I see you at Panera telling her to stop dumping the salt in the water.
I see you at the park telling him to stop licking the bench – I have one doing that too.
I see you in the bathroom telling them to stop smearing whatever that is onto the wall.
I see you at Target telling them to stop going in the middle of racks where you can’t see them (even though they’re so damn cute when they jump out and “scare” you).
I see you at dinner telling him to stop putting all the food schwag on his sisters plate because he doesn’t want it.
I see you in the car telling her to stop opening and closing the windows every two seconds.
I see you on the airplane telling him to stop kicking and bouncing and pulling the tray table down.
I see you telling her to stop riding her bike so fast ahead of you on your walk.
I see you in Old Navy telling him to stop pulling the changing room curtain open.
I see you because, WHOOPS, I am you.
STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT. STAHP IT. STAHP.
Sometimes I feel like it’s the thing I say the most to my kids and if there were a pedometer type thing that tracked the words that come out of my mouth, “STOP” would be the one that happens most frequently and in the highest number.
It feels like garbage to be the stop it police. It feels like all I do is tell these kids to stop doing things that kids just do. It feels rotten is what it feels like.
We don’t always hear what precedes it or what comes after, and that is the quieter work of mothering. The before and the after. We don’t often hear the softer warnings of “please don’t touch that” that come before the yelling of STOP IT. We don’t often hear the explanations of why we don’t touch that or do that thing that could harm ourselves or others that accompany the last ditch effort of STOP IT.
It’s not fun saying stop it. It’s not glamorous saying stop it. It’s not applauded and it’s not cheered. It’s not encouraged and it makes me question how much space I’m giving them as little humans to grow and make mistakes and learn from them. It causes people to cast stares your way because they don’t know or they’ve forgotten the daily life of having small children – these unrelenting heat seeking missiles that are our small children.
I see you out there saying STOP IT and I raise you two more. We don’t always get to hear, “you are doing a good job” for all the STOP ITs we provide on a daily basis, but I am telling you now, you are doing a good job. You are molding and shaping and keeping them safe. You are giving them boundaries and helping to ensure they don’t become entitled and think the rules of society don’t apply to them. Because as much as I want to believe they should be free to fly, they also need grounding. Roots and wings.
I see you. It’s exhausting and never-ending and soul sucking at times, but just look at who we are creating and giving to the world. I see the other side of this coin too.
I see you at Panera affirming their throwing their garbage away.
I see you at the park affirming her for climbing that rock wall that she was too afraid to try last time.
I see you in the bathroom affirming her grabbing paper towels for her brother because he couldn’t reach.
I see you at Target affirming his action of picking up the baby toy the mom in front of us dropped and giving it back to them.
I see you at dinner affirming their conversation skills that are becoming more and more reciprocal each night when you have these family dinners.
I see you in the car affirming their beautiful singing voices to that Bruno Mars jam!
I see you on the airplane affirming their reading and playing and creating for three hours without very much fuss at all.
I see you affirming how well they can pedal now when not too long ago they couldn’t do it and had to push on the ground with their feet.
I see you in Old Navy affirming their good manners when the nice lady gives them balloons and coloring supplies.
I see you because, HOORAY, I am you.
Balance in all things includes mothering. For every STOP IT we utter, there are equal affirmations. At least I try to make it so. People tend to focus on the negative rather than the positive and kids are no different, so for each time I throw a STOP IT their way, I try to remember my encouragements. My affirmations for them. Because they are many and they are so important. Because they are kids and they are just figuring all this shit out same as we are as adults. It never stops.
I get it, I live it, I am it. This is our life now. But it won’t be this forever. We are the stop it police and we are also the ones who repeatedly affirm YOU ARE FUNNY, SMART, CLEVER, KIND, BRAVE and CUTE each day one million times over. We are in the weeds now with small children, but it’s only part of it. We GET to do this. We are doing the wonderful yet sometimes tedious work of mothering and it will pay off. We see it in these amazing kids each day.
Stay the course, mamas. Stay the course. And when you start to doubt the good you are doing for your children, STOP IT. You are doing a really good job. And just remember, those benches at the park don’t lick themselves. Your boy is providing a service, really. At least that my affirmation to myself.
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