I have a fair amount of disdain for bloggers who think they know a lot more than they do. So, at the risk of self-disdain (and a smidgen of "did-I-just-call-myself-a-blogger?)...
Lori and I have four children. Conner (11), Nicole (8), Ethan (2), and Carlie (5 months). And we've also applied to the Chinese government for the adoption of a baby girl sometime in the next year or so. We currently have a child in what I would consider most of the major pre-teen stages. You could almost say we're becoming quite experienced at being parents. I'm guessing I'll be a parenting-Yoda by the time we get all the kids out of the house. I see other couples expecting their first child and I think back to when we were there. Yes... it's going to have a much bigger impact than you could ever image and you'll feel a connection to your children that is indescribable. However, I'm going to try to give a few pointers that maybe you haven't heard before...
- When still at the hospital after delivery, leave the baby in the nursery as much as possible. Get your rest.
- Babies cry. They cry a lot. They cry a lot at night. Sometimes they cry for no reason. The best
thing you can do is remain relaxed. When you get stressed, they can sense it and they get stressed. If you need a quick break just put the baby in their crib and walk around in the yard for a few minutes.
- Most newborns like to be "swaddled" in a blanket. Watch very carefully how the nurse wraps your newborn at the hospital. When they are newborn they are accustomed to being tucked very tightly in the womb.
- Read to/with your kids every night. Conner now reads to himself before he goes to bed, but we read to each of the other kids individually before they go to bed each night. It's a very important time that you'll be glad you made it a priority. It's very important one-on-one time when you have multiple children.
- Prepare to be very, very patient when they are learning to read. Resist the urge to be critical when they get stumped on a word they just got correct one sentence back.
- When your children start to get older and you try to let them make a lot of their own decisions (and mistakes)... make it a habit to remind yourself they are just learning. My biggest parenting struggle is patience with Conner. Conner would agree.
- Be consistent. (Someday you'll understand how huge this is.)
- You can never tell your daughter too many times how beautiful she is. I have this routine with Nicole when I blow dry her hair and pretend I'm this fancy hairstylist taking care of my hollywood client, gushing over how she is the most beautiful movie star in the world. She pretends to be annoyed by it but I KNOW she loves it.
- Show your daughter lots of affection. Most grown women with severe relationship problems had a father who was detached from them emotionally. Fathers, you need to study books on how to raise a healthy daughter. You don't know what you're doing.
- Take vacations (with and without your kids).
- If you tell your child to do something, do not change your mind. Don't back down if they start throwing a fit. Back down and not only are you being inconsistent, but you've just taught them how to beat you. It's not just about getting those toys picked up - it's about being consistent and letting them know you are the boss.
- Tell them you love them, especially when just passing in the hall or whatever. Just saying it when they're walking out the door is routine and they don't even hear it.
- If you have children that are much different in age, be sure you don't deprive the older ones from activities because you have younger kids. Drag the younger kids along.
- If they are involved in extra-curricular activities (and make sure they are), MAKE them practice regularly beyond what they are required. Teach them that if they are going to do something, they have to work at it.
- Always remember your children are going to be a lot like you. Think about it. A lot.
- Let your children overhear you complimenting them.
- Sometimes being a parent means you can't be their friend.
- Don't spoil them. And don't use that lame excuse "I just want them to have what I wasn't able to have." A lot more kids are messed-up by the things they get than the things they don't get.
- Teach them to take action.
- Don't give all of yourself to your children. Contrary to popular modern belief it is NOT an admirable thing to sacrifice 20 years of your life when raising your children. Remember yourself and show them you can still have fun when you're a parent.
- Play with them.
- Filter and monitor their internet activity. We installed NetNanny recently after Nicole was trying to search for baby "chicks".
- On Christmas morning when they've just opened 20 gifts and they are strewn all over the floor, grab a few that they haven't taken out of the box and hide them in your closet. They'll never miss them. And then pull a couple out some stormy day when they are stuck inside.
- Find a good church home now. Don't wait until the kids are older. It's important for them to grow up in a Christian environment, not just be introduced to it later.
- Start saving for college NOW! We'll spend at least half a million dollars if all our kids go to college. Google "529". It's a fantastic tax shelter.
- Take lots of video. Not just basketball games, but just when playing a boardgame or whatever. It's great to go back and relive casual moments.
- Love your spouse. There is no better influence on a child's future than having parents that love each other. Remember that love is not something that's just there - it's something you do.
- Pray for them every day.
That.... was much longer than I thought it would be.