Happiness comes when we let our children decide who they are

I hate to admit it, but sometimes, I have trouble recognizing my own kid.

The most recent example of this occurred recently while I was sitting on the sidelines of my son’s soccer game. I watched him attack the ball with a fierce, menacing stare previously reserved for dental appointments and wearing fancy shirts.

He kicked the ball away from a much taller kid and proceeded to score a goal. I was proud—yes!—but I was also confused. Because honestly, I had no idea who that intense competitor was.

A year ago, I would have told you that my older son, then 5, had zero interest in sports. He sang songs from Hamilton and recited facts about the US Presidents. He liked to draw and talk about history. My husband and I figured he wouldn’t be an athlete, and we were totally okay with that.

Then one day, a friend gave him an NFL sticker book, and what started as an obsession with collecting as many stickers as possible turned into an obsession with sports. This kid, who had a history of tripping over his own feet (we have a video of him at age 3 to prove it), all of a sudden became Lionel Messi out on the field. I honestly spent much of his first soccer game staring at him in utter disbelief.

When my son was born, I immediately started trying to figure out what kind of kid he would be. In the hospital, I searched his face for signs that he looked like me or my husband, and everyone who visited did the same. Already we wanted to know—would he be a Dobrow or a DiMarco?

I soon learned that I was not alone in this. It seemed that all of my parent friends were doing the same thing: trying to peg their kids as one thing or another, to understand their personalities and tell others about it.

At work, new patients would often introduce themselves to me by quickly rattling off a list of their kids’ most notable traits: “There’s Daniel, 5, who’s very serious, and Ava, 3, my wild child, and of course little Lila, the princess.”

Why do many parents seem to have this desire to peg our kids as one thing or another at such a young age?

Perhaps it’s because it helps us feel more in control. If we think we know who our kids are, then we think we can predict their behaviors and moods, and respond appropriately. This helps reduce our considerable anxiety about parenting.

But the problem with this is that kids are constantly changing and evolving. As soon as we peg them as one thing—and adjust our behaviors and energies and purchases accordingly—there is the potential that they have already moved on to something else.

My son’s soccer performance shouldn’t have surprised me. He’s defied my expectations numerous times now.

There was the unilateral rejection of the fun art class, the adverse reaction to trampoline jumping, the brief and inexplicable obsession with bus yards. In every situation, my son’s reactions were the opposite of what I’d expected.

It’s become clear that I can’t always successfully predict how my son will respond to new experiences. I had to stop myself before I bought the NY Giants bedspread I’d been ogling on Amazon, because I don’t know if my son will be into football in six months. He might like the Giants or he might like Minecraft or he might like singing. I can’t peg him.

I also can’t go “all in” on this soccer thing—signing him up for traveling soccer, for example—until I know for sure that HE is “all in.” The last thing I want to do is buy all the gear, sign up for all the teams, and then get angry with him for suddenly deciding that soccer is not his thing. I don’t want him to feel any pressure that he has to love soccer (or anything else, for that matter).

As adults, we operate under the assumption that we can change ourselves. Entire industries are built around this premise, as are entire schools of psychotherapy (cognitive-behavioral therapy, the type of therapy I practice, included).

We actively encourage our loved ones and friends to make changes in their careers, their hobbies and their relationships. We expect and hope that adults can change.

I think we need to extend this same courtesy to our kids. For me, this means recognizing that I need to give my son room and space to decide who he is. And while he’s deciding who he is, I need to stop myself from trying to peg him as one thing or another, much as it might help alleviate my anxiety. I’ve got to approach him with an open mind, making it clear that I’m okay with whoever and whatever he decides to be at that moment.

And of course, let him know that I’ll always be here for him, waiting on the sidelines, ready to join him on whatever adventure he chooses next.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.


Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.


Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.


Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!


Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.


Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.


'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."


Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.


Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.


Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!


Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.


Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.


Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.


Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


My belly has been through some things.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (yep, severe debilitating pregnancy-related vomiting), the pregnancies of each of my four kids, the 65 pounds of weight gain I have endured with each pregnancy, stretch marks, Occupational Therapy for pregnancy pelvic pain, unmedicated childbirth, and of course, postpartum recovery.

It's my personal opinion that this belly deserves some love. So starting with my second pregnancy, I've relied on Belly Bandit's postpartum belly bands (which I own in three sizes) to help support my core, reduce swelling, and begin to activate my midsection after nine months of being stretched to the max.

Here's why I love Belly Bandit:

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