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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Being There

One of my favorite blogs is Sherri's Old Tweener. She is a self proclaimed "forty-something mom looking for humor in everyday life" and the way she writes is not only witty, but extremely heartfelt and very relatable.

Sherri is a loyal Letters for Lucas reader and
comments on almost every one of my posts. Her words always make me feel better about myself, what I've shared and what I'm going through as someone who still considers herself a new mom.

If you don't already follow Old Tweener, you should and if nothing else, please check out one of my very favorite posts, Exit Interview
. It's a superb look at the changing role of mother as our children grow up.

I am honored to have Sherri guest posting for me today on what she wish she had known when she first became a mother. Thank you and cheers, Sherri!

post signature

Reading Letters for Lucas always takes me back to those early mommyhood days, and I love how much heart and honesty Tonya puts into her writing. I was so happy when she asked me to do a guest post! I tried to imagine what advice I would give her, as an old mommy to a newer one, if we sat down for a virtual glass of wine.

When my son was first born and I was wading thigh-high in the overwhelming details of new motherhood, there were some things I thought were so important. Things that if done properly, would ensure that my little guy would be the perfect child.

You know which child I am talking about. They are usually seen only in tear-jerking movies or in commercials for diapers or baby food. They smile on cue, are early readers, easy potty-trainers, sleep through the night from the start, and never drool or blow out a diaper.

Now I know that child doesn’t exist. What a relief.

I wish someone had told me that sooner, rather than me having to spend the better part of 16 years to come to that astonishing conclusion. That some of the things that seem so important when you have small children really don’t matter. Things like:

Developmental Milestones

There, I said it.

Did you know that some of these milestones have huge windows during which they can happen? I didn’t. And I spent a lot of time observing my kid, other kids, reading mommy books, and making lists.

Get a bunch of infant/toddler/preschool moms together and the topics turn rather quickly to milestones. Has yours rolled over? Crawled? Babbled? Got teeth yet? Used a straw? Written his name? Dressed himself? Learned Morse code? And so on.

And for the most part, kids find their own way of doing things; maybe not even in the “right” order. Unless it really seems like something to consult your pediatrician over, it seems like a lot of these can just be things to let go.

My son never did a “true” crawl; his style was more of a butt-scoot with crazy legs and arms propelling him all around the house. He went on to actually walk, ride a bike, run, and develop the standard teen slump in his shoulders. Talking? I don’t think he’s ever stopped. And while he does now dress himself, I would like to see more of his clothes in the hamper than on the floor.

Academics & Preschool

As soon as the toddler phase started, along came the whole academics phase. Unfortunately, this phase is still going on at my house, and will continue as he goes off to college next fall. It starts with letters, colors, sounds, naming things, and just explodes from there.

I worried about selecting the best books from the library, reading him Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, teaching him all the right names for the dinosaurs, and sending him to the right preschool. Did it matter in the end? Not really. What mattered was that I spent time talking to him, reading to him (whether it was Sports Illustrated, Garfield comics, or Dr. Seuss), being involved, and answering his questions. So many questions. And now that he’s a teenager, the preschool he attended doesn’t matter at all. Nor does the fact that I actually pulled him out of preschool the spring before he went to kindergarten because I decided he didn’t need it. And he was fine.


We all want the best for our kids, and at no time does that ring truer than when we buy them stuff. I really, really wanted the right stuff for my son…whether it was the Little Tikes car he could drive, the adorable playhouse, or the dinosaurs he obsessed over.

And now? All that stuff is long gone or crammed into boxes in the attic (if I can’t bear to part with it just yet). I think what really mattered wasn’t so much that he had the latest and greatest toys when he was little, but just that he had things to spark his imagination.

Some of our best times were spent with sand buckets at the park or in the kitchen with utensils, pots, and pans doing a pre-Wii version of Rock Band. Sometimes I filled the sink with water, pulled up a step stool, and let him have at it. Food coloring in the water made it an instant ocean for his dinosaurs; bubbles made it a volcano; ice cubes were perfect for the polar bears.

Don’t get me wrong; I still bought him way too many things when he was little. Add the fact that he was the first grandchild/nephew on both sides, and he got lots of loot. And we had fun with it.

But looking back now, so much of it was overkill and unnecessary.

If I could go back and do the infant/toddler years again, I would:

  • Leave the dishes in the sink now and then. They aren’t changing, but the kids sure are.
  • Make a mess more often. Mud washes out, water dries, and paint fades. Memories don’t.
  • Cuddle on the couch when they want to. Because they won’t always want to.
  • Break the rules more often, just because it’s fun.
  • Be more spontaneous. I worried so much about my son’s schedule that we may have missed out on some fun things. Not anymore.
  • Remind myself that the days may seem long, but the years are short.
  • Laugh with them more. Even if I don’t think it’s that funny. Because it’s good medicine.
They fly through those younger years on jet-packs it seems, so put your helmet on and just be there. Because really? That’s all those little ones really need.

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Blogger Sherri said...

Tonya, thank you so much for inviting me over here to hang out for a day! Your words are sweet and we WILL have that glass of wine one day.

November 9, 2010 at 7:05 AM  
Blogger Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points said...

Excellent and lovely.

I THINK I got to the "it'll all work out right, quit panicking" phase relatively quickly, but I also THINK that once upon a time I was a size 8.

It is possible I could be wrong on both counts.

And that's a very difficult thing to TELL someone, mostly parents need to figure it out for themselves.

November 9, 2010 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger The mad woman behind the blog said...

Oh yeah, I love me some Sherri. What a wonderful post and just when I needed to read it.

Thank you Tonya for hosting one of my favorite writers.

November 9, 2010 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger Renee said...

I was fortunate. 27 years ago milestones were not a hot topic. My daughter watched them crazy for the first year of her son's life. She finally relaxed and decided he'd do what he wanted, when he was ready.
Cause every kid is different.

November 9, 2010 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger KLZ said...


Oh dear. I have not for one moment cared about milestones. But only because some moron declared me special needs in kindergarten for the dumbest reason ever. I figured if they can get that wrong, they just ain't worth listening to.

November 9, 2010 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

I love Sherri!

Kate has never been the "typical" kid, so I think I learned early on with her that she wasn't going to conform.

Neither of my girls crawled the "right" way, though it was a lot easier to take with Maddie since she is Baby #2.

November 9, 2010 at 1:55 PM  
Anonymous The Flying Chalupa said...

Is it the hormones? Why is there a tear in my eye? Yes, it must be the hormones. Great post, Sherri. Stupid milestones. And I love what you wrote about stuff. Because as we approach the holidays, stuff is on my mind. When, you're right, it's all about the imagination. Hey, Chalupa, IMAGINE that fire engine, would you?

November 9, 2010 at 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found Sherri recently - and love her writing - so of course I followed her over here and back to the "olden days" when my babies were young. I know I was stressed back then - trying to be perfect. Have the perfect house, wear and dress my son in the perfect clothes, etc. etc., I think in part to justify my staying home with him. If that was my job I was going to work HARD at it!
Now, like Sherri, I think the important things were to read to my kids all the time, wonder at the world ("Look a horse!"), and be present. Sherri is so right when she says "Remind myself that the days may seem long, but the years are short."

November 10, 2010 at 3:30 AM  
Blogger Jennie said...

Oh Sherri, this is fabulous! I'm in the middle of these years and have been blessed to hear the advice while in the thick of it. I'm so glad I have wiser friends and family than myself! :)

And best of all, I love the laughter advice best. It makes *everything* better!

Thanks for having Sherri over here, Tonya! I'm your newest follower.

November 10, 2010 at 7:36 AM  
Blogger Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

It could be PMS but this very nearly made me cry!

November 10, 2010 at 3:29 PM  
Blogger Julie Hedlund said...

Love Sherri's blog and this post - although my kids are only 7 and 4, I already recognize a lot of pitfalls I wish I had avoided.

"What mattered was that I spent time talking to him, reading to him" Sherri - truer words were never spoken!

November 10, 2010 at 6:10 PM  
Blogger Cori said...

Great post Sherri!! These were my two favorite tips....

*Leave the dishes in the sink now and then. They aren’t changing, but the kids sure are.

*Make a mess more often. Mud washes out, water dries, and paint fades. Memories don’t.

How true is that!!

November 10, 2010 at 6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved this!

The bullet points at the end really spoke to me. Sometimes (most times) I find myself rushing through the day, just waiting for bed time. I need to stop and enjoy this precious time more often.

Thanks Sherri!

November 10, 2010 at 9:12 PM  
Anonymous Yuliya said...

Oh Sherri I am right in the thick of it...and the days sure seem long, thank you for the perspective of years.

November 10, 2010 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger Annette said...

I'm all emotional. Seriously, Sherri. You make me laugh; you make me cry. No really, your advice is right on, and I keep on reminding myself that those blasted dishes can wait! It's hard to believe that you're already sending your son to college in another year. Evidentely, you took your own advice because you have a lot of wonderful, vivid memories to share about your son's early days. I'm sure he's a happy teenager because you took the time to laugh, be silly, and be present for him :)

November 10, 2010 at 11:02 PM  
Blogger Kelley said...

That was awesome, Sherri!! I loved that. My little guys often ask me to sit on the couch and watch something with them. I will, but then I get up to go do something a little later. I need to just sit and be in the moment with them. Thanks for this great post!

I am going to keep coming back to Letters for Lucas, too. Love the look!

November 11, 2010 at 6:36 AM  

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