This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

Four years

Leta has recently stolen three of my delicious lip glosses, the pineapple, lime and mango-flavored ones, and this morning she begged me to let her wear the dress with the pockets so that she could take one to school and keep it with her all day. I think several of her friends are also into lip gloss, and just yesterday when I dropped her off she ran right up to one of Her Kids, as she likes to call them, and they immediately starting applying a stick of lip gloss to one another. Yeah, not so sanitary, I guess, and maybe I could have tackled them both before they shared saliva, but considering the gigantic worms of green snot I’ve seen smeared across the faces of certain kids in her class I’m thinking, shit, she hasn’t contracted The Typhoid yet, you go right ahead and share those germs. If you start sucking on each other’s noses, well then, we’ll have a little talk.

The previous day as we were walking to the car after school she spotted a discarded red Twizzler on the ground in the parking lot and headed straight for it going, OOOH! And I was all, look, I may be Southern, but I am not that Southern, don’t you even think about putting that in your mouth. And she said, why? And I said because that is just gross. And she said, you mean like Daddy’s toots? And I said, exactly!

So we’re in the car this morning, and she’s in the back seat applying half the tube of lime-flavored lip gloss to her face, only occasionally on her lips, and she starts asking about where people live. Where does Grandmommy live? How about Papaw? And after we get through the list of the whole family she asks if I have always lived in Salt Lake City. And it’s just so weird that she can conceptualize enough to even consider that I might have lived elsewhere. It struck me really hard this morning that here I am having a multi-level conversation with my daughter, my very adorable daughter whose cheeks are covered in an inch-thick crust of lime lip gloss.

I remember when I used to wonder what her voice would sound like when she learned how to talk.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been going through collections of old photos from the first years of her life, or perhaps it’s because the anniversary of my stay in a mental hospital is this month, but this morning I felt like I needed to say something to someone out there who may need to hear this right now like I did so badly back then: it gets so much better.

In fact, better is not even a word that can do it justice. There are very simple times that I’m with her, when I’m brushing her hair or watching her read herself a book on her bed, when the feeling that comes over me is not unlike how it was when I was a kid walking through the gates at an amusement park knowing that I was going to have the most awesome, most memorable day. And it’s not the feeling of riding the roller coaster or being allowed to eat an entire bag of cotton candy, it’s the feeling before all that. It’s the excitement, the anticipation, the general sense of being in one of my favorite places.

When Leta was born I thought I would automatically feel this way, and many women do. But I did not. And I did not know if I would ever get here. So many women reached out to me to let me know they had gone through the same crisis and came out the other side, and it was the hope they gave me that pulled me through. If you happen to be in that place right now, I want you to know that it gets so much better. And one day you’re going to be having a complex conversation with that baby who is screaming her head off right now, and you’re going to go, holy shit, I made it. You will make it.

  • First just let me agree with everyone else about how lucky your little girl is. And how nice it is that you are appreciating all these stages of her life. I loved age four, and five, and six, and on up. I’m even appreciating them at 16 and 18. Each different stage brings such new steps for them and for us as parents. What an advocate you are. If someone was giving me a hard time, I would totally want you on my side.

  • Erin

    So funny and so true – my ‘baby’ is 19 years old now and I still remember how very long the days were. S O V E R Y L O N G… Each day was five million screaming minutes long, but each YEAR has just flown by. Enjoy. All of it. It absolutely positively does get better. Promise.

  • That’s the beauty of the medium, this writing on the web. Some women needed to read this today. They healing they receive from this post will give them a little hope, some courage to carry on. But months (or even years) from now, this post will still be here, living and breathing in the archives. And that mother–a mother who is perhaps just a teenager, now–will receive this same message and feel a smile return to her heart for the first time in months.

    (Oh, and as much as love the new masthead, so bummed it doesn’t say “Because of Napoleon’s penis.”)

  • Ebeth

    You gave me goose bumps! Thank you for this……

  • Anonymous

    thank you heather. i’m now crying at my desk.

  • For me it was different…I always worried when my son was little if it would ever be this good “again.” and I now that he is 12, I speak with confidence when I say it just keeps getting better and better and I am only a little worried about the teen years.

  • lisa

    beautiful.

  • And just when you get there and are loving life with your children, they leave for college!

  • Liz W_G

    It does get better and better.

    I just sent my 21 year old to the liquor store because we are out of triple sec and we need it for the monster margaritas we are making at the beach next week. She drives, she is legal, and this is the pay back for cleaning up all those bodily fluids.

  • Kate

    Thank you for this.

    My guy is 21 months, and we’re enjoying him very much right now, but it is still so much fun to think about when we’ll be able to really talk and communicate.

    I know that feeling you describe. I think it’s love and joy at its purest.

  • Thanks for sharing. I’m having so many of these wow moments with my 2 boys right now (in between all the crazy, please don’t put that in your mouth moments) and I’m looking forward to these moments with my daughter who is just 4 months. I have been able to help so many women through PPD myself after struggling with my 2nd child badly and reading ALL of what you wrote through your struggle. Thanks. Keep up the amazing work!!

  • Shelly

    awesome. awesome. awesome.

    I am One Of Those Moms that went through the same thing and congratulate you to the highest degree for still discussing it even though you ARE on the other side. There are MANY women today that read this and you gave them hope.

    Bravo.

  • Julie

    Been there, done that. You are on the money! It gets way, way better when you reach the day of not only not wanting to pinch your child’s head off, but you actually look forward to the fun little moments.

  • Lori

    Thanks for this, Heather. I have a five week old and am just now getting over the hump. It was not all dreams-come-true for me at the beginning either, and I had a bit of depression over how very hard it is living with an infant. But, hard as it is, it truly, honestly does get better. I’m so glad that you brought this up again, because there are so many people out there who have felt or are feeling the same way.

  • Thank you for all that you do. I consider myself blessed that I have made it through the first 3 months with my daughter with no major breakdowns, something that I didn’t believe possible; oh, how I worried I would be the type of mother to end up on the evening news. (thanks also to the scientists for bringing me Zoloft, my savior) I know the day may come when I think ~ I WILL NOT MAKE IT THROUGH THE DAY, but I will remember your words and know that things do get better.

  • So I’ll be the five hundred and umpty umpth person to say “ditto” and “what she said.” Because I made it all the way from Don’t Want Kids Ever to Hey Honey Let’s Get Pregnant, and was still scared shitless the day the test stick was positive. And found out that the first 6 weeks of babyhood are absolute parenting boot camp, and while you love your child (who doesn’t, right? even if you don’t have warm fuzzies in your chest every day), there are days when you wish you could somehow put them on pause for even just a few minutes while you rest or sleep or wash your damn hair.

    And then you wind up with a beautiful 4-year-old who is figuring out how to tell jokes, and can have mini-conversations with you on the phone, and who can express such complex thoughts out of the blue as “God is everyone’s lovey.” And who says to you every morning “Goodbye, mommy, I love you, see you tonight!”

    Gosh, sniff! Can’t wait to see my silly monkey tonight.

  • Liz in Sandy

    And when you reach the excruciating teen years, know that there will be a day when she’s 22 when you will go to lunch, or on a trip to the beach and you will gab like best friends, share makeup and clothes, and she will once again think you are the smartest person she’s ever known.

  • Lori

    Even if your mom does think you’re going straight to hell- I don’t care what she says, you’re pretty awesome. It’s been said a million times or more, but you are. THe only thing I dislike about blogs is that sometimes you find one like yours. Very rarely. And then you’re like, I want to be friends with this person. And it’s pretty much impossible. But yeah, if I lived in SLC, I’d be stalking your ass to friend you up. Have a nice weekend and I’ll be looking for your next post.

  • You are so fucking awesome

  • Isn’t it mind-blowing when little kids who couldn’t do more than babble at you before suddenly start speaking in complete sentences and communicating their actual thoughts to you?? It just boggles my mind!

  • Lesley

    Wait, you post about lip gloss and don’t disclose the brands…!!!? Please do share as I enjoy lip gloss almost as much as Leta.

    Btw, I want to thank you for sharing that remarkable story of the girl in the window. I couldn’t read it all at once and realize I could never be a detective because if I’d walked in on something like that with a gun at my disposal I’d have shot the mother dead on the spot.

    How humanity can simultaneously suck so blindlingly heartbreakingly hard and also be so wonderfully generous and good will forever be a mystery. I will never understand it.

  • You rock…posts like these are EXACTLY what I needed to hear after having my son two years ago. It really did get better. And it sounds like it keeps getting better. Your honesty about PPD is what brought me here; lots of other content keeps me here.

    I’m going to remember this post when I have the next baby in about three weeks. It WILL get better. This time, I have proof – my little guy who walks and talks.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Heather – sweet post, but what is it that formed your opinion of southerners as toothless cavemen with poor sanitation habits who eat food off the ground? think of the old southern aunt or granny – their houses are always impeccable. Thinking you’ve been gone from Memphis WAY too long to make those kinds of generalizations. I’ve seen worse hygeine habits in NYC many a time than I’ve ever seen her in the south where I’m a lifelong denizen.

  • I just read through a handful of comments, and I hope you truly realize what a huge difference you make in so many people’s lives. You helped me, and have clearly helped so many others; not just today, but every day. You rock.

  • Julie

    As always…WELL SAID!

  • I think you should buy Leta some Love’s Baby Soft to go along with the lip glosses. And maybe leg warmers, too.

  • micahmaranda

    You know, I am 31, and so afraid of having a child, which I plan to do within 2 years with my wonderful fiance. I am scared that I will look at her/him and think, “What the fuck??” or, “Jesus Christ, what did I get into?”

    But your blog gives me comfort. I am on Zoloft and am slowly weaning supplements into my diet so that when I am pregnant, maybe the transition won’t be as difficult (I plan to nix pharmaceuticals altogether). I’ve had 3 miscarriages, and am afraid of the toll anti-depressants will have on me, yes, but mostly my baby in the long run.

    Reading about your hardships, the strength Jon had to deal with your shit (wait- that’s funny now, right?), and the strength you had to admit your faults and ask for help really made me believe I will be a good mother. I know in my heart I will, however, you of all people know how difficult it is to listen to your heart when your Crazy is telling you otherwise. I truly appreciate that you are forthcoming about the fact that you were NOT MATERNAL AT ALL at first but the beauty of life itself made you that way, because I fear I will not be maternal AT ALL but will also fail to subsequently appreciate life as it comes. I hope you realize by now that you give just as much, if not more, than you take. I would bless you if I weren’t so damn agnostic.

    Thank you for your words,

    Micah

  • I am 32 weeks pregnant right now and this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. I can’t wait to hear my son talk…….and right now, I can’t wait to hear him scream. I am sure that will get old really quick though!

  • Such a timely post for me. My daughter is 11 now. I had her when I was 17, and have raised her on my own for all of her 11 years. And while I’ve always loved her madly, oh my god was it flipping hard sometimes. I used to think I was a ‘bad mother’ (dun-dun-DUN) because I wasn’t in that place that I felt most mothers were in, where they spent every moment enjoying their children and their motherhood and every facet of that part of their existence. I loved my child, and we had fun together a whole hell of a lot of the time, but so much of the time I just felt so spent, so burnt out, frustrated, hopeless in parenting, terrified that every single thing I was doing was lining her up for another 5 years of therapy… And now, as she moves into her budding adolescence, while it certainly isn’t easy, I’ve recently just felt so relieved. She’s a fantastic little human being, she amazes me every day, and I see our years ahead of us spanning out into this beautiful relationship. Deluded, perhaps, as she is about to enter middle school and probably start telling me how much she hates me when I won’t let her wear a trampy skirt out of the house. But I think we’re good.
    Thanks for your post, and all of them. I discovered your blog recently after hearing you on RadioWest and have been completely enthralled and entertained and inspired.
    Rock on with your badass self mama.

  • Wow — the lipgloss obsession didn’t start for me & my friends until 5th grade. I’m still pissed that Lisa Heron stole my bubblegum Lipsmacker and then tried to deny it, even though my name was still on the tube. Wench.

  • Anonymous

    I need to let you know that you wrote this post for me today. Right before I turned on the computer, I had just made the call to a therepist who is going to help me with my PPD. My baby is 9.5 months and things just haven’t been getting better in my mind. I enjoy every last ounce of my baby…. just not any part of myself or my hubby. I really appreciate you writing this today. I only started reading you recently, but I have been hooked ever since. I am so glad I checked you today!!!

  • Carrie

    One of your most beautiful posts EVER.

  • Lisa

    and after 18 years when you are finally used to having them around, they tear your heart out when they leave and go to college. Watching “my baby” load up his car was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

  • Thanks for sharing. I have 3 kids under six years old. I’m totally in love with each of them, but sometimes I don’t know if I can make it. I have complex conversations with the older 2, but then they go and do something that makes me wonder if it will ever get better.

    I know you’re already there with Leta, and my situation is different, but thanks for reminding me that it does indeed get better.

  • I know that feeling. I had it on and off. Never consistently. I’m at the stage that you are now. My husband keeps encouraging me to get another job to raise capital for my business. I don’t want to leave her for extended periods. I can always make “more and more and more” money. I can’t get this time back when I get to just sit and watch her across the room for as long as I want. She’s pretty much the coolest human I’ve ever met.

  • Kristi

    Leta is almost exactly six months older than my little gal, and I hope six months from now we are having a day like that, because this week my daughter is trying to be a teenager — surly, sullen, moody, and this morning she even attempted to give me the silent treatment and, I kid you not, she gave me shit about the clothes I was wearing. She turns four next week. God help me.

  • Lisa

    oh and one more thing….I had my last kid when I was 40. I started menopause when I was 45. I tell my daughter I am out of “mothering hormones” and that is why sometimes I really can’t stand to have her around (she’s 14).

    Have your kids young, but not too young.

  • I am one of those mothers that needed to hear this today. Baby 1 is 2.5, baby 2 is 7 weeks. I’ve been feeling guilty for looking forward to their getting older, scolding myself for not being in the moment. And there *is* such sweetness in moments now, but it’s a rollercoaster fueled by too little sleep. A thousand thanks.

  • sarah

    Thank you, thank you, thank YOU. Our first baby had colic or some other mysterious screaming all day and night disease and I loved him, I guess, but I did not like him at all. It was horrible and I felt like I was horrible and who can you tell that won’t agree and judge you even just a little bit? Thank you for letting us know its ok.

    Oh, and the baby is nine now. He’s funny and smart and awesome. Not remotely like the serial killer I invisioned my lack of instant baby bonding would produce.

  • ma2one

    You sound so complete as a family.

  • blake

    dear heather,

    i read your blog even before i became a mother myself. your advice is bang on, and i pass it along to all my first-time-parent friends.

    whatever that kid is doing–screaming all night, giggling through dinner, scampering around with a diaper on their head–it will come to an end.

    endure the hair-raising stuff, and enjoy the good stuff while it lasts–they won’t still be doing it when they’re 18. you might even miss it someday.

    thanks for honesty, and the fab pics of your adorable babe. i’ll be back again tomorrow…

  • Amy

    As a teacher I can tell you that the fact that Leta can volley back and forth in a conversation is a big thing! I think you have a smarty pants on your hands.

  • When does it get better? Everyone keeps telling me it will get better. Everyone said things get better after the terrible twos. Whoever said that either doesn’t have my child or is on crack. My 3 1/2 year old son is very spirited and I think it has become more and more challenging the older he has gotten. He does the “but why” thing, too! So, if four the magic age? Is it me since I suffer from depression?

  • Badgergirl

    Thank you for that. I spent about 6 weeks being guilt ridden that I was not the blissful mother “enjoying every minute!” (as those birth announcement from friends always said). I started reading your archives then, and it was such a relief to hear someone to tell it like it really is.

    Now I’m watching my 8-week-old sleep, in an actual proper nap. She became a real person to me only about a week ago, and I am just starting to feel like I really can do this.

  • I know you know, but I sure wish someone could have told me this when I was having so much trouble. You’re right on, it gets WAY better, and faster than it feels like it will. That’s what got me, back in my bad days, that feeling like THIS WILL NEVER END. But it does, and when I look back, I can’t help but think how fast it all flew by. And thank GOD it did.

    rock on, heather b. armstrong. you are my hero.

    oh, and have you had enough of the Clog talk? Your darling man is KILLING ME with his tweets. love it.

    xo

    b.

  • You know, it makes me wonder how many moms would do well to have some sort of “mom retreat” – some kind of decompression time – that didn’t have the stigma of a mental hospital, and was affordable, and could give the same or similar treatment. I can guarantee you’re not the only one who ever went through that. I wonder how many babies…how many mother child relationships…or even how many husband or wife relationships could be saved.

  • Oh do I know that feeling well. My son is almost 5 years old. And for the past 4 years and 316 days I’ve yearned for a time before I had my son – when I didn’t have to deal with the constant WHY and YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME.

    My son starts kindergarten on Sept 3rd. Now I’m a blubbering mess – I want my baby back.

  • oh, that’s adorable and so sweet. First of all, Leta is beautiful; those eyes! those lips! that hair! gorgeous. and her baby pics (i’ve seen lately) are so freaking cute I cannot handle it. I am in the “working on getting pregnant” phase and hopefully I’ll get to feel and see all the wonderful things you and other parents get to – very soon 🙂

  • Thanks for this beautiful post, Heather. I’m unexpectedly pregnant with baby #4, and my oldest is 3. (Yes, you read that correctly. Can anyone tell me how that happens? Evidently I don’t know.) 🙂 Anyway, the baby phase is also hardest for me as well, so this reminder is really beautiful and refreshing.

    Have a great weekend!

  • I’m 51 years old and my dear Mom is still having postpartum depression over me. Just kidding of course – Mommy loves me. I just wish I could figure out where she moved away to?