To My Strong-Willed Child

Written by Stephanie Gilbert

My dear strong-willed child, I see you.

You might not think that I do, but I really do see you. Through the long and tiresome (did I mention long) evening clean-ups when picking up just one more block seems like an astronomical feat you just CANNOT complete, I see you. Through the preschool work meltdowns when coloring one more leaf on a plant appears to be your personal Mt. Everest, I see you. When you stand there and grimace with pursed lips and nose scrunched just before you release a giant-sized “No! I don’t want to!” I still see you. It might not seem like I do as I hover over you, teeth gritted, barking out orders and threats of discipline as you act out once again. But when tempers calm and you climb meekly into my lap nuzzled closely to my heart and whisper, “I love you, Mommy,” what I’ve been seeing all along is that much clearer. Yes, you are my strong-willed child, but you are so much more.

You are my little leader. It’s obvious as you step into the preschool room the affect you have on the kids around you. They watch what you do. They ask to play with you. And even when you’re bad and push or hit one of these friends, they forgive easily and beg to play with you again. One day you and these other littles will be the big kids, then teenagers, then adults; and you will have a choice to make in each of these stages of life. Will you use that stubbornness and stand-my-ground attitude to lead others toward wise, good decisions, or will you lead them to foolish, reprehensible decisions that will cost you and them far more than you want to pay? You see, your strong will is a gift. It might as well be a super power. Wield it well, my love.

You are ingenuity at its finest … perhaps a little too smart for your own good. When you hear “No” what really processes in that inquisitive mind is “not that way.” So if you couldn’t get that piece of candy by asking, you’ll find a way to make it happen by yourself; and, of course, make sure Mommy is pre-occupied before making your move. With that mind, one day you’ll accomplish greatness. When critics say “you can’t,” you’ll say “watch me.” They say “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” but I say “where there’s a strong will, there are 100 ways.” And you, my darling, will find every last one of them.

You are fiercely independent. The evidence is in your objections to my assistance offered at bath time, teeth brushing time, getting dressed time, and basically every other “time” of the day… except, of course, those times you simply don’t want to … like clean-up time … sigh … but, oh, the battles you’ve waged over doing it all by yourself! One day this independence will drive you to the top. You’ll get that promotion, that raise, that bonus all on your own because in your eyes, there won’t be any other option. You’ll work harder than your peers when your mind is made up about what you really want. And you won’t quit until it’s yours. You, my dear, are a fighter.

As you grow and I’m faced with the struggle between reigning in that strong will and encouraging your growth through it, my heart and hope is to nurture that fire within you, grow it to greatness, not squelch it with my smothering grasp. I pray you’ll use that strong will to change your piece of the planet. After all, all it takes is a little leadership, ingenuity, and independence to change the world as we know it. You, my little one, are a game changer, and even when you don’t think I do, I see you.

Stephanie Gilbert is an OCD mama of three "spirited" children (four if you count the big boy posing as her husband) who blogs at I Literally LOL where you are sure to find lots of love, laughter, and honesty. She also occasionally writes for Her View From Home and dreams of being a published author one day, winning a lifetime supply of Reese's peanut butter cups, and successfully surviving the toddler years. For daily doses of joy, you can follow her on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

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Friday Funnies



Happy Friday! Who is in the mood for a good laugh? 

A friend emailed me this hilarious video the other day, and I just had to share. Oh, and if your kiddos are around, this may be a good time for them to put on their ear muffs.

I think we can all relate to living a secret life as mothers. This mom lays it all out in a frank confession to her children.  Enjoy!

Life After Breastfeeding

I don’t blame other mothers for not breastfeeding. Sometimes, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work. I was lucky to be able to breastfeed my daughter. But after she was born via cesarean, my milk took it's time coming in. I stayed the course, and after a long three days of pumping air and dry feeding my daughter, my milk came in. FINALLY.

The angels swept down and sang a chorus of Hallelujah.

We were in business. She didn’t have much of an issue latching on- girlfriend loved to eat. My supply met her demand, and the months rolled on. We made it through the first year together, and for the most part, she was incredibly content.

She was a momma’s girl too. She loved playing peekaboo with her dad and romping around with her grandparents but she always needed to be near her momma. I was her comfort, her safe place. However, I gradually started to realize, maybe it wasn’t me she was so crazy about.

With mobility came new scratches and bruises and the inevitable cry to mom when she acquired either. She would predictably nestle her head in my bosom, and boo boo (yes, boo boo) would save the day. I breastfed her after shots at the doctor’s office, when she was feeling tired after a long day, and of course during her six mealtimes too.

She was a milkaholic, and I was her all-you-can-drink wet bar.

I knew we couldn’t stay on this course. Being in public was difficult. Sometimes she would pull down my shirt down while I was holding her. Oh and the teeth. I was suffering abuse at the hand (teeth) of a 15 month-old. My boobs were screaming “save me while I still have nipple sensation!!!” I knew it was time, and boy was she going to resent me for it.

I felt guilty just thinking about weaning her. I set goals and timelines to begin weaning and then I watched them pass right by. I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Looking back, it’s as if I wanted to continue the feedings as much as she did. Was I the one relying on breastfeeding as emotional support? The sores on my breasts told me yes. They became more frequent (and disgusting), and finally my husband intervened. He had watched me beat myself up for months about weaning her, and he finally called me out. We all knew it was time.

We slowly decreased our amount of feedings until one weekend after a two-day long girls trip, I decided there would be no more. And to my surprise, she never missed a beat. In fact, what happened in the weeks to follow baffled me: we became closer. We had exchanged the bond that had kept us so close in the infant months for a new, stronger relationship. Stronger because she wasn’t using me for my boobs.  Suddenly she wanted to give me kisses, cuddles, and hugs, with no expectation of boo boo. No quid pro quo necessary. She was loving me without the distraction of breastfeeding. 

I wasn’t the only one who noticed this new phase of loveliness. After she was off the breast, she immediately began gravitating toward my husband. She loved it when he fed her sweet potatoes and rocked her to sleep. He could walk into a room and she would throw her hands up, and beg for him to hold her. This rarely happened before we weaned. And why would it? He didn’t have the milk jugs.

Her relationships were now becoming more meaningful, and her cuddles more genuine.

Just a few weeks post weaning, I knew the truth: For us, life was better on the other side of breastfeeding. I’m thankful for being able to breastfeed her in the first several months of her life, and I’m thankful for the bond it created. But, now I’m thankful it’s over. We simply outgrew it. Now our relationship is built on something much stronger than the principles of supply and demand- it’s built on love. And my “boo boos” are rejoicing.  




Finding My Cool Again

When I was in my early twenties I used to bust out song lyrics on demand. I could transform into Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopez before you could rattle out a request for TLC. Embarrassing I know. I was usually tipsy or worse. But I had the confidence to do it, warranted or not. I was young and I could act immature and all my friends (probably out of obligation) would laugh.

I paid attention to trendy clothes and I watched the Fashion Police without fail. Florals in, peplum out. I rented the runway and rocked oxfords for the two weeks they were in style. Makeup trends? Gotcha. Pinky rings? Got those too. 

I was my own carefree version of cool, and comfy in my skin.

My (now) husband and I used to joke, “At what point do people start getting old and stop being cool?” We always agreed on the same answer: when kids come along. Was it true? I didn't know for sure, but I put the theory to the test.

It was wedding season and I was very pregnant when the DJ turned on Uptown Funk.  I screeched "I LOVE THISSSS SONG!!!!!.  I wanted to dance so badly but my 7 month-old fetus bounced every time I jumped. I didn't need help feeling awkward on the dance floor- I could do that all by myself. But now I felt like a whale, and probably looked worse.

It was then that I realized: it's happening. I'm transitioning -- from cool to lame. How long would it be before I chopped off my hair to look like Kate Plus 8 and started wearing bermuda shorts? Or worse, when would I start chatting with fellow moms about our babies' bowel movements and the best brands of almond milk?

I’m so not ready for this, I thought.

But it didn’t happen that way. Thank God. Our precious baby girl was born and I surprisingly didn’t morph into Claire Dunphy over night. However, there were some subtle changes I couldn’t help but notice.

It took a while for me to feel worthy of listening to good music after I had the baby. I don’t know why. I just felt stupid, like I wasn't cool enough. I didn’t feel like perusing Pinterest for clothing ideas anymore because I was too busy googling sleep training methods online. Plus, I knew what I looked like in clothes- just put me in a mumu and call it a day.

When I met up with my childless friends I struggled to find anything to talk about. What is wrong with me? I felt like a stranger in my own skin.

I realized my preoccupation with getting old had infiltrated my life. I was playing into the story I thought would happen when people have children. Maybe it was American society or just my perception, but somewhere down the line I was taught that when a woman has a child, she is forever locked into a lame life.

I decided that wasn’t going to be my life.

Yes so much has changed for me over the last several months, but... I’m still me. And now more than ever,  I realize it is important to straighten my hair - every other Friday - and download the new Lumineers album just because. I may have to work harder to find the time and motivation, but I must self-preserve. I must self-preserve. I have to do the things that make me feel like myself again even if it means getting up a little earlier in the morning or asking my husband to take over bath time.

So much of my identity is wrapped up in being a mother. But there’s more good stuff here than just being mom. And if I don’t hold on to the things that comprise who I am, then what will I turn into? And more than that, if I’m unhappy and uncomfortable in my own skin, what will my children turn into?

Is 'cool' even a cool word anymore? Probably not. But the other night I danced while singing Uptown Funk (just call me a one woman show), and let me modestly say I slayed it. My toddler in her bunny-toed pajamas clapped her hands and giggled with approval. I felt cool. 

It Gets Better: An Essay On The Raw Truths Of Motherhood In Those First Few Months

I’ve waited 41 ½ long weeks and alas, she is here. She is beautiful and healthy and I can’t believe she is mine.  After a few nights stay in the hospital, her dad and I get to take her to the home we have spent weeks carefully curating to her every need. 

I. Can’t. Wait. These are going to be the best years of my life. “Enjoy them,” everyone tells me.

My husband has taken four days off work. “That’s plenty,” I tell him. I know I can handle this. As soon as I can walk upright (darn C-section), it will be smooth sailing. Just help me out of the car…

Night two post hospital- Breastfeeding is hard, really hard. Not so much the physical act of feeding her, but the dependency on me for basically everything. I am her lifeline, and her only source of nourishment. I am keeping her alive-- just me...

Just me.

Week one is in the books. My days are spent cleaning spit up, and washing onesies. But I often stare at her in my arms (did she just smile at me?), and wonder how I made something so precious. I count down the minutes until my husband gets home from work so I can catch up on sleep. But when he’s home, I want to talk. I want to at least pretend to be normal, like my old self. I ask him about life on the outside, and revisit the conversations he had with co-workers and clients.

Must be nice, I think.

I am bitter and jealous, and of my husband for God’s sake. Why? For going to work while I have to, um get to, stay at home with our new daughter. What kind of terrible person am I to resent these first few weeks with my lovely infant?

Sleep-deprived. That’s what I am. And painfully new to this game. I’m too fresh as a mother to realize that its okay for a baby to cry once in a while. It’s okay if my abdominal scar is too sore to take her out for strolls. It’s okay if my armpits don’t smell fresh as a freaking daisy. It’s ok if I’m not a natural at this motherhood game right off the bat.

A few weeks go by and I’m cooking again. My husband raves about how much he enjoyed his dinner, while I bounce the baby on my shoulder in an effort to calm her. He of course offers to take her, but she isn’t happy that way. He doesn’t have milk free-flowing out of his nipples.

It's in this moment I feel as if I have no more of myself to give. I have trimmed away any shred of excess vanity, and now I felt stripped down to the core. Is this motherhood? Is this what I have been waiting my entire life to experience?


Yes, it is.

Cooking meals you don’t get to enjoy, sacrificing your sleep so your child can eat, giving away your time and energy with no expectance of anything in return. That is motherhood, but only in the beginning. 

 I look back at these memories with both anxiety and appreciation.  No one tells you that in those first few months of motherhood, you will grow and change even more than your infant child. Your emotions will be so jumbled up that you won’t know if you are crying tears of joy or straight up sorrow. You will be stripped away of most of your selfish behaviors, and be forced to let them go. You will miss watching three hour marathons of Real Housewives of New Jersey, but you will be better for it.

Slowly but surely you will piece yourself back together, and this time you will build yourself more carefully with characteristics you would want your daughter to admire. You will learn that cuddle time with your family will trump even the best mani/pedi. And that keeping a healthy mind and body is an important example to set early on. You can still pick and choose your indulgences (wine), but there will be less of them. And that’s ok. 

Nowadays, I am receiving so much more from my little girl than I could even begin to give. Her love for me is unwavering, and oh the snuggles. I am reaping what I have sewn. And let’s get real, it isn’t all smooth sailing. We still have plenty of crying spells and skinned knees. But the days get better, and richer.

The memories of sleepless nights, chapped nipples, and that heavy, heavy feeling of inadequacy are still fairly recent in my mind. The truth is sometimes during those first couple months, motherhood seems grossly overrated. But hang in there momma. It gets better quickly, and so will you.