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  • Lea Hartline

Parenting by Scratch

We have probably all seen the recipe for a perfect mom. You add a pinch of kindness or a dash of strength for the ideal mom. Blah!

There is no such thing as an easy recipe for motherhood or the perfect mom. Motherhood is more like a crazy basket from an episode of Chopped. Add a can of our past, a dash of stupid lines from our own mothers, a dose of doing what we don't want to, and a mystery pocket of things in the washer. Simmer all that together, add a little chill, and viola, the almost perfect mom. The closest cookbook life gave us for creating family and motherhood is the bible, but then it doesn't tell us things like…

  • When changing a boy's diaper, always keep their privates covered with a fresh diaper so that you can avoid the fun fountain.

  • Every parent will have a moment when their kids are so sick that everything comes out at the same time from everywhere. Grin and bear it, you were not the first mother, and sadly you won't be the last.

  • One day your kids might write a blog telling what a horrible mother you were. Brace up under it. You probably were not that bad, and at least you raised a kid who didn't blindly follow you.

  • To Spank or Not Spank will become part of an everyday parenting topic. Yes, even though I have an opinion, let's move on from this touchy topic.

  • Your heart will be uplifted, broken, sad, happy, and sometimes all those things at the same exact moment.

  • One day they grow up and move out… if you did your job right!

So on towards a few pieces of my own personal favorite advice.

Best parenting advice from my mother-in-law: Every baby will have days where they seem to cry without stopping. You will wish you were a baby and someone would let you just cry forever. At these moments, when you find yourself on edge, walk away. Set the baby in their crib. Breathe because they will keep crying. You are not doing the baby or you any good at this moment. Walk out of the room. Close the door. It's okay. The baby is safe in the crib, and you won't be gone long. Go to the nearest bathroom. Close the door. Wash your hands and your face, and now brush your teeth. Put a little lipstick or lip balm on, and maybe if you have a touch of mascara nearby, refresh that too. This should take at least 5 minutes. Perhaps the baby has cried the whole time, or maybe you got lucky, and they went to sleep. You are now refreshed and better equipped to handle the crying war.

When Guy was sick and we did extended hospital stays, I lived by this advice, and I think the nurse thought I was crazy. Every time they came in to do something, I got up, went to the bathroom, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and put on fresh lipstick. This advice helped me handle the sleepless nights and the constant fear.

Best parenting thing I learned from my own mother: To share your story with your kids. My family story is part of who I am. Because my mother told me her childhood story, I had the great advantage of seeing a family cycle that I could break by being different. For years I kept my childhood as part of my past when it really is part of who I am, and for my kids to know and do better, they must also know their family past.

From our sisters:

My sister Sharron taught me it is okay to laugh with my kids and that sometimes you really have to clean the house.

My sister Lynn actually helped me through one of the roughest parenting patches with the girl. My daughter had night terrors, and when I reached the end of my rope, my sister Sharron told me to call my sister Lynn. Lynn had already dealt with night terrors with one of her children. So, night terror advice: If you have a kid who has night terrors, as crazy as it might sound, there are some things you can do to help your child get better rest, and this all comes from my sister, Lynn.

  • 1. Have a bedtime routine and stick to that routine

  • 2. Try to put them to bed around the same time and

  • 3. 30 minutes after they fall asleep, wake them up and make them go to the restroom. Weird, but it works.

From my sister Sarah, I learned how to make a great pot roast. Pot roast became my go-to during the crazy weeks of theatre and band. That pot roast recipe has made some of our craziest weeks the best weeks because it is always perfect and always yummy. (the secret is black tea bags… don't ask, I don't know why. I only know it always worked.)

From Robert's sister Melanie, I learned some practical tips like

  • Grill extra chicken for chicken salads and other quick chicken meals throughout the week. Robert and I later learned to buy rotisserie chickens.

  • Teach your kids to play by themselves rather than being their playmates. A kid who can enjoy their own company will be a person people enjoy being around because they won't be needy.

  • Keep sliced oranges in the cooler if you have to go to ball games.

  • Be their cheerleader.

From my mommy and me class:

Read, watch, and get educated on parenting. I was so blessed to have the chance to be part of a great group of women who taught me so much. These women and the hospital that put everything together created an environment that encouraged being educated on all things parenting. I read every book possible and could have told you all the different parenting approaches and the pros and cons. The most important thing I learned is that I have to trust that even when we are doing something wrong to breathe and know that with love, all the wrongs somehow become just part of who are kids turn out to be.

My advice to you:

No matter what you do, always look your kids in the eyes. When praising, scolding, cheering, or worrying, look your children in the eyes. Make sure that they hear you by getting on their level. Make sure you listen to them by getting on their level.

Turn off the smartphone and help make your kid smarter. Leave the darn TV at home and use the car to learn, teach, relax and enjoy. Nothing your kid watches on TV will be as engaging as what they can see while traveling.

Teach them to pray. Teach your children to learn and trust other people. Hold tight, let go, and don't hover. Remember always that you are their parent and that they have enough friends. What they need always is a mom. There will be time for friendship later. Remember to make them tie their own shoes. Stop and take a moment to kiss their hurts because one day, they won't let you do that in public anymore. Listen to everyone's tips on parenting, and then throw 90% out.

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Life on Faith and Fumes

Christian blog with stories, devotional and bible studies.

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