My life experience as a mom comes directly from the mistakes and triumphs my children and I have experienced together.
My first daughter, Ashleyrose, now 30, was truly the guinea pig for me. She brought it all for me: tantrums on the busy city bus, struggles in school, learning differences and a whole lot of attitude wrapped up into her beautiful little soul, delivered directly to my doorstep by the stork when I was 21.
By the time Ashleyrose was 3 1/2, we began going to a counselor because we were in need of a whole lot of help. The key is to seek help when you are struggling. Just seek and ask, whether the help comes from counselors, friends, family, spiritual advisors, early childhood groups, the school system or books. I read, I asked and I joined, because it truly does take a village, as the saying goes.
Many people may have the impression that the school system can be challenging at times, and yes it can be, but there are some gifted and talented teachers and staff members who can make a huge impact and difference on and for your children when you work together in the interest of your child’s well-being.
I have had to advocate through the years for all of my girls in the schools, and I am still actively doing that with my 12-year-old Lilyanna. Sometimes I am received well, sometimes not; I still stay involved and keep my mind open. Even when your children go off to high school, and the way you are involved as a parent changes, stay involved.
As parents, we are here to listen, support and give constructive advice. You will need to get creative, because the way you listen, support and give advice changes with each child’s uniqueness, age and sex. It’s vital to let them know you support and accept them and their uniqueness, however that looks.
Work hard at listening to others and your own spirit, because neither is easy. Be kind even when it is difficult, be helpful and thoughtful, be aware, try to stop, pause and maybe even sleep on it. Your first reaction may not always be the one you want. Forgive others and yourself, so you can move forward.
Allowing our children to deal with their feelings — the good, the bad and the ugly — is a very important part of helping them mature into productive beings with good life skills. Learning to accept and process all of those feelings throughout their growing years — and getting the tools to live life on life’s terms — will help them be more successful when they go out into to this big beautiful world on their journey.
What supports and sustains them may be as little as hearing them when they come to us with the frustrations of their lives. We are not there to fix it all and make it all better. Just be still and soft with them and sit with them in their storms until they learn to weather those storms of life themselves. Be there and let them know that they are okay with all that they are and all that they are not.
An important part of raising my beautiful daughters has been to motivate them to get involved with different activities and to follow their interests. My girls were involved in dancing, singing/choir, piano, clarinet/band, acting, swimming/beach, hiking, horseback riding, t-ball, softball, tennis, volleyball, writing and reading. The library was big at our house. Get creative, be active.
Supporting your children in getting involved in different activities helps them develop a sense of self, builds courage and self-esteem, and teaches them what they are good at and what they do not care for. Get them away from the television, internet and cell phone. Do things! Support them when they run for class mayor or student counsel and cheer for them at athletic events or when they want to become a volunteer. They need you to do that. That is what we signed up for when we agreed to have this journey with them.
Lastly, know your children’s friends, let them know you and know their parents, if at all possible. Never let your children go to a friend’s home without knowing, personally, what is going on in that house!
Choosing to guide a little soul into adulthood is not always an easy journey, but it is truly a blessing. It has been for me. The love and feeling that I have as a mother to Ashleyrose, Dakota-Rae and Lilyanna is like no other. Worth it? Yes. Every single moment I am thankful for my mistakes and triumphs, for the dancing and the tantrums, for the tears and the laughter, for the counselors and the teachers, and for family and friends, because it truly does take a village.