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A Decade of Lessons in Parenting


The day my older son, Zander, turned, as he called it, the big one-oh, I hit a milestone of my own: I officially entered my second decade of being a mother. And while there was no denying Zander's metamorphosis from fuzzy-haired, gray-eyed infant to grubby-kneed fourth-grader, my transformation was no less significant.

And Zander was only one part of my learning curve: My second son, Thad, was born when Zander was 6. Looking back on those first ten years, there were clearly a few lessons that repeatedly saved my sanity. I hope they do the same for you!

Lesson #1: Everything is Just a Phase

I read this somewhere when Zander was a toddler, and considered having it tattooed someplace extremely visible—like on his forehead—so I'd remember to take a deep breath and chant it like a mantra. Screaming bloody murder at bedtime? Just a phase. Wearing rubber boots everywhere, including the pool, when it's 92 degrees in the shade? Phase. Suddenly hating organic applesauce, previously consumed at the rate of two jars a day, just when I've splurged and bought six cases of the stuff? Just (very deep breath) another phase.

Only when Thad came along and started staging a series of unpleasant episodes of his own did I realize that my mantra had a tragic flip side. If everything is a phase, then good behavior must be just as fleeting and transitory as bad. With Zander, though I'd become quite expert at gritting my teeth through the bad patches, I still thought his "true" self was the little boy who climbed into bed each morning murmuring into my ear "Mmmm, you smell so delicious, Mommy." (That phase, by the way, lasted exactly three glorious months.)

Instead of wasting time and energy wondering when Thad would finally settle into his own "true" personality (you know, the sweet, loving, polite one), I suddenly realized that sweetness passes as surely as brattiness does. It was immensely liberating. So these days, I'm doing my best just to ride the roller coaster of my boys' developmental phases, instead of desperately fighting to keep the highs (which, in case you haven't heard, is just as exhausting and depressing as slogging through the lows).