What I would Tell My 30-Something New Mom Self

Pink baby shoesThere’s been a mini baby boom going on around here these days.  Most of these moms are first-timers in their thirties with established careers and carefree lives.  Boy, are things going to change for them now!  I was once one of them — wide-eyed, inexperienced, and thirtysomething — so I made a list of some things I wish I had known when I was expecting and put them down here, in no particular order:

1.  Your body will recover, but it will never be the same again.  Enjoy those new curves.

2.  You can’t erase stretchmarks, so wear them with pride as a badge of honor.

3.  One-piece bathing suits are very stylish these days if #2 doesn’t work for you.

4.  Baby blues are real.  Pay attention to them and seek help if you feel like murdering your husband and your mother and burning down the house.

5.  There will be days when you will be disheveled and can’t even find the time to take a shower.  Try to go no more than three days without one, however.

6.  When your baby is turning your life upside down and you can’t understand why anyone would want to congratulate you for being such a mess, just smile and thank them. You will eventually come around.

7.  Plan on not going out to eat at a restaurant for about three years.

8.  Go ahead and accept help, especially meals.  You spent many years bringing meals to others, so it’s finally your turn.

9.  Nursing problems and mastitis are signs of overdoing it.  Remember, you are not going to be as capable as you have been all your life because now there’s a precious little one to take care of.  Kick your feet up and relax.

10.  Speaking of nursing, you won’t be wearing a one piece dress for a while.  For that matter, no dry clean-only clothes for a few years either.

11.  Don’t save baby shower gift outfits for a rainy day, because babies can fit into them for only a few hours before they outgrow them.  Put them on as soon as they fit and enjoy the cuteness while you can.

12.  Join a moms’ group such as MOPS.  Meet up with other moms in your same shoes and you won’t feel so alone.

13.  Speaking of shoes, go out and get lots of pairs of slip-ons.  Your time will be so pressed that you won’t have time to tie up your laces or buckle your shoes.

14.  Get a good tool box and be ready to do a lot of assembling, because you will be doing a lot of it in the years to come.   Almost all baby items and kid toys come with the dreaded words, “Some Assembly Required.”

15.  All babies are different.  Don’t compare yours with others. Be neither haughty nor envious. (I admit that I still do this, even as I watch Olympians the same age as my son and wonder where I fell short.)

16.  You will get tired of hearing this, but in time you will come to appreciate these words: They grow up so quickly.  Corollary 16a: Take lots of pictures.

17.  Avoid driving when sleep deprived.

18.  Try not to rock while standing and talking to someone without an actual baby in your arms.  I know — all moms do this.

19.  It’s going to feel really weird the first time you fill out a form for your child.  On the box where it says, “Parent,” you’re supposed to put your own name in it, not your mom’s.

20.  Praise God for the miracle of life, and thank Him for the privilege of being able to take part in it.

And now, let me say…

Congratulations!

Love,

Your Panda Mom

P.S.  Do you have anything else to add to this list?  Please add them in the comments below.

How Much Would You Pay For Your Child’s Yearbook?

Joshua's very first yearbook

Joshua’s very first yearbook

My freshman son came home the other day with his first high school yearbook.  It’s beautifully bound and is as thick as an encyclopedia (not that he would know what that is because he’s grown up always looking things up on the internet).  It has glossy pages filled with color photographs of smiling teenagers.  The price tag for this year’s edition was nearly $100.

Is it worth it?

When I was in middle school, the school asked those of us on the yearbook staff to vote on our choice for yearbooks — printed on-campus and stapled together for about $12 or professionally bound for a whopping $25 at the time.  At the meeting, the principal shared with us some words of wisdom: “We know the school year memories are really important to you now, but in a few more years they won’t matter so much.  You probably shouldn’t spend too much money on something like this.”  We didn’t really agree with him but our parents sure did.  Given the choice between getting a slim, cheap yearbook for which our parents would pay versus an expensive one for which they would not, the decision was easy.  A majority of my classmates were in the same predicament, so the vote was cast in favor of the in-house, stapler-bound middle school yearbook.  I just remember this fiasco, because my artwork happened to end up on the front cover of this very yearbook.

We hated to admit it at the time, but our middle school principal was right.  The precious 8th grade year book lost its luster only 12 months later when I got my first high school yearbook.  I think I paid (or, more accurately, my parents did) nearly $60 for this memory book, thick with glossy pages and professional binding.  The photos were great, but the autographs were more important.  “You’re really cool.  Have a bitchin’ summer and see you next fall,” signed almost every single one of my friends.  I guess we weren’t all that creative back then.  I still have my high school yearbooks for all four years somewhere in my closet, but I no longer possess the middle school yearbook in spite of the fact that I was the cover artist.

School year is ending in just a couple of days, and my son is upstairs poring over the pages, already reminiscing the various activities he was involved in last fall and looking forward to his sophomore year starting next fall.  He will probably continue to look at this yearbook with fond memories in the years and maybe decades to come.  I took a peek at some of the autographs he’s gotten from his friends, and they all seem to appreciate Joshua’s humor, his prodigious trumpet playing, and his kindness.  He is a good friend to a variety of students, and I would imagine that reading notes from these friends will encourage him to continue pursuing his musical and social skills.  I suppose that’s just as important as keeping memories of high school activities alive in these pages.

So maybe, just maybe, it is worth paying upwards of $100 (or more, I’m sure, for some schools) for my kids’ yearbooks.

But does it have to be so expensive?  And what happens two years from now when both of my kids are at the same high school?  Should I buy one and have them share or get a separate one for each?  Please let me know in the comments below.

Meanwhile, have a bitchin’ summer and see you next fall…

Tap Shoes, Dance Competition, and Active Parenting

958253_10151642609894866_104325619_o“I can’t find my black tap shoes!  I called daddy at home, and he can’t find them either!” panicked Meg in the dressing room at her weekend dance competition.  We arrived about 90 minutes early so she could calm herself and warm up with her dance team.

I had helped pack her stuff for the two numbers she was dancing today.  I could have sworn I checked for every item. I had also asked Meg to double check.  She did have her tan tap shoes for the second routine but needed the black ones for the first.  Seeing that they were neither in the suitcase nor at home, they could only be at the dance studio where she had last worn them during rehearsal last week.  The studio, unfortunately, was closed for the weekend due to this competition.

At this point, I had a choice to make:

A.  Let Meg suffer the consequences for forgetting her tap shoes.

B.  Rescue her by going to the local dance store and buying a new pair.

I went through all the lessons I learned years ago at my Active Parenting classes.  They strongly encouraged us to let our kids experience consequences for their own actions; otherwise, they turn into entitled brats and we fail as parents.  However, they also emphasized that we parents be able to live with those consequences. For example, you just don’t say, “Johnny, we’re canceling our Hawaii vacation if you don’t stop hitting your sister,” if you truly want to go to Hawaii.

So, I took a deep breath and went step-by-step:

1.  If I let Meg experience her mistake, then what are the consequences?

Well, she could just not dance with the team at this competition.  There will be other competitions (like one next weekend, in fact).  Or, she could wear her black jazz shoes instead on stage.  Sure, it doesn’t make any sound, but with over 25 kids tapping on stage, who’s really gonna know?  Alright, so maybe the judges who will deduct a few points…

2.  Whose responsibility was it to make sure the tap shoes were packed?

Both of ours.  Although dance is Meg’s own thing and she is normally very responsible for her age, she still is only 12.  With four different dance routines, it is hard for anyone to keep track of all the costumes and shoes, let alone by a 7th grader. We both should have been more careful.

3.  If I rescue her by going to buy new tap shoes, what are the consequences?

For one, I would be $65 poorer buying the same tap shoes I had just bought recently for this competition season.  Meg could also think that mommy will always be there to rescue her and not learn responsibility.  She could take me for granted and continue to think that money grows on trees.  Or she could be eternally grateful and someday look back at this competition fondly at mommy’s love in action.

Okay, that does it.  I called the local dance store to reserve those tap shoes in her size, then I hopped in the car.   What should have been a 10-minute drive turned out to be 25 heart-thumping-blood-pressure-rising-white-knuckling minutes in Friday traffic.  I was able to buy the shoes and return with only minutes to spare. Meg then got on stage with her team and danced fabulously.

Just as I predicted, Meg was very grateful.  She also said that she was not worried at all about it because she “knew you’d be back with the shoes on time.”  (Yikes!  I wasn’t so sure…) Even when the other dance moms were stressed out (i.e., freaking out) over the situation, Meg kept calm.

“I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?  I could have just worn my black jazz shoes, and no one would have noticed,” she explained.

I love that things don’t rattle her like they did when I was her age.  I wish I had learned long ago the truth from 1 Peter 5:7:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

If this incident taught Meg the true meaning of this verse, then I just might have made the right choice.

And you, parents — what would you have done?