Dr. Maya Angelou passed away this week at the age of 86, and for some reason I feel like I lost a family member — that’s the effect her wisdom, grace and presence in the world had on people. Her words about what she learned in life inspired me to write my own list, today, in her honor. (I guess that’s what our greatest writers and teachers do — they make you stop and think about what matters in life.)
What I’ve Learned as a Parent (So Far)
I’ve learned that when it comes to parenting, you need to worry less about what other people think, and pay the most attention to what your gut is telling you.
I’ve learned that sometimes you need to step back and let your kids figure things out the hard way, even though it kills you.
I’ve learned that some of the best days with your kids are the ones where nothing in particular happens.
I’ve learned that you can’t give too many hugs, but you can say “Good job” so much your child doesn’t hear you anymore.
I’ve learned that the photos you don’t take are often the images that are etched into your brain forever.
I’ve learned that listening — really opening up your ears and not interrupting, not judging or telling your child what he should have done — is sometimes the best way to hear what he has to say, and get him to keep talking.
I’ve learned that kids can surprise you with moments of sudden kindness that take your breath away.
I’ve learned that you need to let your child sit in their disappointment without trying to fix things for them, even though it’s a form of maternal torture to watch them suffer.
I’ve learned that it’s worth eavesdropping on a sleepover for a few minutes.
I’ve learned that ice cream can help in almost every situation.
I’ve learned that saying “no” is sometimes the best thing you can do for your child.
I’ve learned that being a parent is far more difficult and exhausting than I ever thought it would be — yet it’s still the best thing I’ve ever done or will ever do.
I’ve learned that your child may forget some of the things you’ve done for them, they may get annoyed with you and argue with you on a daily basis, but they’ll never forget that you love them.
What would you put on your list?
Elisabeth Wilkins is the mother of an 11-year-old son and the Editor of Empowering Parents. She and her family live in Maine.