More accepting, more generous, more helpful: I’ve heard a lot of parents say that having kids has made them more of something like this.

To some degree, becoming a mom has had these sorts of effects on me—I think—but it’s also changed me in other ways that I appreciate even more. For instance, since becoming a parent…

I do things that terrify me. Every damn day. Yes, it’s scary to let your kids spread their wings and explore independently. To venture out beyond your watch. To witness them participating in activities that involve speeding along on something other than their own two feet, potentially putting themselves into the paths of others who might crash into them. And hurt them—badly.

But just as terrifying for me (a generally terrified person) is participating with my boys in such “unsafe” activities—like snowboarding or riding bikes on the street (!!)—so we can all have fun as a family. Again and again, I drag myself out of my comfort cocoon to surround myself with supportive, fearless friends who push me to be the bravest parent I can be.

I force myself to do things that I suck at. This includes snowboarding (see above, but I’m getting better)—and anything involving balls. I “play soccer” and pitch baseballs—poorly. One kid calls me out on my ineptitude, which offers a teaching opportunity on good sportsmanship; the other applauds my efforts and suggests I become an assistant coach of his T-ball team. I can tell they both appreciate my just getting out there and trying (and suspect they will even more in 20 years). I’ve also learned that “sports” with your kids can be almost as fun as dancing if you don’t take yourself too seriously.

I’m more likely to make the most of every minute. It started when I brought my older son home from the hospital. When he was sleeping, I was making dinner or folding clothes because I had no idea when I’d see my next “free” minute. These days, I’m less likely to procrastinate, say, an exercise session because if I don’t seize the moment, I may not get another chance.

I get creative about squeezing in things I want to do: I’ll run to the ball field and my husband will drive the kids; after the game, he runs home, and I drive back. If I don’t have a noontime meeting on a yoga day, I’ll go to the class knowing I’ll rally myself to work after the boys are in bed because: deadlines. This week when I suddenly found myself meeting-free one afternoon of a Chicago work trip, I snuck over to the art museum and saved my editing for late night. I got it all done and discovered a cool, new (to me) contemporary artist to follow (Frances Stark! – check her out).

I’m (imperfectly) more productive. As my kids have gotten older and I see them losing their sh*t when they “mess up” a drawing or a note, I’ve realized that I need to make a conscious effort to temper my tendencies to do things “perfectly.”

Learning not to overproduce is, in my experience, an important life lesson. “Don’t start over; that ‘mess-up’ looks cool,” I often tell my kids. Repeating that mantra, I’ve begun to absorb the mentality myself. More than ever, I don’t let perfect get in the way of done. We live in an increasingly iterative world. Do your best and let it go. That’s what I’m sayin’—now. Or at least more often.

How have your kids changed you for the better?