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Two things I learned that will make me a better parent

It is an amazing, rewarding honor to raise children, but it's also challenging, frustrating, hard work.

There are countless parenting books - I've read many of them - that give you advice, guidance and tips for making things easier. For raising nice children. Happier children. Healthier children. They tell you how to bathe, feed, discipline and educate your children.

It's great advice for the most part, but because all children are different, you have to take it with a grain of salt. Most of the parental knowledge you acquire, you learn on the fly. Those in-the-moment discoveries that help you, your kids, your family.

This week, I picked up on - or was reminded of - two completely separate parental gifts.

The first is that it's completely OK to hire a babysitter for a few hours so you can take a shower, a nap, a walk or just binge Netflix in your bedroom. That's sort of what I did this week, and it felt great.

Raising kids is hard work, but it's also rewarding and amazing. (Mary Friona-Celani/Special to The News)

Yes, I shower on a regular basis (although, truth be told, there are days I simply don't get around to it). But, I never take a shower without at least a one child poking their head in or calling my name. And my showers are always quick. In and out. So, on a Monday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m., I had "me time" without leaving the house.

I took a very long, very hot shower in peace. I followed up by rearranging my bedroom. (I know, boring - but I loved it!) I caught up on a show or two and basically just relaxed. All the while, my kids were playing and having a great time a floor away with a sweet, fun babysitter.  It was a win-win. Well worth the $30.

I could put it this way.

Cost of babysitter: $30.

My sanity: Priceless.

Family game time

The other aha moment was family game night. I know, sounds like fun, right? My husband's cousins are an amazing group that I am so lucky to have in my life. They are so much fun and are so good to us. They have a family game night on a semi-regular basis (every month or so). They invited us to join them, and oh-em-gee. It was so much fun.

We played silly, fun games that the kids loved. Sure, the adults may or may not have gotten a tad competitive, but for the kids, it was all laughs. It proved to be a great way to forget about all of the problems in the world and just laugh.

There are so many options! Mary Friona-Celani/Special to The News

I really believe that spending time with family is extremely important for kids. They need to know they have people who they can count on, people who care about them.

Also, the games are so much fun, and they help kids learn, too. We played Apples to Apples - which really made Emma think. She's only 5, but was able to read with the help of the picture, and she had to use some critical thinking skills - without even realizing it.

Even the baby had a blast (here with her Aunt Terry). (Mary Friona-Celani/Special to The News)

We spent a few hours playing games. Emma is still talking about it and can't wait to go again.

Here's the thing, it can be a small group or a big group - or just you and your child, because there are no rules when it comes to having fun!


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