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By Brinda Abu-Obaid

A Final Bit of Advice

As we prepare to close our doors here at ABCDlady, I’ve been taking many walks down memory lane. I started writing for this magazine when my younger daughter was just born, and she is now more than two years old. So much has happened in the past two years. I have gone from being an overwhelmed, confused and panicked new mother to being an overwhelmed yet confident mother who has come to terms with the fact that she will never know everything. I have learned a lot about myself in the process of writing for ABCDlady. This magazine has given me a place to not only write, but also to vent, counsel and brainstorm.

In this final issue, I am bidding everyone a fond farewell and offering some final words of advice.

Make some Mommy friends.
And do it quickly, especially if you decide to be a stay-at-home mom. Those first few days and weeks of being a new mother are amazing, but they can also be painfully isolating. Make some mommy friends quickly, and you’ll soon be on your way to talking about diapers, car seats, pacifiers, night time feedings and milestones with people who are as interested in these topics as you are. Find new mother groups through your local hospital or online through websites like I joined a mother’s group and four years later, we are still going strong. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Go with your gut.
I can’t say this enough. Go ahead and get advice from your friends and your family (yes, even your mother), but be prepared to go with what your gut tells you to do. You know your child best.

Be physical.
Give your children as many hugs and kisses as you possibly can every day. And enjoy the rush of feeling them swoop into your open arms at full speed—these moments will not last, so cherish them.

Talk. And then shut up.
When your child is a baby, talk as much as you can about the world around you. Oooh, what a pretty pink flower! See that red truck? What a beautiful, sunny day! But we get so used to talking and talking that we sometimes forget to tone it down when they get older. I sometimes catch myself giving a running commentary of everything I’m doing. How annoying this must be for my daughters! Mama is getting the cereal, and now, let me get the milk from the fridge, oops, better remember to close the door, now, let me get a bowl and a spoon, and—oh for goodness sake, shut up and give them their cereal! I constantly remind myself to say only what’s needed once. It’s either that, or accept the fact that at this rate, I’ll be the equivalent of white noise by the time they’re teenagers.

Become comfortable saying, “I don’t know.”
We live in a culture where it’s good to be the “go-to guy.” But, come on, let’s get real. Since when did parents have to have all the answers? My older daughter is only four, and I’ve already given up this façade. Why don’t penguins’ feet freeze? I don’t know. Why does cutting onions make you cry? No clue. Do fish fart? I have no idea. But here’s the thing. Make sure you add the words, “Let’s find out!” after the “I don’t know.” I actually know of a preschool teacher who was asked by one of her students where trash goes when it is thrown away. Her answer? “I don’t know, let’s find out!” And off the class went, from the garbage truck to the dumpster to the landfill to see how the garbage was compressed and/or recycled. I didn’t go to the aquarium to investigate the gastronomical properties of fish, but I did—with the help of my daughter—do some poking around on the World Wide Web. (By the way, fish don’t fart, but, boy, can they burp.)

Lead by example.
Start saying please, thank you and sorry. Say something good about yourself every time you look in the mirror. And don’t let your kids hear you gossip, especially about people they know. It will come back to bite you in the butt.

Let your kids fail.
You heard me right. Don’t let them win at every game of Candy Land. Call it like you see it, and teach them how to lose graciously. While you’re at it, don’t turn everything they do into The Next Best Thing Since Sliced Bread, either. Put them up on a pedestal all the time, and they won’t know how to get back down to reality where the rest of us live.

Be their advocate.
My sister told me this a few years back, and it has stuck with me. From the moment your child is born, you must be his voice when he can’t find his own. Don’t be shy. Be your child’s advocate when he can’t speak up—no one else will be stepping up to that plate. Women have a tendency to feel bad about being assertive or speaking their minds too loudly. Push that tendency aside and say what needs to be said. Your child will thank you. Maybe not today, but one day.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
I have a friend whose son has an aversion to the tags on the back of his shirts, so she cuts them all off. She is now convinced that he has a sensory integration disorder and is investing quite a bit of time, money and energy—not to mention STRESS—into having him evaluated. My theory? The kid hates tags. ‘Nuff said.

Create new traditions.
It’s important for a family to have a few traditions to look forward to every year, or week, or month, or season, no matter how small they may be. That’s why we brave the cold one night every winter to check out the Christmas lights at a nearby park. And why, come rain or shine, chocolate chip pancakes are served at my house every Sunday morning—or more like early afternoon, if I get my way. These pancakes have become such an integral part of our lives that the thought of not having them is preposterous.

Be a parent. Your child has enough friends.
Don’t condone crazy behavior. Who are these parents who buy alcohol for their children and host parties at home under the assumption that as long as the partying is going on under their roof, all is well? Don’t try and relive your youth through your kids. Set limits and enforce them. Seek out support and advice when you need to—you are not supposed to know everything, and it is okay to ask for help. And get to know the people who are interacting with your child—their friends, their friends’ parents, their teachers, their coaches. We all know that it takes a village to raise a child, but that’s much easier said than done when your village is filled with people you don’t know.

Take it easy. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Mommy guilt is bound to happen, but don’t let it control your life. If you choose to feed your baby formula, let your child watch TV while you cook dinner, feed your kids junk food once in a while, yell at your kids or leave your child with a babysitter so you can grab some “me” time—it’s okay! And while you’re at it, feel free to go completely against what the experts say. I come from a family that is big on teasing. We tease each other about everything. And I tease my girls a lot. They are so used to it now. My older one throws some zingers right back at me—makes me so proud. But it’s taught them about the power of words. You know that old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me”? Bull. Words hurt way more. Teach your children about the power of words and hurt feelings. Teach them about what can be teased about and what can’t—set the ground rules.

So there you have it—my top pieces of advice. Of course, following them doesn’t guarantee any kind of success (and the definition of success isn’t the same for everyone), but it will hopefully put our kids on the right path. I thank you for reading my column and letting me connect with you a little every month. I wish you all the best!

Brinda Abu-Obaid is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Clifton, VA with her husband, Aladin, and her two daughters, Yasmina and Noora.


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