Welcome! Get the information you need to win at parenting without losing yourself.
March 18, 2019
Patience. It’s hard when you’re a parent.
I don’t just mean when it comes to handling baby blowouts and toddler tantrums, though Lord knows those moments will test most any mom. Practicing patience is the hardest when it comes to the hurdles we wait for our kids to move past, for the milestones we worry they’ll never achieve. Just like being okay with the stage of motherhood we’re in right now is a huge challenge, so is being okay with the stage of childhood our kids are in at this moment.
I thought long and hard about my perspective on developmental leaps and setbacks this week.
In the course of just a few days, we had milestone breakthroughs for both of my daughters—one simple, one monumental:
First, my two and a half-year-old started pooping on the potty. She just walked right into the bathroom, climbed onto the toilet, and an announced, “I’m a big girl! Now I’m ready for preschool.” She had been using the toilet to pee like a champion for a few weeks, earning stickers left and right. Suddenly, though, without any prompting or prodding, she was fully underwear-ready.
I’m pretty sure I was way more excited than she was, given I immediately started counting up dollars saved now that I only have to buy enough diapers to cover naps and nighttime sleep.
Next, the monumental event came to pass (I’ll just go ahead and warn you, it’s not going to seem monumental to you at all): my five and a half-year-old looked me straight in the eyes and beamed. Yes, she has smiled before, but this time when she did it she was dancing, leaping across the floor of the school gym with an audience of peers and parents at 9:25 on a Friday morning.
There was a time I held that same anxious daughter in my arms while she watched all the other kids she knew enjoy soccer or dance or swimming, terrified something horrible would happen to her if she gave it a shot. There was a time I wasn’t sure if her fearfulness would allow her to make it in social or classroom settings. There was a time my worries about her worries completely overwhelmed me. So to see my baby walk confidently in front of a room full of moms and dads and flash me a thumbs up before she pliéd across the floor made me all weepy with pride. It’s not that I care if she dances specifically (actually, long term picking some less perfection-driven passion may serve her better), it’s that I care that she’s beginning to develop some resilience and maturity. She’s growing up.
As I look back at what helped her get so big and brave this week, I’d love to pat myself on the back for perfectly parenting my anxious child up until now. I’m sure my pediatrician-level understanding of the brain and the help of several psychologists along the way helped, but in the end, she did it all on her own.
Often times we bang our heads against the wall for months (or years) trying to move our kids in the direction we hope they’ll go but, along with our parenting prowess, leaps in development (and beyond fears) usually happen because our kids’ desires to experience something awesome outweighs the potential risks they perceive in that activity. In short, joy has to overpower trepidation for them to move forward. When they finally take that leap, it reinforces how amazing it can be to take a chance. My incremental work over the past several years to move her past her worries mattered but that it was just the foundation: her own excitement over being a part of this particular class performance is what pushed her over the edge.
We can worry our way through them, we can internet search our way through them or we can, after checking in with professionals and advisors we trust, just sink into them.
For most modern moms I know, worrying is the default when our kids don’t get to whatever’s next quite fast enough, be it a developmental milestone, a social leap or a move toward independence. Anxiety defines our parenting generation. I’m not sure we can help it—we have a constant influx of information, a steady diet of dissidence on almost every topic (including parenting philosophies), a billion to-dos, and conflicting commitments. We’re stressed, not just about our kids but about our own lives. Sometimes we forget that, even if we’re going a mile a minute, and it feels like our struggles should hurry up and get with the picture, too, they cannot. Some things, especially the most painful things, just take their own sweet time. Worrying about them, although it feels productive, just makes them take even longer to pass.
Nine times out of ten, my “aha” parenting moments have some element of, “I’ll do it differently next time,” but not this one. This one was about letting things happen like they’re supposed to, waiting for the rain to stop pouring down until the sun comes out again. If you’re in a tough spot—either with your kids or with yourself—remember: time makes most things better. After you’ve worried and worked to find a solution, take a second to decide you may have to just get the support you need, take breaks, and wait a little longer.
Yesterday, another breakthrough on a cloudless blue sky day. Suddenly, my timid little girl is yelling, “Superspeed mode!” as she careens down the sidewalk on her bike, shedding her hesitation to ride solo from just a few days prior. “I’m building up my stamina, Mama!” she calls back to me, her hair a stream of sunlight as she pumps her little legs and grips the handlebars with all her might, so sure of herself and her newfound strength. My heart is pumping fast, too, as I run to catch up, beating harder from relief and release than from anything else. A million things I’ve held onto, a million things I’ve had no control over, a million things that have to just work themselves out.
Want more information about how to parent and cope when you’re a new mom? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Your Infant and Yourself.
Looking for baby registry or baby shower gifts? You’ll love our Newborn Gift Boxes (in Baby Boy, Baby Girl, and Gender Neutral). They’re full of information, inspiration, and a little love for all the mamas and mamas-to-be in your life (including you!).
Sign up to receive the Modern Mommy Doc Newsletter. You'll receive exclusive tips and updates that will help you become a well-equipped parent:
Success! Now check your email to confirm your subscription.