The Truth is, You Will

The box of orange Tic Tacs landed at my feet with a splat.

As I bent down to pick them up, I met eyes that were the same color as the sky on a perfect summer beach day. I smiled and cheerily said, “Here you go,” and attempted to deliver the candy to a chubby little hand.

“No!” she screamed, wrapping her arm around her chest and turning her face away from me. “No, no, no!”

I quickly took a few steps back, returning to my place behind my red shopping cart as to not upset this little girl any further. Hell hath no fury like a ticked-off two year-old.

“I’m so sorry,” the young woman standing in front of me in line said. She grabbed the little girl by the arm while simultaneously trying to keep the pacifier in the mouth of a very tiny baby in its infant carrier. As the toddler continued to scream “no” in a variety of octaves, the wallet the woman was holding underneath her arm turned upside down, scattering credit cards and receipts across the floor like chicken feed.

“Abigail, please stop screaming,” she begged as she dropped to her knees just as the infant started wailing.

We locked eyes as I handed her an American Express and Starbucks gift card that landed underneath the candy display. “Really, it’s okay. We’ve all been there,” I relished the opportunity to act as the senior statesman, an upperclassman of Parenting University.

She sighed and offered me a half-smile. As she handed over her credit card to the teenager at the register, she hurriedly explained: “I’m not used to two yet. My daughter is waking up from her nap when she hears the baby cry, and then our whole day is messed up. She normally isn’t like this.”

“No judgment here,” I quickly responded. “Just the fact that you are out and about is impressive. It will get easier.” I wanted to offer encouragement and support, which I knew she needed in that difficult moment. Despite the screaming, her children were beautiful, and the little girl reminded me of my own daughter at that age—a mix of sweet and sour poured into an angel’s body.

“I hope so,” she replied, sounding close to tears as both children continued to squawk. “It just doesn’t feel like it will. I think I’m just exhausted.”

And that’s when I blew it. I broke a cardinal rule of the sisterhood of moms. I said the unthinkable to a new mother going through the worst of it.

Without even thinking, I blurted out: “One day you will miss all this.”

That’s when she looked at me, tired and exasperated, and with a pursed-lip obligatory smile yanked on her little girl’s hand and walked away.

“Wait,” I wanted to yell. “There’s more that I need to tell you!”

But she was gone. I was left holding a box of Tic Tacs, with a side of guilt the size of the Grand Canyon.

I think about that mom all the time. What could I have said to her in that moment? How could I have better explained the emotions that were surging through my head?

I wanted to tell her that even though she is feeling exhausted and alone, I am so jealous of her.

I am jealous of how each night she looks deep into her infant’s eyes and knows that she is the center of his universe. I would do anything to feel my baby’s little hand wrapped around my index finger just one more time, holding so tightly that you feel it in your heart. I am jealous she gets to experience those exquisite moments of the toddler years, where each day comes with a new first. I am green with envy that she gets to snap photos of her daughter wearing her father’s work boots while buck naked. I’m jealous she gets to be the recipient of pretend tea from of a pink piece of plastic, that she gets to feel a tiny hand on her shoulder in an attempt to make mommy feel better.

I want the last thing I smell to be the head of a freshly bathed baby, the most magnificent scent in all the world. I want to go back to the days where one kiss from me could make any boo-boo feel better. I want to see their faces the first time they eat cake, or meet Santa, or take those first few wobbly steps like a giraffe coming out of its mother’s womb.

I wish I could still carry my kids upstairs after falling asleep in my arms. I wish I could still buy frilly tutus and tiaras and magic wands that make dinosaurs dance. I wish I could read Goodnight Moon every evening and watch Baby Einstein every morning. I wish dirty little hands would tug on my sheets at dawn with little voices asking if they could get in bed with Mommy, all of us knowing that sleep was not an option.

I’m sorry, young mom. I blew it. I am just so jealous of what you are about to experience that I forgot how hard it was, too. What you saw were your two children disturbing the peace. What I saw were beautiful memories hanging on to a red shopping cart.

When I see you again, and I know I will, I won’t make it all about me.

I’ll say: “I remember days like these, but I would do it all over again for just one touch, just one smell, just one moment of what you have. No one tells you that these little creatures grow up into big people. People that grow taller than you, read the same books, and steal your shoes. They learn to take care of themselves, and sometimes even take care of you. They smell, and not always in a good way, and getting a hug is sometimes only the result of a compromise for returning their iPhone.

And one day, when you least expect it, you will be standing in line behind a very tired mom, and you’ll say something dumb, even though you know better. You’ll say something dumb because you realize that the sun has set on that part of your life, the part when your kids are little and needy and exhausting. You will be just a little bit jealous of that mom because you’ll see your past self in her, and you’ll realize there is no turning back.”

I won’t say you’ll miss these times one day.

But the truth is, you will.

This essay was originally published on Coffee + Crumbs.

 

 

 

Too Sexy, Too Young

I despise the fact that I sometimes have to tell my daughters to go change because her shorts are too short or her leggings too tight or her shirt rides up too high. I do not for a single moment want to be the source for why she is uncomfortable in her body. But I also need her to be aware that — whether I like it or not — what she wears matters.

So despite all the other noise from social media and video games and friends, I will make sure she knows she is enough, exactly as she is. And then I’ll ask her to put on a new pair of pants…

I am now a regular contributor to a lovely parenting site named Her View from Home. I’m up today discussing the wardrobe war, which is killing me, battle by battle.

Too Sexy, Too Young

I watch my daughter walk into the room with her long, straight chestnut hair swaying side to side. I love watching her enter our kitchen each morning.

At ten, her sense of self is strong. She knows how to put together an outfit and creates just the right hairstyle to go with it. I am always impressed with her ability to match her older sister’s fur vest with a pair of leopard leggings or a jean jacket with a plaid skirt meant for the holidays. She does not get this trait from her style-challenged mother, who has worn her hair the same way for nearly two decades.

Her greatest accessory, however, is the confidence that exudes out of her tiny frame. She walks with her head held high as her voice booms against the walls of our home. She is a force.

I see her from behind as she bends over to pull out a waffle from the bottom of our freezer. When she stands up, I notice her shorts don’t move much. They lay perfectly still, roughly one inch under her buttocks. I think to myself that J-Lo would be envious of that perfect bum.

But then I remember that she is in fourth grade and not on a tour with backup dancers.

Click here to read more.

I Want Her to Be Better than Me

I have three daughters, and of course I love them all equally.

That being said, there is one that I butt heads with more, one that seems to cause my temper to flare faster and bigger.

She happens to be the one just like me.

I had an epiphany moment with her awhile back. I realized she became a trigger for what I didn’t like in myself, and when I am having my own moments of weakness, I was taking it out on her.

I am up on a lovely parenting website today named Her View from Home with my post about trying to get my daughter to become a better version of myself, and how in turn, I became a better version of me.

You can read the full post here.

I Want Her to Be a Better Version of Me

“Why do you not put your school things in your backpack immediately after you finish?” I snapped at my daughter after dinner one night. “You have to be more organized!”

I watched the tears well up like puddles in her dark brown eyes that were exact replicas of mine, yet my anger did not subside. It was the same argument every night.

She hurriedly stuffed a torn yellow folder with papers sticking out in every direction in her purple backpack, and then slowly turned to see if I was watching her.

“What?” I exclaimed in my most exasperated mom voice.

“Why do you not put your school things in your backpack immediately after you finish?” I snapped at my daughter after dinner one night. “You have to be more organized!”

I watched the tears well up like puddles in her dark brown eyes that were exact replicas of mine, yet my anger did not subside. It was the same argument every night.

She hurriedly stuffed a torn yellow folder with papers sticking out in every direction in her purple backpack, and then slowly turned to see if I was watching her.

“What?” I exclaimed in my most exasperated mom voice. (To continue reading click here.)

 

On Turning Tween

My youngest turned ten recently. She lovingly reminds me that she is officially a tween now, along with her eleven-year-old twin sisters.

Having three tween daughters would scare most people, and it should. Navigating puberty times three is not for the faint of heart.

While my girls seem to be handling it well, it is much harder for me.

You see, I have always been confident, even steadfast, in my parenting decisions, doing what I felt is right for my little family.  Facebook was not around when my girls were infants, so I didn’t feel the pressures so many young moms now face due to social media, and I am lucky to have a strong network of supportive women in my life.

I didn’t always do everything by the book, and if you wanted to label me  it would probably be “Crunchy, detachment, needs her sleep, part-time working mom.” I nursed all three of my kids. And also bottle fed. We eat mainly organic fruit and vegetables, unless we are at a friend’s house that busts out a packet of Oreos, then we are all in. I let all three of my kids cry it out at one point or another and I rarely let them sleep in our bed, but I am all for early morning snuggles or late-night reading in my bed together.

It worked for us.

But now we are at a different point in our parenting journey. Sometimes it involves eye rolls, sighs the size of a hurricane and huffing and puffing — and that’s not only by my three daughters.

Parenting tweens is hard. They want their independence. They want to be heard.  They want to grow up.

I just want them to pick up their stuff.

But more than that, I want to raise kind, compassionate, productive members of society, which is hard to do when you constantly feel like you are screwing them up.

The past few weeks have been particularly difficult. For some reason, the four females in our house are on edge. We cried a river of tears and are often an ocean apart on our viewpoints.

We argue about hair and taking showers and homework and eating habits. And after every bad interaction, I feel like a failure, like I screwed them up.

Raising tweens is hard. Talk too much about the food they consume, and it can lead to an eating disorder. Discuss their appearance too much will cause poor self-esteem. Pressuring academic success can lead to depression. And although I never negotiate on good hygiene, I do wonder at what age I will have to stop saying the words, “We take showers so we don’t smell.”

Raising tweens shakes my confidence as a parent. As hard as I try, I feel like the wheels fly off a conversation faster than I can put them back on the bus.

Finding balance in our new relationship is difficult. I want them to be independent and think for themselves, yet we still have rules and expectations. I want them to understand the basics of health and appearance, yet I do not want them to feel judged.  I want them to excel in all they do, yet I do not want them to feel pressured.

We are in the eye of the tornado, and I am unsure where we will land.

Last night was a good night in our home, filled with love and laughter and joy and kindness. I pulled one of my daughters aside, one who I had a particularly trying time with, and said, “I’m glad we had some fun together after all that went on this week.”

Her big blue eyes looked deep into mine, and she replied, “What do you mean?”

I was surprised by her response. “I mean, you and I had a rough week, and I know we didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything. I’m glad we could end it on a good note.”

And then she laughed. “Oh, Mom, it’s not a big deal. I know you are just trying to help.”

As I watched her turn and put her backpack away, I sat in shock. Here I thought I was crushing her self-esteem and body image, and she showed me compassion.

Parenting a tween is hard, but it doesn’t need to shake your confidence. I may need to work on my delivery, but my girls are getting the message loud and clear. We will have bad moments, but I will continue to remain steadfast in teaching them all the things I want them to know, and then adapt accordingly, as I have done since the beginning. And the good moments will far outshine the bad.

Parenting a tween is hard, and it should be. We want our kids to push, explore and question. Sometimes these actions lead to positive outcomes (defending a friend or deciding to walk away from illicit behavior) and sometimes it ends up with mistakes and the opportunity to be held accountable. It is all a part of growing up.

Parenting a tween is hard. And I am so lucky I get to do it.

The Tightrope of Self Esteem

I am making my debut on one of my favorite sites today, Mamalode, discussing managing my daughters’ self esteem.

I find it hard to find the right balance of encouragement and honesty with my girls. It becomes particularly difficult during a fashion stand off. On one hand, I want them to feel empowered and loved, and on the other hand, I want to be honest and helpful.

And sometimes you just have to tell a girl she looks ridiculous. You know, the girlfriend rule.

Thanks for reading.

THE TIGHTROPE OF SELF ESTEEM

The small-framed tween girl slides to a stop in her sock-clad feet directly in front of me.

“Ta-da,” she sings, using jazz hands as her chocolate eyes dance with excitement.

“You can’t wear that to school,” I respond too quickly.

“Why not? I think I look awesome.”

“It doesn’t look right,” I declare. The words spew out of my mouth like bullets, and I instantly want to siphon them back in as I watch my daughter flinch. “I mean, you are not supposed to wear it that way.”

To read more, click here.

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