Your first kid is like the first pancake in the frying pan: half raw and half burnt.
Someone said that to me years ago. At the time, I was busy chasing around my first born son and, if I am being honest, I was a little offended. I scrunched up my eyebrows and brushed it off, all while reminding myself of all the parenting books I had read. I was surely doing everything right.
Now, 8 years and 2 additional kids later, that quote still sticks in my mind. The reason that I haven’t forgot it is simple. It is the most accurate parenting advice I have ever heard.
Your first child is exactly like the first pancake in the pan. It is no fault of yours. You know just as much about the true challenges of parenting as you know what will happen to that fresh pancake batter when you toss it into scalding hot oil.
If you are anything like the majority of parents, you will overdo some aspects of parenting, while other skills are forgotten or underdeveloped. My first son learned to sing the alphabet by the time he was 15 months old, but if you asked him to sit by himself for two full minutes he would look at you like you told him that you decided to ship him away to be a trapeze artist in a circus act.
As most first borns are, my sweet son was our little family’s guinea pig. When #2 came along, I started to realize that parenting didn’t have to be as challenging as I made it. Then, sweet #3 arrived. It wasn’t until then that I had the chance to test out the new parenting skills I theorized.
And guess what? Parenting was suddenly easy and fun. I am not saying it wasn’t fun before, but I was constantly doubting myself. These are the 5 simple things that took me three kids to finally learn.
Tantrums are a Part of Learning
Arguments, tears, and tantrums are all a normal part of learning and growing.
With my first child, I saw tears as a sign that I was failing him. What pressure to have as a mother of a young toddler! Even if my child was crying over something silly, I saw it as my job to stop what I was doing and fix that problem.
With my third child, I’ve learned not to take the tears and tantrums so seriously. Obviously we don’t want our kids to be upset. but it is a normal part of growing up. Kids are learning to deal with big emotions, and gaining emotional intelligence with each obstacle. They are learning to communicate, compromise, and understand their feelings.
And sometimes they are just flat out tired. Don’t take every tear personally. As a parent, guide and support them, but it is not your job to fix every problem.
Giving Kids Space is Healthy
I have a confession. With my first born, I was a helicopter mom. Yes, it is true. I felt that it was my responsibility to catch him every time he fell. If I could have wrapped him in bubble wrap and tied him to my leg, you can bet I would have.
When I had my third kid, this type of behavior swiftly came to an end. Although this was partly due to my diminished energy and lack of time, but the main reason was due to the benefits I saw when I started to give my kids space.
Studies have proven that kids, when given the opportunity to play in rough and risky ways, develop many valuable skills related to empathy, sportsmanship, emotional intelligence, and more.
Your kids are actually learning from wrestling, climbing trees, and acting like wild monkeys who just escaped from the zoo. Let them learn on their own that they can get back up after they fall.
Kids are Resilient
Once my first son jumped off the couch and started to limp. Immediately this burst of adrenaline coursed through my veins. I cradled him in my arms, placed him directly in the car, and promptly drove to the local children’s hospital.
When we got to the parking lot, he proceeded to jump out of the car and sprint through the parking lot like I told him they were giving away free ice cream at the emergency room entrance.
It took me a while to finally notice a pattern: kids are ridiculously resilient. I have seen my children take seriously, scary looking tumbles and get up laughing.
My youngest son sprints FULL speed down the hill in our backyard that resembles a 90-degree angle. He wipes out every single time, and he gets up laughing.
Obviously, you know your kid best, and should trust your judgement if something seems wrong. But if you went to the doctor’s with each fall, sniffle, and ‘boo-boo’ you may as well buy stock in the hospital.
Don’t Over-stress about Milestones
I remember being worried when my oldest son wasn’t walking at 11 months old (YES, 11 months!)- only because a friend’s baby walked at that age. My husband and I would practice with him and give each other worried looks after failed attempts.
Obviously there are exceptions you need to look out for, but in most cases there is no reason to get worried if your children are not being tested for advanced placement classes or showing interest in running marathons.
My third child showed absolutely no interest in potty training until his 4 year birthday was approaching. I reminded myself that he will not wear diapers in college, and I quickly felt at ease.
Your Intuition is Usually Right
Consider this: Baby books tell you that your child should stop using a bottle the moment they turn one year old. Your baby is two years old, and you both adore cuddling for “bottle time” each night. What do you do?
I am not a pediatrician (and I am not telling you to go against their advice), but I have always stuck by my motherly intuition. For me, if it “felt” right, and wasn’t causing harm, then it was not something to waste time stressing over.
Studies continually show how trustworthy your instincts as a mother are. When you learn to listen to your gut feelings, you will realize how reliable they can be.
My third born is a well-adjusted, confident, and fun-loving kid. He is independent, unique, and loves to be around his brother and sister. The parenting lessons I learned from his older two siblings contributed to his steady, easy-going personality.
The steadfast parenting lessons you can learn from your children are timeless and priceless. While I seemingly owe a lot of these lessons to my third born, it was really all three of my children who contributed to these lessons equally.
If you learn to listen to what they are teaching you, then each “pancake” that follows will get more evenly “cooked” with little to no effort.