Dear Younger Self:
At this point, I know it is already too late to caution you to postpone your childbearing until you gain further education as to what makes small children tick. Since you saw fit to get married and have your first child just shy of age 21, now, a year later, you are already stuck in the ‘mommy’ role for which you are so woefully unprepared.
Let me give you some advice. Go back to school. Take some college classes in early childhood education and development. You were raised as such a miniature adult, and had no real friends in your own peer group, that you are sorely lacking in this vital bit of knowledge. You didn’t even do any real babysitting, for pity’s sakes! How do you expect to raise a child without knowing these things?
Your own upbringing as an only child, the daughter of a much older father, left you unable to relate to children. Bear this in mind, however: your mother allowed friends in to play, both in the house and in the yard. True, things might not always have gone as you would have liked, but at least you were at home, and if things got out of hand, the friends could be sent home.
Be the mom at whose house the kids want to hang out. It is better this way, trust me. I’ve been there—on the wrong/opposite side of that bit of advice. With the kids at your house, you can hear their conversations, keep an eye on what they are up to, and generally supervise their activities. Get to know the parents of their friends, also: be sure they are on the same parenting-wavelength as you are. If not, then your kids don’t need to be ‘best buds’ with their kids. That’s how you keep them on the straight and narrow track.
Taking them on trips is good—that is education in itself—don’t stop doing that, as I know you plan to do when they are older. But take a few more trips to kid-fun places. They may bore you to tears, but the kids will enjoy the chance to be kids, and be silly, and run and jump and climb and explore on structures made just for them. Let them see the silly clown shows. Yes, they are stupid, but kids like stupid humor. It is your job to humor them, so as not to stunt their imaginations and creativity. If they learn to be silly, they will be more outgoing, and less self-conscious. Encourage dramatic studies.
But above all, take on more education for yourself, and learn to teach at home. Home-school your children, so they will always be able to find the fun in learning, and not have it become a drudge as it does in the formal public school system. That system is badly broken, and can’t be easily fixed. By home schooling, you keep your values front and center, and they learn lessons at their own pace, and the lessons can all be integrated with each other, so that less-enjoyable subjects get slid in almost unnoticed while the kids think they are having fun!
By all means, enroll them in Girl Scouts, or any other extra-curricular clubs and activities for their social development. And learn patience much earlier! Let them do it! Don’t take a task away because it is faster or easier for you to do it yourself. This is counter-productive in the long run: it undermines their self-confidence.
You are still a very young mother, and I hope you will listen to and heed this older, sadder, wiser, now a grandmother--speaking to you through the tunnels of time.