By Laju Iren
My daughter is two years old today. It seems like yesterday when she came out face-first out of my body looking absolutely nothing like me, despite our nine-months of bonding, and several hours of labour filled with blood, sweat and tears. Motherhood has been a gruelling experience, but a truly most rewarding one. It such an honour to be a mum, but an even greater, singular privilege to be Edima’s mum. This affectionate child, who can’t stand to see anyone else hurt calls me mummy. This brilliant girl who knows numbers one to twenty is my daughter. I know, many children know their numbers by now, good for them. But for every intellectual milestone my daughter makes, her daddy and I see ‘Einsteinlike’ abilities. Her Daddy especially, she recognized letter M the other day and he surmised that she must be the most intelligent child in the world. I agree totally! She is, after all my child and this is after all, my blog!
I could talk about Edima all day, but the purpose of this article is to share some lessons I’ve learned with you in my two years of being a mum. I know I still have a lot to learn, but it doesn’t hurt to share the little I know. So here goes:
1. It’s not too early to teach your children to pray.
Every morning when giving her a bath, Edima repeats a prayer after me. We thank Jesus for the day and mention as many family members as possible. We also mention friends, Celebration Church, the persecuted and prophesy concerning the spread of the gospel in the world. Next we make confessions:
‘Today, I’m led by the spirit of God
I’m wise. I’m blessed. I’m protected.
I’m obedient. I love Jesus.
Jesus lives in my heart.’
The best gift you can give your children is to gift of the knowledge of Jesus. That is the most important thing in the world. Sometimes, Edima initiates a prayer herself. She closes her eyes, puts her hands together sand says: ‘In ‘Jus name we pay.’ Sometimes, it’s just a tactic to postpone bedtime, so I don’t say Amen. So she keeps saying it, and insists I say ‘Amen.’ Sometimes, she will say: ‘Jesus is my heart,’ out of the blues, without being told.
Don’t leave your children to themselves, intentionally get them to fall in love with Jesus. They may not fully understand, but you don’t have to wait till they do. If you don’t intentionally train your children in the Lord, then you are naturally leaving them to be trained in the way of the world.
2. There’s no need for comparison
Every child is different. Even if they are twins born by the same mother. Children develop differently, have different personalities and strengths. It is alright to watch for the important milestones, but as a mother, don’t compare your children with other children. Edima was about fourteen months old before she started walking, and fifteen months when we stopped breastfeeding but I never let other mothers put unnecessary pressure on us. Believe me, they tried! But now she runs all over the place…too much I might add. Encourage your child’s victories, even more as he or she grows older. There’s no need to compare.
3. A praying parent is more powerful than a fearful one
If you let fear in as a parent, it will paralyze you. You won’t enjoy parenting as much as you should and you will stifle your kids. There are a lot of things that could feed your fear. From the seemingly little things like that harmless staircase in front of your house, to the myriad of kidnappers, drunk drivers and bad influences out there. But guess what? Fear can do nothing to protect your child, but prayer can. Being a praying parent also makes you a peaceful, less anxious parent.
4. Even the cutest children need discipline
There is absolutely nothing cute about a spoilt child. Before I became a parent, I couldn’t understand why some children would misbehave and their parents would make excuses for them. I still don’t fully get it, but I can relate a little. My husband and I sometimes have to stop ourselves from laughing when trying to correct Edima. Sometimes, when you say: ‘Don’t do that.’ She would mimic you with the exact same expression with her fore-finger pointed. But we have to stick with the plan, keep a united front and hug her when she gets the message. I’m still learning, but I’ve realised that if you start disciplining your children early enough, you may not need to resort to extreme measures when they grow older. It’s important though that you don’t just discipline your children because you are angry or to show them who is boss. The purpose is to get them to understand the difference between right and wrong and to choose right. It is to get them to learn to respect authority. Let them know why they should or should not do something. Also, learn to lead by example. Don’t forget to sandwich correction in love. In fact, learn to go for a lot of love mixed with a touch of discipline. Watch your words as well. Don’t call your children names.
5. It’s okay to want to give your kids stuff you never had, but they need you more
Every parent’s desire is to give their children a better life. My heart beats for joy when my daughter gets exposed to experiences I didn’t have growing up. And I had an incredible childhood! But it’s easy to spend a lot of time pursuing money so that your children can have the best things in life that you miss out on the fact that they need you much more than stuff.
6. Protect your kids from abuse
Stories of sexual abuse are not just stories! You don’t protect your children from predators by simply saying ‘God forbid.’ Watch out for your kids. Who do you leave them with? Bear in mind that many times, predators are being who are close friends and family. Begin to educate them about what parts of their bodies are private as soon as they can talk a little. Another thing I’m teaching Edima to repeat after me is: ‘Nobody touches my bumbum. Except mummy, or when I poo-poo.’ When I first wrote this a few days ago, I said: ‘I’m not she gets it fully yet, but I am sure she will soon. Then the next day, she said it on her own, expressions and all.
7. Children learn by observation
There are so many things my daughter knows I have absolutely no idea how she learned them. She would put her hand on her forehead and say: ‘Oh men’ or ‘Oh no.’ ( I thought her to say ‘Oh yes’ largely because I’m a Nigerian parent and we don’t do negativity in any form. Lol). I didn’t know where she got that from until I finally heard it in an episode of Barney she watches often. I usually watch with her, but I only just realized it a few days ago. It’s important that you watch what you say and do around your children. Also watch what they watch. As a rule, I don’t let my daughter watch Cartoon Network. I feel their programmes are usually violent and sometimes a little too vulgar for children. I found most Ceebebies programmes to be more suitable for children, but even then we still do our best to supervise what she watches. We also expose her to some Christian cartoons and rhymes.
8. Achieving balance
When I wrote ‘Lessons I learned in my one year of being a mum,’ I talked about how sometimes it’s okay to be just a mum. Especially when I first had my daughter, I spent most of my time breastfeeding. No speaking engagements, not much writing, no book tours, just breast feeding for most of the time. But that was for a season. As she grew older, I was able to take on more projects. But balance is always important. I think it’s important to note that at the core, Christ defines me. Not motherhood and not the work I do. When I know I don’t have to look to anything or anyone else for validation, it helps me set my priorities right. I can work hard to succeed but still pick my battles and ensure that I have time for my family. I talk more about balance in an old post here.
9. Choosing the right school/Day care
Quality child care is extremely important. Qualities such as a safe physical environment, capable and kind staff and the quality of learning offered should not be taken for granted. But I think it’s also important that you have a peace about the place you are leaving for children. It’s worth praying about. Sometimes, a place might look good on paper, but something about it might not just sit right with you. Be led.
10. Don’t neglect your marriage for parenthood
I once heard a man say that the best gift he can give his children is to love their mother. Children thrive in an environment of love. You might think you are doing your children a favour by focusing on them at the expense of your marriage. But there needs to be a balance.
11. Be a thankful parent.
My heart swells with thanksgiving every time I look at my daughter. It gets better as she gets older. I still can’t fathom how much God has blessed me with the honour of being her mother. This thankfulness provokes praises from my lips every time. It also fuels my desire to pray even more for people who desire to have children. It is also what keeps me from screaming my head off when she takes over an hour to drift off to sleep. It makes me laugh out loud when she ignores every other viable option and spits unwanted food from her mouth to my hands. When she climbs over my head, or wakes up at the oddest hour to watch ABC song, I don’t see an inconvenience, but a precious gift for whom I am very very thankful.
12. Responsibility is something you owe your kids even before you have them
I jokingly say that I was a child only a few days ago, and now I have a child of my own. Whether or not you’re a parent yet, please learn to be responsible now. Be responsible in your actions, with your time and your relationships. As a parent, the future of that child largely depends on you. No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes. But responsibility will ensure that your mistakes do not translate in life altering situations that could affect your child negatively.
13. Encourage your children’s talent
My daughter can hear a song once and know it-well as well as a two year old can know a song. It comes from her Dad, because music is not my thing. So we do our best to encourage her even now.
14. Children can read love
When my daughter was much younger, I would wake up in the middle of the night and give her a peck. I always wondered if she understood what I was doing. But I never stopped being affectionate towards her. I’m sure there have been days when she received two hundred kisses from me! Now, she is the one who wakes up in the night to give me a peck. She initiates ‘big hugs’ and says I love you with such an adorable look in her eyes she know she means it for sure. Not only is she affectionate towards her parents, she is affectionate towards others as well. Sometimes too affectionate that we are teaching her to draw the line. She can’t stand it if another child is crying and will apologize even when the other person is at fault. Don’t say that they don’t understand; even the littlest child knows when he or she is loved. You are not running a military cantonment, you’re trying to raise a family, so please so affection often.
15. Routines, routines
I’m quickly learning that if want your kids to make something a habit, you have to establish routines for them. Whether it’s prayer or potty training, greeting their elders or going to bed on time, children don’t come up with stuff like that on their own. It might-scratch that- it will be difficult at first, but would prove to be worth it in the long run.
16. Eating habits
I still have a whole lot to learn in this regard because Edima is not really an eater. I can count on one hands the things that she likes to eat and I have tried a million things! But I’m glad that the doctors confirm that she is a healthy child at a healthy weight. She is also quite active and brilliant for her age. She somehow manages to eat a balanced diet throughout the day in the little bits she eats here and there. I still try out new meals for her, but not from a place of worry. Whatever the case, please I beg you not to force-feed your child. I know people who have lost their children while trying to force feed them. Learn more about feeding your child in this piece by my dear Doctor friend who is also a mother of twins.
17. Time crawls at the speed of light
The statement above might seem contradictory, but anyone who is a parent will understand perfectly. One minute, it might seem like eternity getting your child to sleep, you might spend hours on end wondering how many drops of breast milk it takes to feel a tiny infant. The next minute, you’re wondering how they managed to grow up so fast. That is why it is very important to enjoy every stage of parenting. Be thankful even in the seemingly stressful moments because sadly there are some who would not mind the stress if it would mean that they get the opportunity to be parents.
18. What are they watching on TV?
I know I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repetition. Please pay attention to what your children are watching on television. How much time do they spend in front of the television? What values do the programmes they watch communicate? Are the words they get from TV words that you won’t mind them repeating in public?
19. Be an intentional parent
I just spent the past few hours with my neighbours’ children. They are on holidays and their mother had to go to work. As a work-at-home mum, I was glad when she asked me to help them prepare for their Spelling Bee competition coming up in a few months. I’ve been amazed by their knowledge of words, many of which I only first learned as an adult. I could also see the intentionality on her part to give them daily assignments to prepare them for the task ahead. Children learn largely by observation, but they soak up instructions like sponges. I’m learning to be an intentional parent; to teach my children what I want them to learn before the world gets the chance to teach them otherwise. To provide them with the right exposure and opportunities to help them better compete in today’s world. I do think there has to be a balance though. Some parents put unnecessary pressure on their young children either by comparing them with others or insisting on mundane activities which the child has no interest in, while totally disregarding the children’s interest. Never let your children even think for a second that your love for them is based on performance. Being intentional also extends to going to extra mile to take initiative when it comes to providing for and protecting your child.
20. God loves me more than I love this child
I fell asleep last night looking at my daughter’s pictures. I grow more and more in love with her every day. There was a time when it was simply a scenario of a mother naturally loving her child. But now, I actually love her personality. I smile at her mannerisms and I’m in awe when she speaks. I like getting to know her as a person and I’m always looking forward to what she will do or say next. I love my daughter, I believe I can do anything for her.
But guess what? God loves me more than I love this little girl! Wow! That is mind-blowing! I can trust him to meet my needs daily as I try to do for my daughter. But what’s more? Even when things don’t go exactly as I desire, I remember his most reliable commendation of his love for me: He sent his son to die for me and to rise again; I have eternal life because of this singular act of his. I have a future and a hope in him because I believe in Jesus. I’ll never be condemned. Halleluyah! Thank you Jesus!
By Laju Iren