On mothering in the Septembers.


Dear MM,

I wanted to apologize for the quality of our afternoons over the last few weeks. Is it weird for me, your mother, to be apologizing for bad behavior? I’ll tell you a Secret that grown ups often don’t want their kids to know: we have no idea what we are doing. I certainly don’t. Despite having ten years of parenting experience under my belt, I’m still largely figuring out how to do this.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t given an owner’s manual when I had you and I’ve spent the last ten years figuring it out as I go. Sometimes I think I’ve got it all figured out and I make lists and plans and laminate things and pat myself on the back for having it down. But then life happens; and when life doesn’t follow my schedule, I have a tendency to get cranky about it. And sometimes you bear the brunt of that crankiness, along with your sister and father.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve relied heavily on your good nature, your helpfulness and your ability to adapt to any situation and roll with the punches. You make me so proud – I don’t know if you realize this, but I brag about you to pretty much anyone who will listen; about how smart, clever and kind you are. About how much you help out around the house and how you never cease to rise to the occasion in life. Sometimes I may take advantage of these things, but I want you to know that I appreciate them.


You have a lot of responsibilities these days between private school, karate classes, cub scouts and chores around the house and I know you are working your butt off to balance it all. But like every September before this one, we are having a hard time making all the pieces fit right now and I have been dumping my frustrations on you a lot. That isn’t fair to you.

As your mother, I’m supposed to pick you up when you fall and encourage you to keep trying. I’m supposed to tell you that it is okay to fail sometimes and that there are always opportunities to start over and try again. I’m sorry that I sometimes forget how to be that person. It’s not always easy to set aside my own frustrations and problems.

A lot of these frustrations don’t have much to do with you. It’s just me worrying about money and when to cook dinner and feeling bone tired from figuring out the flow of this new school year. It’s me trying to control things that cannot be controlled. It’s not about you.


Sometimes I forget that you are a ten year old kid, doing the best you can. Ten year olds aren’t supposed to spend all day stressed out about these things – that’s what moms are for. I rely on your helpfulness a lot but sometimes I have to remind myself that some things are not your burden. You shouldn’t have to worry about the cost of karate lessons or when I’m going to make dinner and you shouldn’t have to carry the weight of my frustrations. You have your own frustrations to deal with and I’m sorry that I haven’t been a very good cheerleader for you lately.

I’m sure you know how hard it can be to calm down when you are upset – sometimes you take it out on others even when you don’t mean to and even though you’d probably rather calm down and find a rational solution, sometimes the temptation to wallow in our problems is too strong. I’ve taught you little tricks over the years to calm down, but sometimes I forget to do them myself.

Did you know that when people are frustrated they tend to take it out on the people they feel the safest around? That means that sometimes I’m going to throw temper tantrums around you because you are my safe place – that doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t mean that they are your tantrums to control. I want you to know that people can be upset around you and that it doesn’t mean they are necessarily upset with you. Sometimes emotions just point in the wrong direction and it can take awhile to realize you’ve been misfiring them.

I’m not saying I’m never going to dump on you again. I’m human and I’m imperfect and I have a tendency to relearn some things constantly. I know you will spend much of your life trying to learn how to balance it all, too, but for now I want you to focus on being ten. Have fun at school, work hard, dream big and know that even when I am ragging on you about things that I am still your number one fan and that I’m proud of you. There will be good days and bad days for all of us and sometimes we won’t get it right. That’s what tomorrow is for.




2 responses to “On mothering in the Septembers.”

  1. Tondra Denise Avatar

    Love your transparency. Such a gift to him… and (as a fellow mother) also to me!


  2. Kate Unger Avatar
    Kate Unger