“The days are long, but the years are short.” – Gretchen Rubin

This week is my son Owen’s second birthday. It seems like just the other day I was in intense pain laboring to bring him into the world and now here we are celebrating his second year of life. He has grown and changed by leaps and bounds during these past twelve months. I have learned even more about how to be a mom this year and gained confidence in myself and my decisions. All of the takeaways from the first year still apply, but here are 6 of my biggest takeaways from the second year of motherhood:

It was a year of mental growth

I had always heard that babies grow and change so much in the first year. While this is true, I feel that the second year had just as much (if not more) growth involved. The first year is mostly physical growth (getting bigger and stronger), while the second year is an explosion of mental growth. The level of understanding and language development is phenomenal. As an example, there’s a book my son used to lay on the floor and look at during tummy time that he now reads to me. It’s surreal. And amazing.

Getting involved is good as long as you keep it simple

This year I felt like it was time to get involved in an activity. Owen was getting bored playing with the same things all the time and I felt like it was time for some socialization. We intentionally participated in activities that were only 1 day a week and only did 1 or 2 activities at a time. Kids these days are too over scheduled and need time to be bored. That’s when creativity happens – you don’t always have to fill their days with busyness.

Include them in what you’re doing

I know they aren’t even 2 yet, but they are capable of a lot if you are patient and give them a chance. Yes, it will be messier and take more time with them involved, but kids learn by doing. Let them help vacuum, cook, or do outside chores when you can. The long term gains will speak for themselves!

Respect them like a peer

One of my favorite things my husband and I do with Owen is treat him like one of us. We strive to have a peer-to-peer relationship with him instead of a parent-to-child relationship. Now this doesn’t mean we don’t act like parents if the situation calls for it (especially where safety is concerned), but it does mean we don’t talk down to him or yell at him with the implication that “I am the parent so you must listen to what I say.” We try to use calm voices and language to explain the reasons behind our decisions or requests and it’s been working out great.

Sometimes they just need YOU

Your time and attention is all that’s really needed to show your child you love and care about them. Sure, there is pressure to buy the latest and greatest toys, but those things don’t matter. You can use your creativity to come up with unique games to play and learn from. I know we’ve been doing too much errand running when my son whines at the mention of leaving the house and asks to stay home and play with me. Also, if you are experiencing behavior issues, often this is their way of telling you to stop what you are doing and pay attention to them.

Being a mom is the experience of a lifetime

My mom always told my brother and I that we were her first priority and that she would do anything for us. While I thought that was so selfless, I didn’t fully understand it until now. Owen is my first priority and I would do anything for him, just as my mom would still do for my brother and I. Being a mom is something that you can’t explain to someone, it simply has to be experienced for yourself. I know I’m only two years in, but I can already confidently say it’s the experience of a lifetime. It changes you and your perspectives on life and what is important. It allows you to experience a love deeper than you’ve ever known and feel crazier than you’ve ever felt. Above all, the good times outweigh the challenging ones and you learn so much about yourself.

What have you learned in your second year of parenthood? What do you miss from the second year? Here’s to year #3!