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And then she turned 11, and nothing was ever the same.


This year, my oldest daughter Sara* celebrated her 11th birthday, and what a difference a year makes! So many changes in such little time, and in every way one could imagine. Sara doesn’t only look different than she did a year ago (read: taller), but she also acts, reacts, and thinks differently as well. Over the past year, I’ve often wondered where my little girl has gone, and who this young lady in her place even is!

Parenting “Sara the adolescent” has indeed had its challenges, though overall, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive to date, as well as an incredible learning experience for both of us. As I navigated the complex, unfamiliar waters of pre-teen parenting this year, one truth has stood out above all others: As my daughter evolves and grows, my parenting must do the same. I truly believe this notion is paramount in order for a mother-daughter relationship to remain strong.

So, how did my parenting change? In at least five ways I can think of. While many of these changes appear small, don’t be fooled; the overall effect has been tremendously beneficial to us both. What may seem to be one small step for Mom, has felt like one giant leap to my daughter, and in turn, to our relationship.

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1 | Every request deserves consideration

Recently, Sara expressed an interest in staying home alone while I went to the dentist, which she has done in the past many times. However this time, there was a twist to her request: She wanted to babysit her three-year-old sister Summer* as well.

My first instinct was to say, “No way.” Summer is a high-energy, not-yet-potty trained, at-times-defiant preschooler. Out of respect for Sara, however, I decided to feign consideration of the idea, though I was sure my answer would be no. In discussing all that’s involved in babysitting Summer, Sara repeatedly assured me that yes, she could change a poop diaper if she had to, no, she wouldn’t attempt to cook, and yes, she could 100 percent handle this. Due to her persistence and enthusiasm, I found myself seriously considering this. After laying out specific rules, setting check-in times via text, and giving Summer a “listen to your sister” pep talk, I was as astonished as Sara was when I agreed to let her do this. And to my delight, she (and her sister) did great! All because I took a moment to consider Sara’s request, instead of immediately waving it off with a “no.”

2 | Every frustration isn’t always my concern

With my three-year-old, every bump, bruise, and disappointment requires immediate, absolute attention from me. And I get it: Emotion control and secure attachments to parents are still developing at Summer’s age, thus when Summer cries because her Frozen bathing suit is in the washing machine, I will hold her until she’s okay.

However, by age 11, in certain situations, its time to learn how to deal.

The night that Sara lost both her favorite headband and the book she was reading, coupled with the fact that I wouldn’t dye her hair at 9 p.m., led to my daughter’s eyes filling with tears as she collapsed on my bed in a heap.

Oh, the drama!

Considering the fact that she spent the whole day watching television, and the issues popped up a half-hour before bedtime – let’s just say that my sympathy meter wasn’t exactly on high. Though I wasn’t going to play into her drama, I didn’t want to make her feel worse, either. So I used humor to diffuse the situation.

With a sincere smile, I took a moment to both introduce and explain the phrase “first world problems” to my daughter. After a few moments of silence and thought, Sara began to laugh, as did I, and with a giggly hug all was again right in her world, and she found the missing items less than 10 minutes later.

3 | Mother knows best most of – but not all of – the time

As much as I dislike admitting it, there have been times where I’ve argued with Sara, and to my astonishment, I found myself actually in the wrong. Though it has always been extremely difficult for me to admit when I’m wrong, I make sure to do it every time it happens with my daughter. Why? Its simple: My daughter deserves to know.

Winning a (polite and respectfully argued) disagreement has been incredibly empowering to Sara, as well as a teachable moment where I choose to lead by example. By admitting I am wrong and she is right, I am also attempting to teach Sara to do the same. Has it worked? A little. She has begrudgingly conceded a few times, though I’d still label our current status as a “work in progress.”

4 | My gut sets the rules – not the crowd

With young children, parents often look to their peers to ensure what their doing is “right.” Heck, I still do that now, with my three-year-old. However, by age 11, while I may still survey my peers, I’m less inclined to simply “do what they do.”

Pre-teen issues are complex, often with more than one possible “solution,” and with stakes that can be tremendously high. For example, my 11-year-old is not allowed on social media. Most kids her age currently are, a fact that Sara has informed me of numerous times. However, I don’t feel she’s ready to handle social media at 11 years old.

Now I could go along with what everyone else seems to allow and let her have an Instagram, which I’m sure would make her very happy. However, my gut tells me no – the possible consequences are not worth the risk in my mind. Thus when I hear the phrase “everybody else does it,” my response is sorry babe, but I truly do not care.

5 | I’m her mom, not her friend – but sometimes I can be her buddy

My kid has lots of friends, but she only has one mother, and she doesn’t need me to be just another friend. However, just because I’m Sara’s mom doesn’t mean I can’t sometimes be her buddy too! Scheduling mother-daughter time has always been important to both of us, especially since her little sister came along. And at age 11 our mother-daughter time often consists of activities that interest both of us, instead of activities that just Sara likes.

We’ve attended rock concerts and Broadway shows, we’ve had in-depth book discussions on novels we’ve both read, and we’ve watched movies together that we both have wanted to see. It’s truly twice as much fun as before, as now I enjoy not only the company, but also the activity we do as well. Sharing my interests and passions with Sara this year has been an absolute blast for us both.

My daughter’s journey through the pre-teen and teen years has only just begun, and I am well aware that the future is uncertain. Can I predict all the possible challenges I will face in the coming years ahead? No! Right now, all I can do is to try my best to evolve as a parent while she grows, striving to give her the best balance of guidance and autonomy I can.

How am I doing? So far, I think I’m doing pretty well.

*Names have been changed

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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

After a pregnancy that is best described as uncomfortable, Jessica Simpson is finally done "Jess-tating" and is now a mama of three.

Baby Birdie Mae Johnson joined siblings Ace and Maxwell on Tuesday, March 19, Simpson announced via Instagram.

Simpson's third child weighed in at 10 pounds, 13 ounces.

Birdie's name is no surprise to Jessica's Instagram followers, who saw numerous references to the name in her baby shower photos and IG stories in the last few weeks.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to experts.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

At this moment in time, Simpson and her husband, former NFL player Eric Johnson, are probably busy counting little fingers and toes , which is great news because it means Simpson's toes can finally deflate. She's had a terrible time with swollen feet during this pregnancy, and was also hospitalized multiple times due to bronchitis in her final trimester.

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We're so glad to see Simpson's little Birdie has finally arrived!

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Spring is officially here and if you're looking for a way to celebrate the change in the season, why not treat the kids to some ice cream, mama?

DQ locations across the country (but not the ones in malls) are giving away free small vanilla cones today, March 20! So pack up the kids and get to a DQ near you.

And if you can't make it today, from March 21 through March 31, DQ's got a deal where small cones will be just 50 cents (but you have to download the DQ mobile app to claim that one).

Another chain, Pennsylvania-based Rita's Italian Ice is also dishing up freebies today, so if DQ's not your thing you can grab a free cup of Italian ice instead.

We're so excited that ice cream season is here and snowsuit season is behind us. Just a few short weeks and the kids will be jumping through the sprinklers.

Welcome back, spring. We've missed you!

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The woman who basically single-handedly taught the world to embrace vulnerability and imperfection is coming to Netflix and we cannot wait to binge whatever Brené Brown's special will serve up because we'll probably be better people after watching it.

It drops on April 19 and is called Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. If it has even a fraction of the impact of her books or the viral Ted talk that made her a household name, it's going to be life and culture changing.

Announcing the special on Instagram Brown says she "cannot believe" she's about to be "breaking some boundaries over at Netflix" with the 77-minute special.

Netflix describes the special as a discussion of "what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty" and it sounds exactly like what we need right now.

April 19 is still pretty far away though, so if you need some of Brown's wisdom now, check out her books on Amazon or watch (or rewatch) the 2010 Ted Talk that put her—and our culture's relationship with vulnerability and shame—in the national spotlight.

The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown

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If Marie Kondo's Netflix show got people tidying up, Brown's Netflix special is sure to be the catalyst for some courageous choices this spring.

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My husband and I recently had a date night that included being away from our son overnight for the first time since he was born three years ago (but don't let your heads run away with a fantasy—we literally slept because we were exhausted #thisiswhatwecallfunnow). It was a combination of a late night work event, a feeling that we had to do something just for the two of us, and simple convenience. It would have taken hours to get home from the end of a very long day when we could just check into a hotel overnight and get home early the next day.

But before that night, I fretted about what to do. How would childcare work? No one besides me or my husband has put our son to bed, and we have never not been there when he wakes up in the morning.

Enter: Grandma.

I knew if there was any chance of this being successful, the only person that could pull it off is one of my son's favorite people—his grandmother. Grammy cakes. Gramma. We rely so much on these extended support systems to give us comfort and confidence as parents and put our kids at ease. Technically, we could parent without their support, but I'm so glad we don't have to.

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So as we walked out the door, leaving Grandma with my son for one night, I realized how lucky we are that she gets it...

She gets it because she always comes bearing delicious snacks. And usually a small toy or crayons in her bag for just the right moment when it's needed.

She gets it because she comes with all of the warmth and love of his parents but none of the baggage. None of the first time parent jitters and all of the understanding that most kids just have simple needs: to eat, play and sleep.

She gets it because she understands what I need too. The reassurance that my baby will be safe. And cared for.

She gets it because she's been in my shoes before. Decades ago, she was a nervous new mama too and felt the same worries. She's been exactly where we are.

She gets it because she shoos us away as we nervously say goodbye, calling out cheerfully, "Have fun, I've got this." And I know that she does.

She gets it because she will get down on the floor with him to play Legos—even though sometimes it's a little difficult to get back up.

She gets it because she will fumble around with our AppleTV—so different from her remote at home—to find him just the right video on Youtube that he's looking for.

She gets it because she diligently takes notes when we go through the multi-step bedtime routine that we've elaborately concocted, passing no judgment, and promising that she'll follow along as best as she can.

She gets it because she'll break the routine and lay next to him in bed when my son gets upset, singing softly in his ear until she sees his eyelids droop heavy and finally fall asleep.

She gets it because she'll text us to let us know when he's fallen asleep because she knows we'll be wondering.

She gets it because just like our son trusts us as his mom and dad, Grandma is his safe space. My son feels at ease with her—and that relaxes me, too.

She gets it because when we come home from our "big night out" the house will be clean. Our toddler's play table that always has some sort of sticky jelly residue on it will be spotless. The dishwasher empty. (Side note: She is my hero.)

She gets it because she shows up whenever we ask. Even when it means having to rearrange her schedule. Even when it means she has to sleep in our home instead of her own.

She gets it because even though she has her own life, she makes sure to be as involved in ours as she can. But that doesn't mean she gives unsolicited advice. It means that she's there. She comes to us or lets us come to her. Whenever we need her.

She gets it because she takes care of us, too. She's there to chat with at the end of a long day. To commiserate on how hard motherhood and working and life can be, but to also gently remind me, "These are the best days."

After every time Grandma comes over, she always leaves a family that feels so content. Fulfilled by her presence. The caretaking and nourishment (mental and food-wise) and warmth that accompanies her.

We know this is a privilege. We know we're beyond lucky that she is present and wants to be involved and gets it. We know that sometimes life doesn't work out like this and sometimes Grandma lives far away or is no longer here, or just doesn't get it. So we hold on. And appreciate every moment.

As Grandma leaves, I hug her tight and tell her, "I can't thank you enough. We couldn't have done this without you." Because we can't. And we wouldn't want to.

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