Last month, my oldest "child" turned 18 on the 18th. It was her golden birthday, and she is excited about a bright future ahead. Of course, for me, it's bittersweet. If she's still a work in progress, in many ways my part is done. I now must admit she's an adult -- the sum result of her childhood. I have received my cumulative "parenting scorecard."
To celebrate my first Mother's Day with an adult child, I'm sharing my favorite lessons learned that commemorate her years. Many lessons were surprises. Some were discovered truths. Some were tests on which I tried to score well. Others simply resulted through child rearing insanity. I hope these resonate for new and seasoned moms.
Birth: When your new baby arrives, you may not feel an instant bond. You may be thinking labor hurt and took too long. But when the nurse places her in your arms, you'll be amazed at the love you feel and your capacity to grow into a mother.
Year 0: Nothing will break your heart more (part one)... than leaving your baby with a sitter for the first time.
Year 1: The initial time your child falls, you may not catch her. But you should manage to every time after that, even if you have to run across the room.
Year 2: Nature's best trick -- when being a mom starts to become easy, a new baby probably will come along.
Year 3: With little ones in the house, you'll learn to eat fast and ignore messes. My mother-in-law once said, "This will never go away, even after the children are grown."
Year 4: The cat always will throw up when you are racing to pack the diaper bag, dress the children and get everyone out the door for a 8 a.m. appointment.
Year 5: You will survive when your child has a complete temper tantrum in public, gets lost in a store, or breaks your grandmother's necklace. But your reaction may determine how well your child's self-image survives.
Year 6: You can watch certain children's videos one more time, no matter how irritating. When your children are no longer interested, you actually will miss these. (I still can sing the Veggie Tales theme song.)
Year 7: Nothing will be more endearing than coming home to find your husband with his hair in barrettes having a tea party with your daughters.
Year 8: Even if you have a moment of clarity and realize your children might not be cuter than every other child, your children definitely will be more loved.
Year 9: Just when all your children start sleeping through the night, your husband may become a terrible snorer.
Year 10: When your child is in a difficult phase, nothing will help you cope as much as finding another mom who has been through it.
Year 11: No matter how much you and your husband have in common, you'll have different parenting styles. These will clash occasionally. But rest assured this is how things should be.
Year 12: The first time your child does something really hard, like a spelling bee, you'll be more proud and nervous than ever before.
Year 13: At some point during the elementary school years, you'll start thinking how great parenting is going and how well behaved your children are. Then someone in your home will turn 13.
Year 14: You'll say the same things your mother did, but this time, you'll know exactly what they mean.
Year 15: Not all of your children will love the same family activities or vacations every time. At least one child will complain loudly. But afterwards, you'll hear them laugh about the fun times they had.
Year 16: Nothing will scare you more than your teenager's first dance, date, car drive alone, or college visit.
Year 17: Nothing will break your heart more (part two)... than hearing your teen mutter, "You've never done anything for me," and then stop speaking to you.
Year 18: You may not like your children 100% of the time, but as my mom says, "I'll love you forever." You'll be lucky if your children feel the exact same about you.
Today: You'll do your best to raise a perfect person, but must realize all children have strengths and flaws. That's what makes them interesting and parenting a constant fascinating challenge. If you can see it that way, you're having a good day.
As for my parenting scorecard, I'll let my daughter someday tell me how I did. But not until she has her own child. After all, she'll need me again then. And I expect to initiate my grandma scorecard with stellar ratings.