minutes without a child hanging onto some part of your body? Remember sitting on the closed toilet lid sobbing quietly while the girls banged on the door demanding to be let in? Turns out, you weren’t the only one with an experience like that. In fact, you’ll find out later that at least two neighbors up the street have similar stories. If you talk to each other about the challenges you face when they happen, maybe you can help each other get through the long days.
You’ll never regret getting the membership to the zoo and taking your kids often during the year. The experiences you have there, and at the park, will be the things they talk about when they’re older and reminisce about their childhood.
Listen to the advice of professionals, but don’t be afraid to push back on their conclusions. Keep your cool when your daughter’s kindergarten teacher tells you that without expensive private tutoring she’ll always be behind in reading and in math. Hit pause when the pediatrician says your child’s persistent cough may be cystic fibrosis and she wants a lung x-ray.
Professionals may be quick to recommend extensive and invasive actions in order to be comprehensive and thorough, many of which may be ultimately unnecessary. But even though they may be more educated about the issue at hand, you are the mom, and you know your child better than they do. Ask about alternatives. Ask what happens if you wait a bit before proceeding. Educate yourself, calm yourself, then decide.
Reading to your children long after they can read on their own is one of the best things you can do. So don’t second-guess yourself when others question why you still read to your kids, even when they’re teens. You’ll discover that talking about what happens in books is the best way to find out what‘s going on in their lives.
Of course, even knowing things turn out over the long term can’t completely stop the worry. But give yourself a break. Take comfort in knowing that you’re doing the best you can. And don’t forget to get out without the kids every now and then. You’ll find that helps a lot when they’ve left home for college.
Your Empty-Nester Self
By Cindy Hudson, a freelance writer who wishes she could receive a letter from her older self, possibly as a grandmother, with advice on parenting her adult daughters.