As soon as you become a mamma — well, actually, the minute you find out you’re going to be a mamma — you become increasingly interested in milestones and benchmarks and when junior is “supposed to” do whatever. Through the years there are lots of firsts. Some firsts are natural, expected, and celebrated while other firsts are more comparable to a train wreck that you’d prefer to believe only happens to someone else’s kiddo! Some firsts can be challenging for kiddo and mama alike! Here are some firsts along the ever-winding, sometimes bumpy, the road of mommyhood…buckle your seatbelt!
Wee ones [0-18 months]
You’re getting the hang of this whole mama gig. You’re functioning on less sleep than normal, showering on a semi-regular basis, and tackling laundry duty, which has seemed to double with the entry of this tiny person into your fold. Honey, you deserve a night out, but leaving your wee one with someone else for the first time can be a scary thought. The “what if” scenarios can overwhelm you: what if the sitter can’t get him to stop crying…what if I don’t get any cell service in the movie theater…what if a massive sinkhole immerges in the yard and I can’t get home before it swallows the house…what if…what if…WHAT IF?! Luckily, the odds of your wee one being completely safe while you are gone are in your favor. So as you set out on some adult time away, remember:
Baby steps, don’t be surprised if you expected to leave your wee one with a sitter was going to be a piece of cake and now you’d rather pull out your eyelashes with a tweezer! Yes, leaving the first time can be really hard, but it does get easier. Start with a short time away and work your way up. And how old should your wee one be before you leave him with a sitter? When you’re ready to leave him with a sitter is the right time.
List it out. Nowadays you might need a to-do list to remember to brush your teeth! So it’s okay to leave one for the sitter. It will help ease your mind knowing you properly informed your sitter how to take care of the most precious gift ever! Also, while you are away, it’s totally fine to call and check-in…as often as you like!
Fun encouraged. Lastly, it is allowable for you to enjoy yourself away from your wee one. Yes, you will be thinking about home and what is happening there, but, really, try to enjoy yourself. You deserve it!
Tots [18 months-3 years]
Yes, kiddos are hard work. But aren’t they great? Maybe you’re not there yet but odds are that at some point you are going say to yourself, “I think I’m ready for another.” But what about your tot?
So that wee one has become a tot and you’re starting to think about adding to your brood. The hours of labor, endless sleepless nights, sore nipples, and spit-up stained shirts are faded memories…for the most part! But this time around you can’t just worry about you. You have to worry about how this little person, currently the center of the universe under your roof, is going to make this transition and become a fabulous sibling. Help your tot welcome baby with open arms:
- Talk about the new baby and what your tot can expect. The baby is going to cry, need his diaper changed, eat, and sleep.
- Being a big brother/sister is a big deal so make sure you reinforce how important this role is going to be.
- If your tot is currently sleeping in the crib you plan to use with the new baby, make sure you transition him to a new bed well in advance of baby’s arrival. You don’t want the tot thinking the baby stole his bed!
- Let your tot pick out items for the new baby. This gives him some control.
- Once baby has arrived, carve out some time for just you and your tot. He used to have all of your attention, so give him some extra now when you can.
Preschoolers [3-5 years]
I can still remember my beautiful little 3-year-old building her block tower on the living room floor. She was in her own world building away, making sure each level was its own color. The tower got taller and taller and then too tall…over it went. My precious princess hit the floor with both hands and yelled, “OH, SH#@!” What?! That potty mouth can’t be my daughter!
Our preschoolers are continually building their vocabularies and sometimes bad words can also enter their repartee. It’s important to remember that your preschooler probably doesn’t even know the meaning of these words or phrases. Your preschooler won’t know anything is wrong with what he said until you react. Here are some tips to make sure your little sailor rights his potty-mouth ways:
Remain calm. No word has power until you give it power by reacting, so don’t overreact. Be very casual when you address bad-word usage. Simply tell him what he said and that it could make someone feel bad or uncomfortable and that he won’t want that. Then leave it at that. No need to draw too much attention to bad behavior.
Offer a replacement. Now that you have calmly explained the not-so-good about the bad word[s] used, offer your preschooler some alternative options that deliver the same message. When you hear him use these alternatives, be sure to give it some positive attention.
Outline a consequence. For the really bad words, determine the consequence for using them and let your preschooler know in a calm, firm voice what happens if he does it again. Then be ready to enforce it!
Monitor your words. Watch what’s coming out of your mouth. You can’t freak out about your preschooler saying whatever if it consistently comes out of your mouth. Clean it up!
Big kids [6-9 years]
The friend sleepover is a rite of passage, but there is no magical age for the first one to occur. Every child is different and you need to be comfortable too.
If your big kid is begging to a sleepover and is a pretty flexible kid, he’s probably ready. But if he is more cautious and doesn’t seem “all in,” don’t push it. A parent-driven sleepover could end badly. When your big kid is ready, here are some tips to make that first of many sleepovers a success:
- A playdate is all well and good until the sun goes down. It can get a little scary at someone else’s house. If your big kid seems reluctant to accept a sleepover invitation, you need to do your best Sherlock Holmes impression and determine what his concerns are. It could be as simple as worrying about what will be for dinner or where exactly he will sleep.
- It’s ok to reassure your big kid that he can call you anytime he wants or needs you. Also, let him know it is perfectly okay if he wants to come home or stay until morning.
- Act it out. Do some role planning with your big kid on scenarios that might come up. What if he wets the bed, has a bad dream or doesn’t like what’s for dinner?
- Make sure you ease your mama concerns too. If you aren’t familiar with the family hosting the sleepover, ask questions. What will they be doing, are there older siblings, when is bedtime? Any other reasonable mama is going to be completely comfortable with your questions.
Tweeners [10-12 years]
Homework researcher at Duke University, Harris Cooper recommends kiddos being assigned roughly 10 minutes of homework per grade level.
Your tweener loves school, never causes problems in the classroom, studies hard and is the model “student of the month.” Right? But wait, what is this? It can’t be! He got an F? Not my tweener!
You want nothing more than for your tweener to be successful. There are lots of changes for your emerging young adult and you want him to be great at everything he does, but school better stay in the forefront. So what do you do when he isn’t doing well in school and brings home a failing grade? First, you want to act fast and make sure you nip in the bud the culprit[s] of his slipping grades. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
First, talk to your tweener. Is there anything going on that you don’t know about? Is he having trouble with only one subject? Then talk to the teacher[s]. His teachers will be able to tell you of any problems in the classroom, if he is turning in assignments, or missing classes. You can’t try to fix the problem until you know what is broken.
Take a look at your homework and study routine. Maybe things need to be reworked. There are lots of things to distract your tweener, from TV to video games to time with friends. Make sure he is getting his work done and limit the distractions.
Offer your help with homework and studying, but let’s face it, you might not be enough. Consider getting your tweener some extra help. Hire a tutor and give your tweener every advantage to get back on track.
If your tweener’s grades have taken a sudden downturn, the cause could be something outside the classroom. His failing grade could be a warning sign of another issue.
Teens [13-18 years]
Research shows that romantic-relationship breakups are the leading cause of psychological distress.
Oh, isn’t it cute? Your teen has his first real girlfriend. Yes, your teen dating can be a bit scary, but you have gotten through that. The problem with the first girlfriend and first love is that it’s typically followed by [dah…dah…daaahhh] the first break up! Can you and your teen survive?
I found this great quote by Benjamin Disraeli [a novelist and British Prime Minister in the 1800s], “The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can ever end.” How true! This new-found love for your teen is so exciting and they just have so much in common and, well, they are “in love.” Of course, with your years of wisdom and love lost and gained, being a teen in love can create a big ol’ eye roll. On the rollercoaster of young love, there are going to be some downs. Here are some tips to help your teen pick up his crushed, stomped on, shattered heart:
Seriously? Yes, you might have known this relationship had no chance of lasting, but it was very real to your teen, whether it lasted a few weeks, months, or years. Take his or her feelings seriously, and be compassionate.
Try to remember that you were that young teen not too long ago and be a sounding board when he needs you. Now, we are talking about a teen, so don’t be so surprised when his actions seem a bit irrational or overly dramatic.
Yes, there are stories of high-school sweethearts being together forever, but if you aren’t one of them, share your experience with love when your teen is open to it. First love can be very intense, but letting your teen know there is more love out there can be very comforting.
Every tragedy offers a lesson to be learned. Once the wound isn’t so fresh and some of the grief has worn off, help your teen see the lesson in this situation.
Editor’s note: Story was written by Sheri Kleinsasser Stockmoe and originally published in the On The Minds of Moms magazine, the December 2018 and January 2019 issue. Forum Communications Company is re-publishing these stories as On the Minds of Moms staff members develop a new online community.