I’m not really one for trite sayings in general, but especially trite sayings about parenting, like “the days are long but the years are short.” Then one day, I realized how much parenting wisdom is tucked away in our most common proverbs. Though I doubt some of the advice I gleaned was exactly what the original authors intended.
Here are 10 proverbs, modified to suit the parenting life:
1 | If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
True. Except here’s the thing. If a kid or spouse is doing it and you think you can do it better, ask yourself a simple question: “Do you actually want to do it yourself?”
If no, shut your mouth, carry on and, if necessary, take notes for constructive feedback later.
2 | A watched pot never boils.
Similarly, children can never put on their shoes and socks while you’re watching them. Watching kids struggle to get dressed is like trying to get through a “Lord of the Rings” marathon to impress a first date.
Seriously, walk away. Have a second cup of coffee.
3 | If you can’t beat them, join them.
Every now and then, when your kids are off-the-wall bonkers and you can’t calm them down, just join in. Nobody really wants to be the one sober person at the party.
I can tell you from experience that watching your kids toilet-papering your living room can send you into a tailspin. But doing it with them is oddly satisfying.
4 | No use crying over spilled milk.
My kids spill their milk and other things a lot. It used to upset me a lot. But there are only so many yells in one day, and I decided to save them for more important things.
Our current mantra is, “Well, at least it’s not blood. Now go clean it up.”
5 | Familiarity breeds contempt / Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
I’ve lumped these together because they’re opposite sides of the same coin. Any parent who has ever spent several days (okay, hours) trapped in a house with their kids will understand. You start off at 6 a.m. with nothing but love, but by bedtime…pure contempt.
On the flip side, nothing makes me love my kids more than a little break. So when you find yourself climbing up Contempt Hill, work to arrange a get-away fast, even if it’s just a quick run to the drugstore to buy things you don’t need.
6 | Good things come to those who wait.
This can be applied to a million things, but comes in particularly handy for dinner and tantrums. When trying to get my kids to eat something not high on their list of top foods (i.e. anything that’s not pizza), I’ve learned to plop it down and walk away.
Don’t make eye contact, don’t cajole or discuss, just leave it and wait. At some point, they’ll eat it, if the dog doesn’t get to it first.
7 | You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
I love cooking and I love my kids, but initially, I didn’t love the two together. Eggshells got in the batter, flour got on every surface in the kitchen, butter got places butter should never be, and it took roughly two hours to complete a 15-minute recipe.
But, oh how they loved it. Once I embraced the disaster (and learned to have them crack eggs, one at a time, in a separate bowl), I loved it, too.
8 | No man is an island.
I really, really struggle with asking for help. I once cut my fingertip off with a mandolin and then pushed my two-year-old two miles in a stroller, while pregnant, looking for an urgent care that took my insurance.
Once I had two kids, I realized this wasn’t sustainable. Learn to ask for help, because most people don’t mind and you can’t get it done yourself.
9 | Better late than never.
This obviously applies to day-to-day lateness, but it hit home for me in terms of child development. My daughter didn’t walk until 18 months, and my six-year-old son, while showing early promise in engineering, still can’t tell me the difference between the sounds ch and th.
It’s easy to get caught up in intense worry over these things, but the truth is, kids really do develop at different rates. Comparing will make you crazy.
10 | When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Sure, we want to model how to stick it out for our kids, but we also want everyone to survive until they reach adulthood. No one benefits from a crazed parent. Sometimes, it’s best to just walk away.
Give yourself a timeout in your closet, preferably with a drink or snack of your choice.