Important Lessons My Son Has Taught Me

My oldest son, Pharoah, is 11 years old and he is slowly becoming a young man in a blink of an eye. A few days ago I stood up next to him and he is almost as tall as myself (mind you I am only 5’2”, but still). I remember the day he was born and how tiny he was. I was so scared to hold him because I was a young mom at 24 years old and was so intimidated by motherhood.  I come from a traditional Khmer family and I was in an interracial relationship and was an unwed mom. This is looked down upon and I was so afraid to tell my parents. I am pretty sure my mother was aware of the changes that were going on with my body, but I didn’t break the news to her until I was 7 months pregnant. I was forced to tell my mom by my sisters. They held me hostage and did not allow me to leave until I shared my pregnancy with my mom. I was so embarrassed and nervous. I felt like I let my whole family down. I never had a chance to enjoy my first pregnancy. Deep down inside I felt so blessed with my son. He was my everything even before his arrival. Every time he moved around inside of me I felt so amazed. It was definitely an incredible feeling I can’t find words to explain. I just wanted to give him everything I never had, provide him an experience I never got a chance to, and protect him from all the crazies in the world.

The lessons my son has taught me:

Be Resilient

As a young mom, trying to figure out life on my own I felt depressed and alone. I felt like no matter what I did, I just could not get it right, but every time I looked at my son he reminded me that failure was not an option. He gave me strength that I didn’t know existed and he pushed me to my greatest limits. I learned that having resilience meant being able to be flexible, learning to cope with hard times, and never giving up.

Live in the present moment and don’t forget to smile

I was so obsessed with what I needed to do to please others and win over their acceptance that I often forgot about myself and taking care of “me.” My son reminded me to live in the present. I wanted to be there at every stage of his life. I took thousands of pictures to remind me of his “first time” for everything. The day he crawled, the day he walked, the day he ate, his first birthday, his first day of school, his first plane ride, his first time on a bike, etc. I tried to capture every moment so I will never forget it. Now I realize, in those moments instead of trying to capture the best photoshoot I needed to be “present” and smile. Enjoy it and have fun.

Lead by example

As I mentioned in my previous post, there’s no handbook on how to be the best parent, but you definitely have to lead by example. You can’t tell your kids not to lie and turn around and tell one. You can’t tell your kids to have compassion when you turn around and say awful things. We are all not perfect nor will we ever be, but we should attempt to be a better person in every way in our life. We need to show our kids how to love, to dream, to work hard, to be kind, to listen, to share, to never give up, to try, to not be afraid to fail and to be happy. To be successful with these things, we have to show them how. Sometimes, it may take us a lifetime to teach them everything we want and this is why it’s so important to just be patient. Growth is slow.

“Oh shit, I can’t find my handbook”

Many folks usually say to me that parenting should be easy since I have three kids. However, being a parent is not easy. Each time I was pregnant, I felt like I had to do it all over again. My morning sickness affected me differently each time, that was something I will never become an expert on. It was emotionally and physically draining; my body was going through all of these changes and I had no control over it. I would have different types of food cravings and no control. As parents, we all have stories to tell about how we made it through those tough days and nights. We all struggle to find our way to be the best parent that we can be for our child(ren).

Society puts huge pressure on us to get everything right because we don’t want to be labeled as awful parents. From the day my kids were born, the struggle continued; I remember being challenged with breastfeeding because I felt the need to get it right. There were times that I cried because I couldn’t get my child to latch on. My breasts would be sore, but I still focused on getting the job done and couldn’t give up. My mom was there to support me, albeit from afar. She would just say it’s not that hard, just do it! I don’t think it was a result of her not wanting to help me, but sometimes I don’t think she understands how to give advice like American moms.

As a result of the war in Cambodia, she was separated from her parents at about 14 years old and had to fend for herself. My mother had me on a refugee camp in Thailand and there was no one there to coach her or stay up at night with her. She raised all 7 of her kids by herself and we were all fine… I guess. She didn’t understand why it was so hard for me. I guess us Americans are more emotional beings because we like to express our feelings. My mom doesn’t cry, she doesn’t confess her emotions, she is just a tough lady who just deals with it. I mean, she lived through a war.

My three kids are all going through different stages and I must adapt and try to meet them where they are and support their growth. My oldest is 11-year-old, and he is going through this weird pre-teen stage where he wants to keep to himself. He doesn’t want to do much and is lazy. He wants to play his video games and be left alone. He does well in school, but I have to say things over and over and its pretty annoying.  My 4-year-old, is the middle child so he is full of energy and craves 110% of my attention. He talks a lot and make up stories in his head. He confesses his love to me all the time, but then throws a fit when things don’t go his way. My 10-month-old baby girl is so precious and adorable. She is always happy, but she wants to have playtime all day long. She cries wolf when it’s time to get in the car seat and wants to listen to toddler songs on repeat in the car. Once again, so annoying, but I love them to death.   

I wish I can say that being a parent is easy and that I read the best handbook that prepared me for every aspect of parenting, but, there is no such thing. We just figure it out as we go. Our love for our kids is so strong and unconditional no matter what they do we still love them. Even when we don’t agree with them. We grow to learn how to be more supportive and patience. We make life seems easy so that they never have any worries or stress.

I look forward to sharing many more stories with you about my family and kids. Just remember “parenting does not come with a handbook and it is not easy, but it’s the best feeling in the world.”