Nice to Be Needed.

By: Jen Shoop

*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 forΒ 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.

+Must-haves for new moms.

+Must-haves for newborns!

+On battling mom guilt.

+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!

Shopping Break.

+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.

+Thanksgiving placemats for the kids’ table. I also ordered these crowns for the children to color in.

+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!

+Technically for children, but

+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.

+Smart-looking fleece.

+My favorite underwire bra, on sale. (More of my favorite unmentionables 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.

+If you’re into the feather trend, check out these under $50 heels. SO fun to pair with a staid plaid dress!

+These heart necklaces are on sale, FYI! They were popular when I shared them earlier this fall.

+Hermes-inspired throw blanket.

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11 thoughts on “Nice to Be Needed.

  1. Seems like a lot of moms of 18-month-olds are chiming in here – it feels like my daughter has been fussy for two months straight! But acts like an angel when my MIL watches her. Feeling less alone with these comments. I always have to remind myself how many changes she is going through and how difficult it is to not be able to properly communicate needs and feelings. It is a blessing to be needed, to be sure. Gotta keep that in mind when the fussy times are rolling!

    1. Yes! 18 months is a big milestone. I feel like the personalities really start emerging around then. A Magpie mom also wrote in on a previous post that she had found that “the half years” (i.e., 1.5 years old, 2.5 years old, 3.5 years old) were always particularly tricky times/big leaps in development, and honestly I’ve found that to be very true!


  2. This was a perfect read for me today. I have an active 18-month-old who is really getting into his feelings and it is nice to have the reminder that all parents have those “deep breaths in the pantry” kind of days πŸ™‚ Thank you for your musings on raising your children – it is helpful to read someone so eloquently put what I feel many days.

    An aside to your sticker book mention in the Shopping Break section – what age did your children start to become interested in these kind of sticker books? My son loves to read but after you mentioning the stickers a few times, I wonder if he would be ready to play with them.

    1. Hi Julianna! Solidarity, my friend. You can trust that any time you’re taking slow breaths in the pantry, there are many Magpie moms doing the same!! Thanks for chiming in and making us all feel less alone, too…

      That age — 18 months! — is so startling! The dawn of toddlerhood!

      You know, I think it was right around 21 months that we first introduced stickers to mini in the form of those Melissa and Doug puffy stickers, which are easy enough for tiny fingers to use. I remember I tried them on a trip to Florida in January, and mini turned two that March, and they held her interest for HOURS. Hill started using them even earlier but I think 20 months-ish is the right age for those puffy ones. Hope they’re as much as a hit for you!


  3. My MIL recently watched our toddler while my husband and I went on a week-long trip. Within 1.5 minutes of our return, there was an on-the-floor, writhing, whirling, explosion of intense feeling! We looked at my MIL and said “was he like this a lot while we were gone??” and she said “no, not once! We did not have a moment of friction!”

    I tell myself it both made my MIL feel good that he was happy to be with her and (maybe? with the right kind of spin on it? πŸ˜‰ ) should make us feel good because he’s clearly very comfortable with us!

    This reminds of a bit of a lovely post from Cup of Jo about not being offended when your child says you aren’t their favorite parent:

  4. Oh how I remember those days! I often tell my preschool parents that we get the “best” and the children save the rest for them. πŸ™‚ While raising my own children I grew to take comfort in the fact that they behaved so beautifully for others, even though they could be positively beastly at home. “I must be doing SOMETHING right” I would say to myself – ha! But you’re so right — it IS good to be needed, and no one will ever need you like your precious children. xo H

  5. Oh my goodness, yes. My daughter is only 18 months old, but I can already tell that she stays “poised” at her daycare center, and lets it go (and lets it out) as soon as she’s home. But there’s really something so sweet about being the safe place for her to express all of those difficult feelings <3 sometimes it strikes me how confusing her little world is and how much trust children must have to place in us as their parents.

  6. My husband and I would always brace ourselves for “reentry” upon returning from short getaways when our kids were little. Sometimes we would question if it was worth it (it ALWAYS was!). It’s so important to protect that relationship and remember what it was like before kids, remember why you wanted to do life together. We are close to being empty-nesters now…two in college and one teen at home. As crazy as it sounds, I miss the meltdown days of not pouring the milk right! I’ve heard plenty of lovely things about my kids from other parents regarding their manners, behavior and such. However, there have been MANY times, after hearing such a compliment, I would respond, “Really??!! Are you talking about my kid??” Being the “parental punching bag” still occurs…but I would much rather my kids behave appropriately outside the house and let them safely decompress when they are home…trying my best to hold my tongue, encouraging and steering them in the right direction without judgment.

    1. Hi Sandi – Wow, thank you for this perspective! I had a similar note from a Magpie reader with children who are teens. So helpful to hear from the more tenured moms who, like you, reassure me that I’m doing the right thing by getting away, and also nudge me to realize the humor in these tantrums. (I mean, really — milk?!). It’s so funny, too, because we have a very responsible neighborhood teen who watches our children from time to time and I always rave about her to her mom, and she routinely looks at me and says: “My daughter?!?!” Haha! πŸ™‚


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