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If you’re a new parent, I’ll bet you’ve gazed at your new baby more than once and thought, “Oh my goodness, what on earth have I done?” That’s comes as no surprise. In fact, I’d say you’re perfectly normal. It’s scary to realize this life you’ve created is dependent upon you. The blessing is that children require just one thing from us: To be loved. We are all capable of loving another. The amazing thing about being a parent is that you get to experience the full range and depth of that emotion. Of course, parenting isn’t easy. On any given day, the job can be joyful, maddening, funny, scary, tiring, unpredictable, empowering, and more — a true kaleidoscope of colors. Who knew?
So here are a few of my thoughts on what love looks like.
Love is trusting your instincts. Now that you’re a parent, you’ll get plenty of unsolicited advice on how to raise your baby. Politely ignore it. Ultimately, you are the expert on your child. Tending this life, you’ll gain intimate knowledge of his wants and needs, his strengths and weaknesses, his hopes and dreams. Don’t let others browbeat you into making a decision you feel isn’t in the best interest of your child.
Love is creating a schedule for your baby. If you learn anything from watching the Super Nanny television series, where toddlers and preschoolers often run wild, it’s that children do best when life is predictable. Children need routine. They need to know what comes next; they need to know the limits of their world. This knowledge makes them feel more secure and happy. Predictability, while perhaps boring to adults, is a good thing for kids.
Love is listening to yourself. There are times when we instinctively know something is not right with our child. A cough that rattles too long, a toddler who struggles to walk, a nagging suspicion that something is awry. Such signs are often slight, but trust your inner voice. If something about your child’s behavior or health doesn’t ring true, call your pediatrician. If she can’t provide an answer, find someone who can. It's better to be safe than sorry.
Love is being your child’s best advocate. Whether it’s shopping for a day care or getting tested for a learning disorder, do your homework so that you can make the most informed choice.
Love is giving your child responsibility. Completing a chore on a regular basis gives your child a sense of self-worth and importance. Be sure the task is age-appropriate. Show him how it’s done, and then let him go. Resist the urge to remake the bed to your specifications, as this undermines his contribution. Remember, you are the child’s first classroom and employer.
Love is setting a good example. Children respond to guidance and direction. Be a leader and coach and not just a friend to your child. Set limits. Amd then be willing to enforce them. Remember, children are keen observers, so treat others in a way that would make you proud were your child to mimic you.
Love is relishing everyday gifts. It’s easy to get wrapped up with the busyness of life. We’re often in such a rush to accomplish our goals that we become blind to the ordinary moments that give parenthood its sweetness. One of my favorite pleasures was holding my son, feeling his head nestled gently in the nape of my neck. That felt like home. Reading in bed together also brought me quiet joy. Don’t rush childhood. Treat each day as the gift that it is, because your child will grow up more quickly than you ever thought possible.
Love is forgiveness. We all have a tendency to second-guess ourselves, to doubt that we have what it takes to be a good parent. But the best thing about children is that they love us unconditionally. They see past our flaws and shortcomings, loving us exactly as we are. We need to do the same for ourselves. Treat yourself to a bouquet of flowers, or a quiet bath. Take time to fortify yourself so you can give your family your best each day. And remember that with a child, love never ends.