Megan here. I had so many expectations for parenthood before I became a parent myself. I knew exactly how I wanted my kid to act, sleep, eat, learn and grow. Even though I had no idea what life with a baby was actually like, I pictured my future baby adapting to my life and my schedule with ease. I had high hopes, near impossible expectations for what my life as a mom would be.
I quickly learned that babies change everything. Yes, everyone told me that, but until I met my first child I didn’t quite believe them. Suddenly I was home alone with a newborn who refused to drink from a bottle and wouldn’t go to sleep for anyone but me. My friends didn’t understand why I didn’t want to stay out late anymore or couldn’t just get a babysitter for a girls’ trip. Even though I was completely enamored by my sweet baby, I felt permanently tied to her, trapped in babyhood, unable to find any semblance of my former self.
I didn’t know how temporary and fleeting this feeling would be, that I would long for newborn snuggles the moment they disappeared, that I would be that crazy lady fawning over babies at the grocery store.
Now that my children are 5 and 2, I am rediscovering my freedom and independence within motherhood. I have much more perspective (although I’m still learning every day).
I have realized how quickly these precious years disappear. I don’t want to take my girls’ time as children for granted. I want to make sure that not only do I try to enjoy them in each stage (no matter how hard it may be), but that I also have taught them the most important things about life, the big lessons that they will one day teach their own children.
What are these lessons?
I think about this often. What do I actually want my children to learn from me? Sure, I want them to be good people, to grow into hard-working, God-loving women who know themselves and trust their intuition, to become the best versions of themselves. I also want to teach them how to cook, how to drive, how to take care of themselves and their homes. But the main stuff, the big stuff...that's what sometimes keeps me up at night. Are they learning enough from me? Am I doing right by them?
Then I realize one thing. I was always meant to be my girls' mom. I also know that you, my friend, were destined to be the mother (or parent, caregiver) of your child or children, no matter how they came to you. We are perfectly made for the roles we were given, no matter how challenging they seem. We will teach our children what they need to learn by simply being ourselves and sharing our worlds with them. They will be OK.
To celebrate Mother’s Day, Judy and I want to share the hopes and dreams we have for our kids. My kids are still little, and Judy’s are young adults (and her daughter just graduated from college this week!). Despite the age difference, our wishes for our kids are so very similar. That’s the thing about motherhood....while we all have different experiences raising very different children, our hearts are in the same place.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of motherhood, the stresses that this season brings, the changes it has forced upon our lives. Sometimes it’s good to step back and remember what’s important and why we do this good, hard, rewarding work.
Read on for our lessons, as well as the lessons from some of our sweet followers. We wish you a beautiful, restful Mother’s Day!
Judy's life lessons
And just like that you were all grown!
From the first time I held you and smelled your amazing hair and head, we were so deeply connected. That first kiss of your forehead and feeling your tiny body against my chest... there was something no one can ever prepare a mom for. It is absolute paradise.
I tried so hard to be present for at least a little bit each day and teach you the fundamentals of life, the basics of what it means to love and be loved.
Here are my hopes for you dear child.
You have been given everything you need within you to succeed. Follow your heart, even if it takes you to the ends of the earth. Just be true to yourself and know who you are.
You will make mistakes, and this is how lessons are taught throughout life. Pay attention to that inner voice. That is Grandma Sue and Grandpa Tony and Popy and all our family that have come before you and are willing to guide you. You just need to be quiet, and listen. And trust.
Remember, life isn’t perfect, but without the lows, the highs don’t mean a thing.
Before you know it, you will be all grown up and may even leave our nest. That is your job, It will be hard for both of us, but when you leave it means I did my job. And then off you will fly.
And collect sticks for your own nest.
And just like that you are all grown up!
Life lessons from our sweet mama followers
"I want my LO to know that everything I do is for her. I want her to value her family time and always want to spend holidays with her mommy and daddy in the future when she’s on her own. And most importantly I want her to appreciate the things she has and have a heart for people."
"I want my boys to learn the value of a strong work ethic. It's one of my most memorable qualities and I want my boys to be remembered for this too. You will always be successful at whatever you do if you work hard to succeed."
"I want my littles to know and understand that they are so loved, and to love others in that way. The 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love!!!"
"The biggest thing I want my daughter to learn is to love herself. I had so many self-esteem issues and I hated my body for most of my life. My inner voice has been mean and cruel. I didn’t take care of myself at all. I want her to learn to take care of the body she was given, to love it and fuel it."
"My hearts desires is to be a kind example of unconditional love, and to also teach how important it is to have a sense of humor, especially when the going gets ridiculously tough."
"KINDNESS. Open-mindedness. Sense of humor. Love. Life is a journey: embrace it."
"I want my son to know how to love others. I want him to know he's privileged (as a white man in America) and use that knowledge to help others. I want him to know I'm not perfect, none of us are, and that working hard to do and be better is the goal not perfection. I want him to be independent, strong, empathetic and compassionate."
"My daughter and I go through the same “check list” all the time:
Are you beautiful? YES!
Are you smart? YES!
Are you strong? YES!
Are you kind? YES!
Each one gets a different emphasis from her at different times, but I love them all."
"I hope to teach my child how to be humble, care for others and use her determination to change the world! She is the most persistent, determined, and stubborn 8 month old I know, but I know she will use all of these qualities to make a large impact on those around her and I hope to teach her how!"
Life lessons from Megan
I am a sucker for music lyrics and love sharing all types of music genres with my kids. To add to the emotional sob-fest of celebrating Mother's Day, I want to offer my lessons as favorite song lyrics. Click on the lyrics to hear the entire song via Spotify.
“Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.” You are perfect exactly as you are. Every feature of you, inside and out, tells a story about your family, your past, your life until this point. Your curly hair matches your bouncy, silly personality, and your blue eyes look just like your daddy’s. Every cell in your body has a purpose, is important, is worthy, is exactly as it should be. Don’t fall into the traps of perfection, comparison, or self-doubt....because to me you are perfect.
“Don’t reach for the moon when you’re going to Mars.” You have more opportunities than any generation of women before you. Don’t take that for granted. You can and you will do hard things. It’s how you get better, how you grow. You will define your own successes as you get older, but whatever you decide to do...put your whole heart into it. You will always be proud of yourself when you try your best.
"I hope you're somewhere prayin', prayin' / I hope your soul is changin', changin' / I hope you find your peace / Falling on your knees, prayin'." Sweet child, may you never forget that you are loved by God or a power greater than you. It is impossible for us to fully understand this life. Trust that there is something much bigger than you and the pain that you may experience in life. Ask for help. Talk to God, the universe...whatever you grow up to believe. Always keep your eyes and your heart open for signs that God's presence is with you.
"All you need is love." Treat everyone you meet with kindness. You never know that path others are taking. Try to put yourself in others' shoes, and show empathy, patience, kindness and grace. Be known for the positivity you put into the world.
"Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out / Shake it out, shake it out, ooh woah." Trust yourself. You know the right answer. Don't let stress of school, work, relationships, money, family, friends, anything keep you from living a full life. Take risks and be spontaneous. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Things always look better in the morning - "it's always darkest before the dawn." Shake it out, girl! (This song was my birth power anthem with Hannah. It always reminds me of strength and letting go. We are so much stronger than we believe!)
"Go after your dreams, crazy as they may seem / Go chase all the stars in the sky / Baby I'll be paving the runway / 'Cause I know that one day you're gonna fly." I love that Judy and I finish with analogies about flying, but it's really true...my job is to help you fly, my darling child. No, I don't want to see you go. Yes, I wish I could cuddle you in the safe, comfortable nest forever. But how will I know how high, how far you can fly if I don't let you go? How will I know the beautiful color of your wings, the uniqueness of your feathers, if I don't let you stretch them out in all their glory? Sweet baby of mine, please never forget that I am always, always here for you, no matter what happens in your life. I am always a safe place, a shoulder upon which to rest your head, an ear that will listen. I promise to respect your thoughts and to create your own path - yes, independent of my own - and I hope and pray that you will never forget how much you are fiercely, irrevocably, forever loved.
Have you noticed that your kiddo gravitates toward crackers, veggie straws, and all foods crunchy? Why does he love these crunchy foods, and how can we use his preference for crunch to improve his eating over time?
Judy here - I want to share a bit of my feeding therapy world with you.
Consider the crunch and texture of foods like croutons and cereal. What about this texture makes it irresistible?
Crunchy foods - oftentimes pre-packaged foods like crackers, veggie straws, puffed snacks, cereal, pretzels - are predictable in taste and consistency. Every. Single. Bite. You know what you're going to get when you open the package. It always has the same flavor, smell, consistency and look.
Think about how different this is for veggies and fruit. A blueberry can be sweet, sour, firm or squishy. It can taste delicious or can be very off-putting if it's overripe. Kids don't always know how to spot a "bad" piece of fruit before they eat it and can have a really negative experience that might turn them off to it for the long run. A cracker is much more predictable and "safe" in their eyes.
Furthermore, your toddler may find that crunch gives them the jaw resistance that teaches their mouths where the food is located. They learn that when they feel this crunch, it feels good inside their mouth, and because of this they learn to seek out crunchy foods more often. Not only does it teach their mouth where the food is located and awareness of what is happening between their teeth (or gums), but it also may feel great to a teething toddler.
As your baby and toddler experiences this jaw resistance that they practice in early chewing and biting, they seek to repeat this feeling because it gives them positive sensory feedback. Whenever our sensory system experiences positive feedback, something our body enjoys, we want to repeat it! Over time, young children develop a sensory preference for this crunchy texture.
Think about the other types of sensory feedback your child receives when they hear the sound of their teeth crunching a veggie straw. Their proprioceptive system is also hard at work - this system is the "GPS" of their body, the "positional sense" that allows them to know where their body parts are located as they move and how much pressure or force their body needs to use to perform different tasks. Well, the proprioceptive sense is receiving input from the up and down movement of their mouth and the pressure needed to chew the crunchy food. Their sense of taste also notices the saltiness and palatability that many crunchy foods have. Want to learn more about sensory processing? Check out this interesting article!
Biting, gnawing and hard chewing with resistance are a preferred exercise for babies. Not only does it help soothe teething spots, but it also gives them great sensory input through their gums. It is normal for your baby and young child to prefer things with crunch because it feels good!
To think of it another way, consider the foods you choose when you are craving something. Do you crave sweet? Salty? Crunchy? Smooth? Now, ask yourself this: "Why did I choose this food, and does it satisfy something sensory for me?" Does it help you self-regulate? Does it calm you, or wake you up?
Many of us use chewing gum or chewy/crunchy food to help ourselves focus or manage stress. Your sensory system guides your food choices more than you may realize.
Habits in our mouths start early in life, and we learn to choose these specific foods for the same reason your child prefers them, too.
Not surprisingly, as an OT specializing in feeding I get this question often: “My child loves only crunchy foods. How do I progress them off crunchy foods?”
This is a little question with a big answer.
If your child seems to prefer crunchy, follow the tips below, based on their age.
Babies 6 - 9 months:
Older babies and toddlers/children (10+ months):
As always, try to not make a big deal out of what your child is or isn’t eating. Instead, have fun with food, cook and shop together, and enjoy the art of play in all aspects of parenting as best you can.
Still need help? Our Toddler Course lays out a specific step-by-step plan for reversing or preventing picky eating utilizing feeding therapy and nutrition therapy strategies. Let us help your family make mealtime fun again!