Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dear Internet Mom

Note: If you're looking for this week's Hodgepodge questions you'll find them here.

Last Friday I had an errand to run some distance from home. As I was driving I found myself caught up in the dialogue of a call in radio show which centered around a recent online essay written by a mom of two small children (a 3 yo daughter and a 20 month old son). You can read her original post here but essentially she says she loves her son more than her daughter. (Did anyone else think YIKES?!!) She doesn't say she doesn't love her daughter, just that she loves her son more. She went on to write about imaginary worse case scenarios and how she could envision living without her daughter but not without her son...that she hopes this third child she's expecting is a girl so she can "start over with a little girl..."

Do you think people have opinions about this?
You betcha!

I've thought about what she said and did and I've decided I'd like to offer her some free (unsolicited and perhaps unwelcome) advice. In responding to some of the comments she received the author took issue with people offering advice but hello, it's the internet. When you put something out there that might be considered controversial you've got to assume you're going to get some advice. Is that a bad thing? Did she post the confession in hopes of somehow making the relationship with her daughter better or did she publish the confession to make herself feel better?

Dear Internet Mom...

Your words made me sad. For you and especially for your daughter, but for you too. Those must be some hard feelings to feel. Your children are little, still so very, very young...the age where thirty minutes spent with a strong-willed, cranky child can feel like thirty years. At age three a child's personality is not set in stone. Its still forming and developing and you as the mom play a huge role in that. How we respond and react to our children absolutely influences their present and future behavior. If there are qualities in your daughter that are difficult to take then do the hard work of figuring out a way to direct those traits and tendencies in a more positive direction.

And it is hard work.
Really hard.
The kind that means letting go of self for the greater good of your innocent three year old...the kind that pays off in the long run.

When you say you love your son a little bit more than your daughter do you really mean love? Or do you mean 'like' because I do think there's a difference. If what you meant to say was, 'like' then I would say of course there are moments in our kids lives where one may be easier to 'like' than the other. Children go thru stages and phases depending on age and maturity and disposition. Child A plucks our last nerve and pushes our buttons while Child B warms our heart and then suddenly Child A matures a little bit and Child B enters a new stage and your feelings do too. In fact when your 20 month old son is three you may discover he isn't as 'likable' as he is right now.

Hearing a mother say, "I'm having a hard time liking you right now" and knowing your mother has said "I love your brother more than you" are two very different things. One is something we can laugh about later while the other is something that can worm its way into a child's heart never to be forgotten.

The author has written a follow up piece (she kinda had to) in which she defends her 'honesty' and says this needs to be out there in a public forum because she isn't the only one who feels this way. That if we're going to be honest in a 'my house is messy' fashion we need to go all the way and be honest about everything.

My response to this is no-we don't.

I think the idea that everything we think and feel needs to be said out loud is a flaw in our current culture. At the very least it doesn't all need to be said in a public written forum that a once difficult three year old little girl may read down the road someday. She won't be three forever.

Is an internet audience filled with anonymous (and judgmental) readers really the place to go to deal with these feelings? I've never felt what you're feeling but I have no doubt you feel it. And you probably speak for more than a few other parents out there too, but does that mean we need to blog about it? Dear Internet Mom-Before taking it to the internet did you try sharing these feelings with a close friend, sister, minister, spouse or, if none of those options were available, then a neutral third party such as a therapist or even a parent help line as opposed to Blogger and the world wide web?

Why does every thought we have need to be laid bare online just because other people have the same thought?

How does putting this out there help you and your daughter improve your relationship? You've received harsh criticism from one side and amens from the other. In the end though, you are left with your feelings, maybe more guilt than you had prior to writing or perhaps a sense of justification in feeling what you feel because you're not alone, but still, no real solution.

As I listened to callers on one side of the issue or the other what I found myself thinking about was your formerly anonymous, now named by name, 'difficult' three year old little girl. In responding to commenters who say they hope your daughter never reads the post you (the author) say you hope she does. That it will somehow help your daughter understand you were not a perfect parent.

You know what?

Kids don't really want to know the depth of our imperfections.
And as you'll learn soon enough, most kids don't need to think their parents are perfect...only that their parent's love for them is.

She's three. Your son is less than two. You have no way of knowing what life will bring their way and you may one day wonder how you ever entertained thoughts such as these. I pray your daughter never knows. Relationships grow and change and nothing requires our best effort quite like parenting.

At this stage of the parenting game the future likely seems light years away....a distant horizon that will take eons to reach. The day when you no longer have little ones underfoot is so far out along that horizon its impossible to grasp. I can't explain the tricks of time but trust me when I tell you these three year old days will be just a fuzzy blur in the not so distant future.

People say it all the time but cliches are cliches for a reason...time flies.
You can change the way you feel.
You can establish new habits and ways of connecting with a three year old.
You can have a relationship you truly cherish with this girl who will be an adult in the blink of an eye.
At the moment, you are the adult.

There is a lot of life to be lived between now and her grown up days.
Cherish it.

She may one day decide to blog about her mother.
You may think you won't care.

I think you might.


  1. Very well written, Joyce. Thanks for sharing. Blessings, SusanD

  2. Oh my goodness! I can't imagine loving one child more than another. Yes there were times like you refer to that one was easier to like than another but the love was always there unconditionally and still is. Maybe this mom just doesn't understand the difference between love and like. Too sad! Your response was very well-said btw.

  3. Wow I can't believe that a mother could love one child more than another. As a Mom of three very different and unique boys, I could never pick one that I could do without.

    Do they all drive me insane at different (and sometimes the same) time? Yes!

    Do they all have little personality traits that also drive me insane?

    Would I change them?
    Probably not because it is these things that make them who they are. That being said, it is my job as their mother to help them, guide them and live them.

    I'm further sure that there are things that I as their mother do that drive my kids insane, but we are family:). That is one of the things I try to insill in my boys - Families don't always have to get along, like everything nut that you only have one family and you stand by each other!

    Sorry for my long reply:)

  4. I hadn't heard about this, but I think I'll go check her post. However, what you said is so right. I can't imagine putting that out there about my family. I know I try to be very careful what I put. I don't put everything I think and feel on my blog, and I really don't think it's necessary.

    I'm like you, I hope this daughter will never see or hear about the post her mother has written. It's so important that our children know they are loved unconditionally!

  5. What an awesome post. amen to your candid comments. They deserved to be spoken. I am the mother of a grown daughter....and two grown steps....and I would trade any of the pain, laughter, tears, memories for anything on this earth. At any given moment of their lives.

  6. Very well put, and AMEN! I can't imagine feeling that way, let alone putting those thoughts out there for everyone and their brother to read. My mom always told me, and I find it true, that you love each of your children differently. It isn't that you love one more than another, it's a different relationship and a different love...just as deep, but you connect in different ways. My heart aches for this mother and I do hope that she will find ways to love her daughter and strengthen their relationship before the daughter is old enough to realize it and too much damage has been done.

  7. Well said Joyce. I always have a favorite child here - but who that favorite child is varies greatly. As they hit different ages and stages our interactions change. The kid I enjoyed last week may drive me crazy this week and vice versa. I sure hope that mama experiences this too. And for the record? Three year olds can make you lose your mind!

  8. Well said, friend, well said.

  9. She must really be having some strong feelings to put something like that out on the internet. I too feel sorry for her and for her daughter. I wonder if she's always felt this way or if it's a matter of a strong-willed 3-year-old who makes messes and talks back vs a cuddly sweet baby.

    This reminds me of one of my daughters. She likes babies, plain and simple. So her oldest child got pushed aside when baby #2 came along. I can still remember the look in my granddaughter's eyes as she watched her mom cuddle the baby brother and called him her best friend. There was a marked difference in her tone of voice when she talked to the children. Then baby #3 was born and child #2 was basically pushed aside. I've called this to her attention, but so far it hasn't made much difference.

    I wish I could video the interactions and play them back so they could see first hand what they're doing.

  10. You make many excellent points. I hope she sees this or at least gets some of these from someone, somehow.

  11. My heart aches for this little girl. Personally, I can not understand how any mother could not love her children equally. You have written an astute post that the mother ought to read. You have pointed out how time passes in the flash of an eye and words spoken/written cannot be recalled. Children ARE formed by the attitudes and practices of their parents. God help her daughter and bless her.

  12. That poor girl...she didn't have a choice to be born to such an unloving Mother. Women like that shouldn't be allowed to have more kids to mess up. It makes me sick, the little girl deserved to be loved and given the same chances as her brother. Wow really unbelievable!

  13. So well put and with gentleness as well. She will one day eat here harsh words and they will taste very bitter indeed. Well put.

  14. You've gotten some good comments on this one! I, too, kid about one of my boys being my "favorite", but each one of them is my favorite at one time or another, and they know it. I don't think it took them long to figure out that they're all my favorite!
    It sounds like the mom is a very immature, self-centered person. Guess all we can do is pray for her and her daughter.

  15. I hadn't heard about this one. I will keep her daughter in my prayers because she will be deeply affected by this someday. How her mother could say that or even feel that is beyond my comprehension. Makes me sick.

  16. I hadn't heard about this, but your response is beautifully and thoughtfully expressed. I completely agree. I have read some "mommy" blogs lately that have just made me sad. What has happened to modesty and privacy? Is nothing sacred? I agree that not everything needs to be shared so bluntly because once it's on the web, it's there for anyone forever! We can chuckle at Erma Bombeck type motherhood moments, but there should be a line of respect drawn somewhere. Thanks for sharing this.

  17. Hi Joyce - I hadn't heard about this and don't care to follow up at the internet mom's blog. But your summary and comments are great. Parenting is hard and thankfully it changes frequently. A little variety can make it seem easier even if the issues really aren't.