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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.

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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Starting your child on solids can be a daunting process. Between the mixed advice that seems to come from every angle ("Thanks, Grandma, but pretty sure one dessert is enough…") to the at-times picky palates of our little ones, it can be tough on a mama trying to raise a kid with a sophisticated palate.

But raising an adventurous eater doesn't have to be a chore. In partnership with our friends at Raised Real, here are eight tips to naturally encourage your child to nibble and taste with courage.

1. Keep an open mind. 

As the parent, you set the tone for every bite. So stay positive! Raised Real makes it easy to work new and exciting ingredients into every meal, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to practice modeling open-minded eating. Instead of saying, "You might not like this" or "It's okay if you don't like it" from the start, keep your tone upbeat—or simply serve new dishes without any fanfare at all. (Toddlers can smell a tough sell from a mile away.) Either way, let your child decide for themselves how they feel about new dishes.

2. Show mealtime some respect. 

Spend less time in the kitchen and more time together at the table with Raised Real meals, which come prepped and ready to steam and blend. They're even delivered to your door—because they know how busy you are, mama. Think about it: Do you enjoy a meal you've had to rush through? Keep meals relaxed and let your child savor and taste one bite at a time to take any potential anxiety out of the equation. (This may mean you need to set aside more time than you think for dinner.)

3. Serve the same (vibrant) dish to the whole family.

Don't fall into the "short-order cook" trap. Instead of cooking a different meal for every family member, serve one dish that everyone can enjoy. Seeing his parents eating a dish can be a simple way to encourage your little one to take a bite, even if he's never tried it before. Since Raised Real meals are made with real, whole ingredients, they can be the perfect inspiration for a meal you serve to the whole family.

4. Get kids involved in prepping the meal.

Raised Real's ingredients are simple to prepare, meaning even little hands can help with steaming and blending. When children help you cook, they feel more ownership over the food—and less like they're being forced into eating something unfamiliar. As they grow, have your children help with washing and stirring, while bigger kids can peel, season, and even chop with supervision. Oftentimes, they'll be so proud of what they've made they won't be able to wait to try it.

5. Minimize snacking and calorie-laden drinks before meals. 

Serving a new ingredient? Skip the snacks. Hungry kids are less picky kids, so make sure they're not coming to the table full when you're introducing a new flavor. It's also a good idea to serve in courses and start with the unfamiliar food when they're hungriest to temper any potential resistance.

6. Don’t be afraid to introduce seasoning!  

Raised Real meals come with fresh seasonings already added in so you can easily turn up the flavor. Cinnamon, basil, turmeric, and cumin are all great flavors to pique the palate from an early age, and adding a dash or two to your recipes can spice up an otherwise simple dish.

7. Make “just one bite” the goal. 

Don't stress if your toddler isn't cleaning their plate—if he's hungry, he'll eat. Raised Real meals are designed to train the palate, so even a bite or two can get the job done. Right now the most important thing is to broaden their horizons with new flavors.

8. Try and try and try again. 

Kids won't always like things the first time. (It can take up to 20 tries!) If your child turns up her nose at tikka masala the first time, that doesn't mean she'll never care for Indian food. So don't worry. And be sure to try every ingredient again another day—or the next time you get it in your Raised Real meal box!

Still not sure where to start? Raised Real takes the guesswork out of introducing a variety of solids by delivering dietician-designed, professionally prepped ingredients you simply steam, blend, and serve (or skip the blending for toddlers who are ready for finger foods)—that's why they're our favorite healthy meal hack for kids.

Raising an adventurous eating just got a whole lot simpler, mama.

This article is sponsored by Raised Real. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Pumpkin spice lattes are here and the weather is getting chillier. That can only mean one thing—Halloween is near! Whether you're a fan of the holiday or not, there's simply nothing more precious than dressing up your baby or toddler in an adorable costume.

Today only, Target has up to 40% off Halloween costumes for the entire family. We rounded up the cutest picks from the baby + toddler departments—check 'em out. 😍

Toddler Halloween Costumes: Shark

Shark costume, $15.00 (was $25.00)

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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[Note: This post was written by a woman who's been a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, and a work-from-home mom. She's felt the unique joys and challenges of each, and is here to scream from the rooftops: none of them were easy. None were perfect. And definitely, none came without guilt.

There's always greener grass somewhere, and always will be. Don't forget to look down at your feet from time to time–the ground you're standing on right now is actually pretty awesome.]


Dear Stay-at-home mom,

Can I be honest? Sometimes, I get jealous of you.

Like, when I picture your mornings, minus the chaos of hustling kids out the door to daycare. I picture breakfasts eaten without staring at the clock, maybe a morning kids' show, everyone still in PJs.

I see you taking the kids to the zoo or the park or the lake mid-morning, snapping selfies with them and texting your husband the funny thing your oldest said.

I see you throwing a load of laundry in the dryer when you get home (or whenever you WANT!), playing goofy games with the kids over lunch, eating food you didn't have to pack at 11pm the night before.

When the youngest goes down for a nap, I see you getting things done around the house, or working on your in-home business, or bonding with your oldest over a craft project. I see you witnessing every milestone and every funny moment, amassing memories that will make you smile years from now.

I see you, glowing and healthy from days spent outside, chatting up the other moms at the park or the library or the gym, wearing whatever the heck you want, never going to boring department meetings, never realizing mid-day that you forgot to put deodorant on and can't do a thing about it…

It all seems so nice, as I sit in my cramped, sunless office, stressing about the project I'm way over my head in and wondering what my kids are doing right now (that I'm missing).

But don't worry. I know there's more to it than that.

I know you also deal with meltdowns, and picky eaters and fighting over toys (over everything), and long, lonely days where you're way over-touched and you don't talk to a single person over the age of four.

I know there are rainy days, snowy days, teething days, and inexplicably-crazy-kids days.

I know you go to the same park a bazillion times a week, repeat the same phrases to your kids all day, play the same games over and over, and prepare and clean up SO MUCH food.

I know you're desperate for alone time and adult time, and I know you feel guilty when you take that out on the kids. I know you think about your education and your pre-kids career, and you wonder if you're doing the right thing. I know you wish you could contribute more financially. I know you worry that you're pouring so much of yourself into your kids that you might lose sight of who you are.

I guess I just wanted to let you know that I see you, and I recognize the sacrifices you're making for your family. It's easy for me to focus on the highlights of your life—the things I'm personally missing out on—but I know that's not the full picture.

The truth is, neither of our lives is perfect or easy, but they're both pretty dang awesome—just in slightly different ways.

I see you, and I support you. Keep it up, girl!

Love,

Working Mom

Dear Working mom,

Can I be honest? Sometimes, I get jealous of you.

Like, when I picture your mornings, sipping a still-hot latte, alone at your quiet desk. I see you going to important meetings, talking to important people about important things (or at least, talking to adults about adult things).

I see you grabbing lunch with your coworkers, gossiping about the office, maybe on an outdoor patio, maybe over some giant salads and still-cold iced teas.

I see you giving presentations, in that cute tailored blazer you have, speaking eloquently and confidently to a room of people who respect your ideas.

I see you planning out your days (and having that actually be a useful endeavor), working on projects that interest and challenge you, getting recognized for your hard work from your peers and superiors. I see you traveling for work—sitting on a plane (ALONE!), staying in a nice hotel room, eating dinner on someone else's dime. I see how proud you are of your career, how good it makes you feel. I see how extra special the time you spend with your kids is—the way you're eager to pour into them in the evenings and on weekends, the way you treasure every minute…

It all seems so nice, as I sit here eating leftover cold chicken nugget bits off my son's plate, half-heartedly yelling at the kids to stop tackling each other and preemptively beating myself up for all the TV I know I'm going to let them watch later.

But don't worry. I know there's more to it than that.

I know that you still feel guilty sometimes after dropping off your kids, especially when they cling to you and cry. I know you envy the person who gets to spend their days with your children, seeing the funny things they do and hearing the funny things they say. I know you hate being stuck in your office on a beautiful day, wondering what your kids are up to and wishing you could be part of it.

I know it's hard at the end of the day, when everyone's tired and hungry and cranky, and you're desperately cobbling dinner together before the frantic rush of baths and bedtime, and you SO wish it could be different because those are the only precious hours you get together as a family. I know it sucks to have to cram all the housework and errands into the weekends. I know you get lonely when you travel, and all the nice dinners and hotel rooms in the world can't compete with those little faces at home that you can't kiss goodnight. I know you miss your kids, and you wonder if you're doing the right thing.

I guess I just wanted to let you know that I see you, and I recognize the sacrifices you're making for your family. It's easy for me to focus on the highlights of your life—the things I'm personally missing out on—but I know that's not the full picture.

The truth is, neither of our lives is perfect or easy, but they're both pretty dang awesome—just in slightly different ways.

I see you, and I support you. Keep it up, girl!

Love,

Stay-at-Home Mom

Originally posted on Madison Moms Blog.

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You've probably seen this interaction play out in your home many times: You're playing with your baby (about a year old) on the floor and then realize you need to get up and do something in another room. You leave the room briefly and your baby starts to cry—she's missing you.

You may be slightly surprised (or maybe a bit annoyed) that they're so dependent on you. You hurry back to them and all is well within their world once again.

This simple interaction may seem inconsequential to us today, but 50 years ago researchers used a similar scenario (in a lab) to develop what at the time was considered a somewhat revolutionary psychological idea—attachment theory. Attachment theory forever changed how we understand the parent-child relationship.

What founders John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth came to understand that previous behavioral psychologists had not, was that attachment is developed in the context of a responsive relationship, not just through feeding.

Previously, psychologists had thought that as long as a baby's physical needs were met, they would thrive. After seeing the damaging emotional effects of children being separated during hospitalizations and war, Bowlby and Ainsworth began to more closely examine how the psychological bond develops between babies and caregivers in the early years of life.

At its essence, attachment theory focuses on the emotional bond between caregiver and baby, not just the physical interaction that occurs through feeding, changing diapers, etc. Ainsworth concluded that the interaction between the parent and child is key to determining what type of attachment is formed.

If the parent is responsive to the child's emotional need for security and safety, the child learns that the parent can be relied upon. In contrast, if the child's needs are met with unresponsiveness from the parent, the child learns that the parent cannot be relied upon and the child may develop means of coping with this such as becoming overly clingy or avoiding the parent.

The subtle interplay of attunement

All this discussion of attachment and responsiveness may have you wondering about your own mothering experience. Am I responsive enough to my baby? What about that time my baby had to wait to be fed because we were driving home?

We've all had experiences in motherhood where we realize our attunement with our baby was a little off. That day you were SO exhausted you could hardly function during the day. That time you misread you baby's signals about being tired and kept them up too long. The beauty of attachment theory is that it allows room for missteps. The research behind it does not presume that mothers are perfect. As preeminent British pediatrician and psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott suggests in his description of motherhood:

"The good-enough mother… starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant's needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant's growing ability to deal with her failure..."

In other words, the "good enough mother" is one who establishes an attachment with her baby early on by attending to her every need, even at the sacrifice of her own needs. This establishes a relationship in which the baby knows they are cared for and the parent can be trusted to meet their needs.

However, this level of constant attention and self-sacrifice cannot be continued indefinitely.

At some point, the mother will "fail" in little ways that require the baby to adapt or cope with stress. Here, of course, I am not implying instances of negligence or abuse. Those circumstances fall into a whole other category. The little "failures" are the little instances when mother and baby are not completely attuned—the misread signal of hunger, the delayed nap.

Intrinsic to attachment theory is the idea that these little "failures" or breaks in attunement are actually important to the developing child. Those times when you felt like you "missed the mark" in understanding your baby's needs, are the times that help your child grow in crucial skills.

These little disruptions in attunement, if resolved, help your child slowly learn about coping with stress, and lead to independence. As the years pass, these "failures" help children understand how conflicts in relationships can be resolved peacefully and build trust. Trust, of course, is one foundation of a healthy relationship. Children who have a deep-seated trust are more likely to accept your guidance (even discipline).

Can a baby be too attached?

If you've spent time around folks of an older generation lately, you may have heard a well-meaning elder comment that you "don't need to hold that baby all the time. It will make them spoiled." Now, most of us in this generation of parents know that you really cannot "spoil" a baby. Babies' only means of communicating their needs is through crying and holding a baby a lot is no longer thought to be linked to any later behavioral issues.

However, this does bring up the issue of whether parent and baby can be "too attached." We have all seen the kids who cling to mom or dad's leg in social situations, well beyond the age when they could walk on their own or the baby that fusses anytime anyone but mom holds them. While onlookers often chide the parents that these children are "mama's boys" or "spoiled," research might look at this in another light.

As we have seen, attachment is really about responsiveness—responding to a need, not predicting a need or ensuring that a child never experiences a need. This is where a key distinction comes into play.

If a parent is genuinely responding to a child's need, the likelihood of becoming "overly attached" is usually not an issue. However, there are rare occasions where a parent is preemptively responding to a child out of their need.

This situation becomes one less about attachment and more about over-parenting. If parents are actively interfering with a child's normal desire for exploration or independence (with the exception of safety concerns), then the relationship is no longer a responsive one.

At that point, the parent is not responding to the child's inherent need for exploration. As we saw in the discussion of attunement, if there are never any breakdowns in attunement, a child may not learn the coping skills needed to ultimately face the world.

In an atmosphere of strong attachment, most children will feel safe and secure enough in their parents' care that they will eventually explore on their own. However, that exploration comes on their schedule, not based on other's expectations.

It's important to remember here that we in American culture really value independence. As soon as our toddlers can toddle, many folks expect them to be off and running with the 5-year-olds, playing independently. This is a cultural expectation, but not necessarily a developmental one. Most kids inherently stay fairly close to their parents until their early elementary years.

The role of temperament in attachment

Another key piece is the child's temperament. We are just now beginning to understand the complex interaction between a child's temperament and their attachment style. Temperament is that collection on inherent tendencies your child has toward the world. These tendencies have to do with areas such as activity level, persistence, adaptability or intensity.

If you've been a parent for any length of time, you realize how different kids can be in terms of temperament and it often emerges in infancy. Some babies are "laid back" and do not respond strongly to changes in routine or environment, while others react much more easily.

These normal differences in temperament might influence the attachment of parent and child if the parent comes to interpret the child's behavior as problematic or inconsistent with the family's values.

For example, consider a child who has a more introverted, cautious temperament with a parent who has a more extroverted, outgoing temperament. The parent might interpret the child's cautious behavior as difficult or burdensome due to the fact that it is so different from her own tendency to be outgoing. If the parent starts to encourage the child to be overly friendly or outgoing in situations where the child is uncomfortable doing that, a breakdown in responsiveness could result.

In other words, the role of responsiveness in building attachment has to come from a place of understanding that particular child's needs, not a presumptive understanding of need based on the parent's desires.

In our modern parenting world dominated by tidbits of advice, collections of strategies and no shortage of labels, attachment theory reminds us of one important truth: Parenting is a relationship. It's not a job or a collection of techniques or even something to be mastered.

Parenting, in its best form, is the process of forming a lifelong relationship with your child. Like all relationships, each parent-child attachment relationship is as unique and nuanced as your child.

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