10 things I've Learned from 10 Years of Being a Mom

Today is my son’s 10th birthday. Ten! I cannot believe he is in the double digits already. It seems like he was born just yesterday. It also seems like I am NOT old enough to have a ten-year-old, but I digress.

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In honor of this momentous occasion, and the boy who made me a mommy, I thought I would pay tribute to the last decade. So, without further ado:

10 in 10: Ten lessons for ten years of motherhood

  1. Before I had Cooper, I didn’t know what ‘mom guilt’ was. It’s a real phenomenon, though. It is both overwhelming and exhausting. And it applies to pretty much any situation one can imagine. You try to stay consistent with discipline, so your kid ends up missing a good friend’s birthday party: Mom Guilt {even if you give in and let him go}. The older child doesn’t want to ride the bus, but the younger one never gets a good nap if you have to sit through the carpool line: Mom Guilt {no one wins here, by the way… carpool is the pits}. You’re taking the kids to Disney World, but they’re both missing school and he’s missing a baseball game: Mom Guilt. And the big one, which I’ll simply refer to as the Mom Guilt Debate: Are you a full-time working mom or a stay-at-home mom? No further explanation needed. There is enough guilt on both sides to go around, so there’s no use pointing fingers or envisioning greener grass on the other side. There’s no clear answer here. It. Never. Ends. I figure Mom Guilt will hang around as long as I’m a mother, so basically until my dying day. Might as well embrace it as the clingy, annoying friend it wants to be. Make yourself right at home, Mom Guilt. I get it; You’re not going anywhere.

  2. I don’t feel like I’m a very vain person, nor do I think of myself as overly attractive. But, by some genetic jackpot, both of my children are beautiful. They just are. Or, they are to my husband and me. I suppose we could just be blinded by unconditional love. Maybe everyone else thinks our kids are butt-ugly. However, based on the numerous comments I have received while out in public with them, I suspect that’s not the case. Her long white-blonde hair. His golden tan. Her adorable smile. His perfect little nose. Nobody told me I would spend hours upon hours of their lives simply staring at his dark, thick eyelashes. Or her big, beautiful blue eyes. Before becoming a mom, I had no clue how hard I would work to imprint these amazingly perfect features on my memory so I would remember their beauty forever. I know this makes me sound as vain as I just claimed I wasn’t, but I still shake my head in wonder when I look at them sometimes. HOW did we make such gorgeous children?

  3. I never thought my kids would be better dressed than me 99.9% of the time. But they are. I’m still squeezing into shirts I wore to Thirsty Thursday in college, but my son’s athletic shirts and shorts are all name-brand and on-trend and way more expensive than my scoopneck tee from the Gap, circa 2004. I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I actually buy him Under Armour underwear, as well. Two pair cost more than my entire drawer full of {old, holy, in dire need of replacing} underwear, but darnit if he doesn’t look like the cutest little guy in his skintight boxer briefs. And, of course, I do have a daughter. Sigh. I can’t really scratch the surface on how robust her wardrobe is. I usually end up with several of her dresses and/or outfits that go without being worn simply because there just aren’t enough days in a season. I can’t help it. I want my kids to look nice in public. Or, you know, while sitting at home. I’m obviously not winning any fashion awards over here, but maybe my kids can do a respectable job of representing our family on my behalf.

  4. I want the best for both my kids. I was prepared to feel that before becoming a mom. What I was unprepared for, though, was how to go about obtaining the ‘best.’ I’m not even sure what constitutes the ‘best.’ Is it guitar, drum and spanish lessons? Every season of the year filled with baseball, football, basketball, soccer and gymnastics, some of which may overlap? Is it swim team and chess team and three days a week at church? Or is it scheduling down time. Doesn’t that sound so ridiculous? Why would you need to schedule down time? {See the above list.} Is offering every opportunity available giving them the ‘best’? Is all day at school enough and maybe they shouldn’t be involved in every single activity known to man? I truly don’t know the answer to this. It’s not a rhetorical question. If anyone has answers... help. Please let me know the ‘best’ way to balance sports, academics and chill time so my kids can live their ‘best’ little lives. I guess even with an entire decade of motherhood under my belt, this is just one of those issues that will always be a struggle. There, I learned something new!

  5. You know when people say, “Every kid is different”? Well, I have come to find out that that is the understatement of the year in our house. My kids could not be more different than each other if I had ordered them that way. Polar. Opposites. In nearly every category; physical appearance, attitudes, personality, learning styles, you name it. Just when I thought I had the first one figured out, the second one came along and it felt like how I imagined welcoming a Martian into our home would be with how drastically different she was from #1. It’s not just the boy/girl thing, either. Or the ages, although both factors do come into play, I’m sure. They are just so different from each other. But I have learned that our lives would be some kind of boring if we had it any other way. We have really embraced our two opposites. They keep us laughing and there is never a dull moment with those two. And, hey, it’s true that opposites attract; otherwise the hubs and I never would have gotten together. That’s just how we roll!

  6. I should be able to add “Thinks fast on her feet” to my resume. Or maybe something a bit more colorful, like, “Comes up with the most impressive bullcrap at lightning speed.” Kids keep all mothers on their toes nearly every waking moment. Thinking fast is just a prerequisite for the position once a child is old enough to understand what their parents tell them. I have gotten a lot better at this over the years, thankfully. There’s a good chance poor Cooper has been traumatized by some of my less than stellar quick-thinking. It’s kind of funny to think that I spent years learning how to… let’s say ‘fib’... to my parents during my crazy teenage years. Shouldn’t I be better prepared for questions like, “So, how do you actually have a baby, Mom?” I don’t think my answer of “Oh, you know, you just kind of… poop her out” was satisfactory. I will say, it did shut down any further questions, so maybe I’m not as dumb as I think. I hope TK gets a better version of mom bull than poor Coop has so far.

  7. Another myth debunked when I became a mother the second time around? That I wouldn’t have enough love to go around for any other children. I loved my son so completely I didn’t know how I would make room in my heart for my daughter, who came along 6.5 years later. I had an only child and we had made some wonderful memories as a happy family of three. I went through an entire pregnancy nervous that my sweet baby girl wouldn’t be loved enough when she finally got here. That could not have been more untrue and I knew it the second I laid eyes on her. I don’t know how, but it was as if my heart had doubled in size, just like the Grinch’s! I treasure the special time we had with our Cooper, but Tessa Kate completed our family at exactly the right time. Realizing that there is absolutely enough love to go around has been one of the most tender lessons I have learned as a mother and I am probably most grateful for this one. That being said, I’m a petite person and I don’t think my heart can grow anymore. Loving two perfect kiddos is more than enough for me, please and thank you!

  8. On the heels of #7, I never realized how much being a mother can emotionally and even physically hurt your heart. I know it’s unrealistic, but I wish I could keep my kids wrapped in a bubble so they never have to know pain or disappointment or shame or sadness. That’s not how life works, though, so as parents, we just have to brace ourselves for those inevitable situations where we can’t protect our children from those outside forces. I remember when Cooper was in preschool, he told me he wanted me to send a “grownup” spoon in his lunchbox from now on because a kid in his class told him his Buzz Lightyear utensil was a “baby spoon.” I taught at the preschool Coop attended and I really wanted to thump that kid when I saw him in the hallway. How dare he hurt my kid’s feelings and take away a piece of his innocence in the process? But, alas, things like that happen to everyone as they get older and grow more independent. They are life lessons that, unfortunately, need to be learned. The thought of my kids going to high school (or even middle school these days) where my involvement will be minimal at best makes me want to throw up. And I will vomit right here on the floor if I allow myself to think about college. So I won’t. My precious children will go to a commuter school and live forever with their spouses and children in our guest house!

  9. Before becoming a mom, I never knew the struggle I would face every day between simultaneously needing some time to myself but also wanting to spend every single second with my kids. When I am trying to pee in peace and the little one is banging on the door because she “needs” more gummies or the big one wants to show me a magic trick while I am trying to cook dinner, a silent room with a comfy bed and good book seems as alluring as one of those amazing huts over the clear blue ocean in Bora Bora. But when I’m actually in that room with no one but myself and the millions of thoughts running through my head, I long to be with my family. If that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is. But I know I’m not alone here. It’s a common struggle that comes with the territory, I guess. I know my husband and I need to nurture our marriage and invest in date nights and trips for just the two of us; that’s very important. But if I’m being honest, a movie night with the four of us and our new puppy curled up on the couch sounds more appealing to me nine times out of ten. That tenth time is usually reserved for a girls night out when I’m fed up with everyone at the same time.

  10. If I have lived for ten years as a mom and learned nothing else, it’s that nearly everything having to do with parenting is a season. This is really the only piece of wisdom I hope to impart with this post. It’s the most important, in my opinion. The fundamentals of raising kids stay the same, but the day-to-day struggles and triumphs, the phases and the chapters… they’re all fleeting moments. They come and go so fast in the scheme of things, even though it can be tough to realize in the middle of it all; especially the harder parts of parenthood. The tantrums and the busy schedules and the seemingly never-ending problems, they all seem to linger around for eons. But take it from me: I blinked and my little baby boy with the gap in his front teeth and the sweetest chubby cheeks I’ve ever seen turned ten today. And I don’t know how that amount of time passed so quickly. I am absolutely better at recognizing the seasons with my daughter, but it doesn’t bring back the ones I wished away with my son. The rough patches might appear to drag on endlessly, but even new parents know the precious moments we live for slip away with the snap of a finger. The baby you rock to sleep at night, the superhero who accompanies you to the grocery store, the pigtailed little girl who makes up songs while she plays with her Barbies… they all change with the seasons on a regular basis, sometimes at lightning speed. It’s heartbreaking and wonderful at the same time. But isn’t that motherhood in a nutshell? Hardest, most rewarding job I have ever had. And the only one I’ll ever want.

Cooper, you fulfilled my greatest dream when you made me your mommy ten years ago today. Unless there is a way to bottle time or slow it down or keep you my baby forever, I wouldn’t change one second of the life we have led with you in it. I love you, son. And I thank you for all you have taught me and all you will continue to teach me. Happy birthday, buddy!

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