1. I’ll admit it, when my oldest son was born more than a decade ago; I was a text-book mom.  I read, therefore I knew.  Other, more experienced mothers could tell me nothing.  This trait endeared me particularly well to my mother-in-law. 

    As a young mom, I made numerous grandiose statements about what I would never do.  And even more dramatic declarations of what I would do.  I will never let my child have a pacifier.  My baby will be on a schedule from day one.  I will never force my child to potty train before he is ready.

    Even with my first my pregnancy, I knew how things would be.  I was going to have a natural birth, no pain medications whatsoever.  I knew the breathing exercises by heart; that would be all that I needed.  Of course, reality inevitably stepped in and began teaching me that words are cheap.

    After thirty hours of labor, my son came into the world through Cesarean section.  Even before the surgery, my exhaustion had taken hold and I was grateful for some pain medications.  I did not protest.  Once we were home, my little bundle of joy had different ideas about his sleeping and eating schedule.  I found myself praying that he would take a pacifier.  He never took to it.

    Of course, it took me a while to catch on to the life lesson.  Two years later, when my second son was born, potty training my eldest became job number one.  I still had unrealistic expectations of how my household would run.  Looking at other moms who were overwhelmed with their small fry, my inner critic found it easy to nitpick their parenting styles.

    I said early on that I would never take my child out of the store for a fit.  My smug declaration came back home to me the day my middle son, then four, screamed at high volume in Wal-Mart.  For fifteen grueling minutes he screamed, because I would not buy him another Hot Wheels car.  Frantically I pleaded with him.  I took him to the bathroom for a stern lecture and a time out.  Nothing abated his protests.  I sought refuge in the van, strapped him in his car seat, and drove home defeated.  I had not finished my shopping.

    What did I learn from all of this?  When it comes to parenting, flexibility is the key.  Learning to adapt and roll with the punches is a survival mechanism.  Rigidity kills.  Understanding that each child, each age may bring different circumstances and adaptability is the key to sanity.

    This is not to say that I have given every standard over to change.  There are plenty of things that I am a stalwart on.  Seat belts, for example, are and have always been non-negotiable.  I insist on courtesy from my children.  For all of the unorganized chaos that their early lives seemed to bring, I have great hopes for the people they are growing up to be.  I just hope they heed my advice when the time comes for them to be new parents.

    Now that I have teenagers in the house, I am grateful for these early clues on the value of flexibility.  I have learned to redefine the important things, and overlook the details.  Losing focus on what really matters is a recipe for disaster.  I pick my battles.  Something that is not a violation of our core values, like honesty and integrity, fairness and hard work, receives less focus than a breach of those values.  That is not to say my children have no rules, they do.  I have just learned teenagers tend to tune out a talking head that always has a critical word for them.  I choose instead to speak up on the deal breakers.  The best part is when I see them really listen.

    If I could go back in time a few years, I would tell that young mother I used to be to lighten up a bit.  I would implore her to stop stressing about choosing the right formula.  Listen to our mother-in-law; one day you will wish you still could.  Most importantly, I would look into the tired eyes of my younger self and tell her, “never say never.”  Words never taste very good when you spend a decade eating them.

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