19 Things I've Learned in 10 Years of Parenting

My oldest just turned 10 years old. A decade. It's like a sucker punch to the stomach every time I think about it. Ten years feels so old, and yet, it also feels like we've just begun. But over the years I've learned a few things — some expected, some not — that don't appear in the parenting books that line my bookshelf.

  1. It really does go by in a flash. It's the one piece of advice every experienced mom tells you as soon as you give birth. And I hated it every time I heard it — especially when I was only getting two- to four-hour stretches of sleep at the time. But it's true. The only reason I actually believe that a decade has gone by is because of the candles on my son's cake. The days do feel like an eternity, but the years feel like a second. Slow down, please!
  2. Baby wipes are the greatest invention — ever. I was actually sad when we were finally finished potty-training my youngest, because I would no longer have the Costco-size box of wipes at my disposal. We used the wipes for everything — wiping faces, place mats, hands, restaurant high chairs and tables, car seats, car dashboards . . . you name it, it's been wiped with a baby wipe, and I miss having them on hand.
  3. Bigger kids, bigger problems. After a particularly hard week, my mom once said this to me and I couldn't agree more. A baby who won't take the bottle seems like child's play compared to handling friendship issues and tween angst.
  4. Pick your battles. This one came from my mother-in-law after my oldest refused to wear anything without an elastic waist after second grade. Yes, I prefer my children to be dressed "appropriately" for school and a nice dinner out. No, it won't kill them, or me, if they're not. It isn't worth a blowout argument and days of resentment.
  5. Always let the kids push the elevator button — always. Every adult should actually know this one before becoming a parent, but it needs to be said. Don't ever push that button yourself.
  6. Why you need to seriously put your phone down. All of those sneaky looks at your phone under the table or at your side while you're supposed to be reading with your child or playing a board game? Yeah, they see those, and they know you're doing it. And if you don't want them replicating the behavior when they get a device, then can it — now!
  7. Mommy timeouts are real — and necessary. You need a break from your kids as much as you need one from your job (especially if they are your job). Never underestimate the restorative power of a solo trip to the grocery store if a spa day or girlfriend getaway is out of the question.
  8. You are your child's only real advocate. Doctors are specialists in their areas of expertise and teachers in theirs. But only you really know your child. Listen to their advice, and then fight for your child with all of your might. It's the only way you'll be satisfied.
  9. Where they sell my favorite wine for the best price. I mean, I was always a good bargain shopper, but I never shopped quite like this!
  10. Parenting will force you to go beyond your comfort zone. Whether it is being more outgoing to make mom friends or walking around in a bathing suit with no cover-up because God only knows you don't have enough hands to cover up and hold the baby and carry all of the pool gear at the same time, parenthood is great at making you do things you never would have done before.
  11. Not to underestimate the power of a pajama dance party. Whether it's the kids who've had a rough day or it's me, or we just need to break up the routine, there's always a good reason for a PJs dance party — and the kids will always go for it!
  12. Bedtime is the best time of day, but not for the reasons you think. Bet you thought I'd say it is because they're finally asleep and I can drink the aforementioned wine in peace. But that's not it. I love bedtime because it's when I get the best information out of my kids. It's when they tell me about this great book they're loving in school. It's when they tell me they hate their line partner, or they wish they could sit in a different seat at school because the kid sitting next to them picks her nose all day (I've heard this one a few times). It's when I get cuddles, and it's when we talk about hopes and dreams. It is my favorite time of day.
  13. There will be paper, and paper, and more paper! Just when you've gotten rid of the toys, the papers start piling up. Yes, there's email. Yes, there are Google Drives, even private Facebook groups, but with parenthood and school-aged kids there is more paper than you would ever believe!
  14. Not to rush your kid out of diapers; the alternative isn't all that great. Everyone tells you how wonderful it is when your kids are finally potty-trained, but you know what, those first few months with a potty-using child are the hardest yet. Invariably, they need to go when you're either in the car or somewhere with the grossest public bathroom you've ever had to enter. They never need to go when they're at home or in the fancy department store with the spotless restrooms.
  15. The difference between a real belly ache and a "I forgot to bring home a homework assignment and it is 7:45 a.m. and am just remembering it now" stomachache. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. There are lessons to be learned, and you won't learn them sitting at home feigning a stomachache all day.
  16. Always have extra Band-Aids on hand. Not because of scratches and injuries, but just because. For some reason, kids — regardless of their age — find them exciting and like to cover their bodies in them. Just let them (but try to buy the store brand for those occasions!).
  17. Classroom valentines will never be done before midnight the night before. I've tried discussing them with my kids a month in advance. We've tried starting to fill them out a week in advance. No matter what, we (no, make that I) are always finishing them at midnight the night before they're due. It must be a parenting rule no one told me, though!
  18. Those picture-perfect Instagram feeds of families frolicking together aren't real. I know that people exaggerate their happy lives in social media photos, but the photos are usually so beautiful and enticing that I want to believe them. Until I try to take similar photos of my family. And then I remember number four. This is a battle not worth fighting!
  19. That nobody really knows what they're doing. We're all trying to figure this parenting thing out just like our parents did before us. It certainly isn't easy — there's a reason they call it the toughest job in the world — but I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's made me who I am today and 10 years in, I feel like I'm finally hitting my stride!