My daughter Sarah is 21 years old today. Yesterday she was born, and a grinning toothless baby, and a pre-schooler who didn’t look back at her teary-eyed mother in the hallway. Yesterday she was a first-grader who enjoyed having Harry Potter read to her but asked if she could read it herself, a middle-schooler playing Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a high school graduate who danced the tango down the aisle with her best friend while the band played Pomp and Circumstance. Today she’s a college student and awriter, grown up, and my nest is a little emptier. I’m proud of her.
Sarah and the three siblings who followed have taught me more than I’ve taught them. Here are some lessons in motherhood I learned along the way.
1. Your child’s grades and accomplishments are not what are important, so stop bragging about them on Facebook. What kind of person they are is what matters.
2. Use What to Expect and other parenting books as guidelines and suggestions, not bibles or law books. Parent by your gut. No one knows your child more than you do.
3. Triple-sheet the crib, with flat waterproof pads in between each layer. Sounds like a small thing, but it’s huge in the middle of the night if a newborn’s diaper leaks. Changing a crib sheet is a nightmare. You’ll appreciate this advice at three a.m. when all you have to do is peel off the dirty sheet.
4. When a toddler throws a fit, walk away. They’re trying to get your attention; don’t give it to them. They’ll figure out quickly that you give attention when they’re acting like humans, not aliens. Say no. My mom always said discipline is the second most important thing you give your kid after love, and she was right.
5. Always make doctor’s appointments for either first thing in morning or first thing after lunch. Minimizes your healthy-child visit office wait time. Why expose your healthy kid to a waiting room full of sick kids longer than necessary?
6. Let them wear the princess dress to pre-school, or the outfit they chose that doesn’t match. Childhood is too short. Choose your battles.
Currently Senior Editor at Splice Today, Mary McCarthy’s 20-year writing career includesSalon, the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, editorial positions at several regional magazines (Chesapeake Family, What’s Up Eastern Shore) and a newspaper humor column “Quite Contrary” (Frederick Gazette, Centreville Record-Observer). She blogged for Katie Couric, appeared on The Today Show, Huffington Post Live and ABC TV News’ Moms Get Real with JuJu Chang. McCarthy, who served as an elected official on the Centreville Town Council from 2004-2007, founded Pajamasandcoffee.com in 2008. She speaks at national and regional conferences and is an instructor at The Writer’s Center in Washington, D.C.
McCarthy’s debut novel The Scarlet Letter Society was published in digital edition by Polis Books in June 2014, reaching #4 on the Amazon bestseller list for Erotic Romance, and released in paperback in May 2015. Her second novel The Scarlet Letter Scandal is scheduled for November 2015 release.
Mary is a mother of four on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where she enjoys kayaking and sea glass hunting.