When it comes to motherly tips, the options are endless. One of the first real tasks for motherhood is wading through all the tips and deciding what resonates most with you heart, your family, and your home. In light of all of the tips available, how will you proceed?
My girls are still relatively young (ages 6, 4, and 2) but even now there are things I go to right away when people ask for my suggestions. Some are very practical, and some are more heart-oriented. But these are things I’ve found to be non-negotiable in our experience raising these little women so far.
Always use a waterproof crib protector when making the bed. I know this sounds obvious but I’m not just talking about the crib. We use the same waterproof crib-sized sheet under our big kids’ regular sheets even now. It’s the size of a child, it’s soft and not crinkly, and it protects the mattress from any accidents that might happen. When it comes to the actual crib, I recommend doubling up the sheets and mattress covers so that if you do have an “event” (read: vomit) in the middle of the night, you can just pull one layer of sheet and protector off and your’e good to go. The last thing you want to be doing at that point is wrestling a crib sheet.
Love God, and do what you want. This applies to basically everything in life, not just parenting. But, especially when the task is raising little worshippers, it’s helpful to strip all the complications away and remember that ultimately your task is to love God, and then everything else. When you’re heart is aligned with his, you will walk in his ways without having to overthink every single decision. Make your relationship with God the priority, and your parenting will be faithful as a result.
When at the store, park close to the cart corral, not close to the store. One of my first panicked mom moments was the first time I went to the store with my baby. I had to figure out how to get the groceries and the baby in the car as well as return the cart in a sensible way and it took me a minute to figure it out. I realized very quickly that it is better to park right by the cart return than to park super close to the story and then have to leave your child in the car to walk back in, or drive the cart with the baby still in it then lug the carrier back to the car. Park by the cart corral and you’re good to go.
Be a family-centered home. One of the best pieces of advice we received was to have a team mentality when it comes to our family. We have different roles, of course, and we’re able to contribute at different levels, but this has helped us avoid the trap of becoming totally centered on our kids. Which in turn, tends to produce kids who are also totally centered on themselves. We give ample time and energy to our kids, of course, but we also encourage them to focus outward, even as simply as asking how our days were instead of just answering us when we ask them. This applies to meals (we sometimes cater to the kids, but we don’t EVERY time), to schedules, all kinds of things. And the truth is our kids love knowing they have an important role in our family dynamic. They don’t always love the work of being a contributing member, but the overall response is undeniably positive.
When it comes to cleaning up, give simple, direct instruction. My oldest has been able to straighten a play area since she was 2, but my middle girl walks into a messy room and want stop crumble. She still can’t see the individual work that needs to be done sometimes. I’ve found that if I step in and tell her to clean up the play kitchen, or the babies, or the legos, she can totally handle it and is happy to do so. I ask her to come tell me when she’s done so I can assess the situation and see if there’s another specific area she can clean up. Along those lines, when we’re leaving a friend’s house, even when the other parents insist that we don’t have to help clean up, I ask my kids to put away as many items as their age. So my oldest will put away 6 things, the middle 4 things, and the youngest 2 things. Honestly, this is about all they can handle sometimes and it’s helpful for them to be able to predict what they’ll be expected to do!
Be quick to delight your kids. There are times when you have to say no, right? We all know this. Discipline is a loving, important component in the parent-child relationship. But taking opportunities to totally delight your kids is also important. I’m not talking about huge gestures here, I’m talking about small, simple ways to show each child that they are known and loved, because of who they are and sometimes despite who they are. My parents modeled this really well, and my siblings and I have talked about how we learned more about grace from ice cream at Disney World than almost anywhere else. For me, in this stage it looks like a surprise trip to the bakery for a donut on the way to school, or a stop at the gourmet popcorn shop on the way home. (We do have some non-food related treats too!) I’m so glad that I feel free to speak their language – the language of treats – and act out my love by delighting their little hearts.
Kristi is a church planter’s wife, writer, and mom to three pretty spectacular little girls. Find her at www.andbabiesdontkeep.com or on Instagram and Twitter as @kristenannjames.