From babyhood to graduation and beyond, we proudly present a selection of the many, many lessons we learned from HuffPost Parents bloggers in 2013.
THE EARLY DAYS
You are going to suck at this parenting gig and be awesome at it at the same time, all the time.
“You will be a different parent every morning to a child who will also be different, sometimes changing in just hours, or minutes, or before your eyes. There will be good days and bad days, good minutes and bad minutes, good choices and not-so-good ones. You will do some things, probably a lot of things, wrong. Be gentle with yourself, because you are wildly loved and incredibly needed.” — Karyn Thurston
Don’t read all the baby sleep books.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps. Clean when the baby cleans. Don’t worry. Stress causes your baby stress and a stressed baby won’t sleep.”– Ava Neyer
Post-baby bod is a four letter word.
“I’ve been doing the pregnant/kid thing since March 2010, and in that time I’ve noticed one thing: Our cultural conversation about pregnancy, birth and motherhood is way off from what the actual experience is. And it’s hurting women.” — Kate Spencer
You are always, ALWAYS doing something wrong, so stop worrying about it.
“Of course there are plenty of amazing, beautiful, transformative moments — but those generally take place when you are on the toilet by yourself. The rest of [parenting] is messy, both physically and emotionally. You will survive it, but it will not always be pretty. THIS IS NORMAL.” — Una LaMarche
No matter how you choose to feed your child, we support you.
“We all feed our children differently, but we are all feeding with love, and in ways that work for our individual circumstances and family dynamics.” – Kim Simon, Suzanne Barston and Jamie-Lynne Grumet
Forget the “terrible twos.” The threes are where it’s at.
“Every day, I suit up for battle. It’s not just the usual twice-a-day stuff like ‘I don’t wanna go.’ or ‘I don’t wanna eat that for breakfast.’ I’m talking about something every hour.” — Adrian Kulp
Let your 3-year-olds climb trees and 5-year-olds use knives.
“Children are drawn to the things we parents fear: high places, water, wandering far away, dangerous sharp tools. Our instinct is to keep them safe by childproofing their lives. But ‘the most important safety protection you can give a child… is to let them take… risks.'” — Christine Gross-Loh
Helicopter parents are everywhere — except where they’re needed most.
“There really is something very simple we can do to make our kids demonstrably safer. It isn’t particularly sexy or heroic; it just means making changes to the most humdrum of daily routines. Why is it a solution so many parents won’t hear?” — Jennifer Mendelsohn
Having a toddler is like being in prison.
“You’re always terrified someone is going to crawl into your bed in the middle of the night.” — Mike Julianelle
When all else fails, put a Band-Aid on it.
“Little children believe in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the power of Band-Aids. If nothing else, trying to peel the backing off the adhesive distracts kids from what ails them.” — Melissa Sher
THE SWEET SPOT
Childhood shouldn’t be a race.
“Every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and … it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.” — Alicia Bayer
Sometimes, you just have to slow down.
“I will not say, ‘We don’t have time for this.’ Because that is basically saying, ‘We don’t have time to live.’
Pausing to delight in the simple joys of everyday life is the only way to truly live.
(Trust me, I learned from the world’s leading expert on joyful living.)”
— Rachel Macy Stafford
Two words you should always remember are “at least.”
“These two small words give me great perspective and remind me to chill out. I use them readily in any annoying but not yell worthy kid situation. ‘He just dropped an entire jug of milk on the floor… at least it wasn’t glass and at least he was trying to help!’ I also use them readily when I want to give up: ‘Okay, this is hard but at least there are only three hours until bedtime, not 12.'” — The Orange Rhino
Give children choices.
“Kids have very little control over their lives. They are constantly being told where to go, what to do and what to eat. A little bit of control goes a long way toward feeling happy. Let your kids choose their outfits. Allow them to choose the dinner menu one night per week. Ask them what classes they want to take. Give them the opportunity to make some decisions and watch them smile in return.” — Katie Hurley
“If you pay attention, kids will teach you how to laugh loudly, how to love deeply and how to live fully. They will also ruin all your stuff.” — Beth Woolsey
Get comfortable with (some) back-talk.
“Our families are where we first learn how to say ‘No’ in a safe, supportive environment. If we don’t learn to do so there, we won’t learn to do so anywhere. If our children can’t say ‘No’ to us, they won’t say it to anyone.” — Kelly M. Flanagan
Stop solving everything.
“This one took me years to figure out. It’s one that is really hard for dads to get good at because we love fixing and solving things.” — Jim Higley
Share your sketchbook.
“Try not to be so rigid. Yes, some things (like my new sketchbook) are sacred, but if you let go of those chains, new and wonderful things can happen. Those things you hold so dear cannot change and grow and expand unless you loosen your grip on them a little.” — Mica Angela Hendricks
Don’t let yourself — or your kids — get bogged down in “first world problems.”
“I don’t know the answer to how to raise a kid who isn’t whiny and annoying and who doesn’t think that Pinterest stress is really a thing worth lamenting. But I do know that as a parent, it begins with me.” — Lyz Lenz
Face it: You won’t be as enthusiastic about school in May as you were in October.
“Mom out there sending Lunchables with your kid, making her wear shoes with holes because we’re.almost.there, practicing ‘auditory reading’ with your first grader, I got your back, sister. We were awesome back in October; don’t you forget that. We used to care, and that counts for something.” — Jen Hatmaker
Bring the holidays down a notch.
“Fellow parents: St. Patrick’s Day is supposed to be a ‘phone-it-in’ holiday. Yes, I’ve turned into a bit of a grinch, but SERIOUSLY WITH THE HOLIDAY OVERKILL. It used to be Christmas was the main event, but now it’s as if every holiday must be at a Level 10.” — Kristen Howerton
Tame the “Worry Monster.”
“Teaching kids about how fear and worry work in their bodies, and specific thinking and doing strategies to fight the Worry Monster, empowers them to take a stand against this bully. It’s time for us to take the Worry Monster down once and for all and turn our worriers into warriors.” — Daniel B. Peters, PhD
Parent like there is a repairman in the basement.
“After I realized how ridiculously careful I was being, I decided I should always parent my kids as if there was a drywall repairman in the basement. If they deserved all of my patience in the presence of a stranger, then they deserve all of my patience all of the time.” — Jessica Rassette
Revel in the sweet spot.
“If raising children is like baseball or swimming, getting it right must be a cocktail of luck, faith, and showing up every day to do the work. And of course, never quitting (even when it all seems like a hopeless goat rodeo).” — Julianna W. Miner
The minute we give our kids a gadget, we become responsible for whatever happens next.
“Checking our kids’ news feeds to see what they are viewing, scrolling through their profiles to see what they’re posting, investigating the people who want to follow them, finding out who they’ve given their password to and monitoring all of their accounts (because most kids have more than one Instagram account, in case you didn’t know) doesn’t make us helicopter parents. It makes us smart parents.” — Hollee Becker
Show, don’t tell, your kids about the power of interacting IRL.
“Bottom line: Our children need a break. But what should we do? And how do we convince them of the dangers of something that has become so central to their existence?” — Katie Anderson
Beware distracted living.
“We live in an age where we are constantly fed messages that we should try to do as much as we can as fast as we can; to live at maximum efficiency. Except when we shouldn’t. How many homework assignments and extracurricular activities and educational apps and appointments and meetings and spin classes and returned email messages and social media sites and DVRd shows and any number of things with varying degrees of importance do we try to cram into any one day?” — Jennifer Meer
Don’t tell your daughter her body looks amazing.
Instead, “[r]emind [her] that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.” — Sarah Koppelkam
Dads, your daughter needs you as a role model for how she should be treated by boys and men.
“No matter her sexual orientation, your daughter will live in a world with boys and men. Pay attention to the way you address her as well as to the way you talk about women.” — Joyce McFadden
Let your daughter express herself.
“Yes, kids might tease her… you know it happens. But the only thing worse than that is teaching her that she should make choices in life solely based on how other people (not even people she cares about) might perceive them.” — Jackie Morgan MacDougall
Our daughters can be excellent role models for us.
“She’s beautiful and smart and funny and graceful and witty and brilliant, and for four years, I nodded my head in agreement with every Joe off the street who told me she is exactly like me… when I thought exactly none of those things about myself.” — Brittany Gibbons
“Soft” is not an insult.
“They’ll tell you you aren’t a real man. That you’re something else. They won’t say it directly. They’ll say it in advertisements and characters in movies and ‘the American way’ and the hot men that always get the hot women.
But the bravest thing you can do, kid, is to keep that softness intact, to let that heart stay open for all the pain it will entail.” — Janelle Hanchett
Talk to your son about everything.
“Let him tell you about girls, friends, school. Listen. Ask questions. Share dreams, hopes, concerns. He is not only your son, you are not only his father. Be his friend too.” — Sarah Driscoll
But specifically, talk about sex.
“When you have the ‘avoid getting raped’ conversation with your daughter, it is difficult, as you don’t want to imagine her as a victim. The idea of having the ‘don’t rape’ conversation with your son is more difficult as you don’t ever want to imagine him as a perpetrator. Do it anyway.” — Carina Kolodny
The “princess culture” doesn’t only affect girls.
“A funny thing happened when I met my son — I started to realize how destructive girl power can be to boys.” — Dresden Shumaker
DON’T FORGET YOU
Parenting can be brutal.
— Amber Dusick
Real life isn’t picture perfect, especially where children are concerned.
“Kids are messy and uncooperative and frustrating, as well as adorable and sweet and charming. Shouldn’t we document and share all of that? Years from now, the pictures you’ll appreciate most are the ones that truly reflect your life at any given moment in time.” — Jill Smokler
You. are. not. alone.
“The other moms in preschool, at the grocery store, at work, at school, at co-op classes, at the doctor’s office, at where ever you may be, well chances are that they might feel tired as well. Wondering about all this motherhood stuff. Yet, still giving of self for those kids that you love.” — Rachel M. Martin
Moms need to stay in the picture — for their children, and for themselves.
“We must not just stay in the pictures for our kids; we must do it for ourselves. Pictures of us say: we laughed, we loved, we had adventures, we felt pain. We lived. We were perfectly their mothers… and perfectly ourselves.” — Allison Tate
Special needs moms are not easily offended.
“Despite what our social media status updates say, we are vulnerable, and life messes with us daily. So really, ask what you want to ask and it’s OK to start with ‘I don’t really know how to say this, how to ask you….’ I am especially touched when someone cares enough to ask me how my child is feeling, or how to include my child in a social gathering, meal or other event, and am happy to collaborate on what will work for us.” — Suzanne Perryman
Don’t judge a parent by the tantrum.
“A kid going berserk at a grocery store doesn’t indicate the quality of his parents, anymore than a guy getting pneumonia after he spends six hours naked in the snow indicates the quality of his doctor.” — Matt Walsh
Don’t alienate your non-kid-having friends.
“It’s not a competition. If, on a scale of 1 to Passing Out Awkwardly in the Shower and Waking Up When the Hot Water Runs Out, your friend is at a 7, and three weeks into your first newborn you were at a 9, that DOESN’T MAKE YOUR FRIEND ANY LESS TIRED.” — John Kinnear
Thank the people who make a difference.
“To nurses everywhere: You should know that you have made a difference to so many people in this world, my family included, and I cannot thank you enough.” — Mike Spohr
Your love story is not boring.
“This is love with the lights on and eyes wide open. This is the brave love, the scared love, the sacred boring, the holy ordinary over sinks of dirty dishes and that one cupboard in the kitchen with the broken hinge.” — Lisa-Jo Baker
Needing a break isn’t the same thing as wanting a vacation.
“When I get a break at the end of my day, I don’t use it to have fun. … I do whatever I need to do, in that moment, to feel like I deserve to exist. I do what I need to do to feel sane and stable and capable of keeping up with the never-ending needs of my beautiful children.” — Amanda King
You’re not going to have the perfect solution for everything — and that’s fine.
“You are not a terrible parent if you yell at your kids sometimes. You have little dictators living in your house. If someone else talked to you like that, they’d be put in prison.
You are not a terrible parent if you can’t figure out how to calmly give them appropriate consequences in real time for every single act of terrorism that they so creatively devise.
You are not a terrible parent if you’d rather be at work.
You are not a terrible parent if you just can’t wait for them to go to bed.”
— Steve Wiens
It’s time to stop treating dads like idiots.
“I’ve seen dads criticized and made fun of for how they dress the baby. For how they feed the baby. For how they handle things differently than moms. Despite the fact that most first-time moms are just as clueless and confused as first-time dads, it’s chic to make fun of the dads, while moms are assumed to know absolutely everything.” — Aaron Gouveia
You are better than you think.
“No matter how many doubts you might have, you never need doubt this one thing: You are not perfect. And that’s good. Because really, neither is your child. And that means nobody can care for them the way you can, with the wealth of your understanding and your experience.” — Lea Grover
Parenting is the most important thing to many of us and so it’s also the place we’re most vulnerable.
“We’re all a little afraid we’re doing it wrong. But even when we’re scared — we can still choose. We can choose to see each other as competition or as fellow warriors — fighting the same fight on the same team. One goal — many paths. We can learn from each other. We can even ENJOY each other.” — Glennon Melton
It’s more than enough to be “just” OK.
“That’s right. I don’t aspire to be the World’s Greatest Mom. I don’t even try. I am perfectly happy being the World’s Okayest Mom and no one’s childhood will be ruined by that.” — Jen M.L.
Nearly all of us struggle to feel beautiful in our own skin — but we shouldn’t.
“My dream is to be a part of a movement of being kind to ourselves and to others and witness a generation of young people that no longer waste years of precious life on self-loathing like I have because they think they are un-beautiful.” — Jade Beall
Don’t tell a working mom you “don’t know how she does it.”
“I don’t know how I do it. But I don’t think that’s because I work, I think it’s because parenting is hard whether you stay at home or go off to the office. I don’t know how any of us do it. It’s glorious and rewarding and full of love and it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Balancing kids with anything else, whether a paying job or running a household or finding time to watch Honey Boo Boo, is nearly impossible.” — Devon Corneal
The kids are all right. It’s the people trying to convince us otherwise who are in desperate need of attention.
“This post is for my mom and all the moms, because now I know how many sacrifices it took to raise us, and now I understand the unshakable guilt in parenting, and now I realize that I had all the attention I could ever need, and that moms deserve time when they’re not tending to kids, and that no one has a right to say how moms spend that time — no one gets to decide what’s worthy and what’s wasted.” — Brenna Jennings
Calm the f*ck down.
Step 1. Calm the f*ck down.
Step 2. There is no second step.
— David Vienna
THIS IS CHILDHOOD
Remember, every age has its peculiar charms.
For evidence, see these lovely pieces by Aidan Donnelly Rowley, Kristen Levithan, Nina Badzin, Galit Breen, Allison Tate, Bethany Meyer, Tracy Morrison, Amanda Magee, Denise Ullem and Lindsey Mead.