Puberty starts in the cradle
...too bad I didn’t realize that earlier

An open letter to mamas of littles. The one I wish I had read
before my little one was born.

When things don’t go according to plan, our conscientious mama starts feeling a bit insecure. But she tries to pull it together. Then she yells. Sometimes she just snaps. Well, you say, we’re only human – not robots! And you’re not wrong. But it wears her out. And it wears her down. This isn’t how she wanted it to be. What’s worse, this is exactly what she hated when she was little. She opens her mouth, and her mother’s voice comes out, word for word. Tone for tone. And so the whole vicious cycle repeats itself. Today she heard herself actually yapping at her daughter like a Chihuahua.

What she really needs now is to talk through it all with a girlfriend. Tell what a beast of a day she had. She’d just as soon put it behind her. “She’s really testing me lately. And I didn’t handle it well. Argh. Lost my temper. Yep, been there, done that.” Okay, done and dusted, happens to us all once in a while. The little one’s sleeping now, she’s adorable. “All right, we talked it over. I can’t wait to take the little one swimming tomorrow – she’s really into it now, so that’s exciting.”

The friend provided a sympathetic ear, and the conscientious mama is feeling better now. But she forgot about one thing.

She didn’t say anything to her daughter: One small oversight with huge consequences

Her daughter doesn’t know that she talked it all through with a friend. She doesn’t know that it was a mistake and not how her mom wants things to be. And most of all, she doesn’t know that it wasn’t her fault, that her mom just lost her temper because it all got to be too much.

What about your little one, does she (or he) know? Have you told her (him) so? Did you admit how you feel, or did you leave your child to deal with it alone? I wonder how it was for you when you were little. You’ve long since gotten over it, and you’re not still mad at your mom, right? I know; me neither. After all, she meant well; she never did anything in bad faith. Just like you and every other mom out there.

But you still remember the things she said to you, right?

Maybe you even remember what it would have taken back then for you not to be so sad when your mom yelled at you. If you do, hold on to it for a few minutes. It’ll come in handy. Or write it down somewhere. I’ll tell you when it’s time to pull it out again.

“Mama, what do you want to be? I’m a cheetah. Do Chihuahuas really yap? It’s okay; I know you’re not really an evil witch, but before I wasn’t so sure.” I’m not so sure myself, sweetie. That’s why I get yappy sometimes. One of the reasons. To tell you the truth, I feel really unsure of myself sometimes. It took a lot for me to admit it. Sometimes I feel like a little girl who needs mommy to kiss it and make it better. But I’m a grown-up now...

Sorry, I got carried away there, mama. I was just thinking about this afternoon with my daughter. I can’t seem to keep my mind off it, you see. Of course, we’re talking about that conscientious mama right now, not about me. I just need to get my thoughts together.

Toddlers have meltdowns: Totally normal! Isn’t it?

Conscientious mama is starting to sweat right about now. That’s her toddler having a meltdown. That child is incredibly headstrong. She never wants to go outside, and when they do go out, she runs straight into the street. Oh, sure, they love each other, no question about that, but sometimes it’s a real struggle. If only she could just talk with her. But she’s not talking much yet.

Who did that little girl get her stubborn streak from? (Must be from her father.) Why does she never do what her mother wants her to do? She so looked forward to having a baby, but sometimes she seriously wonders why no one told her all those glossy magazine pictures of motherhood are a lie. Children are a joy, but they’re also a lot of hard work.

And then her “child-free” friend comes around and can’t quite hide her disgust at the irritating, spoiled little kid.

Mama tries to approach it with a sense of humor. But she keeps yelling at the child and then feeling terrible about it. It keeps happening over and over again. If only someone could give her some advice. I mean, not like there’s not a million different pieces of advice for every situation, it’s just that none of them work on her child. She’s read all the books. You’ll find every major book on parenting on her bookshelf.

Maybe you know where she’s coming from. Sometimes it’s a nightmare, sure. But it’s just a matter of gritting your teeth and getting through it, right? It’s just a few months until they grow out of it, bless their hearts. Or maybe you’re thinking something like: “What’s the big deal? Isn’t she kind of blowing this all out of proportion? That’s just how things are.”

The sure-fire way to make yourself feel better (and make sure nothing ever changes): That’s just how it is, happens to everybody… so just chill, it’s totally normal

Maybe it is how things are. Maybe it’s even normal. But did you ever stop to think that just because something is normal doesn’t necessarily mean it’s natural? Because I have to tell you that it hadn’t occurred to me before. And definitely not to our conscientious mama.

She had no idea that things could be different. That her child isn’t stubborn just for fun, because “that’s just the way she is.” She never dreamed all that hard work of parenting might be replaced with just… enjoying herself. Even with her “difficult” child. She did her best to be consistent, with varying degrees of success, and kept on believing her daughter would grow out of it. But then something happened that she never expected.

Go on to part 3