*Image above via Mrs. Francoise, a boutique mommy-and-me Instagram-based clothier featuring “Old European vibes.”
A girlfriend of mine was puzzling over a sudden eruption of tantrums in her four year old, when she mused that it might have been owing to a series of schedule disruptions — a few days of no school, some minor switches in routine — and we both agreed that what feels to us like a gentle shifting in sand underfoot can feel to a young child like a high-magnitude earthquake. In our house, at least, Mondays often spur minor rebellions against going to school, and the arithmetic is plain: two days off for the weekend is a syncopation in schedule she cannot abide, especially as the weekend’s much looser routine renders the rigidity of Monday mornings difficult to swallow. Heading back into school after a holiday, especially a week-long one, is particularly vexing to my daughter. A wall calendar has helped us in this regard, but still.
My girlfriend and I compared notes on how these tantrums never seem to manifest in school, or under the watchful eye of a caregiver. It’s only when alone, with their parents, that things tend to get hairy. I recalled a stirring quote I came across a few weeks ago that I wish I’d clipped in its entirety, but can only offer in paraphrase:
“If you wonder why your children act their worst in front of you, consider the fact that they are ‘holding it in,’ attending to rules, straining to behave and follow directives, when they are in the company of others at school. When they are alone with you, they are free to let their guard down, to let it all out. In a sense, it’s a compliment that they are only at their most comfortable with you.”
The day after Mr. Magpie and I returned from our brief getaway to the Eastern Shore, my children were nearly unrecognizable versions of themselves. The day was one long tantrum with two loud voices. Everything was a battle — even arguments long since ended, like mini’s erstwhile insistence on drinking from sippy cups, which we painfully put to bed months and months ago. They were grabby, recalcitrant, whining. Our nanny suggested she leave early because the children were being so willful. As an example, micro dissolved into a kicking fit when she poured his milk rather than I.
It seemed clear that the author of that quote about children “holding it in” when in the company of others was on to something. A few days with new routines, different (though incredible and caring and known-to-them!) caregivers, and the confusing absence of parents who are literally never away (I had never prior slept away from micro) had led to a back-up of emotion that coursed right into a day-long paroxysm of petulance.
What to do but fold those little bodies into my arms and let them cry into my shirt and tell them, over and over, “I love you” and “Everything’s OK”? Maybe this is true of all children, but, as a young girl, the single-most thing I craved from my parents, to whom I was strongly attached, was reassurance. I see those same markings in my daughter in particular, who will occasionally look at me while she’s in the middle of doing something new as if to ask for permission. “It’s OK,” I nod. And when she is upset, too, as she was the other day: “Everything is OK.”
And so we muddled through a weepy, cranky day together, and I reminded myself multiple times — to varying degrees of success — to consider their willfulness and clamoring for my attention a compliment, and at the end of the day, mini asked for three encores of her lullaby (“O Little Town of Bethlehem”) and the request seemed to me a direct confirmation that I had been moving along the right parenting grooves. She wanted more of the same, and more of the same, and more of the same, because she’d be handed the unfamiliar. (“Doe Doe [her nickname for her grandfather] only knows Happy Birthday as a lullaby!” she’d cried out, half-shocked.) And she was melting down all day because she’d needed to let out that surfeit of emotion cinched in by navigating multiple days without us.
Again I heard the words of my mother’s friend: “It’s nice to be needed, isn’t it?” She’d reproached me with this simple phrase when I’d attempted to make a humorous comment about my father’s ineptitude in the kitchen and my resulting accommodations. I’ve never forgotten it. When motherhood gets really tough, stifling — when I find myself sneaking off to catch my breath and control my temper in the quiet of the pantry — these words materialize. So too the day after we returned from our trip. It is good to be needed. It is a blessing to be needed.
+On being “in it” as a mother. (I’ve so, so been there. For every day I’m able to tell myself “it is good to be needed,” there has also been a day where I have totally lost it.)
+”When my daughter is sick, I lose all sense of perspective. I doubt myself as a mother. I am desperate for secours, overwhelmed by the responsibility of making care decisions on her behalf, even with something as run-of-the-mill as a likely innocuous fever….” More on navigating motherhood when a child is sick here.
+I cry every time I read this post about my son and the experience of holding him right after he was born. I will never forget his mouth on my cheek!
+And my sweet mini is my other heartbeat.
+My favorite products for my 3-year-old — we still use everything on this list close to daily!
+LOVE this $80 sweater — looks like something from SEA or Frame or some other higher-end designer.
+More fabulous under $150 knits here.
+Love the color of these leggings for fall/winter fitness.
+There are a few of these amazing LS fitness tops on sale in good colors — love that chai color!
+These Ugg slippers are — no joke — THE ITEM right now. A good gift for a teen or fashion-forward friend. Seriously they are EVERYWHERE.
+Perfect holiday dress for a small bump.
+Another great cord find — love the dark navy color! Love it layered over a turtleneck as shown, too.
+Just found another super cute gift idea for a child (under $20): these Stickyscapes sticker books, which come in a bunch of different themes. I just ordered mini the superhero one but I think she needs the NYC one, too!
+These lace-up, shearling boots are chic and on sale!
+These striped jersey pajamas are $25 and give me major Lake vibes.
+Another fab Cleobella dress! I love the dresses they have out right now. (You can see me in mine here.). These are particularly well-suited if you live in a warmer climate but want to look seasonally-appropriate, as they are made of an airy cotton.
+This sweater with the pearls at the cuff is SO up my alley. J’adore!
+Love the quilting on this sweatshirt. So chic!
+This Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site magnet play set is going into my son’s stocking for sure! More cute stocking stuffers here.
+This zodiac necklace is fun. For a more refined take, check out Lizzie Scheck’s zodiac necklaces — she is a Magpie reader and graciously sent me one. I have been wearing it close to daily this season!
+These chunky enamel earrings remind me of Brent Neale’s pricier pieces.
+Hermes-inspired throw blanket.