Shop the fall collection ➔

My kids spent exactly four hours at daycare yesterday, but the tearful reception I received when I arrived to pick them up made it seem like four days. Weeping and wailing, they clung to me like barnacles, elbowing one another to get a better grip on my legs. And all the while, their dad was standing right there next to me, completely unassaulted.

It isn’t often that Nick and I retrieve the kids from daycare together, and I’d imagined the kids would feel excitement at seeing us both. In reality, Nick may as well have waited in the car, because neither kid showed the slightest interest in his presence. At their ages, it’s all mom, all the time.

Most of the time, Nick pushes right through the prickly exterior of our children, fending off their swatting hands and irritated whines every time he tries to hug or hold them. Lately, it seems as though every effort he makes to show them affection is rebuffed. He isn’t mom, and all they want is mom.

I can appreciate being needed by my children. I know that won’t always be the case, and sometimes it feels awesome to be loved and wanted by these small humans even when I’m having a bad hair day, or trudging through an unsuccessful week of writing. In a world that judges and rejects me constantly, it does feel nice to experience the unconditional love of my kids.

And yet, I see the disappointment and despair on my husband’s face when he’s not the hot commodity, and it kills me. In those moments, I want to sit the kids down and explain to them how much their dad loves them, that he dreamt of being their dad long before they even existed, and probably wanted parenthood much more than I ever did. I want to tell them how lucky they are to have a dad like him, who changed his diet, gave up alcohol, does yoga religiously, and restructured his entire life in order to be better at fathering them– more present, more physically capable of wrestling and playing chase for hours on end. Don’t they know how good they have it?

Most days, we share the parenting responsibilities equally, and Nick engages intentionally with our kids, whether or not they appreciate or accept his efforts. But there are difficult days when he wants to give up, and give the kids what they want: MOM. I don’t blame him. I can’t imagine what it must be like to feel unwanted. I live in fear that he’ll eventually stop trying so hard, because that’s exactly what I’d do in his shoes. But I desperately need him to stay engaged. I can’t do this alone. The constant neediness of my children drives me batty. I need breaks. I need a moment to myself. And I’m grateful Nick’s undying desire to be the best dad and partner possible keeps him going when the road gets rough.

He’s playing the long game, surviving on the belief that our kids deserve, and will one day appreciate, the energy he puts into loving them. That’s true for all parents, isn’t it? The long game is what drives us to stay focused, and stay engaged when all we see are ill-mannered, cranky, unappreciative little jerks. It’s the thought that one day, they’ll have their own little jerks, and they’ll call us up (or beam over to our house using some fancy, futuristic contraption that I won’t understand), and they’ll say OH MY GOD! THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE! THANK YOU FOR NOT STRANGLING ME!

But I suppose, as parents, we have to also embrace the possibility that this might never happen. They may never say thank you, or appreciate our sacrifices and sleepless nights. They may, in fact, hate us, think we did a horrible job, and never forgive us. It’s really a crapshoot. If and when that happens, I’m ready and willing to apologize for not being whatever it was they needed, or thought they needed. I’m ready to apologize for coddling them too much, or not coddling them enough. I’m ready to apologize for all of my mistakes, the mistakes Nick makes, and all of the ways I’m sure we’ll fall short of what they want from us (and for writing about all of it for the world the read).

Because, in the end, I will know better than anyone that we did our very best. I will know about all of the times Nick felt rejected and unnecessary, but picked himself up and got back in the game. I will know that we flipping rocked it. And that’ll be enough for me.

Lauren Gonzalez

Lauren Gonzalez is a writer/philosopher hustling every day to survive the Montana elements, learn life's hard lessons the first time around, and make new friends along the way.

One Day You’ll Outgrow Being My Little Boy—But Not Today

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mother and two sons back-to-school picture, color photo

One day you will come home after your first day of a new school year and not wish to share a single thing. Not today. Today, you got into the car and talked non-stop about every second of your day. I was delighted!  One day you will not have countless first-day forms for me to sign and return the next day. Not today. I signed my name at least four times. I was happy to grant permission for you to play sports, learn algebra, and do whatever else I gave my permission for.  One day you will not allow me...

Keep Reading

The Sports Mom Shows Up For Her Kids, No Matter What

In: Kids, Motherhood
Youth baseball game

We’re nearing the end of club baseball/softball season, and the burnout is real. The time away from home, burning through gas to get somewhere for two hours with half your house packed only to pack back up and turn around and drive to the next two-hour destination is insane. I don’t even like the sport right now. There . . . I said it. I’m so sick of softball fields and wind-blown dirt in my face. I’ve seen so many balls thrown in the last two months that my eyes hurt. But I still show up. I love to see...

Keep Reading

Having Babies and Toddlers Is Exhausting—but So, So Sweet

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Family of four with baby and toddler on bed

I took the girls to one of our favorite coffee shops last week and all around me were parents of babies and toddlers. Their little ones ran about in the grassy area out back, toddling up and down the lawn, when it suddenly hit me with perfect clarity—the sun has nearly set on this season for me. It was a realization marked by internal tension, a mourning of the loss of one season contrasted by the joyful anticipation at the arrival of the next. It came out of nowhere and hit me like a tidal wave. Having five kids in...

Keep Reading

3 Common Phrases to Avoid Saying to Your Kids (and What To Say Instead)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother sitting with young boy on couch

Learning to love yourself is hard work. I did not grow up loving myself. Instead, I always felt inadequate, and I felt the need to change myself to prove my worth.  I want more for my kids. I want my kids to know their inherent value and worth. I want to empower my kids to love and accept themselves.  My self-love journey, aided by the expertise of a counselor, has helped me realize there are some narratives from my childhood I needed to unlearn. I had to accept my emotions as helpful and not something to be pushed down. I...

Keep Reading

They Love Each Other (and Sometimes They Don’t)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toddler girl lying with big brother, color photo

When I was pregnant with his baby sister, Forest kissed my belly and talked about all the wonderful things he would do with this little girl he already loved so much. His plans changed, however, after she was born, and the thing he wanted to do the most with her was place her gently in the trash can. Some mornings he would kiss her softly, other mornings he would walk into the room where I’d be nursing her and say, “Her doesn’t look precious to ME.” Two and a half years later, Forest’s feelings toward Grace remain about the same....

Keep Reading

As a Mother, I Matter Too

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter in living room

“What’s more important than me, Mammy?” my daughter asked. I looked at her, and she was looking at me. Her question wasn’t harsh or accusatory, it was curious. She was curious. We were in the kitchen, I was at the table working, and she asked me to help her find something. I told her I was finishing up some important work and then I would play with her. This is when she asked me what was more important than her. I bit my tongue to stop the words that wanted to rush out of my mouth. I wanted to proclaim...

Keep Reading

Dear Daughter, Follow Your Beautiful Heart

In: Faith, Kids
Mother and daughter smiling

When I held you in my arms for the first time, it was like time stopped. As you looked up at me with innocence and new life, I was struck by the reality that my main role in your life would be to guide and direct you on the right path. I hoped I would do the best job possible. As I watched you grow, I basked in your joy of putting on your pretty dresses, adorned with layers of costume jewelry, parading around the house for your father and me to see. I dreamed often of what path you...

Keep Reading

My Daughter is “Extra” and the World Needs More People Like Her

In: Kids, Motherhood
girl jumping

She is . . . extra. She just is. All the time she is extra sad, and then extra “OMG, Mom-that-was-so-epic-let-me-tell-you-everything.” Extra energetic, then extra I’m too tired to help with any family chores. Extra hungry, then extra refuses to eat the food she just asked for because she’s full. RELATED: In Defense of the Wild Child Extra loves to show how much knowledge she has, then extra doesn’t want to do her homework because she’s too busy “being.” Extra defiant, then extra brings home adorable “I love you, Mom” art from school. There is no middle ground with this...

Keep Reading

Teach Your Kids to Be Kind to Those Who Are Different from Them

In: Kids, Living
Little boy with Down syndrome in pool

On the eve of Zeke starting kindergarten, I have many hopes for my youngest child, mostly that other kids treat those who are different from them with kindness. Or maybe with a slightly sassy, “SO WHAT?” to those who may be being unkind. This summer while on vacation we were having a great time swimming at a pool. There are few places that top a swimming pool in Zeke’s mind. He is SO happy in the water. Zeke was playing in the kiddie pool by himself while I sat at a table nearby. As he played, kids would enter the...

Keep Reading

Your Kids Are Exhausted by the Start of the School Year—Go Easy On Them

In: Kids
Child with tablet on couch

In the first weeks of school, your child has been a rockstar.  They have faced brand new situations—daily—multiple times a day. New people, new friends, new teachers. New schools, new classrooms, new procedures.   They have remembered a billion things. Which bus to ride. Which room to enter. Which hall to turn down. What their schedule is. Which class is next and what book they need for that class. When to be quiet. Where to sit. How to sit. Where the bathroom was. Where to line up. What the directions were. Thirty or so new names. They have been quiet for...

Keep Reading