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10 Secrets I Want My Children to Know About Being Their Mom

Photograph by Twenty20

I want my sons to grow up knowing their mother loved them very much, but I also want them to know they are only part of my life. From the times I've had to dash out of the room because they've made me cry with their sweetness to the times I have hardly slept for worrying over them, these are the parts of me they never see but I want them to know.

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My sweet, wonderful, wild little boys,

I’m your mom. You know that, you’ve known that before you even knew where your own feet were. But what you know about me as Mama is not the same as what I know about myself as your mother. I have secrets you know nothing about. And while I don’t exactly lie to you, I might—sometimes—stretch the truth just a little bit in order to keep my secrets.

I suppose the time will come when you will be old enough to know my secrets, but you might not want to. Because, after all, no matter how tall you grow (and you’re both growing by leaps and bounds), you will still be my babies. And so Mama might keep her secrets and you might not discover what it is to be a parent with secrets until you are a parent yourself. Who knows? But for now I will write these down, before you can read, so that if you ever ask, I will be able to say, “Here you go. Here’s what you didn’t know.”

1. You make me cry.

It’s not a bad thing, I promise. You break my heart into a million little pieces over and over again. Your sweetness, your ability to reach out for my hand—or each other’s—and give it a simple squeeze, is more than I can take sometimes. You have great big loving and compassionate hearts and it's what I love most about you. Never lose that sweetness, OK? The world needs more of that. So do I.

2. I worry about you all the time.

Walking you to the door at school is hard—you have no idea.

I want you to be brave and independent, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it when I let you out of my sight. Walking you to the door at school is hard—you have no idea—and I stand there and watch until you’ve gone inside and rounded the corner before I head back to my car. And that’s school! I have no idea how I’m going to handle you going on sleepovers or field trips without me.

3. I freak out when you get hurt.

Yeah, I know you don’t believe me, but every time you come to me with a scraped up knee or blood dripping down your hand where you cut yourself (with scissors you weren’t supposed to have), I lose it. No, you don’t see me freaking out—all you see is Mama saying, “You’re fine, it’s not bad at all. Let’s get a Band-Aid.” But I promise you, there have been times when I had to swallow hard and focus on the task at hand or else I wouldn’t started balling over my baby being hurt.

4. You drive me crazy sometimes.

Is this a secret? Maybe not. But I doubt you realize just how maddening you can make me sometimes. How could someone so young and inexperienced be so capable of pushing every last one of my buttons? I swear, you have a manual I don’t know about that tells you just how to pluck my last nerve. (Maybe you have your own secrets, hmm?)

5. I miss you when you’re sleeping.

I know, I’m usually a frazzled, aggravated mess by dinnertime and those last couple of hours before you go to bed seem to be a battle of wills (and you win more often than you think, my stubborn darlings), but once you’re asleep and the house is quiet and put back together, I do miss you. I miss your laugh and your snuggles and I look forward to when you’re old enough to stay up past 8 p.m. without losing your minds.

6. I also miss when you were younger.

You’re growing up and I love watching all of the wonderful stages you’re going through. It’s amazing to see you grow and become more confident and understanding of the world around you. But I look at the pictures from when you were babies and I miss those days, too. I miss the soft weight of you against my chest, the smell of your milk-breath on my cheek, the days when I was your whole world—and you were mine.

7. And I miss the time before you were born.

Your father and I—we not only love each other a lot, we really like each other, too. We had—still have—an amazing relationship. But having kids shifted most of the couple time to family time and I miss it sometimes. It helps that we’ve had some great babysitters who’ve given us a break here and there so we could go on dates. And as much as you’ve grumbled about it, I know you’ve loved your babysitters as much as we’ve loved that little bit of alone time. I don’t have any regrets or resentments simply because I see how fast the years are flying and realize that, before too long, you’ll be grown and I’ll be wishing you’d come home for family time. Life is funny like that.

Even though you’re little, and feel like you have no say in anything, your effect on me has been profound.

8. But I really am enjoying every day with you.

Being a mother feels like finding the balance between always missing some other moment in time and living in the current moment. Sometimes you come to me and say you’re bored or you don’t like anything, and I laugh because I remember feeling the same way when I was your age. I tell you it’s OK to be bored once in awhile because it makes you appreciate the exciting days. But even when my days with your aren’t exciting, I still appreciate this time with you. I don’t need to be told to enjoy these years—I already am. I know it’s fleeting and even when it’s not easy, there is a voice in the back of my head that says, “Remember this. It won’t last.”

9. OK, here’s the truth: I do stay up after you go to bed and I do watch TV and I do eat snacks.

There, I’ve admitted it. I know, I know, I have told you that I do some work after you go to sleep (and I do—making school lunches is work!) and then go to bed, but that’s not true most nights. But hey, if I told you that your father and I stayed up watching TV and eating snacks, you’d want to stay up, too. So it’s for your own good (and ours) that we maintain the illusion that fun only happens when you’re awake. Trust me, it’s for the best.

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10. You make me a better person.

This is the one thing I do want you to know, even if I never tell you how watching you get stitches made me feel like passing out or that I was the one who ate the last of the cookies. I want you to know that even though you’re little, and feel like you have no say in anything (you make me laugh when you say, “I can’t wait until I’m a grownup so I can be in charge!”), your effect on me has been profound. You’ve taught me about patience and humility, about time management and priorities, about not giving a damn about what other people think and being kind, always (or at least as much as I possibly can). You’ve taught me to laugh at myself and to work harder to be the mom you deserve. I’m better for knowing you, my loves. And if I keep that a secret right now it’s only so you won’t use it as leverage to get a later bedtime.

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