There are plenty of advice articles from older/more experienced parents to younger/less experienced parents. They are usually about as helpful as someone pointing to the dirty diaper and saying, “Don’t you just love being a parent? Wow, I miss it so much!”
I’m not writing to the new moms with my sage wisdom. And not because I don’t have any because ask around–I have lots. This is to the old and experienced moms, much like myself, who need to know how to give our sage wisdom to moms with young children, also like myself. I live in two worlds, people!
First, let me give you the tl;dr verion: validate.
Now, if you want to read, continue.
Scenario 1: Graham was hospitalized for bronchiolitis this past spring. Twice. Because anything worth doing is worth doing right.
Unhelpful: My kid had the same thing and he’s fine now. Don’t worry.
Helpful: My kid had the same thing and he’s fine now. But I remember the worry.
Looking back, do you recall thinking, “Eh, what’s a little breathing issue. It’s not like he’s going to die. Moving on!” No, because you aren’t a psychopath. You can probably still feel a little of the worry even now.
Remember that you are where you are because you walked down this path. Don’t stand at the end of the path and yell back “it’s all clear up here!” Meet me on the path and tell me “I’ve been here before and it was hard. Just a few more steps to the clearing.”
Scenario 2: A child of a younger parent is diagnosed with ADHD. So many unhelpful options here.
Unhelpful: When my kids were little, we didn’t have ADHD. We just had kids who needed a spanking.
Or we just let kids be kids
Or ADHD is over-diagnosed
Helpful: ADHD wasn’t diagnosed when my kids were younger so I don’t know much about it. Thinking/praying for you!
See how easy it is? Feel free to turn to your husband or best friend and say all of the unhelpful comments you want. But, please, don’t put that on the new mom trying to figure it out. Unless you have actual information that could help her, stop talking.
And, let me tell you, it’s freeing to admit you don’t know everything. You shouldn’t know everything. You couldn’t possibly know everything. Letting go of the standard of always being right? Amazeballs.
Scenario #3 A younger parent says something that is naive. These statements so often start with “I will never…” or “my child will never…”
Unhelpful: You’re so cute. Just wait until your child is a teen!
Helpful: Nothing. There is nothing to do here but smile and nod. If they’re truly being naive, their two year old with fix that. If they are stating their ideals and you don’t agree, just walk on by. They very well may never spank, give their child fast food, or have a child at the park dressed only in a diaper. Are they planning on doing something dangerous? No? Then let them keep on keepin’ on.
Scenario 4: Parent vents on social media about a screaming baby, puking dog, and lack of sleep.
Unhelpful: You’ll miss these days when they’re gone!
Helpful: Anything that validates that the work of parenthood can be isolating, exhausting, and flat out hard. Anything at all.
I know this is a matter of trying to give perspective but, honestly, if I told you that you could relive one day of your child’s life, would you pick the one where your five year old threw an epic fit at the park in front of all of your new mommy friends and your toddler smeared his poop on the bathroom walls while your husband called to tell you he was working late and you got the notice your bank account overdrafted two days before pay day? Is that the day you want back? Maybe the day where your 6 year old was sick and you and your husband used all your sick days already so you get to decide who stays home to get puked on AND be in trouble at work. I am going to assume that isn’t the day you mean when you say you miss it.
Notice how many of my worst-case-scenarios involve bodily fluids? Welcome to my brain.
There is a fantastic quote that sums up ALL THE THINGS about parenthood.
That says it all. That’s all the perspective any of us needs. We have hours that seem to stretch on for days but, before we know it, we’re planning sweet 16 parties, touring colleges, and waiting on grandchildren. But none of us get there without going through the hard bits and none of us can spare the next group those same moments. Instead of looking back/down on new moms, remember that they are in this club with you and your wisdom can help them if you first acknowledge where they are.