One of the most important jobs in the world, if not the most important, is that of being a parent. And yet, unlike other tasks and endeavors, it does not come with a training manual.
Oh, sure, there are books on what to expect from your little loved one at various stages of development. Pamphlets on how to react to their odd behavior. Studies on what to feed them in order to avoid a zombie-like response.
And everyone, from your mother-in-law to your cousin's manicurist, has an opinion on the absolute right way to do everything from washing a bottle to doling out those much needed weekly chores.
But there are no absolutes. No one way of doing any one thing. Because every child is unique.
It's not like buying a bookshelf from Ikea and following the direction. (Although that's not always so easy, either.) Place part A in hole B and turn to the left. Voila.
Not so with children.
That being said, as I now slide comfortably into the grandparent role, I have a few things I'd like to pass on about the various stages of parenthood:
1. Toddler Time - Don't worry about keeping an immaculately clean house. Your children are going to grow up faster than you can imagine. Play with them. Read to them. Talk to them. Those dirty dishes can wait until they are sound asleep. And if you fall asleep too, well, so be it. Get to them the next day. There are always going to be dirty dishes. There won't always be your little munchkin to play with.
2. Middle School Days - Don't fall for your child's reasoning, "but everyone's doing it, Mom." It's easy for me to give this advice. Harder to follow. Because it is difficult to watch your child beg and plead. But just because everyone has an iPhone or everyone in the world is going to a concert doesn't mean your child needs to be part of that group. Believe me, everyone really just equates to a few of her friends.
3. Teenage Years - Don't tell your teenager you know how she feels. She won't believe you. Because really, Mom, how can you know how it feels to have a boy break up with you with a text message? Texting wasn't around when you were a teen. Of course, if a boy breaks up with you by leaving a message on your phone, it hurts just the same. But your teenager is not going to get that.
She also doesn't won't get that every teen feels the same as her because as a teenager you always feel so alone in world. Just be there for her.
If there ever is a definitive manual on raising kids, I hope my suggestions would be included.
But my biggest, most important piece of advice is this: Listen to them. Love them. And let them become the person they are supposed to be.