My son is turning one next week and I am full of so many emotions. There’s some sadness that we have to say goodbye to the baby stage but a lot of excitement about what’s next.
In a year that brought thousands of lessons, little and big, I’m using his first birthday to reflect on the most important ones that I’ll carry with me long after we’ve blown out the candle on his birthday cake.
So as we embark on his second year of life, I promise to keep the following lessons in mind:
- Embrace the helping hands of friends and family. From the moment my team of doctors decided to induce me and bring my little guy into the world, we had close family and friends there to help us through it all. I have learned that no matter how much you want to be supermom, you sometimes need that extra helping hand. It took a lot for me to ask for help, but those extra meals, babysitting hours, and reassuring words of wisdom meant so much.
- Every child is different. Even as an early childhood educator, it was hard for me to remember that every baby and every child is different. When my little one was crying for hours at a time, I continued to think, “Susy’s baby didn’t do this.” Once I took a deep breath (I also learned to take a lot of those), I started to learn that my son was his own person and all I could do was get to know him and attend to his individual needs.
- No more Dr. Google. New parents today are blessed and cursed to have the Internet at their disposal. 3 a.m. Google searches to find out about your baby’s red skin will often do more harm than good. In the span of three minutes I let Google diagnose my son with measles, mumps, and Scarlett fever. I’ve learned that I will know when something needs to be attended to by a medical professional.
- Trust my instincts. There are millions of books, websites, and even strangers only too happy to provide advice on how to raise your little one. But as confusing as those multiple voices in my head have been from time to time, I’ve discovered that no matter what, my husband and I know our little guy better than anyone else in the world (and, yes, oftentimes that even includes friends and family). And when we aren’t sure about something we have a handful of trusted advisors we go to. Everyone else’s opinions fade into the background noise.
- Everyday is a new adventure. Babies change and grow so much in a year. Each day they show you something new. Whether they learn to crawl or to sleep when you want them to, every single day is so new for them and for you. I learned that just because one thing happened yesterday doesn’t mean it will happen the next. I’ve also learned, more than ever, to just go with the flow.
- Laugh more. Ever since we could feel my son moving around in the womb, he has loved when I laugh. Whether we were at a movie or my husband was trying to make me giggle, he would squirm and kick inside of me. When he was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), it was the sound of our laughs that helped calm him and keep his oxygen at perfect numbers. Seeing the effects of our laughter on our son, my husband and I always remember to laugh about anything and everything that comes our way. Late for another family get together? We laugh about it! Mushy green beans all over the carpet? We laugh about it!
- It’s not a race. Before I became a mom I had no idea that the parenting world is so competitive. And one of the things I realized is that with social media being a large part of our everyday lives, the competition gets amplified with all our parent friend’s videos, photos, and status updates. There were days that logging into my Facebook account made me question my son’s physical, emotional, and overall development. But I’ve realized that no matter how it sometimes feels, this isn’t a race and there really is no “finish line”. And then I go back to lessons 2, 3, and 6 so I remember that every child develops on their own timeline, to trust my instincts about when I might need to consult a professional, and to laugh at how riled up I got from a 3-second video of some anonymous baby’s first steps.
- It’s okay to make mistakes. Nobody is perfect, but I will admit I thought I had to be when I brought my baby home. I thought that every little mistake would have a lasting affect on his growth and development. With the help of reassuring family and friends (and caffeine) along the way, I learned that I will make mistakes during this parenting journey and that’s okay. As long as my son is happy and healthy, then small mistakes are okay.
- Slow down. This is difficult in light of our busy lives but I have learned to slow down and enjoy every moment. As a couple who always had their weekends packed full of something, we’ve tried to scale back on the craziness. We make sure to always spend time with family and friends, but will save some time to hang out as a family. My little guy will only go through these stages once and I want to enjoy them to their fullest.
- Love myself more. The first time my son smiled from ear-to-ear when I entered a room, I realized that I was someone’s role model. Knowing I had this new life watching my every move reminded me to take care of myself and love myself more. I find myself thinking more about the food I eat (and the food I prepare for him), the amount of physical activities we do in a day, and our overall health and well-being. An active, healthy lifestyle was always important to me but now that there’s a little person in my life learning from my choices, I see the importance of staying on track.
This past year I have learned more about myself, my family, and the world around me than I ever thought possible. And with the lessons of year one in my pocket I’m feeling really ready for the next chapter.
Bring it on year 2, I can’t wait to see what you’ve got up your sleeve.