Why I Gave Up On ‘Blessing Sandwiches’

Soon after our son was born, I developed a somewhat standard response to check-in questions: “Hard and best.” That’s how I described my transition into motherhood. Because it felt impossible to mention one without the other. The sleep deprivation without the joy, the loneliness without the fulfillment, the loss of one identity without the discovery of another.

Eventually, I graduated to the blessing sandwich.

You know, the “I’m grateful I get to stay home with him. Sure, sometimes it’s isolating. But I feel really fortunate to have this time together.” Or the, “He’s a really happy baby. Still not sleeping through the night. But all the smiles during the day make up for it.”

One good thing. One hard thing. One good thing again.

Just to prove that this journey is in fact better than it is difficult. That I love it more than I struggle through it. That for every moment I’m on the verge of impatient tears, there are two more that I’m grinning and grateful. That if motherhood was a contest, and you could love your way to a victory, I would win.

And then, somewhere in the midst of all the thanksgiving, with noticeable shame rising within me, I sheepishly admit the rest.

I share the way I struggle as my mom brain fails to produce a big words or deep thoughts. How I sometimes feel like I live in a continuous loop of “when’s the last time you pooped?” and mindless errands. That it’s tough to silence the comparisons, resentments, and insecurities of my mind. How I grapple with the question of where I measure, what I’m bringing to the table, and whether or not I’m doing enough.

When I see other women who appear to be seamlessly juggling their careers and their families, I find myself thinking, “I’m just a mom.” Or when my husband tells me about his day at work, and I report back that we read books, played with blocks on the floor, and took a walk around the neighborhood, I leave out the part about feeling lonely when I saw other women talking between their yards. Or when the cashier at Target asks me if I did anything exciting over the weekend and it suddenly seems a little lame to admit that shopping at Target was the cool thing we did.

At the end of the day, I let it be known that even in the midst of tough moments, I’d never trade the life I have. I carry on about how I can hardly remember my life without our son in it. I express all the joy, pride, and appreciation I feel. I speak aloud my gratitude for the family we’ve created, for the home we’ve settled into, for the experiences we’ve had that have led us to where we are.

But somewhere along the way, I discovered that what I need more than this curated blend and imagined balance of blessing sandwiches is grace.

Grace to stop conflating the way that I feel with the love that I have.

Grace to allow the complexity and contradiction of the messy and beautiful, empty and full, doubting and trusting, and hard and good of this season, without explanation.

Grace to get through the worst, to cherish the best, and to live within the ebb and flow of the two.

Grace to know that having bad days doesn’t make me a bad mom and that having the best days doesn’t mean I’ve perfected the gig. It simply grants me space to feel both, at once or neither.

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5 Ways to to Help Teens Before School Starts 

It’s been five months since the COVID-19 outbreak hit Americans hard. As we’ve gotten used to a lot of change, here are a few ways parents can help teenagers even more right now. Parenting Teens – 5 Ways to to Help NOW  Many parents have been agonizing over how to cope during the pandemic. It’s […]

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Let’s Normalize Not Asking Couples When They’re Going To Have Kids

Did you read that title? No? Shame on you — you always read the title first, you rebel. Now go read it. If you did read it, gold star! Now go back and read it again. Reread it. And keep reading it until you no longer ask couples when they’re going to have a child or subsequent children.

I don’t know why people feel like it’s appropriate to ask a couple when they’re going to have a baby, whether it’s their first, second, or fifth. It is inappropriate AF to pry into a couples’ personal life like that. Do you realize what you’re really asking? “Are y’all just having sex for pleasure? Or are you having sex with a purpose?” Does that not make you as uncomfortable as it does me? I’m no prude, but y’all… come on.

And guess what? Not every couple wants children. And that’s fine. Not every couple can have children. And that’s not fine. And asking about it brings up unspoken pain you know nothing about. Pain that is then at the forefront for this couple, who are now trying to decide how to delicately respond to you while also keeping themselves from falling apart and breaking a little bit more. Shame on you.

Questions or statements like:

“Oh, he/she’s a year now, so when are you going to have another?”

“Well, you don’t want them to be too far apart in age, so you really need to start thinking about that.”

“Are you trying? Or are you just not being careful and if it happens, it happens?” (Which is an actual question I was asked after offering up literally zero information. It was just assumed that we were spraying and not praying after I decided not to answer the initial “are you trying” question.)

Why are people so comfortable making a couple’s sex life and family planning any of their business? Like they are owed your next move. They want to know when you’ve done the deed, and if it was spontaneous, or done with the knowledge that you were maybe ovulating.

Listen up, Karens of the world. What happens between my husband and me in our bedroom and our family planning is actually none of your business. If anyone feels they want to make it their business, then please be prepared for me to pry as personally into yours as you just did mine.

And you know what’s shocking? I have been pretty outspoken about my most recent miscarriage, thinking that as an added bonus from that, it might somehow protect me from people putting themselves in my bedroom with my husband and me.

But somehow, people pry. And continue to pry, despite knowing about the devastating loss I will have to come to terms with for the rest of my life. It was like as soon as my daughter Addison hit a year old, all of a sudden, it was a normal, and common, topic of conversation for just about everyone.

And it actually hurts. It hurts when people ask me, especially because they know what I have been through. I should be celebrating milestones with what would have been my second child. But I lost that child. Despite the pleas and prayers and tears willing that baby to hold on, I lost. And every time you ask me when I am going to have another, I am reminded of that. I am reminded of the pain, and the blood, and the loss I didn’t want.

So, before you think about asking a couple when they’re going to have children or try for another, please just don’t. You don’t know what happens behind closed doors, nor should you, unless that information is offered up to you. You don’t know if that couple has decided that children are not for them and being constantly asked about it is annoying and frustrating. You don’t know if that couple is secretly pregnant and waiting to tell everyone until they’re ready. You don’t know if that couple has suffered loss after loss and desperately wants to have children, but it hasn’t happened for them. You don’t know if by asking them that question, you just reminded them of one of the most painful experiences they have been through as a couple. You. Just. Don’t. Know. And guess what? It’s none of your ever-loving business.

For the love, guys, quit asking. Find something else to talk about. Find something else to connect over. Find anything else, and never ever utter those words to another couple again.

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I’m A Single Mom With COVID-19––I Can’t Die From This

Maybe it’s the lack of oxygen to my brain but I need to share this…

All COVID-19 stats aside, all testing number arguments and mask arguments aside…

I had to drive myself to the ER last night because I’m COVID-19 positive and my oxygen saturation at the urgent care was between 80-84% on 3 different reads. I was struggling.

I couldn’t ask anyone to risk infection and I couldn’t stomach the thought of allowing my symptoms to reach 911 proportions and having to take that route. I took the risk of driving myself, albeit not feeling safe to do so.

I was crying in the ER when I was first put into a room. Because I was really fucking scared.

I know I’m young-ish. I know statistics tell me I will be okay, but we keep hearing stories of strokes and blood clots from COVID. And just…what if?

My brain went into a dark place for a few minutes because I was close to being delirious and I was having a really hard time breathing.

I typed the words “I’m a little scared” to a friend when I was lying there, because I needed someone to know how real this was for me.

My son was home alone, at least for half the time I was gone — because again, I couldn’t risk infecting someone — and all I could think about was if… I left him… because of this virus.

Like, 140,000 other Americans who left their houses since March 10th to seek medical care for COVID and who didn’t return to their families.

What if I just left my kid for the last time?

Who will take care of him the way I do?

There Is Nothing As Terrifying As Battling COVID As A Parent
Vanessa Lee Nic/Facebook

How broken would he be when someone delivered that news to him?

Who will fight for his rights now? Which, as fucked up as it sounds, was my biggest worry. Who will fight for my transgender kid if I’m dead?

Like. Dark place thoughts.

Even if I just had to be admitted, I was still really fucking scared of my son feeling just that piece of information.

I didn’t want him to be left alone.

The ER nurse was a lovely woman who shared with me that she’s leaving healthcare because of this pandemic, “or at least leaving the ER,” she said.

She said, “I can’t believe what we’ve done here, or what we haven’t done here. People have really stopped caring. The stress of all of this is immeasurable. I mean, look, you’re 43 and struggling to breathe, crying, and here I am covered in a near hazmat suit, and I just want to give you a hug. Everything in healthcare… and in life… feels forever different. But few people care until it happens to them!”

Right on. I felt that on many levels, about a few things in my life. I wanted to hug her, too.

I promise you, you don’t want to feel what I felt last night.

There Is Nothing As Terrifying As Battling COVID As A Parent
Courtesy of Vanessa Valenziano Nichols

I promise you don’t want to drive yourself to the ER when your whole body feels like jello and you’re not sure if your foot is on the peddle. All the while stressing over how much money this will cost because healthcare is a joke in this country.

I promise you that you don’t want to sit in a hospital bed wondering why you forgot to execute your will, feeling confused, brain foggy, and a little delirious.

I promise you that you don’t want to imagine your kid home alone being told that you’ve been admitted to the hospital because you’re unable to breathe. Or worse, that you’re on a vent or dead.

I promise you just don’t want to gamble with it.

We know that completely eradicating this virus isn’t possible, but we could be doing a hell of a lot better.

I just want people to digest it as much as they can and benefit from my over-sharing spirit. Please do better and be proactive.

Please.

Update: I am home and feeling a little better today! And my son does seem to be on the mend after about 15 days of symptoms.

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Modern ‘Productivity Culture’ Is Dictating How We Deal With The Pandemic

In my office, I am known as the task-manager, the one to check off the boxes, the one who gets things done. I enjoy the process of planning a project and seeing it through to the end. When the pandemic hit, that’s how I took on managing my household with post-its everywhere. On my fridge, next to this year’s class photos from our three kids’ schools, were grocery shopping lists for the week, a calendar of bills which needed paying for the month, a list of items we could and could not compost — a project I decided to incorporate into our newly-adopted green living lifestyle.

In traditional ambitious form, I also decided to keep our four-year-old twins in their full-year/full-day preschool program. I told myself it was to “prepare for kindergarten,” but now I know, I kept them in this program because I didn’t want them to not try to be the best preschool students they could be — even during a pandemic. I didn’t want them to fall into the slump of being at home for months on end, downing Trader Joe’s strawberry cereal bars and gallons of chocolate milk while watching another episode of Doc McStuffins or Vampirina. Even more, I did not want them to perceive me to be at their beck and call. I am the “get shit done” parent in our household and my kids, I hope, are learning to be productive little humans, a life lesson I am sure they will carry with them forever.

There are days I wonder if I am pushing them too hard. I wonder if my own ingrained (sometimes unrealistic) “you can do anything you set your mind to” approach is a bit much for them right now. Maybe it is even a bit much for me these days, too. I push them because I don’t want them to get lazy or have their minds to turn to mush before they enter the doors of their school (if they enter this September) for kindergarten. I make them go outside and play with their two little friends who live next door, or even push them outside if only to water the grass.

Modern ‘Productivity Culture’ Is Dictating How We Deal With The Pandemic
Darby S/Reshot

I have this desire to make everything for them into a life lesson: let’s create a chore chart (since we are home for the next few months); let’s create an allowance system (since we are home for the next few months); let’s have family dinners at the dinner table each night (since we are home for the next few months) — all of these things not only giving us more time together as a family but also teaching them something. For me, this is my modern-day productivity system — giving my kids (and myself) enough to keep us busy and our minds off the unknown of what our future holds within the clenches of COVID-19.

For me, it also comes down to creating more of the “knowns” in a time when so much is “unknown.” More or less, we know what a four-year-old will do with a quarter they are supposed to put into their piggy bank — maybe they will save it, or maybe they will lose it before it even makes it to their piggy bank. We more or less know the outcome of what happens when we let our kids watch television all day long — they become more irritable and perhaps couch potatoes as adults. Right now, I will take that risk; I need the television to get through my meetings each day. And, I must attend my meetings because I need my job to help support our family.

What I don’t know, and perhaps part of me is scared to find out: what happens if I don’t have them finish the commitment I signed them up for — their preschool program? Of course, it’s all being done remotely, and I am their stand-in teacher (save for the daily Zoom sessions set up by their three classroom teachers). I am their in-real-life, at-home teacher. Not only that, but I’m teaching them other life lessons that extend far beyond academics (like how to properly wipe their butts).

When all is said and done, on top of everything else, we are juggling the pseudo-camp schedule, the emotions associated with not going to school, the anxiety of needing to put on a mask every time they go out in public, and the uncertainty of the times. Our kids have enough on their plates. If we don’t find a summer camp to enroll them into, or a math tutor to educate them so they don’t fall behind, or they don’t get to finish an intended project — it is okay. They will not fall behind an entire year of school. They will not suffer and end up in psychotherapy their entire lives (though it’s okay if they do) just because we didn’t schedule them for every available summer activity we could. We are all in this together, they will not be left behind, and I have to remember that.

If I fail or they fail, does it matter? We are all living through a pandemic. All we can truly hope is to do our best, and hope that the pandemic does not get the best of us.

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I Taught My Teens Something School Never Could

I don’t remember where I first read it. It may have been in the child psychology class I took one semester, or in one of the dozens of parenting books I devoured in the early years of being a mother. But, somewhere early in my parenting journey, I decided it was extremely important for me to help my children name their feelings.

Even before my children could speak in words and sentences, I was naming their emotions for them.

I’d say things like:

“Oh, you’re frustrated right now. It is hard to wait for mommy to get your food ready.”

“You’re so happy right now. You’re laughing so hard.”

“You’re feeling a little scared because you haven’t met that dog before. You want to make sure he is friendly before you try to make friends.”

I did this without really giving it much thought after a while. It was the running monologue of a young mom’s life. I told them what I was doing, thinking and feeling, and I helped them find words to describe the same for themselves.

I Taught My Teens Something School Never Could
Courtesy of Leslie McCaddon Mendoza

When my oldest was diagnosed with cancer when he was just three years old, he was pointedly direct with the physicians and nurses about how he felt about what they were doing to him. “When you poke me, that hurts! I don’t like it. I feel upset.” “I’m frustrated because you won’t let me go to the playroom!” “This is my body and I decide what can be done to it and I’ve decided no more medicine.” As you can see, having the words didn’t necessarily mean they had the maturity to understand that having a negative emotion doesn’t mean we always get control avoiding it. Like it or not, that little boy had chemo. And he was very frustrated about it. Noted.

These days I have some pretty amazingly emotionally intelligent teenagers. And, to be honest, this doesn’t always work in my favor. They are extremely articulate about telling me exactly what they are thinking and feeling. It can be hard to hear. But, it does work in their favor because they are aware of their feelings. They can tell the difference between fatigue, apprehension, contentment, excitement, frustration, and probably another 99 distinct emotions.

What I was doing without realizing it was teaching them awareness. Emotional awareness. And as they get older, and we all get wiser, we’ve expanded that emotional awareness to include some thought-awareness as well.

My kids are learning, along with me, that those emotions they can name — although nothing to be afraid of or to avoid — are one hundred percent caused by their own thoughts. What they think about someone else’s behavior, their current tasks at hand, and any other circumstance in their life, determines what they will feel.

It would be easy to blame every difficulty in their life on the fact that their dad died by suicide when they were ten, eight, and six. In some cases, teachers and friends even offer up thoughts like, “You deserve a break, you’ve been through so much.” Or even, “People never really recover from something like you’ve been through.” These thoughts, when we take them on (me or the kids) create feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and even despair. Those emotions aren’t bad or wrong. But, they also aren’t very useful to us!

In our home, we are learning to not only name our feelings but to call out the thoughts we’re having that are creating those feelings. And, when we’re ready, we question those thoughts. We ask, are they helping us or hurting us?

I Taught My Teens Something School Never Could
Courtesy of Leslie McCaddon Mendoza

We can list a dozen thoughts that aren’t useful. But, we can also play around with thoughts that create useful feelings like determination, love, hope, and even joy. My kids have innate BS detectors. So, we don’t try any “positive thinking” around here. But, we do try to find thoughts that we believe are true to hold on to.

Thoughts like:

“We were lucky to have a man in our life who loved us so well, even if just for a little while.”

“Grief has taught us a lot about empathy and resiliency. We are more equipped than most to help others through difficult times.”

“It is okay to feel sad sometimes because it is just me feeling love for my Dad and missing him. But, sadness doesn’t define me. It is just one of many emotions I experience in any given day or year.”

“I have all the support available I could possibly need to work through difficult times with my grief.”

When I started teaching my children emotional intelligence 18 years ago, I had no idea what their little lives had in store for them. Like most mothers, I hoped their childhoods would be care-free and wonderful. Instead, their childhoods have presented challenges many adults have yet to face.

I won’t say I wouldn’t change a thing about my parenting choices through the years. But I would never change this. I taught my kids something schools never will. My children have been taught what it means to be emotional adults — to take full responsibility for their feelings and actions regardless of what life throws at them. They certainly aren’t perfect at it. Neither am I. But at the end of the day, they are empowered with the awareness of their feelings, the name for them, and the choice to examine (and even change) the thoughts attached to them.

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If You Grew Up In The ‘80s And ‘90s You Weren’t ‘Neglected’– Your Summers Were The Best

My childhood friend sent me a Sinead O’Connor video the other day with a caption that read This song makes me remember lying out at your house while our parents were at work.

It takes me back too. In fact, the two of us would listen to that tape over and over during the summer of ‘91 in between applying a tanning magnifier and looking through old issues of my Young Miss magazines, blasting it as loud as we wanted.

Then, we’d take a break from the rays, float into the kitchen and look into the avocado-green refrigerator for some snacks before settling into my basement to watch Days of Our Lives.

There were no phones to distract us. Summer camps weren’t such a big thing. We had each other’s undivided attention, and those memories will forever be marked in my ‘90s soul. 

My mother didn’t feel the need to call constantly to see what me and my sisters were up to. She had to work and knew we’d figure it out. 

This wasn’t neglect. This was her doing what she needed to get done and it taught my sisters and I how to entertain ourselves and be self sufficient. Other than taking a week off during the summer and sneaking in a few beach days with us, my mom wasn’t around to entertain us. She left us a chore list that we were expected to complete if we wanted our allowance (we did), and for her to chip in when we went clothes shopping (we wanted that too).

By today’s standards some might say we had a long leash. The thing is, we didn’t look at it that way because all of our friends were in the same boat. During ’80s and ’90s summers …

You drank from the hose.

There was no time to go inside because we were so busy with Willy The Water Bug, or making mud pies. I still remember the taste and smell of the warm water coming out of the faucet on a hot summer’s day.

You walked everywhere.

Boys playing in water
San Bernardino, California. 1989 Universal Images Group/Getty

My mother wasn’t afraid to let us walk places. She asked where we were going, and we had to be back at a set time. It didn’t matter if it was a few miles away. We made it an adventure to walk to a friend’s house, or into town to spend our money on Big League Chew and Fun Dip. 

Fro-Yo was your jam.

There was nothing like walking into the air conditioning and smelling the sweet soft serve coming out of those machines. We’d be hot from the walk and excited to sit and hang out for hours in the fro-yo shop and see who else showed up, since it was the place to be. There were times we’d all chip in change and share, and others we could afford our own. It didn’t matter though– it was always a treat and I miss fro-yo shops so bad.

If you argued with your siblings, you figured it out.

My mom rarely felt the need to micromanage a fight between me and my siblings. Since she worked and those long summer afternoons involved fighting over what to watch on television, and who got the last Carnation breakfast shake, she saw that we figured things out on our own a lot faster without her involvement. 

You waited in the car.

My siblings and I waited in the car all the damn time while my mother ran into the store to get a few things. She was never worried someone would call CPS, or that we’d go missing. Her biggest concern was we’d try and pee in the seat belt slot because, well, it happened once when I really, really had to go and she wouldn’t stop chatting it up with her friend Patty in aisle four. 

And while we had these freedoms, we didn’t even see them as freedoms; it was just our life. But one thing is for sure: we weren’t left to fend for ourselves at every turn. If you grew up in the ’80s and ‘90s you also:

Had a bedtime.

boy Hanging upside down from some playground equipment
1998. David Bohrer/Getty

Hello, we all remember going to bed when it was still light out a lot of nights. The evenings weren’t a free-for-all. Our parents told us to go to bed and we listened. That doesn’t mean we didn’t stay up late to play tag with our flashlights on the ceiling.

Had rules to follow.

We knew how far down the street we could walk. We knew we had to ask before going to a friend’s house. We knew we had to clean up after ourselves and complete chores like washing the car if we wanted a ride somewhere. We complained about the rules and structure, but we sure as hell had it.

Had parents that did, in fact, know where you were.

We weren’t ‘free-ranging’ as some think we were. My mother always knew when I was. Even when I didn’t think she knew, she knew. It’s not as if the sun came up and it was a mystery as to where we were. Our parents knew the safe paths to take and told us to stick together when we went on an adventure. 

These generations didn’t grow up with zero supervision. Things were different then. As my own mother tells me, people didn’t talk about how others parented, unless it was something awful. She remembers that the moms that worked and the moms that didn’t work weren’t on teams. She also says everyone in the neighborhood was aware of the kids and what they were doing, and reminded us often that we would get caught if we did something we weren’t supposed to be, ’cause all of those mothers had eyes on the backs of their heads and watched out for each other.

I can attest to how true that is. I once tried to have a boy over when my mom was at work; news traveled fast and it didn’t end well. Oh, and the time I decided to drive a car when I was fifteen without a license and ran into someone’s yard, my mother knew before I even had time to process what happened. 

If you were growing up thirty or forty years ago, yes, you had a different childhood. But that in no way means you were neglected. And if you ask me, it was pretty damn fun and I wouldn’t change a thing. 

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When Grandparents Say You’re ‘Using Your Child As A Pawn’

Almost five years ago, I made the decision to cut off my own mother from myself and my children, and since then, I’ve fought tirelessly to uphold parental rights within the courts against grandparents’ visitation right suits (also known as third party visitation right lawsuits). I’ve Googled, I have read article after article — and mostly, when you look this up, you come to the general consensus that parents are evil and use their kids as “pawns” against grandparents or third parties who “just want to see the kids.” There are very few (if any) dissenting opinions, so I decided to write my feelings down.

The ultimate battle cry in grandparents’ rights groups is the complaint of adult children using their children (the grandchildren) as “pawns.” It’s like the grandparents who say this believe that this is a game (as pawns generally come from a game of chess) and they’re being kept from their prize so the parents can win the “game.” Some even say that this is “child abuse” and “elder abuse.” Let’s discuss that, shall we?

From a parent’s point of view who has been accused of such things, I will tell you truthfully that protecting your children from abuse, of any kind, is not using your child as a pawn. Ever heard a grandparent say they’re “so depressed, they need to see the baby to cheer them up?” This is emotional abuse. My child is not your dose of Xanax, lady, and is not responsible for your mental health. There’s also verbal abuse, and sometimes even physical. I’ll say it again: protecting your child from an abuser (or abusive behavior) is not using your child as a pawn.

Protecting your child is literally one of the most primal instincts one can have. If your mother or mother-in-law doesn’t hesitate to verbally lash you, whether in front of you or in private, then why do you think she will be kind to your children? Even if she is related to that child, she has expressed disdain and hatred for (or even “disappointment” in) one of these children’s parents, which literally makes up 50% of that child’s DNA. Again, for the ones in the back: if they hate you, or dislike you, or express discontent towards you, they are frankly saying that they dislike 50% of your child’s DNA. Protecting your child from these sorts of people is not “using them as a pawn.” It’s not a game; it’s your child’s emotions, mental health, and overall happiness.

Now, let’s dive a bit deeper, shall we? You don’t think that the grandparent in question would be unkind or abusive to the child… they just hate you, the child’s parent. After all, that’s why they’re accusing you of “using your child as a pawn,” and even abuse by withholding the child from the grandparent, right?

Well, let’s look up the literal definition of “pawn” as defined by Oxford Dictionary: “A chess piece of the smallest size and value, a person used by others for their own purposes.” By calling your child a pawn, they are straight up saying your child isn’t of much value beyond a bargaining piece.

So, I’ll say what I want to say every single time I see a grandparent accusing a parent of using children as pawns. Protecting your child is not, and will never be, abusive. Abuse runs deeper than physical abuse. And the grandparents know it. How many cut-off grandparents default to saying, “We spoiled our kids rotten, so it’s our fault she’s a brat” or similar? That right there tells you that you are protecting your child from emotional and mental abuse — that they’ve bestowed not only on their grandchildren, but on you both as a child and an adult.

It is parental instinct to protect your child from harm, and that is what you are doing.

Furthermore, if there happens to be a grandparent reading this and shaking their head in disagreement, let me ask you something to make you think a bit: if you love your grandchildren, why not be respectful to their parents and work on a relationship with them first, before bringing their children into the equation? And if your mind instantly jumped to insults or excuses on how “horrible” your son or daughter or son-in-law or daughter-in-law is, I encourage you to seek therapy — because you certainly don’t need to be around your grandchild while you’re actively disliking a person (their parent) who makes up 50% of their DNA.

And the first thing you should probably discuss with your therapist? Why you are comparing your grandchild to a game piece of little value.

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There Is Something Magical About The Mother-Daughter Bond

My daughter crawled in bed with me a few months ago. She was on the cusp of turning fifteen, and that day in the car we were listening to that new song called “Supah Lonely” by Benee. Maybe you’ve heard it with your own teenage daughter. Or maybe you have no idea what song it is. Regardless, it’s a woman talking about how lonely she is.

Without thinking too hard about it, I told my daughter the song reminded me of myself. I tried to laugh after I said it. I was trying to cover up the fact I was feeling sorry for myself. I knew I was letting my daughter in on a secret I’d been trying to hide from my kids — I’m lonely.

I’m lonely because they’ve grown older and they need me less. I’m lonely because I feel like our relationships have changed. And I’m lonely because they all went through puberty at once, leaving me with the sound of music behind their closed bedroom doors instead of being downstairs with me. 

As soon as I said it, I regretted it. While I want to be real with my kids and see that their mother is not made out of iron and has swinging emotions, I don’t want them to feel guilty about growing up and their independence.

But my daughter’s reply let me know she heard me, she saw me, and she cared.

“I didn’t know that, Mom. I didn’t know you were lonely,” she said. We drove then the rest of the way home in silence and I tried not to tear up thinking back to the days when I wasn’t this lonely. 

I realized being a mother to a daughter gifts you a bond unlike any other. We argue, we disagree, we don’t like each other at times. But we love one another so deeply we know there’s nothing that can break that love. If that’s not a bond, I don’t know what is. I mean, when you feel really safe with someone, isn’t that the time to really be yourself and know you will be fully accepted and loved unconditionally?

How many people can you say you have that bond with? 

According to a study published in Journal of Neuroscience, the bond between a mother and daughter is like no other since their brains are more closely matched in the empathy department. 

So when your daughter comes to you with a problem, situation, or is experiencing something good in her life, as her mother you are able to see yourself in that same situation and relate to her in a way no one else can.

I love my two sons just as much as I love my daughter. But when she comes to me with something that is bothering her, I see myself in her so much. And when the role is reversed, I can see my daughter is able to empathize with me deeply hence her coming in bed to get some snuggle time with me after my confession. 

Scary Mommy polled some of our readers to see if they agreed with the sentiment about mother-daughter bonds … and they did. 

One commenter admitted to crying for days when she found out she was having a girl. “I didn’t know what in the world I was going to do with a girl. I’m not girly and I just knew it would be a disaster. She’s almost 11, she’s my best friend. She’s so amazing! I can’t imagine my life without her. She’s so smart and wise beyond her years.”

Another mother said, “I was ecstatic when I found out I was having a girl. Her dad and I divorced when she was three. We have had an extremely close bond from day one. We definitely have a battle of wills at times because she is a very strong willed child but she is my greatest joy. My mom and I are super close and always have been and I pray that my daughter and I have the same bond throughout life.”

A mother of two boys and two girls said she was terrified when she found out she was having her first daughter, “I said ‘check again!’ I was terrified. I have two and two — wouldn’t change it for anything. Love my girls, they are my best friends. Strong, resilient, sporty and big hearts!”

One mother who has both sons and daughters explains it perfectly, saying, “It’s an indescribable bond. I’m incredibly close with my son. We share a lot of similarities, humor and just get each other. But with my 17-year-old daughter, it’s magnified. So many things she has accomplished or overcome are the same things that I dealt with at her age, but somehow amplified by all of today’s stressors.”

The bond some mothers have with us feels different than the bond we have with our sons. It doesn’t mean we love them more, or favor them over their brothers. But the study does prove there can be such a strong bond simply because we are sharing a lot of the same experiences and are connected in a different way to our daughters.

And even when we feel like we don’t know what we are going to do with them as they grow up, gain independence and sass, we know that bond won’t be broken.

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How Learning To Speak ‘Athlete’ Changed My Relationship With My Teen

I had some time this morning as I waited on my son to try out for the high school soccer team. But instead of catching up on Season 3 of my friends’ latest exploits on Facebook, I got out of my car and took a walk.

Oddly enough, I gained some serious life perspective while getting in my steps.

You see, my son is 14 right now and about to begin high school. Our ability to communicate is tough on a good day and completely non-existent on a bad day. But today, somewhere between band practice and the soccer field, I think I figured out the root of our problem – we don’t speak the same language. I am fluent in “nerd” and he’s well-versed in “athlete.” Let me explain.

When I attended this same high school, I focused on foreign language, reading books, arts and humanities, and music – specifically band. (I played the French horn.) I attended sporting events but my primary purpose revolved around playing the school fight song. So, it seemed appropriate that as I began my climb to the top of the school parking lot, I encountered members of the marching band. They chatted and honked their horns, quite literally, on their way to the practice field. And by practice field I mean a dedicated parking lot striped with white paint to resemble a football field.

I tried not to stare at those kids as the band director explained how to move backward with quick, tiny steps while simultaneously supporting the tone and quality of their notes and remembering their music. Marching band is hard. It takes a lot of focus and concentration to do so many things at once. Interesting… my brain thrived in that environment. I knew where to go and what notes to play, all while keeping an eye on the conductor and the person in front of me. It seemed natural.

As I rounded the edge of the faux practice field, the shrill of whistles and thuds of contact football interrupted my journey down memory lane. What an abrupt shift. Instead of young men and women moving in unison, playing delightful music, tons of guys clad in helmets and maroon shorts ran, zig-zagged, then tackled a bright blue padded cylinder. The coaches yelled instructions across the actual football practice field and the athletes did what they were told.

Once I Learned To Speak 'Athlete,' Communication With My Teen Got So Much Easier: mother and son posing for photo
Courtesy of Ashley Johnson

*Light bulb over my head*

No wonder my son and I have a hard time communicating. We’re coming at it from two totally different perspectives – languages, if you will. I am explaining all the parts of a situation in great detail and reminding him how the pieces fit together into one harmonious melody. I want to engage him in critical thinking and have deep conversations about the nature of things. He’s programmed to reply with, “uh-huh.”

It dawned on me, in the grassy no-man’s land between the football and soccer fields, that my son and I needed to meet in the middle of this language canyon if we were going to make it through high school with our relationship intact. I still had a few minutes before try outs ended, so what better time to learn the basics of speaking “athlete?”

I stood at the edge of the soccer field and listened to how the coaches communicated with the team. (Don’t worry, my son couldn’t see me. OMG that would be so embarrassing!)

Here are a few key phrases I wrote down for future use:

“Come see me” – What you tell the kid during practice or an activity. It means the coach wants to talk to you once you’re finished with your task.

“This is what I need from you” – Follow the statement with specific instructions and/or actions.

“You’re not at your best today. What’s up?” – Coach language for “I can tell something is wrong with you. Here’s your chance to talk about it.”

I started incorporating these sports phrases into our home life and discovered my son opened up a little bit more when prompted by familiar words. It makes total sense. This is what he’s used to hearing at every practice and game. I can’t believe it took me so long to figure it out.

Now, could someone add a foreign language credit to my school record, please? I earned it!

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