To the mom who brings her child their own cup cake to a kid’s birthday party:
I know you get looks from the other parents, but I understand.
Food sensitivities are nothing to mess with.
I know you stayed up late working on that cupcake. You made it extra pretty.
You brought it, not because you were trying to make your child feel excluded, but just the opposite, you wanted her to be a part of this party, and you wanted her to have a treat, just like all the other kids. But you had to make it safe for her.
It’s not easy to see your kid on the outside, and I promise you, I will not take your kid’s special diet lightly.
To the mom who’s wondering when she will start to feel like a grownup and have all the answers:
I’m sorry, but we only have all the answers about how other people should parent their kids.
The moments of feeling like a grownup are rare, but most of the time you have the bills, the responsibilities, the mouths to feed, the guilt about your own shortcomings, and conflicting advice from all the usual suspects, but not so much with the answers.
You feel like you haven’t quite arrived at being a grownup, until one day you wake up and realize you’re old.
Of course, feeling old is no guarantee you’ll have the answers. Same old questions, new arthritis.
To the mom of the toddler throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store:
I’m sorry I was staring. I promise I wasn’t judging you; I’ve been there, and I was reliving it. The world is full of people who think the wailing and kicking are because the parents always cave, but I know that that little fit was because you didn’t cave.
Or maybe it was just because the store was out of Spiderman toothbrushes and the Incredible Hulk just wouldn’t do.
I’ve encountered so many people who believe children should be seen and not heard, and for that matter almost never seen except for when they’re being perfect and adorable. They would never admit they believe this, but they give themselves away… “why don’t they just take the kids home when they fuss?” people wonder.
But I know.
I know you and your children would starve if you took the kids home every time they threw a fit.
To the mom who is tired:
The mom who will go to bed soon, but first she has to make sure the clothes make it from the washer to the dryer before they sour, load the dishwasher, and get the kid up for a midnight potty so she doesn’t wet the bed…
I know you’ve been told before that you need to take care of yourself first, so you have the strength to take care of the kids.
I also know you’re just going to keep doing what you feel like you need to do.
I hope, sometimes, you get the rest you need.
The kids will grow, and soon they’ll be able to pour their own bowl of Cheerios. They’ll destroy the kitchen in the process, but at least you’ll get to sleep in for 20 minutes or so.
To the mom who is living with cancer or another life threatening or chronic condition:
I’m right there with you.
I know what it’s like to wonder how much time you have with your kids.
I’ve listened to my baby cry, unable to pick her up and waiting for someone to come bring her to me, feeling helpless and maybe a bit useless.
I’ve had those dreams that ended with someone else raising my child.
I’ve wondered if I was enough.
I’ve wondered if I could hang on long enough that she would be old enough to have memories of me. I’ve wondered if it would be easier for her if I didn’t.
I worried that I was letting her watch too much TV, but let me tell you something, TV is awesome. Besides, SuperWhy taught my daughter how to read.
Now I worry about my relationship with my own patchwork body, and how I can help my daughter develop a healthy body image when I still feel like my body betrayed me. My husband and I joke about my million dollar body, but I still miss those missing parts, I’m still anticipating the next body part failure.
To the mom who apologizes to her kid after losing it:
Thank you for showing your child that adults make mistakes too, that making mistakes and learning from them is part of being human.
Thank you for teaching your child that what you do after a mistake is often as important, if not more important than the mistake itself.
Thank you for modeling that behavior. It’s so awesome for kids to have a real live example, so they know what a meaningful apology is supposed to look like.
To the mom who is lonely:
I’m lonely too.
We’ve got the kids, but there’s only so far I can follow a conversation about My Little Pony or Minecraft before I really need to talk to another adult, and my husband doesn’t get home till late.
How do you connect with the parents of the other kids at the playground? Even when your kids hit it off and you have a nice conversation, there’s that awkward moment where you work up the nerve to ask about a playdate.
Sometimes you’re just not able to work up the nerve at all, but when you do, It feels like you’re asking the mom out on a date. You give her your number and wonder, will she call?
And they don’t always call.
Sometimes you meet up and it’s awesome, up until it’s time to go home and then your kid is the one who throws the epic tantrum that can be heard from 3 blocks away.
But every once in a while, you make a friend.
To all these moms, and to all the other moms out there:
Let’s stick together, lets have each other’s backs. Raising humans is hard, it’s exhausting, and it’s often a thankless job so let me just take this moment to say thank you.
I hear you.
I see you.
Listen to Your Mother
I originally presented this piece at the inaugural Listen to Your Mother show in Seattle, 2015.