Lifestyle

My 5-Year-Old Gave Me An Incredible Pep Talk––Maybe You Need To Hear It Too

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Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

It’s damn near impossible not to feel totally out of sorts as a mom these days. We’re all living in a global pandemic that has affected just about every aspect of our lives. My kids, while too young to fully grasp the situation, are understandably reeling from having their socializing options overwhelmingly scaled back. My husband, Matt, and I are struggling big time to adjust to working from home with our children in tow, and our challenges are still existing even with the recent development of being able to send our kids back to their COVID-conscious preschools this month.

Bottom line, 2020 has become a lesson in balancing a bunch of spinning plates in the air that just keep falling the fuck down, and my hands are getting very, very tired.

I was having a particularly shitty evening after sending Matt off to spend a few nights at his parents’ house down the road. It was our hope that he’d be able to focus on his full-time job and meet the big deadlines he had that week without interruptions. I assured him that I had everything in the bag and would call if there were any problems. I think Matt secretly knew better, but off he nervously went as I feigned confidence and pretended to know exactly how to wrangle my kids into their little beds at the end of the day.

My son Everett is a 22-month-old who’s at that infuriating and annoying point of rejecting the entire notion of falling asleep, and his five-year-old sister June loves nothing more than to big spoon me all through the night after a predictably redundant bedtime routine. Since both of them are on completely different planes of existence, Matt and I have been having more “Jesus, take the wheel” moments than we care to admit. The thought of putting them both to bed at the exact same time alone scared the hell out of me, and I knew the chances of my very spirited daughter faring well on her own while I put her brother down were slim to fucking none. So I went into this experience prepared for just about anything.

To my great exhaustion, “just about anything” ended up being six failed attempts at bedtime and both kids wide awake at midnight sucking down popsicles and crackers as they watched Ben and Holly’s Magical Kingdom episodes on an endless loop. It also resulted in me bursting into tears on the hour, expelling curse words out into the ether, and an anxiety-ridden call to my husband at 11:30PM. The kids were bouncing off the walls until we all passed out on the couches downstairs, and both of them managed to climb on top of my sleeping body at 3AM like day-old kittens glued to their mom.

I woke up the next morning mentally drained and feeling like an epic failure of a parent. Sure, I had successfully managed to keep both of my tiny humans safe and cared for, but they certainly didn’t get the best version of me as our sleepover devolved into a hilariously frustrating at-home rendition of Lord of the Flies.

As I usually aim to do, I made sure to repair the reactive moments I had with my son and daughter, but the recovering perfectionist in me felt like none of it was enough. After I dropped Everett off at his daycare, June sat in the backseat singing along to the song playing on our radio as I stared blurry-eyed at the road. I have no idea why, but nine words quietly fell out of my mouth in that moment as I considered the fact that I’d be solo-parenting for a few more days. “I can do this. I can do hard things,” I mumbled as I heaved another exhausted sigh.

And that’s when my five-year-old threw me the ultimate curveball I didn’t know I desperately needed. Apparently, she had overheard the conversation I was having with myself and wanted to chime in with a few additions. As she looked at me sweetly in the rearview mirror, June said, “Yes you can, mommy. You can do hard things.”

If this had been all that my daughter had said that morning, it would have been enough for me to feel all the feels. But she didn’t stop there.

“Mommy, I love you,” June exclaimed. “You’re a great mommy. You make the greatest dinners. I love your body. I love your hair. I love your clothes. I love our house. I love you mommy. You’re the greatest mommy!”

This is, word for word, the incredible pep-talk my daughter gave to her weary mom.

As you can imagine, I immediately turned into a giant ass puddle of emotion as I processed her speech. I looked at her through the mirror, tears pouring out of my eye holes, and said, “Junie, thank you. I’m going to hold onto these words all day like a kiss on my cheek. I was feeling really messy and tired, and you just helped me feel so much better.” I made sure not to leave my daughter hanging, so we spent the next ten minutes in the car complimenting each other. It was a full-blown love fest that I won’t ever forget. It also shifted my parenting perspective this year, and I needed that more than anything.

Every single time I think the house is too damn dirty, my kids are happily playing in it. When I make them pasta for the zillionth time, they gobble up their simple dinner with delight. My daughter doesn’t give a fuck if my hair looks like a bird’s nest or if I haven’t showered in a few days. She just sees a mom she deeply loves looking back at her. Not only was I worn down to the bone that morning, I was also existing in the fat body I’ve been learning to embrace ever since I initially gained a bunch of weight in motherhood. To have my little girl sitting there in awe of that body on one random weekday morning gave me some undeniable proof. The self-love I’ve been vulnerably modeling for my kids since they were born is working, no matter how messy my moments are or how nonlinear my healing seems.

Parents, I hope you’ll remember at this chaotic time to give yourself way more credit than you think you deserve. I know you’re probably screwing stuff up just like I am, but you’re also getting a lot of it right too. Remember that when you think everything seems lost, your children are loving parts of you that us adults often forget to care about. And now more than ever, we need these reminders as we navigate these choppy parenting waters. No one explained to any of us how to raise kids during a pandemic. This shit is hard, I know. But we can do hard things.

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