Dear Older Mom Giving Advice at the Grocery Store: THIS is What I Wish You Would’ve Told Me

ParentingAdviceIWishSomeoneHadGivenMe

My older daughter is a high-school junior.

Oh, mama, let me catch my breath for a second, because I’m still caught off-guard by that shocking fact.

My daughter. My firstborn. The baby with whom I share a middle name and, sometimes, clothes, is a high school junior.

I didn’t feel this thrown when she finished middle school. “Freshman” sounded young and still childlike. Sophomore comes off as inherently and appropriately immature (see “sophomoric”). But junior? As in, next stop, senior? As in, “start paying attention to all those college information emails from the school guidance counselor you’ve been dismissing up until this point”? As in, “you’d better figure out who’s going to take her senior pictures”?

Hold on…I’m still regrouping.

While I’m at it, I’m flashing back to my new-mom days and to that older mom at the grocery store, telling me, “Cherish every moment. It goes by so fast. In a blink, she’ll be all grown up.”

With the clarity of hindsight, here’s what else I think she might have told me if it hadn’t been abundantly clear my baby was on her last Cheerio and I was on my last nerve.

1. It goes so fast, but sometimes only when it’s already gone. When you’re in it–I mean, IN it up to your sleep-deprived eyes–motherhood often creeps by with agonizing slowness. Right about the time you’re figuring out the whole senior picture thing, you start to think you just got her 5-weeks-2-days-and-36-minutes-pictures done. But that doesn’t mean you didn’t appreciate all the moments in between.

2. You are not the only one. Whatever “it” is that you feel like you might be the only mom doing or not doing or feeling or not feeling, you’ve probably got company somewhere. Find another mom at library lap time or in the church nursery or at the pediatrician’s, lay “it” on the line, and wait for the blessing of a “me, too” moment. There are few things more encouraging than to say or hear, “Really? I thought it was just me.”

3. Everything that’s good to do is not necessarily good to do right now. When my older daughter was not quite 6, we started her in kindergarten, dance, and a midweek kid’s club at church. All in the same week. Rookie mistake. (Only kindergarten ended up making the cut that year.) As a mom, joining a book club might be good. Training for a marathon might be good (I mean, not for me, but some some other mom). Repainting your bedroom might be good. Getting your master’s degree might be good. But any of these good things might not be good in this season, and they almost certainly are not good all in the same season.

4. It will be okay. That thing you’re worried about right now–getting your baby to sleep through the night, potty training, friend drama, college applications? It will probably turn out just fine. Of course, some things are not fine at all, and my heart goes out to parents who are living with these every day. Also, the journey from here to okay is often hard and exhausting. But with some effort and time, most sources of mom worry end up working themselves out. And this is coming from one of the worryingest mom worriers of them all. I worried that my firstborn would never learn to write her name or count past 29 or have any lasting friends or survive high-school geometry. She did. It was all okay. And your “it” most likely will be, too.

5. You don’t have to fight every battle there is to be fought. TV/sugar/screen-time consumption. Messy rooms. Kids who don’t love reading. That t-shirt your elementary child wants to wear day after day. There’s always something that can be an issue. And what matters to one mom for very good reasons might not matter at all to another for equally good reasons. But in general, is this battle eternally important? Does it have to do with shaping your son or daughter’s soul? Will it really count in a week or a month or a decade? I personally try (try) to use this litmus test: many years ago, the cane seat in the chair I use at our computer broke through. (I tried not to take it personally.) My then-4-year-old wrote me a note about it. Translated from her preschool phonetics, it said, “I’m sorry (‘srre’) about the seat but that’s not the importantist (‘inpotinist’) thing because God is.” If it’s not an importantist thing, maybe it doesn’t need to be a thing in my life or in your life after all.

Of course, these days, I am the older mom at the grocery store. (Let me catch my breath again.) For a list of what I’d tell a young mom now that I’ve put in 16 years at the University of Motherhood, hop over to Mom Babble. (Really, I’d be so grateful if you put off painting your bedroom or training for that marathon or whatever and clicked on this link. You’re heading there right now? Thank you so much…can I send you some cookies?)

This post originally appeared at Guilty Chocoholic Mama.

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Elizabeth Spencer
Elizabeth Spencer is a great sinner redeemed by a great Savior. She's been married for 22 years to an exceedingly patient husband and has two teenage daughters who make her look really good as a mother. She blogs about faith, food, and family (with some occasional funny thrown in) at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and vents about hormones and sleep deprivation over on Facebook.