As part of her baby shower, my cousin who gave birth to our youngest family member in May, asked each person who visited to write a parenting story or a piece of advice on the back of a 4 x 6 card she sent with her invitations. However, being verbose and wanting to help, I ended up typing out a few rules with my daughter’s assistance editing the list. I wrote the following:
Please receive this with the understanding that
I know nothing except what my daughter taught me.
Be honest with yourself and your child. They’ll come to know when you’re being deceitful; don’t give them such ammunition against you later. Oh yeah, and there’s that whole “foundation of trust” thing to consider.
Sing, dance, and be silly every day. It makes it easier to face the hard times.
Be patient, not just with your child, but with yourself. Parenting is a dialectic experience, it goes both ways. Count to ten, shut your mouth and listen, breathe, do yoga, go for a jog, or see the next suggestion.
Be willing to admit mistakes. As the adult, you must be entirely willing to not only own up to your mistakes and talk about them, but to put yourself in time out. As Ana has said to my mother, “Nana, I wish you could still tell my mom what to do.”
Magic is incredibly important. Make space for the fairy tales and the fairies, let imagination run free. (Read Touch Magic by Jane Yolen for more on this.)
Be consistent. This is something my own mother told me, and I have found to be true. No matter what you decide are the rules or guidelines of the house, make certain you stick to them to provide a secure, stable environment.
Spend lots of time in natural settings. Don’t be afraid to let your children utilize all their glorious given senses. They’re the best teachers. (Just be ready with a bath or a hose afterwards!)
Be flexible. Sometimes the rules simply don’t apply. It’s that whole “picking your battles” notion. Learning situational awareness is just as important as establishing a personal code of ethics; inflexibility can lead to rebellion against reasonable rules.
Sometimes cake is an appropriate breakfast food.
Talk to your child as you would an adult who has limited English capacity, rather than you would to a baby. Because I instinctively followed this rule, Ana has been allowed at parties with child-free adults who hate children. She gets compliments on her behavior by such individuals who normally would not allow a child in their presence.
The answer to any “why” question is “gravity.”
The answer to any “how” question is “let’s find out.”
When the question baffles you, the answer is, “I love you.”
Hug lots, talk about what’s in your heart, and…
When all else fails, laugh.
What else would you say to a new (or veteran) parent looking for advice?
UPDATE: Having only begun utilizing Word Press, I am flustered at finding no way around the italicized text when using block quotes. I apologize for the awkward formatting, and welcome assistance in fixing it so that my text merely indents.