Live. Laugh. Love. And Learn.
by Winnie Moen
M. ED., PCI Certified Parent Coach®
It has been an honor and a privilege to be the Mother of my five children and the birth of each one is etched in my memory as the best moments of my life. While reflecting upon my 20 years of motherhood, I was chuckling about how much my children have taught me. I'm sure most of us are familiar with the saying "Live. Laugh. Love.", but when it comes to parenting, I think we need to add a fourth "L," Learn.
Live. A really big lesson that I am still learning is to live with intention. You have heard that actions speak louder than words. Kids are like little video recorders storing everything that we do. Children follow the example set by their parents. Every parent quickly learns this the first time their child repeats something they said. The example we set is every bit as important as the words we say and, as parents, we need to walk the talk. My boys are very respectful to me, because their Father treats me with respect. We feel okay when curbing their TV watching, because their Dad and I watch very little TV.
It is also important to put things in perspective as we move through our lives. For years I fought getting a dog, always saying no when asked. Then one day I asked myself what would benefit my children the most- a very clean home or a pretty clean home along with the experience of the care and nurturing of a dog? We have had our dog, Baxter, for 4 years now and he has added so much to our family! My children know that it was a big sacrifice to allow them to have this pet. They tell me often how grateful they are to have him. Sometimes, the best thing for our children is to gently say no to things they ask for. But there are also many opportunities to show them we are capable of changing our minds if we think there is a good reason to do so. I'm glad I rethought this and was willing to change my mind. I am a better parent when I am being mindful and helping our children live life to the fullest.
Laugh. Another important insight I've gained from being a mother is to have a sense of humor! Laugh and have fun! We take everything way too seriously these days! It is very well known in our house that Mom turns into a monster at bedtime, especially when the children are still awake and it is getting late. Many times it is even due to Dad riling them up and doing body slams and steamrollers and other wrestling moves. One morning before school my daughter was just sitting at breakfast grinning from ear to ear. I asked her what she was smiling about and she said how much fun she had before bed last night. It hit me. These kids will not remember being tired a few mornings before school, but they will always hold dear the special bedtime memories with Daddy.
We still laugh about the best birthday ever. My husband came home from work on his 38th birthday and the kids asked him where he wanted to go for his birthday dinner. Without thought he answered, "Chuck E. Cheese's" (a children's dream world consisting of pizza, rides, games, and prizes). The kids were speechless. We had a blast and they reminisce about that evening often.
And then there are the parenting moments when you have to laugh to stay sane. At age 3, our son shattered the picture window in our living room with a baseball bat, showering the couch and his siblings with broken glass. It wasn't until he told us he thought he "killed the fly good" that we realized the broken window was a minor issue to him compared to his accomplishment. There are no material possessions that are more important than feelings. There is always safety first and teaching proper behavior and self-control, and then there are times that are just too humorous and only laughter is the answer.
Love. My very first parental instructions came from the womb. This was the lesson of love. With less than a month until my due date, my first baby was insisting on coming out the wrong way. Of course, I did as much research as I could and found that only a small percent of babies are born breech. I kept getting more stressed and worried thinking there must be something wrong with him that he can't come out the proper way. I literally stood on my head to get him to turn. In the end, he turned on his own and everything was fine. But the lesson was learned: I can't control this living changing being.
It is still the same 20 years later with him and his 4 siblings. We cannot and should not try to control our children. We need to love them. This sounds so simple, but it is a tall order. Love means not pushing your children. They have their peers, the media, teachers, counselors, relatives, coaches and themselves applying pressure. So when at 10 my daughter came home and said that she quit Honors math, I finally got it. She has to want it and be happy and she wasn't happy being in Honors math. It is not about me, her Mom! I supported her decision and, more importantly, her willingness to make a decision for herself. Although I wasn't thrilled that she told the teachers that I said she couldn't do it anymore. Her response to me was "You and Daddy told me I could use you as an excuse if I wanted out of a bad situation!" (We had always told our children they could use us as an excuse with the intention of helping them deal with difficult peer pressure situations. We never envisioned the use of this "excuse" the way our daughter made use of it at school. Another lesson learned.)
And love is learning not to continually nudge my other daughter to go to the school dances, just because I did and all the other kids are going. I had to stop seeing things for myself to realize she was perfectly happy not going to the dances. Love is supporting our boys while they cheer for college football and basketball as competitive cheerleaders, even though we were more used to the idea of them playing the sports.
Learn. As my son once said, "Mom, I SCHOOLED YA!" Yes, I will be the first to admit that I have definitely been schooled by all of my children! I'm amazed how they've taught me to be a better mother and I plan to continue to ...LIVE with intention, LAUGH often, LOVE unconditionally and keep LEARNING. By the way, I've been told that the first 40 years as a parent are the hardest. Just think of how much more I will learn along the way. I'll be sure to keep you posted.
Winnie is the mother of two sons and three daughters. She is a recent graduate from the PCI and is beginning her coaching practice in the Chicago area. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (630) 717-6775.
Copyright © 2009 Winnie Moen, all rights reserved. Used with permission.