Now that my second daughter is in her last two weeks before high school graduation, it has given me time to reflect on my role as a parent. Some of the most important lessons I learned were not from the countless how-to books, magazines or social groups. They were all strictly from my own mother.
My mom handed down the wisdom from her experience as a mother to my siblings and me. She in turn learned from her smart and practical mother. Her lessons became my education as mother. And while we have all made mistakes, I have the feeling the tradition will continue with my daughters.Family dinners: Even though my father had two jobs, my mom made it a point to always have dinner as a family. So from the time my children were babies we established this ritual as well. This meant my husband and I both 'unplugged' from work and had lively and hilarious conversations that bonded us as a family. We included conversations about our day, so the kids understood our jobs were important but not more important than them.
After-dinner routine. My mother helped enormously for a few weeks after the birth of each baby. She always emphasized the importance of establishing a bath time routine. I did not realize at the time how important this was. But it firmly set the tone for a relaxing evening. Plus the benefit for me was my husband loved to manage this task. Even after a busy day at work, he loved to give our three kids a bath. It was his special way of connecting with our kids because they were so funny with their childish jokes and splish-splashing in the tub. I was able to relax for a few minutes alone and gain some sanity. But I would often find myself coming in the bathroom to take a peek and laugh along with everyone.
Family vacations: Whenever we could afford it, my parents provided wonderful experiences for my siblings and me. So my husband and I never hesitated traveling with our children. They all started traveling from the time they were 3 months old. By plane, train and automobile, we always took trips near and far. Not only did this provide lots of life lessons but forged incredible sibling bonds because they only had each other to play and hang out with. The best was when we got to our hotel room and they got to jump on the hotel bed (sorry Marriott) and go up and down the elevators. We taught them how to navigate a new city, order at a restaurant, be mayor of the day where they got to pick places to visit. Today they each love to travel and I know they will go far but always come home.
Study habits: Even when my kids were in kindergarten, we firmly had them trained to do their homework before playtime. That seemingly innocuous habit was my norm as a child. This routine did wonders by the time my kids were in middle and high school. I never once had to ask them to do their homework after school. After a short snack break they each hit the books because they knew the reward of completion. Getting all of their work done was rewarded with playtime and even a little bit of television but only if all of their work was done. To this day that habit is so firmly ingrained they wouldn't know how to operate any other way.
Responsibility: I was always encouraged to work and earn money as a kid. So when my daughters wanted a puppy, I seized the opportunity. Partly to delay the inevitable, I told them they had to earn the money. So at the ripe ages of 10 and 6 years old my two youngest girls created a neighborhood pet sitting business (with adult supervision). After a year, they earned the money to buy their first dog. For the past 8 years, they have paid for the vet bills, food and toys to keep their dog happy. Having a pet taught them about caring for something beside themselves and in turn our dogs (yes, we have two now) provide comfort when they've had a bad day. They held up (for the most part) their end of the bargain and learned a lot about responsibility.
It is with the happiest of hearts that I have seen my first daughter thrive in college. Now my second daughter is ready to leave the nest. They have been fully prepared and eager to fly away. And it is with a so much joy when I see them return home happy to be back in the fold and part of what my husband and I created. Soon we will have just one left in our flock, but she is well on the same path like her sisters. Thanks, Mom!
Tina Case is a Yahoo! Shine Parenting Guru. When she's not writing here she can be found writing for her own blogs Moms Who Click and Parent Grapevine. She is also an established photographer in the San Francisco-Bay area.