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One Thing We Need to Stop Saying to Moms With Young Kids

Photograph by Twenty20

There's one mothering catch phrase that never fails to make my blood boil. Perhaps you, too, have heard it:

"Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems."

Ugh. Just no.

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I can pretty much guarantee that any mom who ever said that to me (and, yes, there have been more than a few) has never experienced a toddler with a terminal illness, an elementary school-aged son or daughter with life-threatening allergies, autism, bullying, congenital heart defects, divorce in the early years of parenting, living in a gang- or drug-riddled neighborhood, or untold other problems that are the domain of parenting little ones.

While I know some of you are rolling your eyes at me (and that's cool), let me make my case.

When a more seasoned mom meets the young mother's concerns with that wrinkled old chestnut, "Little kids, blah blah blah," what that young mother hears is that she is being silly, that her problems are not consequential, that what worries her is trivial.

"Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems," is generally a clichéd response to a young mother complaining or fretting or worrying about something that, in the moment, doesn't feel so little to her.

Maybe she is worried about a 9-month-old who won't eat solid food. Or an 18-month-old in a hitting phase. Those terrible 2s she always heard about seem to have only worsened in the 3rd (and 4th) year. Her 6-year-old is struggling in school and having behavior problems. Her 8-year-old twins are isolating socially, keeping to themselves and not able to make new friends.

For the most part, those problems seem like a passing phase, transitory in nature. In a few weeks or a month, all will be well.

Right?

Well, yes, possibly they will. That still doesn't address the worry that exists today for that young mother.

When a more seasoned mom meets the young mother's concerns with that wrinkled old chestnut, "Little kids, blah blah blah," what that young mother hears is that she is being silly, that her problems are not consequential, that what worries her is trivial. Most importantly, her take away is, JUST WAIT, IF YOU THINK IT IS BAD NOW, YOU WILL LEARN IT GETS SO MUCH WORSE.

Words matter and are powerful tools that can easily bring us closer together or create unnecessary distance.

What kind of message is that about motherhood? Is parenthood just an endless path of ever-increasing troubles? Sheesh. Maybe I should slit my wrists now and just get it over with.

My guess is that, like with most clichés, the intent is separate and apart from the message. Let's give veteran moms the benefit of the doubt and believe that what they are trying to convey is, for the most part, a young child's problem is more easily solved with a kiss and a Band-Aid than an older child's problem. That's not always true or accurate, but details, details, emirate?

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Words matter and are powerful tools that can easily bring us closer together or create unnecessary distance. The next time the phrase, "Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems" enters your mind, before it crosses your lips, I hope you remember my words and offer some other type of comfort or support to that young mother who, for whatever reason, is struggling in ways big and small.

Maybe start with, "Little kids. Man, I totally get it."

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