Janice Dean: As a mom, I’ve learned that sometimes it’s the little things that have the biggest impact

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I’ve often been asked about advice I would have for new moms. What lessons have I learned that I can pass on to others?

One of the most important things I’ve experienced as a mother is this: Sometimes it’s the little things you do in life have the biggest impacts.

Because I work early mornings, I don’t get to see my boys during the week when they wake up. My husband, Sean, is the one who makes them breakfast, fixes their lunches when they go to school and drops them at the bus stop. I’ve expressed to many other mom friends how much I miss this part of their lives.

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My friend Karen suggested I should put little notes in their lunches. She did it with both their kids, and even though it’s a simple thing, she could tell they liked seeing the hand-written message. I loved this advice, and decided to write jokes every night that my husband then puts into their lunchboxes the next morning.

Not only did it make me feel good doing it for them, but they enjoy it as well. It’s something that lets them know I’m thinking about them. Their teachers tell me that both of my kids will share the jokes in class or with their friends.

And since this little thing was such a hit with my kids, and their friends, I decided to post them on my social media. Since then, I’ve had many moms and dads ask me if they can use them to pass along to their children. That gives me great joy — knowing that my lunchbox joke love is being spread to others.

Learning how to sew in eighth grade home-economics class has come in handy as a mom. This past winter, my son Theodore came home upset because a pompom on his favorite hat came apart. He thought it was ruined. I told him I could fix it, and his eyes grew wide. I took out my little sewing kit I’ve had for two decades, threaded the needle, and in less than five minutes, that pom pom was as good as new. He then went into his room and grabbed a stuffed animal whose seams were coming apart and asked if I could do the same magic to his little dog with a blanket. I told him no problem, this was an easy fix.

I didn’t realize the impact of this hidden talent until my older son Matthew came home from school one day with a little bear in his backpack that had a tear. A friend of his at school brought it in after he told her I fixed stuffed animals. Could I fix it? Of course, I said. It would be my pleasure. And it made me so proud.

This advice also goes to those who are looking for the best Mother’s Day gifts. A handwritten note or homemade gift is one of the best things you can do. Even a hug, a smile or an “I love you” can be the best Mother’s Day moment of all.

I’ve never been a good cook, but one day I decided to take two bagels, split them in half, put canned tomato sauce and shredded cheese on top — and then put them in the oven. It was a small moment that turned into a big one. They told their friends: “My mom makes the best pizza bagels!” And suddenly, I was a master chef!

I think it’s also important to try and show up for school plays, concerts, trips and sporting events. I realize we can’t be there for everything, especially if you work, but your kids will remember those days you were a witness to their extracurricular activities. I will often catch my boys looking for me through the crowd or on the sidelines to make sure I’m there watching them. And when they catch my eye, they will smile and it melts my heart.

Even something as easy as reading a book with them at night, snuggled up under the covers with their hearts beating next to mine, is such a magical moment I know they’ll remember.

And because I am catching on to these small but extraordinary moments with my kids, I try to find out what others remember about their childhoods with their moms.

A lot of the answers have to do with cooking. Baking is big. Brownies, banana bread, soup and sandwiches at lunch or a special snack after school. A favorite cake made on their birthday or the smell of freshly baked cookies can bring you right back to a childhood moment.

Many remember staying home sick on a school day and having mom take care of them, or something as easy and sweet as holding their hand crossing the street.

Someone told me that they recently found a dress packed away with a tag sewn in that said “Made with Love, by Mom.”

Singing in the car is a common memory. I remember my mom humming when she was happy doing things around the house. Teaching kids how to tie their shoelaces, or riding a bike.

These are all small things that we remember most.

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Many times as parents we think it’s expensive or popular gifts or a big trip together somewhere. And yes, those things can have an impact. But I think it’s the smaller stuff that we sometimes don’t realize they remember the most. The inflatable pool or the sprinkler in the backyard. The fort in the living room made with chairs and pillows sometimes brings more giggles than you could ever hope for.

And by the way, this advice also goes to those who are looking for the best Mother’s Day gifts. A handwritten note or homemade gift is one of the best things you can do. Even a hug, a smile or an “I love you” can be the best Mother’s Day moment of all.

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