From Mamas of Littles to Mamas of Not-So-Littles: What We Need From You

(Note: This was originally published in 2014, when my own daughter was only 5 and I was squarely in the middle of mothering a young elementary-aged kiddo. Now, with a “not-so-little” kid, I see this post from the opposite vantage point and go back to it in my mind often.)

Dear Mamas,

This is hard for us to say because we really do look up to you. You are further down this mothering road than we are, and you have weathered storms we don’t even know are coming yet. You have seen and dealt with things we can only imagine (if we can even imagine), and from our point of view, you are heroes. You have done the unthinkable.

You have made it past whatever difficult season we are in now, and we are in awe. Truly. We are.

We stand making crustless peanut butter sandwiches to pack into glittery lunch boxes for the hundredth day in a row, and we can’t imagine being where you are. We sit in endless car lines wondering what this afternoon will bring, and we can’t fathom a day when the relentless battles of elementary school-aged kids will fade in our memories. We collapse onto the couch after the little ones are finally – maybe – asleep, looking over at our husbands with loving exhaustion in our eyes, and we wonder if this season of temper tantrums and power struggles and time-outs will ever, ever, ever end.

This place we’re in? It seems like it will last forever. We plod on day after day after day, wondering if anything will ever change. Because our little ones….yes, they are growing up, and yes, it is shocking how quickly it happens. But to be honest? Even though we see them growing taller and changing before our eyes, we still feel like the struggles we face each day are never going to pass. The storm clouds of it all just seem to stop over our houses, and the winds and rains keep pounding us until we collapse.

We like to look like we have it together, though. We desperately want to be good moms. We want to do the best we can for our kids, and we’re doing all we know to do. And sometimes we put on a “fake it until you make it” facade, smiling as we kiss their foreheads at car line drop off, not wanting anyone to know that we just screamed until our throats are sore over the ridiculousness of putting shoes on and brushing teeth. (I know, right?) 

We want to look like we’ve got this under control. We want everyone – you, included – to think we’re doing okay.

But sometimes, in this age of social media transparency, we pull out our phones and type a Facebook status that says anything but, “I’m fine.” Sometimes the words that come out are not all butterfly kisses and love notes. No, sometimes the words that come out are quite different.

“I just can’t take it anymore! Why does she give me such a hard time?!”

“The attitude! Make it stop!”

“Whining. I can’t stand the whining.”

And the thing is, they may not sound like it, but those are cries for help. Because on whatever day we are pushed to the extreme of letting down our “I’ve got this” exterior, we need HELP. We need to know we are not the only ones in this topsy-turvy boat of parenting little kids. We need to know that we’re going to make it. We need to know that despite how things may look and how we may feel, we’re doing an okay job and our kids are going to turn out okay in the end. We need to be reminded that even when we do screw it up (because we have, and we will), God is more than capable of restoring the broken pieces to something beautiful.

So when we pour our hearts onto your Facebook wall or Twitter feed, please try to see past where you are now and try to remember when you were where we are. Because while the teenage years are certainly going to be difficult and the road ahead of us will definitely pose challenges we can’t yet anticipate, we don’t need to be bracing ourselves for those bumps quite yet. We are just trying not to be run off the road today. We are just trying to keep on going in this patch of highway we travel today.

We don’t need to be reminded that the struggles of this phase are minor and possibly trivial compared to the higher-stakes challenges of adolescence. We don’t need you to tell us that things are only going to get worse. We don’t need you to point out that these are the best years of our lives and that we’re going to miss this phase once it’s gone. No, we don’t need to hear that this is just the beginning of an exhaustingly difficult journey.

We’re not in denial about the teenage years (well, maybe). We know they’ll be hard. We know we’ll be stretched. We know there will be days and possibly weeks (months? years?) when we don’t recognize the sullen, cranky people living in our houses. We know that. We’re not clueless. Believe us, we know.

When we’re struggling with our child’s separation anxiety, we don’t need you to remind us that they won’t always want us around.

When our preschoolers mouth off at us in tones completely unexpected for such tiny little people, we don’t need to be told that it’s only going to get worse.

From where we are today, we just need to know that it’s going to be all right. We need to be told to hang in there….that this season will pass….that all of the hard work and too-short nights of sleep and infinite time outs will pay off. It’s not helpful for us to hear about how bad things are going to be in the future. Frankly, that’s demoralizing and incredibly discouraging. That just makes us scared that we’re screwing up something that cannot be done right. It makes us cry into our pillows when we finally get to lay down, and it makes our minds race with all of the hypothetical calamities awaiting us in the future that we should somehow be doing something to prevent now.

It’s not helpful. It’s defeating. It doesn’t build us up for today’s battles, but tears us down with no hope of success.

What we need is for you to tell us that we’re okay. That we’re going to make it. That this phase will end – no matter how it might feel – and that when it does, we’ll be going into something far better than what we can imagine. We’ve seen it already – how even though we mourn the loss of our tiny babies, we get to enjoy the changes that come as they grow. Conversations, interactions, playtime, and laughter….. We need to be reminded that it’s only going to get better.

So please, mamas, try to remember what it was like to be where we are today. Try to remember how uncertain and frustrating and scary it all was. Try to put yourselves back in the shoes of your past, and revisit some of the landmarks you passed along the way.

Please…..please try to find it in your hearts to encourage us. We need you to tell us it’s going to be all right, because we need your example. We need your encouragement. We desperately need your wisdom. You’ve already seen so much of what we’re going through, and you know what might help us get through this. We want to learn from you. We want to lean on you. We need to lean on you, because to be honest, we don’t know how to do any of this on our own.

We are grateful for you and for the example you are to us. We admire you, and all that you have done with your kids who are now much older than ours. You might not feel like you have anything to offer us, but you’ve raised some pretty amazing kids. (And you survived!) So please…help us along the way. Help us learn from you, and show us how to mentor the mamas coming after us. Because one day – not too far into the future – our kids will be raising our grandchildren. And when that day comes, we would love for them to have a crowd of more experienced mothers standing around them. We’d love to know there is a generation standing and cheering them on.

With love and admiration,

The Mamas of Little Ones

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