An Open Letter To My Almost-Four-Year-Old on the Day She Almost Made Me Lose It 

Dear C, 

I won’t mince words. You made me angry today. 

I hadn’t been home for five minutes after a frustrating day at work when you started whining. You wanted candy and Daddy had already told you repeatedly that you couldn’t have it because you had already had an overly-sweetened weekend. The instant I walked in, you hit me up for whatever garbage food was in the cabinet. But I was on to you. I said no. 

You screamed and I shot you one of those looks you should be familiar with by now: the one signaling my immensely short rope.

Twenty minutes later – which, incidentally, was five minutes before dinner – you asked for a snack. I halved a banana, brought it to you, and you promptly lost your mind. Over an effing banana. I read you the riot act. 

Side note: when did I become a person who “reads the riot act” and talks about her “short rope”? When did I become a caricature of a mother? 

After dinner, you asked to go on a walk and I kindly obliged. Maybe all you needed to do was walk off your bad mood. You played with the two-year-old girl who lives down the street and I was proud of how well you handled yourself. She’s smaller than you but you were kind and cooperative. But then her parents called her and her older brothers in for dinner and we started to walk home. 

The jig was up. Your foul mood returned. 

To spite me and my audacious insistence that we return home, you walked in the street and not on the sidewalk like I told you. You walked toward the setting sun, unable to see oncoming traffic. 

I seethed. It’s one thing when you’re rude on purpose, but when you defy me and put yourself in danger and allow your mood to cloud your still-burgeoning-but-adequate-for-your-age judgement, I see red. 

Oh lord, did I seriously just say “see red”? Do you see the walking platitude I have become? 

I took you by the arm, pulled you against your will onto the sidewalk, and marched you home as you screamed for all the neighbors to hear. 

So, you can see why I was mad at you today. You will turn four next week and honestly I kind of assumed this behavior would phase itself out by this point in you life. 

But you know what you do when you assume, right? 

(If you’re keeping count, that is the fourth God-awful momism I’ve dropped in the last two minutes. Perhaps I deserve the grief you give me but in my defense I wasn’t this way before you came on the scene.) 

I am not going to apologize for you or try to come up with an explanation for why you do the things you do. While it’s true that you did skip your naps this weekend which would account for your behavior, you’re getting older. When you begged us to let you skip your nap on Sunday, we discussed the consequences of making that choice. We warned you that without a nap, you were prone to act up and to be crabby. You elected to skip the nap. And now you’re being punished. 

I’m not going to apologize for punishing you, lecturing you, or assaulting you with one parenting cliche after another. 

I’m not going to assume you don’t know what I’m talking about when I tell you about respect. 

I’m not going to cave into your demands because you whined long and hard enough. 

And I’m certainly not going to let you walk blindly into the road just because you’re mad.

And that’s because I love you. 

I know it may be hard for you to realize at times, but I get mad at you because I adore you. Believe it or not, my life would be a lot easier and definitely less confrontational if I gave you what you wanted all the time and never dragged you home kicking and screaming. Your will is, in a lot of ways, stronger than mine; you push me to the edge in ways I would have never dreamed of pushing my own parents. But I’m still your mom, and I’m going to have to insist that my way is going to be more well-informed than yours most of the time for the next 15 or so years.

You’re going to have to learn that if you make me mad, it’s *probably* because you’ve crossed a line. But I also hope you’ll learn that I reserve my anger for things I actually give a sh*t about. You should ask Daddy; I’ve been known to get angry at him too. 

Most of all, I hope you learn that everything I do for you is motivated by love. I’m doing the best I can with what I have. I’ll make mistakes and sometimes my anger will be misguided, but behind those mistakes will be my devotion to you and my desire to give you the best of me so you can grow into the best you.

Love, 

Mommy 

me and c at zootopia

See? We can get along.

35 comments

  1. I’ve been there also – these little people push us right to the edge don’t they 😜

    1. They do! I need a bungee cord just in case I fall over.

      1. Hang on tight 😄

  2. Love! Trying to explain to a child that it’s because you care that you get angry is hard work sometimes. She’ll grow up to thank you, I’m sure of it!

  3. Despite the mommy-isms, this is charming. Nicely done.

    1. Thanks. Keep up those kinds of nice comments and I’ll take you for a Slurpee after school on Friday 💯

      1. Thanks, mommy! I’ll be good. I promise!

  4. Beautifully written post..my daughter is turning two next month and she does exactly the same. I hoped this will stop soon but now i have got the reality check.I also have temper issues and i always feel bad after snapping on her but yes it is my love and care which compels me to do what i do!!! Feel less guilty after knowing that it is normal:)

    1. It’s totally normal. Over the past two years since my own kiddo turned two, I have experienced levels of frustration that I never could have imagined, both because of her behavior and my own reaction to it. But the clouds are starting to part, and while I know parenthood will never be easy, the work we’ve put in during the toddler years will serve us well as she ages. I wish the best for you and your soon-to-be big girl!

      1. thanks and wish the same for you and your gal..

  5. Oh, I see your pillars of strength have been being put to the test. That angelic face is an Aries … all I’m going to say is you might want to brush up on all momism phrases known to mankind. Aries are born leaders, very “my way of the highway” oriented. They can’t help it when they’re 4 or 40. She’s just testing the waters for when she is on to bigger things like running the world. Raising a strong minded woman is no joke. You got this momma!

    1. Not even kidding, this is a direct quote from C last week: “When I grow up I’m going to be the president like 20 times. I know that the people will let me.”

      You pegged her 😂😂😂

      1. Hahaha! Case closed … hair dye will be your best friend.

  6. Squish is seven, and even now we sometimes have to go back to basics – you defy me, you get a consequence. It does get better, and those episodes fewer and further between.

    1. I first read that as “funnier and further between.” I think that’s true too 👍

  7. I sometimes forget how hard the younger years were. Good job, Mama! Now I know what my mom meant when she would tell my my punishment was harder on her than it was on me. (<<<Momism) When I ground my kids it's soooooo much work for me. And there have been times when emotionally it was absolutely harder on me.

    1. Oh man, I sooooooo included that momism in the first draft of this! And it’s true. I mean, taking away the iPad is serious business when you’re trying to make dinner! But seriously, I second-guess myself a lot when I punish her because I fear that her punishments aren’t age-appropriate and that I hold her to a standard she’s developmentally incapable of achieving.

  8. Maybe she’s too young to make choices for important things right now.

    1. In the case of naps, I would definitely agree!

  9. At least you didn’t use “co-ink-idink.”

    1. Oh man, that’s vintage mom.

  10. It is a phase and will pass. I too had been through this. Sometimes there are reasons we dont know or need to find out why they are behaving so. But I agree, they really stretch the patience envelope.

    1. That’s a good way of putting it!

  11. How come so many things we think are “shoulds” about raising children JUST AREN’T TRUE? For example, that a certain behavior would be outgrown by a certain age?That we would only have to tolerate xyz situation for a short time, and then it would be over? There “should” be an answer to this problem. Oh yeah. Let go. Love you.

    1. YES!!! Someone left a comment on my blog yeeeeeears ago that has stayed with me, and it was that you can read all the parenting books you want but you will never find one that will answer all the questions your particular child will pose. Never never never. I think it stayed with me bc I’ve found it to be more profoundly true through each stage we encounter. Parenthood is basically just a lifelong exercise in giving up the “shoulds” and accepting the “ares.”

  12. I love your post! Mother of three I struggle with such situations every minute of every day! And the bad mood would be even worst when there are two kids fighting over everything and you don’t have anymore strength to interfere ! It’s soooo hard to be a mom!

  13. Oh, man, I can’t believe she’s turning four! I remember wishing her a happy birthday in a blog post on the day she was born. Sounds like she turned out to be worth the wait. Happy birthday, Miss C! You’ve got a really cool mom.

  14. 24hoursintoday · · Reply

    This post is so lovely, I adored the little side notes that made me giggle to myself. I am sure Miss C will grow into a beautiful, sensible strong young lady with a huge amount of respect for others because she has such a great mom!

  15. It’s amazing how children change what we see when we look at ourselves from an outside lens. I feel that way at least once a day with my 16 month old…”who am I?” Kids bring out the deepest emotions of every kind that we could ever experience in this life. I think every mommy should write letters to their children, I look forward to giving my daughter my hand written journal of letters to her when the time is right. Thanks for sharing!

  16. As parenting is such a big responsibility ,parents are at constant conflict with their emotions and may often feel that they went a little too strict .But ultimately ,every child understands why his parents didn’t always let them have their way. :)
    Believe me, when miss c grows up, she’ll be grateful to you for forming her into a great person and taking the pains to teach her the distinction between right and wrong. :)

  17. One day they will understand – what strikes me most is the emotions that one feels in these situations. I go from anger to frustration to guilt to sadness to overbearing love in a span of like 30 minutes perhaps? My toddler is 2.5 and he’s right into the defiance thing, particularly as he’s now fighting for attention after the arrival of his brother 1 month ago. So, so hard but one day they will thank us for it.
    https://mummyofdragons.wordpress.com/

  18. ELda Tamara · · Reply

    Good

  19. wow your daughter is soo cute!

  20. Go Mama…no one said it will be easy right? Cheers to working hard at parenting…our children will (we hope) appreciate it one day…I certainly have.

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