Monday, March 10, 2014

Letter to My Toddler Mom Self

In response to great post on by Kelly Claire, Letter to My Pregnant Child-less Self (that I heard first about on +The Bert Show )…, I thought I’d go down the road a bit. I’m sending this one to the toddler mom me. If only I could have read this back then…

Dear young mom of two toddlers self….
You happily sailed through two pregnancies right into babydom. What sweet, beautiful babies they were, and poof - all of a sudden they’re now chubby toddlers. Wow – what a time this is! Gymboree and music classes, naps and playdates, coloring books and Fisher Price. Oh yeah, potty training. Gotta get that done on time...

Wait, wait, wait! Let me tell you something, sister. It doesn’t matter. Let me rephrase – some stuff matters – happiness, joy, appreciation, wonder. Those are the things that matter to a toddler, not when she poops in the potty or if she sings her “bum bums” in music class. And you shouldn’t sweat it so much either, because do you know what’s down the road – big kids - teenagers. And those happiness and appreciation things will still matter, maybe even more, but those little things (that seem so big right now) might not.

Yep, and you’re going to look back and think how easy these toddlers were, safe and with you all the time. You think you’re not getting sleep now? Didn’t you just doze while they napped? And wait, they go to sleep before 8:00, snug in their beds. Prep yourself, honey, cause that’s changing. There’s that Lit project they have to stay up till midnight working on (maybe they’ll want your company), and then they get up at 5 AM for swim practice, and so do you since you’ll be driving them. Maybe they’ll go straight from school to a couple of dance classes, with a homework marathon to follow when they are so hungry and just want a hug before jumping into that homework, but they may have forgotten how to ask –remind them. But also remember when all this craziness is going on, you are the one that lets them do it. So take a deep breath and enjoy it, or else cut it back, despite what other families around you are doing. And maybe (if you’re lucky) they want to stay up past the homework and projects and rehash their day with you; teenagers and tweens like to talk at night which means you need to no matter how tired you are. That’s one of the very best parts.

And again, if you’re lucky – they’ll talk. Boy, will they talk. These little tweens talk all about puberty and pubic hair, sex and Justin Beiber; they’ll tell you about Minecraft and Video Star. So listen. They’ll tell you more than you think you should know about their friends, and you’ll have to pretend like you have no idea the next time you see those kids.

You also are now thinking that soon enough you’ll have time to go out on dates with your husband again, just when your sweet toddlers are a little older and don’t cry when you leave them. My ass, you will. Because as soon as they’re old enough to stay home alone, they go places with friends (and you drive them, but remember, now is the time to chat up their friends), they may have a boyfriend and God knows you can’t leave them alone, or they have Lacrosse tourneys or swim meets all weekend. So not only do you not go out on romantic dates, but you wear weird clothes like high school spirit wear and sneakers.

Speaking of weird clothes, remember when you were a kid and you imagined your future life of glamour, a stunning wardrobe and a home ready for the cover of House Beautiful? Nope, you won’t have it. But you won’t be sorry you can’t have new window treatments or expensive furniture, because your kids won’t remember that. They’ll remember how you were there for them, how you laughed hard together in the kitchen for almost no reason, whether the countertops are new or not. The money you wanted to redo your kitchen or buy those Prada shoes with will go to the dance studio, the booster club or the orthodontist. They’ll need new clothes cause they really do grow. And please moms, don’t wear your daughter’s clothes, even if they fit you – it’s just weird.

As far as friends go, let’s talk about yours. Try to surround yourself with those who build you up, you’ll need those conversations with other moms just like you do now, it’s just your topics will change. Keep your network strong and supportive; it will save you sometimes. And ditch those bitches who judge and compare. You don’t want your kids hanging around the mean kids, so don’t you do it, either.

Remember back when you worried when your little one got a boo boo? Now you get to worry about mean kids and heartbreak, drugs and peer pressure, bullying and academic transcripts. First crushes and gossip run rampant, and you watch your teenager’s moods swing back and forth like the Jolly Roger on a stormy sea. And that’s not all there is to worry about – what about cars? Remember how you used to strap them in, oh so tight, into their car seat with that weird stick on mirror. Now they’re the ones gearing up for the driver’s seat. Holy Shit!

Your big kids will be stressed, sometimes sad, and because they are essentially your heart living outside your body, you, too, will be stressed and sometimes sad. For now it may be because they can’t have an extra cookie, but as they get bigger, their problems get bigger. Maybe it’s way too much homework, or anxiety over perfection, or because they didn’t get invited to a party. Maybe it’s way bigger than any of that, like anxiety disorders, fear, sex, eating disorders, depression, addiction – that which haunts many a teenager.

But, they’ll be happy, too, and you also get to live that with them. I think the excitement of a teenager or a tween is like a long lost art that we moms have forgotten - faces glowing, smiles widening, their whole bodies taking on that bounce…whether it’s for their new hair cut, an academic award, a big sports win, or cause the boy texted back – you’ll feel their joy as much as their pain.

Remember how you loved your little baby so very much; you stared at her toes forever. That love doesn’t go away. You still will love them like that, despite the sometimes pretty hideous BO; every moment is worth it. Your heart will break and your palms will sweat for them. You’ll get mad at their surly tone and too much time on their phone. You’ll pick up clothes off bathroom floors again and again and then realize mid reach that it’s not so far off that they won’t live here anymore so you won’t have clothes to pick up, and you’ll want to cry. Your heart will still melt and they’ll never know cause they’re so wrapped up in themselves. But that’s okay. Just keep loving them.

Oh yea, two more things to remember, don’t use that loud, cutesy mommy voice when you’re in stores like Target – it’s annoying and no one cares that your darling little one ate another pretzel goldfish. And fancy birthday parties where you invite the whole class- scrap ‘em (all they do is stress your kid out), and save the money for an iPhone.

Now if only my future self could write to me about what’s next.

Me, the mom of your 12 and almost 15 year old.