I’m certainly not a self-proclaimed expert on being a mom, I promise. I’m a first-time mom, full-time mom, with 1 baby girl, and I’m just figuring this whole parenthood thing out as I go. I have things I’m proud of and things I chalk up to huge learning and growing processes. I’ve definitely been frustrated over the past year but I’ve also been quite proud of Chloe, and of myself as I learn how to be a mom. Seriously, why haven’t the experts created a manual yet? Today I’m going to discuss a few things I’m proud of. Not to be conceited or pretend like I know it all because as already stated, I definitely don’t know it all. But if nothing else, this will serve as a letter to my future self for any future children God may choose me to mother. Here are the 9 habits I’m glad we’ve established in Chloe’s first year on this earth.
1. To Read: No, she’s not a baby genius and she can’t actually read, but I have taught to her like books. Or maybe that is just her personality and I was just the facilitator of putting the book in her hands. But the repetition of reading time with Chloe has her enjoying this time and asking for it regularly. This has definitely come in handy already as we begin potty training and I know it will be a positive thing for her later in life.
2. Appropriate Pacifier Use: If I allowed Chloe to have a pacifier 24 hours a day, she would always have that thing in her mouth. I know there are medical reasons why we should quit the pacifier (or some studies say to never use them) but for Chloe, we use a pacifier – so the judgers out there can deal. In the past several months it’s been my goal to teach her that the pacifier is for sleeping (and the occasional other usage with teething and the dreaded Sunday church nursery). I know this is good for a multitude of reasons but the one I’m the most happy about is the expressions I get to hear from her open mouth and the beautiful little noises that invoke her creativity and imagination hard at work.
3. Meal Times: I’ve set meal times with Chloe, mostly so she doesn’t snack all day. Meal times are when she sits in the high chair and eats healthy food to fuel her day. Since setting meal times, she knows when to expect food and she knows what to expect when the meal time prep begins. I’m not saying I don’t allow her to snack. She gets snack time in between, but meal times have allowed us structure to our day and it’s rarely a fight or debate over where or when it’s time to eat.
4. Bedtime Routine: We started this super young because Chloe never napped so I knew it was important she slept well at night.
For us, this routine is consistent bath time, followed by me nursing her, and then singing a few songs before putting her down awake. It wasn’t always easy but 12 months of repetition with this and she’s got it down. She rarely ever fusses about bed time now and she’s known since only a couple of months of age what it means when we turn on her bath water. Consistency is key.
5. The Song Jesus Loves Me, Means Nap Time: Nap time is the epitome of my first year frustrations. I’ve been in tears several times over why my baby wouldn’t nap when she clearly needed to. It seemed that all my friends had babies who napped and they were able to take showers, go to the bathroom and eat food throughout the day. How I longed to go to the bathroom by myself and eat lunch! After 12 months of repetition singing “Jesus Loves Me” as I walk her to her room for nap time, she now knows, for better or worse, that when mommy sings that song she’s going to bed. Chloe is in a phase of napping well these days for the first time in a year, and while I know everything is a phase, I’m happy that she knows Jesus loves her (especially when she naps for mommy).
6. To Say Please: We started teaching sign language to Chloe pretty young, mostly because I was always amazed at how quickly she could learn new things. We started with “more” and “all done” before teaching her the sign language for “please”. She’s created her own version of each of these words: “More” looks like time out, and for “please” she just rubs her belly… it’s darling, I can’t lie. Now I catch her doing the sign language for please all the time. I know I will thank myself for this later, but for now it’s a really stinkin’ cute way to watch her develop manners.
7. To Play By Herself: I’m a religious Good Morning America watcher and I’m pretty sure at least monthly there is a story about why kids should learn to entertain themselves, so I know this is a good one in some people’s opinions (level of expertise unknown). I can say with confidence that Chloe learning to play by herself has positive benefits for her and for me. I can get things done and she gets to exercise her imagination. After the short period of time where she plays like this, she always has new and creative ideas and I always applaud them in amazement that a 13 month old can think like that already. These periods of play time give her freedom to explore and develop her own understandings about the world… and they give mommy needed time to address my endless list, as well as a whole new appreciation for what a miracle she truly is when she shows me what she’s done with her play time.
8. To Play with Other Kids: Ok so I know this one is important. I’m in a wonderful moms group and I’ve enrolled Chloe in otheroutside activities that allow her play time with other kids. A budget-friendly way to do this is to take your kid to a park on a sunny day – wow this is birth control on steroids some days, but it’s honestly amazing watching little kids learn to interact with other little people their size. The more interaction she has with other kids, the better she gets at it and the social skills are essential building blocks in life. I truly believe the younger the better on this one.
9. To Embrace Who She Is: You might be rolling your eyes at this one since she’s only 13 months, but I can honestly say that laughing at her when she does something silly, clapping for her when she’s done something she’s proud of, and helping her deal with her (genetically-passed-down) frustration has taught her to better express herself. She’s learned to clap for herself when she’s proud even when no one is around, she dances when no one is watching, and she laughs at herself all the time. I hope I can always help Chloe embrace who she is as she grows from Baby to Toddler to Kid to Adult. This will be one marker that I’ve done something right even without access to the Motherhood Manual.