I have a wonderful, beautiful, amazing friend who has a daughter who is predisposed to learning languages. By the time she was one, she was spouting full sentences and saying words like, "Stethoscope". She is now almost eight and she speaks fluent English, Croatian, and French. Her next language will be German, she says, because it's so useful. My beautiful, amazing friend and her husband would smile to themselves and think, "Ahhhhh, we know how to teach our children languages!" and then they had a boy. Now, I'm not saying it's because he's a boy...but Q was slow with his words too. Anyways, my friend and her husband now realize their daughter is amazing with languages and they had something to do with it, because they are her parents after all, but she had the most to do with it. I tell this little story because I have a brilliant little boy (and yes, I am a little biased, but hear me out...) I can list on one hand the number of times he has had a temper tantrum in 8 years. You know when they have to do something by the count to 3, well I have never, ever reached 3 - neither Q nor I know what happens when I get there. He tells me when he does something wrong before I find out, because he has a conscience. He has such a gentle demeanor with other children who are either less fortunate or who have special needs. While I think I'm a great mom, I also know that a lot of these qualities are *just* Q. He most likely would be exactly as he is, whether I was his mommy or not.
However, I am going to take some of the credit because I have spent the last 8 years with him, and it's not always a walk in the park. Without further ado, here is my advice for how to raise a little boy as a single mommy...
1. Tell him you love him. Like, every single time you think of it, say it. This might mean that you say it 20 times a day, and that's okay. One of the many reasons my relationship with his dad didn't work out was that he couldn't say (nor show, really) that he loved me. His response to my question would always be, "Well, I'm here, aren't I?" Knowing you're loved is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. It makes you feel safe, secure and well...loved, for lack of a better word. And, you never, ever, ever know when may be the last time you get to say it. So say it, and say it often.
2. Cuddle. If you have a cuddler, take advantage of every single minute. One day they won't want to cuddle anymore (and that makes my heart ache), but as my child turns 8, I see there is no way to stop him from growing.
3. Tell him you're proud of him. Yes, of course, when he brings home a test that he did really well on, by all means tell him then...but I'm talking about when he's standing there and he remembers to say please or thank you or he does something the first time you ask or when he tells the truth when a lie would have been easier. Tell him you're proud of the person he's becoming.
4. Let them talk. And talk, and talk and talk and talk. Q went on a road trip with my brother and sister in law last month and I laughed out loud when A said he talked the whole 5 hours it took to get there. First, it means he's comfortable, because he doesn't do that with everyone, but secondly...it might not seem like anything important to you, but it sure is important to him. If you listen, really listen, to all their little *nothings* they'll come to you with all their *somethings*.
5. Give them choices. This sometimes bites me in the butt, because it takes patience, and sometimes one of the choices doesn't end up working, but for the most part, giving him two choices works really well. It works because he feels involved, but it also works because when he has the choice to do the good thing or the bad thing, he recognizes it as a choice. For instance: You can put your toys away where they belong, or I can put your toys away in the garbage. It's your choice.
6. Encourage alone time. This is actually also 'Have a sibling', but like me, not always feasible. It's exhausting trying to entertain him all the time and get everything else done around the house. He's going through a you're-not-entertaining-me-so-I'm-bored phase right now, so I really understand how important it is for him to be able to entertain himself. What is he going to do when he's 20 if he needs me to entertain him???
7. Let them use technology. Our children are going to have jobs that we don't even know exist yet. Technology, whether we like it or not, is not going away. I have a co-worker who always jokes that he never thought computers were going to catch on, as he types with his two index fingers. Oh, it's caught on. My child can use my iPhone just as well as I. He knows how to record series on our PVR and I don't. He can log onto my computer and access his websites. And these are basic skills that a whole lot of children his age do not have. When I volunteered in his class, some children didn't know how to even hold the mouse. These children will be left behind. Give your child a head start now. Give them a time limit, monitor what sites they're seeing, obviously, but do not kid yourself by thinking computers aren't going to "catch on".
8. Sports, sports, sports. I have a couple of friends with teenage boys and these kids are really, really good kids. Of course, it's the parenting (!) but it's also because these kids have been involved in sports from an early age. They're too busy playing sports to get into any trouble. Their friends are too busy playing sports to get into any trouble. They're having fun, they're busy and they have positive roll models. Win-Win-Win.
9. Make memories. One day, my son will be a man with smelly, hairy feet. Ugh, it makes me shudder. But I want him to have memories with me now, that make him the man he is to become. I was thinking the other day of all the opportunities my son has had that many are not as fortunate. We've been to Hawaii, the Dominican Republic, DisneyLand, Science World, The Aquarium, the Capilano suspension bridge, fireworks, the beach, zoos, day trips to Seattle, movie date nights. My heart swells with joy when he says, "Mommy, remember when we...."
10. This is my favourite...
I tried it the other day, and it was awesome. It really worked. It even freaked me out a little bit!
Oh, and I have more...but 10 is such a nice, even number. Maybe I'll do a part 2. Any parenting tips, either for boys or for single mothers or girls or not single mothers that I should include???