Posted in Authors, Blog, Featured, Just for you, Life as a mom, Mother, Shawna

Saving it up for mommy

When Quinn was 22 months old, and I was 8 months pregnant, she had her first overnight stay with my parents. We figured doing it then would be better than having her first night away from us be the same night her baby sister arrived. We also thought we could get a romantic date night out of the deal (of course, I kind of ruined that by staying up all night gripping my phone as Todd talked me out of calling to check up on Quinn).

Anyway, she did great. My parents weren’t able to get her to sleep in her Pack N Play, so she ended up sleeping in their bed with them, and they said she slept through the night, though they didn’t, what with little feet kicking their calves and sticky little hands entwining themselves in their hair. They loved it, of course.

I went to pick Quinn up the next morning (I tried not to race out the door to their house but couldn’t help it), and within about five minutes of my arrival, Q threw a tantrum, and then another and then another, and I eventually just hauled her kicking and wiggling little body out of there. “But she was so great with us,” my dad said, confused. “Of course she was,” my mom said. “She was saving it all up for mommy.”

Some people say this, and then wink, like it’s a mommyland joke, like how newborns always seem to want to nurse right when their moms finally sit down to eat, or how kids always seem to fall down and hurt themselves right when you’re trying to sneak off to the bathroom. But “saving it up for mommy,” it being all the fear, confusion, anger and frustration, is real — and it may well be for life.

I first encountered the phenomenon when Q was just a few months old. I noticed that she would manage to hold it togetherĀ during my –occasional– 15 minutes of “me time” (aka showers) only to fall apart the second I returned. Was I imagining things? But then I went to a First Weeks seminar and Ann Keppler described the behavior to a sea of bobbing new mama heads. Even tiny babies save their drama for mama, Ann said, while daddy means giggle party. Even when mama is really fun and daddy is handling baby with kid gloves. Surprisingly enough, being the perennial security blanket has its drawbacks.

A friend of mine with a tween daughter said her daughter’s mama drama hasn’t abated yet. She said she knows to expect hell whenever her daughter comes home after a night at a friend’s house, or after summer camp or a school dance. All of that anxiety, fear, pressure that goes with being an adolescent manages to stay inside while she’s out in the tween world, but she has to explode once she’s back in her safety zone with mom.

Do we do this to our mothers as adults as well? Yep. I shudder to remember my own behavior the night before my wedding, blowing up at my mom when she left the scripts to our wedding rehearsal in her hotel room across town. I was under a lot of stress, yes, and we ended up being unable to run through our ceremony before our wedding, which definitely sucked, and let to a couple of day-of disasters, but still… Did I ever snap at my maid of honor? My new hubby? The person who knocked a candle onto my expensive handmade veil and ruined it? Nope. I was cool and composed. Except to her. (I’ve said it before but it can’t be overstated: I’m sorry, mom.)

Thinking about being the life-long scapegoat for two girls definitely makes my hair stand on end. But like everything with kids, it has a sweet side, too. The world can be a very scary and cruel place and I’m glad my babies will have a safe zone where they can release their fears and anxieties. Especially when they’re angst-ridden teens and tweens, though I’m sure it will be hell. Go ahead, girls: hit me as hard as you can. Mommy can take it.



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  1. I hope they won’t hit me as hard as they can. Sometimes I can’t take it! It’s exhausting but I suppose I’ll survive. Good thing I have my own mom to mother me!

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