The Secret to Being a Good Mother: Cake and Tiger Bites

From the time she was born, I have had moments of feeling like I don’t know how to be a good mother to my daughter. Those moments seem to be happening more and more often these days.

The irony of the situation is not lost on me: that she is so much like me, yet at times I seem incapable of parenting her in a way that doesn’t end up with frustration and tears across the board. I should know her better. I should know myself better.

Or maybe that is precisely the problem. Maybe I know all too well what her reaction will be to the request/consequence/suggestion/encouragement I have in my arsenal, because it is exactly the same as mine would be. I know the magnitude of stubborn I am up against. I know how hard it will be for her to give in or admit she is wrong. I know I am facing the same challenges with her that others face with me. So I know the likely outcome before the battle of wills even begins. And I feel defeated before I ever try.

Except for those times when she surprises me, and I realize that maybe I’m doing okay. Maybe she won’t turn out like me after all. Or maybe she will, and that’s not such a bad thing.

Last week, my daughter needed to have some blood drawn. As with most kids, the mere thought of it terrified her. I tried to ease her fears by telling her I’ve had blood drawn many times, and it really just feels like a little pinch. However, I knew before I even spoke that my words would do nothing. Sure enough, she answered me with the logic that I ALSO said getting her ears pierced would only feel like a pinch, but it was basically the worst pain she had ever felt in her life. And that made me a liar whose pain gauges could never again be trusted. She had also decided that she did not care about the doctor’s orders, and she was going to cover her arms and not let the needles anywhere near her veins.

Sigh. Another battle of wills. And the worst kind: where she doesn’t really have a choice in the matter, even though she thinks she does. This might not end well.

As we sat in the waiting room, I could tell she was getting more and more nervous, and more obstinate. So I tried again.

“You know, you’ve had blood drawn before. When you were four.”

“I did? Was I scared then?”

“Yep. And you thought they were going to take ALL of your blood. When I told you they were only going to take a little, you still didn’t like it. You told me, ‘But I just know they’re going to take my favorite blood.'”

She giggled a little. This was going in the right direction.

“And you know what? You didn’t even cry when they took the blood. So it couldn’t have hurt that bad. And do you remember when you freaked out for, like, two years before your five-year-old booster shots?”

“Yeah. I did NOT want to get those.”

“I know. You were going to a birthday party right afterwards, and I told you to think about cake to get your mind off of it. So when the nurse came in to give you the shots, you closed your eyes and started whispering, cake…cake…cake.

More giggles. And louder than the last.

“Then when the nurse was finished, you opened your eyes and said, ‘It’s over? That didn’t hurt at all. It only felt like a little tiger bite.'”

“A tiger bite? I didn’t think a tiger bite would hurt? I was weird.”

“You were adorable and hilarious. And hey, since we’re going to Lion’s Choice for lunch after this, maybe when the lady takes your blood, you could just whisper, Lion’s Choice…Lion’s Choice…Lion’s Choice.

“I am NOT doing that. That’s so embarrassing. But maybe you could just hold my hand.”

Thankfully, those stories helped to relax her. And reminiscing about the funny little girl afraid of shots she used to be reminded me that the funny big girl she is now is still gets afraid, and really isn’t as big as we both think she is. And sometimes her mom does know exactly what to say. I didn’t need to convince her that knew it wasn’t going to hurt; I needed to assure her that she already knew it didn’t. Not that had already survived this, but that she already had. We may be very similar, but I can not offer my own experiences as substitutes for hers. She is like me, but she is not me.

When needle time came, she motioned me over to hold her hand, and just for old time’s sake, I whispered Lion’s Choice…Lion’s Choice…Lion’s Choice. She smiled. When all was said and done, she declared the ordeal pretty painless. She even admitted I was right; it had only felt like a pinch. I had earned back the trust lost during the great ear-piercing lie. And just in case you glossed over it, she admitted I was right. She is one step closer to being a better woman than her mom.

And I escaped another moment of feeling like I don’t know how to be a good mother to my daughter. Not because I was right. Not even because she admitted I was right. But because somehow along the way, I made us both forget it was a battle of wills. P1020652edit

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42 thoughts on “The Secret to Being a Good Mother: Cake and Tiger Bites

    1. Well, the poor thing hasn’t had a cavity filled yet BUT she went straight for getting three teeth pulled. It was brutal, but she was actually quite a champ about it. The dentist told her she did better than most of his adult patients. That’s why it’s so funny that she freaked out over getting a little blood taken. She survived the giant needles in her gums 🙂


  1. She is wise beyond her years but don’t sell yourself short. You are a great Mom and we all wing it as we go along, especially with our first. I can remember trying to console a certain cousin of yours about getting a shot when all the while I was getting sick to my stomach. I could never watch or even think about them getting a shot or blood drawn without getting a little light headed. Glad both you and her survived and Lion’s Choice … Yum!


  2. Very nice, heartfelt post, Kelly. I once got bitten by a tiny kitten with razor teeth. She thought my finger was a piece of bologna and let me tell you, a tiger bite likely is amazingly painful! Glad you survived this parenting ordeal. 😉



  3. I love how you say your own experiences can’t be a substitute for hers. My daughter and I are the same sign, born days apart. We’re so much alike but sometimes I feel like I don’t know her at all. Granted, she’s only 3 but it’s a much needed reminder that she’s like me, but she’s not me. I don’t have to give her all the answers based on my years of experience. Instead, I need to help her find the answers for herself.


    1. And after reading your post on Crazy Good Parent,you have so much great experience to share with her. It’s so hard though. You want to spare them…you want to tell them, hey, I’ve been through this. I can help. But it can’t be that way. I know I’m going to continue to struggle with this, even though I logically know I have to let her have her own experiences.


  4. I could write a whole long blog post just on how much I relate to this! I have gone through so many of these same scenarios with my daughter! I can imagine how you must have felt when she asked you to hold her hand… that moment brought tears to my eyes.


  5. Thanks so much for sharing that. I have a preteen myself. You nailed my frustration and the realization that my experiences don’t matter like they did when he was little because I’m not him. I need to remind him of what he has already been through and survived…and survived well. Oh bless you! Moments of clarity are few and far between for me right now. I feel like I’m having to learn a whole different language. I joke with him about letting me know the “teen rules for moms.” I want him to know I get how uncool mom seems, how I know I am not him, and I’m trying me best to be the best mom I can. Thanks for your honesty and sharing your story!


    1. This is one way blogging has been a lifesaver for me. I rarely have the clarity in the actual moment. But stepping back to write about it helps me see what I right and what I do wrong. Now, the kicker is if I ever put any of the wisdom I gleen while blogging into future action 🙂 And logically, I think we all know our kids don’t think we’re cool, but doesn’t it still bite when you actually realize it’s true?’

      Thanks for your sweet comment. Glad we can all muddle through this together!


  6. Nice job! Way to diffuse the situation! I feel her pain though, I cried when they told me I needed to get my blood drawn at my last appointment, and I’m 30! Scary. And I can only partially blame being pregnant, I just getting it done.


    1. Oh man. I don’t know if you want to hear this, but I had to get blood drawn a LOT when I was pregnant. But I did have a few funky little issues that probably accounted for a lot of those times. Oh great…I just did the worst thing ever and freaked out a pregnant lady. That’s the worst. I promise it will all be fine. Really 🙂


  7. God bless you. You are a terrific mother, and she looks like the happiest, healthiest kid in the world in that picture. I agree, we know our girl’s inner thoughts so well (from having had the same thoughts 30 years earlier) that we feel like we can say or do something to help them avoid the hard stuff. But we can’t, and that is okay. Glad the blood thing didn’t hurt too badly.


    1. I do think you’re right about that. Sometimes I say things to her and then think, “where the hell did that come from? That was GOOD!” But all those times I muck it up sure seem to even the score. 🙂


  8. Grace is so lucky to have you. So many parents would have looked at her anxiety over having her blood drawn and just told her to suck it up and deal. By meeting her where she is and validating her fears (which I completely empathize with because I personally HATE having blood drawn), you knocked this one out of the park. Nice job, mama ;D


  9. It is only when my kids started becoming adults that they started validating some of my efforts. Before then, I felt like I was constantly feeling around in the dark… amazing how the tiniest bit of light makes it all easier! Sweet, sweet post, Kelly.


    1. Thank you so much! I have heard that from more than one person, that eventually validation comes. But it is nice when I do find these little moments. They have just enough power to put the wind back in my sails.


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