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Church of the Small Things: Things I Wish I’d Known When I Became a Mom

Church of the Small Things: Things I Wish I’d Known When I Became a Mom

The Bible says, “Point your kids in the right direction — when they’re old they won’t be lost” (Proverbs 22:6 MSG), which means it’s our job to give them what is basically a road map for life. It takes work and perseverance and dedication to raise our kids. It takes sacrifice and commitment and dying to self as we spend eighteen short — let’s be honest LIGHTNING FAST — years pouring into them and equipping them to be responsible, pro- ductive, kind, and ideally, employed adults. And make no mistake; our kids will model what they see much more than what we say.


And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 a.m., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes. ~ Tina Fey, Bossypants

For about the first six weeks of Caroline’s life, I was convinced that motherhood was all part of a vast conspiracy by women everywhere, who were already mothers, to make the rest of us as sleep deprived as they were. It wasn’t that I didn’t love her more than I ever knew I could love anything, but nothing prepares you for how hard it is and how ill-prepared you are for the following eighteen or so years that they’ll live under your roof.

If I could go back in time, here are a few things I’d tell my new-mom self.

  1. I know you’re freaked out because the hospital just let you walk out of there with a baby and you’re an idiot. But riding in the backseat to monitor every single movement she makes on the way home isn’t really necessary.
  2. Don’t throw away that gigantic pacifier the hospital sent home with you, because it turns out that’s the only one she’ll like for the first six months of her life.
  3. Breastfeeding is great when it works, but nobody is going to end up in long-term therapy just because they drank formula from a bottle.
  4. At some point, you will be able to watch a movie that has more violence or tragedy than Little Women without feeling like you need to wrap your entire home in bubble wrap to protect you and your child from the cold, cruel world.
  5. It’s okay that all you accomplished today was brushing your teeth. Embrace the victory. In fact, celebrate it with a glass of wine or a pint of ice cream.
  6. The stains newborn yellow poop leaves behind aren’t ever going to come out, so go rock your baby and quit wasting your time attempting the impossible.
  7. Kids all reach their milestones in their own time. Trying to force your two-week-old to hold a rattle isn’t going to increase her chances of participating in the Olympics someday. Although it may increase the odds that she’ll need therapy.
  8. Toddlers can be the worst. Don’t take it personally. It’s them, not you.
  9. Potty training is terrible for everyone. Don’t listen to your friend who tells you her child couldn’t wait to poop on the potty. She’s a liar. Kids think their poop is part of their soul and hate to flush it away.
  10. You will be so grateful you didn’t listen to the woman who advised you to shave your child’s head when she was a year old because it allegedly ensures she will have thick hair as she gets older.
  11. Never underestimate the power of a well-timed bribe. It’s okay because everyone does it. A bag of M&Ms can be a powerful tool if used wisely.
  12. Someday, many years later, you will still, oddly enough, remember every word of the theme song to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse even though you wrote a check yesterday and started to write the year with 19 before you realized, Oh, right, it’s been a new century for almost two decades.
  13. On a similar note, you won’t believe you devoted so much time to The Wiggles, particularly Captain Feathersword. I mean, what the heck?
  14. It’s okay to lock yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes. Sometimes even mommies need a time out.
  15. There will come a day when you will not have to chase that chubby toddler around the pool while you’re wearing a swimsuit. In fact, you’ll be able to sit poolside and read a magazine while they swim.
  16. But the truth is, you’ll be a little sad that those days are gone, so try to enjoy them while they last. Even when you have to make the walk of shame with a child wearing a swim diaper that has gone awry due to an overflow of feces, thanks to the effects of your kid ingesting too much chlorine and flimsy elastic at the legs.
  17. Don’t kill yourself taking the kid to the zoo. Why does everyone assume kids want to see animals stand around in the hot sun all the time? I have a theory it’s just propaganda developed by zoo investors.
  18. Once school starts, your child will grow up like a freight train going down the tracks. It is wonderful and magical and heartbreaking and exhilarating and nerve-wracking and like one big punch in the gut all at the same time.
  19. Volunteer in the classroom as much as you can during elementary school because they will want you to make yourself scarce in their school environment by junior high.
  20. I know it doesn’t feel like it when you’re exhausted and drained and just had to chase a toddler through the grocery store, but it goes by in a blink. A BLINK. Try to enjoy it as much as you can, and drink a glass of wine on the days you just can’t even.

Excerpted with permission from Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle, copyright Melanie Shankle.

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