My son turns 13 today. I officially have a teen in the house. (I've unofficially had a teen attitude in the house for nearly a year now.)
So much changes in 13 years. So much has just changed in the past year! He was slightly taller than me on his last birthday (ok, maybe more than slightly), but now he TOWERS over me and he's about to leave his father in the dust. His voice has dropped and that high pitched squeak is now a booming baritone. There is a shadow of a mustache right over his lip. Can this be the same person who I held so tightly in my arms eight hours after he was born? Is this the same kid who sucked his thumb and wouldn't sleep without Bobby, his stuffed reindeer? The boy who rode on his father's shoulders coming home from his first day of school? (How embarrassing is this for him? Good thing he doesn't read my blog!)
I'm happy and proud to say that for the most part, he’s turned into a fine young man. As a parent, I try to let him know how proud I am of him and praise him when he does a good job with something. (Whatever that something may be.) I'm afraid, that being human, he doesn't hear the praise so well, but DOES hear the criticism. (Don't we all?) I DO criticize and nag (which I understand is a good thing now?). But I try to balance it out. After all, parenting IS a balancing act. A difficult balancing act! Would any parent disagree with me?
Kids don't come with instruction manuals, although there are PLENTY of parenting books out there, but there are so many of them and who knows which one is right for you? People are always willing to give you advice when it comes to parenting, but who knows which advice you should take? What works for Family A might not work for you. You need to go with your instincts; do what you think is right and NOT beat yourself up too much if you're wrong or if it doesn't quite work out the way you think it should. We all have failures. More importantly, we all have successes.
You WILL have regrets. Hopefully they are minor. For example, I regret buying a "boppy" pillow. I couldn't breast feed and I didn't really need it. There are so many things that they say you "NEED" when you have a child. Most of them you really don't. (The vibrating/bouncy chair is one thing that I WILL say every parent needs. We loved it. He loved it. I cried when he outgrew it!) Use your own judgement when it comes to products. Again, what works for Family A or B, might not work for you.
Of course you may not find out what works best for you until after you've tried it. As I'm sure we've all heard before; you've got to pick your battles. I threw in the towel too soon on several things or wasn't consistent enough. Things like potty training took way too long because we didn't work on it hard enough. And it WAS hard work (especially for my husband who did most of it "training" as a stay at home dad)! Since my son was and IS stubborn and didn't want to learn, and we DIDN'T force, he was in diapers a lot longer than I would have liked. (And I think of all the money I could have saved by NOT buying diapers!) On the other hand, we tried "baseball" (k-ball) and he just wasn't into it. I saw no reason to force it. The last few sessions we sat out on; and let him sleep in. For us, that was the right thing to do.
What I will never regret are the experiences we've had as a family, even when they were less than perfect. Whether it be living in a Holiday Inn for nearly a week after my son was born (something he won't remember, but my husband and I will never forget) or our first trip to Disney World, family experiences are worth more than the financial cost. Drives to visit with great grandpa for a few hours where my husband sat in the back of the car with my son reading from Harry Potter. Or building "spa baths" on the beach with a vacationing cousin from Australia. The pilot who invited our son to sit in the pilot seat after our flight. Marching in the 4th of July parade in 90+ heat wearing civil war era clothing (which meant a wool jacket for my son). They are all more precious than gold to me.
Our adventure as a family began 13 years ago. I'd like to think the successes outweigh the failures. I'm grateful for all our family experiences...and am looking forward to thousands more.