A Letter to Zoey When She’s a Mom

Dear Zoey,

This is a letter for when you are much older and have small children of your own (and obviously will have already completed graduate school, payed off your loans, and will be living independently but nearby so we can see our glorious and perfect grandchildren). This is a letter for when your children whine, cry, bite, don’t listen, play in the toilet, write on the walls, and throw lengthy public tantrums.  This is a letter for when I look at you with shock and tell you that you never did those things when you were little.

My parents swear I never had a tantrum when I was little.  Granny says the same thing about Daddy. She even describes two year-old Demetri as “very sensible.” It’s the same with the parents of all my friends. “Well,” they say to us, “You never behaved like that at this age!” Then they smile (a little smugly) because we turned out mostly okay and because they have been given the beautiful gift of grandchildren. And, most importantly, they smile because they are getting older and are clearly suffering from MEMORY LOSS.

I was talking on the phone to a friend this morning. Last night, her child was behaving so horridly that her husband turned to my friend and said, “Why does she have to be such a witch?” This warmed my heart. Yes! I thought. Yes! Sometimes they are little witches! And I’m not the only one who thinks this! (Side note: last night we had a 25 minute battle with you over washing your hands. Washing. Your. Hands. An activity that takes 30 seconds or less. Tears, screaming, door slamming, stomping, the whole shabang.)

So, here’s what I want you to know: you had many tantrums. At home and in public. Once you wrapped your body around the security gates at the library and blocked the door. You bit my toe. You drew on the walls of your bedroom and you drew on the couch with marker. You cried over ridiculous things: the existence of pants, a piece of broccoli on your plate, the weather, the fact that I needed to cook dinner instead of play, the color of the toilet, Santa Claus, sliced turkey, a single pea falling on the floor, bath time, brushing your teeth, the cat looking at you, the color of your pajamas. I could go on. And on. So I will.

You stomped your feet when you didn’t get your way. You threw your entire body on the floor and screamed for a variety of reasons–some of which I still don’t understand. You slammed the door in my face. You yelled that you hated me. Sometimes you whispered it, which was somehow worse. You didn’t listen.

Getting out the door in the morning was painful and difficult and made me want to claw my eyes out. It took you 15 minutes to put on a pair of socks. When you finally had your shoes on, you declared you wanted to change your pants. You didn’t eat your breakfast. You pushed the limits and my buttons. You whined. Oh. My. God. The whining! You pouted with your arms folded and your eyes narrowed. You barricaded yourself in the bathroom. You threw stuff: food, blocks, books, toys, and once, a chair. You stuffed the bathroom sink with toilet paper. You got a rubber lizard tail stuck up your nose. You tested our patience.

And sometimes we lost it. We yelled (mostly me, not so much Daddy). I threw my hands up and stomped out of the room to go cry in my closet. I rolled my eyes behind your back. I called you bad names under my breath while eating chocolate chips directly out of the bag.  I called you bad names on the phone with my friends – “ratbag” on especially awful days. The year you were three, I’m quite sure I made some very specific hand gestures behind your back. Sometimes I didn’t like being in the same room with you. Sometimes I couldn’t be in the same room with you. Sometimes I wanted to turn in my Mommy Card–at least for a few hours.

I’m not telling you all this to make you feel bad. I’m telling you this to make you feel better. Because you will do all this too. There will be moments when you don’t like your kid and you don’t like being a mom. There will be moments when you are at the end of your rope. And moments when you let go and are in free fall. Your kid will bite and cry and not listen and do all the things you did. You will cry, too. You will wonder if you are a bad parent. You are not. You are the most wonderful, loving, kind parent. I already know I am proud of you.

Please know that  no matter how bad it got, and it does get bad, I would do it all a thousand times over. I would clean up puke, wipe your butt, and ask you to wash your hands until my head explodes,  just to continue being your mom. Because it’s worth it. And becasue I have never loved anyone as completely as I love you.

So when I try and tell you that you never behaved like that, know that I am lying. Know that you, too, will survive parenting and will look back on these difficult years with joy, love, and a bit of sadness that it’s all over. Also know that what goes around comes around. You, my amazing daughter, are currently paying your dues. And I am just around the corner to help whenever you need it.



What about you? What do you want to tell your child about being a parent?



13 thoughts on “A Letter to Zoey When She’s a Mom

  1. Sean

    You are all that (^) and a bag of chips. For you have, in one missive, made be feel better about the tantrum monkey that kicks me in the stones (figuratively … most of the time)

  2. Aafia

    So, so, so true – and it gets worse girl….wait until she tells you that you are worst mother in the world and that you don’t really love her!!

    1. joslyne Post author

      I’ve already gotten the last one and I’m sure Worst Mother in the World is coming soon. The one I’m really bracing for is, “You’re not my real mom!” I’m looking for the silver lining though–tantrums have got to be decreasing, right? 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

  3. anneelinder

    What would *I* want to say? I’ve got reams of notes sketched, none of which my child will actually care to hear, of course, because that seems to be how these things work. But on the off chance that she would listen to just one thing, I would say this:
    At some point, you may realize that you have been wholly entrusted with the welfare of another human being, one who is entirely dependent on you and whom you love to distraction. You have just passed through the portal of parenthood. In that terrifying moment, you will make all kinds of promises to yourself and to that child. Hopefully, you will be able to keep most of those promises. But sometimes you will fail. We all do. This job is so demanding, it will require all you can give to it, every day. And some days the best you can give is half-baked attention and Costco dumplings for dinner. (That would be today for me.) And that’s ok. Really. I know it’s not what you had in mind when you made all those promises, but parenting does not require perfection. Loving attention, sensible discipline and guidance, adequate nutrition and sleep, and safety. That’s it. If you’re meeting all of those more days than not, you’re doing fine. So go easy on yourself, and your child. You’ll both do just great. Love, your mom.

    1. joslyne Post author

      Love it, Anne! I think I will be coming back to read this note for myself from time to time.

      BTW, what are Costco Dumplings? Are they good?

  4. Lisa McKay

    Love this post (says the mum whose child is just entering the whining and tantruming phase). Today he screamed for 15 minutes in the car because I had taken him away from the oh-so-interesting-task of mopping the driveway with Nana’s swiffer mop to TAKE HIM TO THE BEACH. Oh, the torture.

  5. Tyffany

    I am inspired to write a similar letter in Laney’s babybook. Nice of you did edit certain comments BTW. 🙂


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