The days are long, but
the years are short. You reap what you sow. Bigger kids, bigger problems. All those clichés are true, but unfortunately, they’re hard to appreciate until you’re some 15 years into parenting. Being told, “It goes so fast!” when you have a 5-month-old is mildly infuriating (and feels dismissive when you haven’t had a night’s sleep in half a year).
But sometimes, someone tells you something
when you’re pregnant or have a little kid, and it catches you by surprise — because it turns out to be great parenting advice that you can put to use immediately and still appreciate years later.
In that spirit, I asked parents across the country (TBH: mostly my friends) to share some of the wisdom they were glad they heard. Some of the quotes are small and practical tips, and some of them are wide-view advice, but all are worth remembering.
01 Don’t overplan your birth.
“The baby doesn’t know what your birth plan is.” — Eileen G.
02 Babies don’t follow baby books.
“‘The baby didn’t read the book about what milestone they were supposed to do at a certain time. Plus, every baby is different.” — Corrine D.
03 Seriously, stop thinking a book has been written about your kid.
“Someone told me, ‘Don't read too many baby/parenting books. Get basic info from a reliable source, use common sense, and trust your instincts.’" — Karen M.
04 Just feed the baby.
“Breastfeeding doesn’t make you a better mom.” — Kelli R.
05 Stop fussing.
“My grandmother told me, ‘Don’t touch a happy baby.’ Sure enough, every time I feel the need to adjust my baby or give her something, I interfere. Just don’t touch a happy baby! Don’t bother them!” — Brittany O.
06 Think smarter, not harder.
“From my aunt: Triple make the crib. Waterproof pad/sheet/pad/sheet/pad/sheet so in the middle of the night if the diaper leaks, you just peel a set off and keep moving as opposed to digging linens from the closet at 2 a.m.” — Barbara H.
07 Work with what you’ve got.
“Once the baby is old enough to try solids, use a frozen waffle for a teething ring.” — Anna D.
08 Introduce the sibs.
“From my MIL: Have the older sibling be in charge of teaching the new baby. In the hospital, the first thing my oldest taught her little sister was to grab her finger. And from that moment on, anyone coming to visit was coming to see what she had taught the baby.” — Jennifer M.
09 ... And let the kids figure it out (sometimes).
“As long as they're not hurting each other, let siblings work things out with each other rather than stepping in, so they can build their own relationship.” — Sharlene B.
10 Let’s get loud.
“Sometimes it’s gonna be noisy in your house. Just let it be noisy.” — EJ V.
11 Change your focus.
“Give lots of attention to behavior that you like. Do not give attention to behavior you don't like.” — Jennifer D.
12 Give yourself this break.
“Sometimes you gotta just throw out the poopy underwear.” — Denise M.
13 Nip entitlement in the bud.
“A friend who was struggling with an entitled teen advised me: Don’t ever let your kids win at Candyland. Never forgot and never did.” — Cheryl H.
14 Boy moms: Stick together.
“When you are a mom of boys, don’t have playdates with moms of girls. They will think you are a terrible parent and that your son is an animal when your boy is climbing, hitting, and wrecking everything. Moms of boys get each other!” — Kristina G.
15 It’s their job.
“From my mother, who had four: ‘Kids will always push — even a little — just to see what they can get away with.’ So take heart… it’s not just your kid who tries this stuff.” — Diane O.
16 Set boundaries to curb the gimmies.
“When taking them to the grocery store, explain what you are there for. When they ask for toys, candy, etc., remind them:
That’s not what we came for, end of discussion. Worked like a charm.” — Valerie B. 17 Quality time is the best present.
“The best reward you can give them is time with you.” — Ronda M.
18 Embrace who they are.
“When my son was diagnosed with Aspergers, we were told to ‘Live in his world, don't try to make him fit into your world.’ I have embraced looking at the world in Tyler's eyes ever since, and it's been fascinating.” — Carrie G.
19 This too shall pass.
“A coworker told me, ‘Just when you think a phase they are in will be the death of you, the very next day it will be over, and they will begin a new phase. And the cycle will start over again.’ She was totally right! Even now, years later, when I think I can’t take another day of my boys calling me bro, I rest easier knowing it’s almost over.” — Sarah B.
20 You were not born a perfect parent.
“You’re going to make some mistakes. You’ll need to forgive yourself.” — Errol W.
21 Remind your kids that you are the company you keep.
“This applies primarily to teenagers: Show me your kid’s friends, and I will show you their future.’” — Jared B.
22 You really do know best.
“Use your ‘mother’s intuition.’ It usually is right on the money, whether it’s about a medical thing or whether your kid should really go to that sleepover. Trust your gut.” — Mary G.
23 Teach them how you think.
“When you have made a careful decision, stick to it and explain it. If down the line you change that decision, explain why to your kids. I think that helped my daughters think for themselves.” — Peg M.
24 Don’t forget your sense of humor.
“The thing that’s always stuck with me is a joke a stranger told me in passing: ‘Don’t worry, it gets easier after the first 40 years.’ lol” — Audrey K.
25 Remember: It’s their life.
“It’s not about you.” — Beth M.