A couple of weeks ago, my daughter, Katie, became a teenager. Amidst all the good-luck wishes and sentiments about "where has the time gone," one friend with a child just about to go to kindergarten and another in diapers asked me what would I do over if I had the chance. While I wouldn't change my daughter (I think she's pretty great), I'm sure we could have taken a more mellow path to the teen years. Here's my hindsight:
* Milestones are overrated. As long as it's within the large range that docs have established as "normal," don't read too much into the timing of achievements. While Katie was an early talker and still has the gift of gab, she's not any more chatty than her friends are now—or what they were at age 3. And even though she was a late walker who liked to be picked up and carried around, let's just say that she does fine on her own two feet.
* Friendships are underrated. There's no escaping friend drama—and it really ramps up around second or third grade. I'm sure that I was way too apathetic about the plethora of friendship problems, "She doesn't like me anymore! She called me a name. I have no one to play with at recess." Treat it like it's a big deal—because it actually is to your kid.
* It's easy to over-schedule. (And hard to pull back.) Everything sounded exciting to Katie when she was a preschooler—at one point, she had lessons for swimming, theatre, dance, violin, and gymnastics. And that wasn't counting the drop-in arts & crafts and music programs as well as the weekly story hour at the library. I wished I had limited it to two activities so we weren't constantly rushing.
* Your memories will fade. When Katie was 6, she was in 23 performances of A Christmas Carol. Because of copyright laws, parents weren't allowed to record the show—the same goes for a lot of music and dance recitals too. I didn't buy the DVD because she was on stage for less than five minutes, I had already spent a small fortune on tickets and costume fees, and I thought after 23 shows, I'd never forget it. Um, I pretty much have. Snap away and record as much as you can because, trust me, you'll be blubbering about "how little he/she was" later.
* Mistakes are healthy. Once your kid gets her first at-home school project, you'll be tempted to jump in and help. At Katie's third-grade invention fair, I saw a bed frame with a pulley, supposedly built by an 8-year-old, in the classroom. While I never went anywhere near that far with my help, if I had a do-over, I would have let her handle every project entirely on her own. Why? Because she has learned her mistakes much more than her successes.
Now if you have any advice for parenting teenagers, I'm all ears!