I stood in the back of a women’s conference session with six-month old baby (my first) on my hip. A content, but increasingly active baby, I swayed with her and nibbled the side of her neck every few minutes so she’d light up and giggle at me, batting me with her chubby hands. A few feet away, an older woman whom I greatly respect, who has always been warm and encouraging whispered to me, “Enjoy her now while she is little and sweet. Before you know it, she’ll be driving you up the wall, and you might not even like her.”
I nearly gasped. How dare she say such a thing?
I smiled awkwardly and offered a courtesy laugh, but I could not fathom such a day would come when I would be anything but smitten with this darling little curly-haired creature and absolutely everything she did. I was in the honeymoon phase of mothering; a new mom just beyond the challenging newborn days (my baby slept mostly through the night by this point), but still quite unaware of how demanding parenting becomes as a child grows.
Five more babies came after her, and as each of them reached new milestones, so arrived new perspective.
That brief conversation was eleven years ago. At the time, I was appalled by her words, but in the years since, I have thought of that woman’s comment- most often in moments of heightened parenting challenges- and I confess it is true.
There are times I really don’t like my kids.
I love them, I do, but occasionally it is in the longsuffering sort of way. When shrill whining pierces my ears, all my lovey feelings toward them disperse instantaneously.
During the rascally toddler stage, I love a child’s curiosity and adventure, but I have to say, I don’t love a whole carton of eggs broken on the kitchen floor, lotion smeared on every reachable surface, or ever last toy bin dumped over.
Regarding the never-ending questions of the preschool stage, I love their insatiable desire to understand, and to learn about new things all the time. What don’t I love? The same exact question repeated over 100 times, or 20 variations of the question (all of which have the same answer), or the questions they toss out that are so absurd, they have no answer at all.
In the tween years, I love the new sense of confidence and personal creative expression, but I don’t like that every conversation we have is infused with hormonal hysteria or that everything I say is contested with an eyeroll. A simple, “Yes, mama,” makes my heart sing…but I don’t hear that from the mouths of my scowling pre-teens very often anymore.
Even though there is truth in what this woman shared with me all those years ago and I do acknowledge there are times I don’t enjoy my kids’ behavior, I am not content with the negative light it shines on the parenting journey.
Is this gig tough? Absolutely.
Is it worthwhile? It is the most meaningful thing I have ever done in my life.
Do my occasionally negative feelings about my children change the reality of my deep love for them? No way. Not a chance.
The bond of love we have forged through years of life together doesn’t hinge on smooth, seamless days. If anything, our connection is tested and strengthened on the turbulent days especially, as long as I circle back to each one and remind them that I love them no matter what.
My mama heart stretches taught- much like my belly during pregnancy- straining to hold close, to nourish and invest deeply in my little people who are on the move in different directions. They’re on their way to somewhere beyond home, on the lookout for adventure, for self-discovery, and that is a good thing.
The truth is, I do like my kids. I don’t always like what they do or how they act. Each one has blessed and challenged me in their own ways, sharpening my character as we’ve journeyed together. I have cried harder, laughed harder, and learned more about the beauty of the human experience through them. I wouldn’t change any part of it.
Except the whining. If we could leave that behind, I’d be golden.
This post by Kindred Mom founder Emily Allen first appeared on An Invitation to Dream Big, hosted by Amber Salhus.
Emily Sue Allen is the founder and visionary behind KindredMom.com, an online community and podcast dedicated to helping women find joy and purpose in motherhood. Emily is passionate about living a deeply nourished life and celebrating the beauty of ordinary moments. She is forever marked by the rescue and redemption Jesus Christ has accomplished in her life. Emily is a featured contributor in Strong, Brave & Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, a collaborative volume of essays written to encourage moms in the weeds of parenting kids at home, a member of Hope*writers, and an ongoing devotional writer for Joyful Life Magazine. She lives with her husband and seven kids—three girls and four boys—in the Pacific Northwest. Emily’s website is emilysueallen.com. Subscribe to her newsletter “Flowers, Children & Other Lovely Things” at emilysueallen.substack.com and find her on Instagram.