May 12

It’s been kind of a rough couple of weeks over here.

Overall things are good.  Really good, even.

The rough stuff is mostly that Greta loves me too much.  Her love for me is so great that she must think I can read her mind, because whenever I am in her presence, she is screaming at me that I did not give her the right color spoon, or water instead of milk, or that baby doll instead of this baby doll.

So, essentially, the days are filled with screaming.  It’s loving screaming, so that’s something, but it’s still screaming.  I think most moms of toddlers can probably relate.

A friend said recently, “The days are long, but the years are short.”  Yes.  Totally right on.

Phenom, Nana, and even Daddy report that Greta is so sweet, and so fun, and so cute (albeit very when she is with them.  And I see all those great things too, I just see those things peppered in between all the many bouts of screaming.  We all see the change in her attitude when I enter the scene.  The love for her mama drives her batty, apparently.

Eight weeks ago, I was due to have my girlfriends over at 7:00pm on a Thursday night.  Brad called me at 6:15pm to say that he would be home by 6:30.  I’d spent time that day tidying up and making treats for my friends.  Thursday nights with my girlfriends are one of my sacred times: I always walk away from the night feeling refreshed and recharged.  I was all set for a great evening, except for all that screaming.  At 6:20pm, I texted all my friends: Meet at Panera instead!  There is too much screaming!  I can leave at 6:30 and have an extra 30 minutes of no screaming!  Ahhhh!  The screaming!

I scrapped my plans to host an evening because I just needed to get away.

Six weeks ago, I was sitting next to Greta in the kitchen while she screamed and bucked and threw food for the seventh straight meal.  None of my consequences were working.  She wouldn’t eat unless she was standing up in “Maren’s chair” which changed every forty-five seconds, leading to a precarious and messy musical chair situation.  She screamed when I stopped her.  I put her in her chair with buckles.  She screamed.  I tried to give her food, and she would whip it onto the floor.  She screamed.  She would finally pause, eat three bites, and then want to be done and go play.  She screamed.  I tried every parenting tactic I know.  (And I know a lot, and I’m a good mom!) After seven straight meals of this, I sat at my kitchen table with tears streaming down my face.  I’m thinking: this is hard.  She’s not even two, and she is totally beating me up today.  (And yesterday, and the day before that.)  I love my family, I love my job, I love all those moments in between the screaming.  But I was having a bad moment in a hard day.

My eyes fell on the iPad on the counter.   (The iPad that was gifted to me the week I was diagnosed with cancer last year.)  I asked Greta, “Do you want to watch a cartoon?”  Greta, who knows a good thing when she hears it, snapped out of her screaming fit and says, “Yes Mama!  Tar-toons!”  I turned on a cartoon on the iPad, and began to put Greta in her chair.  She started to stiffen and buck, and I told her I would stop the cartoon if she didn’t sit in her chair.  She relaxed, and sat in her chair.  I put dinner in front of her, and she started to eat it.

I tiptoed fifteen feet away and watched her, feeling on edge, waiting for the screaming to begin again.  However, no screaming.  I began dishing up dinner for the rest of us.  No screaming.  While Greta watched the iPad at the kitchen table, I unloaded the dishwasher.  No screaming.  I reloaded the dishwasher and started it running again.  (Yes that happens; we empty it, then fill it immediately with all the dirty stuff on the counters.)  No screaming.  I methodically cleared off the piles from the kitchen counter and put items back where they belong.  No screaming.  No toddler hanging on my leg.

It was blissful, just being able to do my mom jobs with no screaming toddler underfoot.  It made me wonder when was the last time that even happened.

And now, Greta has watched the iPad for 80% of her meals over the past two months, which was definitely not the plan on that first day.  I told you, I’ve never been accused of being a SuperMom.  The truth is I know this is a terrible habit.  There is probably a better solution.  But, people, there is no screaming at mealtime.  Brad doesn’t use the iPad when I’m not home; she’s delightful for him.  Phenom and Nana have reported no fits at mealtime.  Apparently, it’s just the overwhelming love for her mama that turns her into a screaming banshee.

I’m a better mom while I use this tactic to get through our days more peacefully.  I’m less frazzled.  I have more energy left to be Fun Mama.  I no longer have those moments where I feel like I’m Defeated Mama.

Having cancer definitely gave me a strong perspective check: I love my life, I love my family, and I am so grateful.  Having had cancer also puts the pressure on: I should enjoy every moment.  I should never be frustrated or sad or angry when I am parenting my children because I, of all people, know what an incredible blessing it is to




And I am grateful.

Sometimes I think I am weak, that I should feel grateful for the screaming, even.

But, no.

I’m not going to be grateful for the screaming that tears at my soul and takes away from my ability to be Jen.  With Brad’s help and support, I’ve put up protective measures to preserve my Jen-ness.  I mom G all day long most days, so it’s not like she’s not getting attention from me.  We are both better when we have a break.

And I know that Greta’s screams are love-filled, and that the day will come that I will ache for these moments gone by.

I’m hoping that this iPad at mealtime will be a short season in our lives.  It’s not the kind of parent I want to be, but the peace it brings is making me a better parent.  Compromise.

Sometimes I need the world to know I’m not perfect.  I don’t have it all together.  I’m doing the best I can.

I love my girls.  I wouldn’t trade their screams, or this life of mine, for anything.

Happy Mother’s Day Mamas!  May you, too, find ways to raise up the magical memory-making moments and drown out the screams.


  1. Aussie Sarah /

    Love, love, love this! My third little guy is a screamer too and it is oh so hard! I’ve resorted to similar tactics because a mum’s got to do what a Mum’s got to do in order to make sure everyone makes it through the day alive!

    If you haven’t already read this article, “Dear less than perfect mom”, it is a must read. It will make you laugh and cry allatbthe same time and it will do your should good.

    Thank you so much for sharing, it really does help to know I’m not the only one!

    Sarah x

  2. Sarah Freed /

    Love, love, love this post because I can completely relate right now! My third child is three years old now and next week will be my 2-yr anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis. So much screaming these days and feeling like I’m just hanging on to get to the end of the day sometimes. Love my kids so much and I definitely find myself allowing things as a parent that I never thought I would just to achieve more peace in the household.

  3. motherhoodandmiscellany /

    Love. This. You are an awesome Mom. I so know where you are coming from, so big hugs to you. And Happy Mother’s Day!!

  4. Tina /

    Amen momma!! This may sound odd, but I know you are the lady with many positive kid tricks, and so many times I stop and think I wonder if Jen has some tricks she’d be willing to share LoL you could blog your parenting secrets!! (Think about it, you’d be great!)
    You do what works for you guys!!

  5. Happy Mother’s Day…and all that goes with it!Sending a hug…

  6. Jodi (from Canada) /

    Haaaa…I hear ya….my Joshua is almost two as well and everything is MINE or NO WAY at the top of the lungs. Happy Mother’s Day to you. I thought of you today and how you wrote in your first post that you just want to be there for your girls. Well, you are here and so is NED. I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day!

  7. Aussie Sarah /

    Whoops, I forgot to link the article in my comment at the top! Sorry! It’s a must read!

  8. Mary Beth /

    Thanks for this, Jen. My husband and I have an almost 8 year old (on Tuesday!) boy and a 14 month old girl. Both are the delight of our lives, and our 14 month old is INCREDIBLY charming and engaging with everyone (including us). However, this evening when I came home from Bible study, my husband reported that she’d been screaming for an hour, wanting milk, then refusing it, wanting to eat, then saying she was done, along with other “delightful” acts. He was done by the time I got home. She’s finally asleep (as is her big brother) and I just read your post to her daddy (who is a stay-at-home dad). Lots of knowing smiles, nods and a few tears from my sweet man. “I think I’ll live until tomorrow.” he said.

    Blessings on you, your writing and your ministry to parents everywhere!

  9. Maureen /

    I wanted to comment here because when my son was little it was very similar. I read this somewhere and for some reason it gave me comfort ( and prevented me from losing it more than once during this time!). Tantrums are a toddlers ultimate form of flattery. She is showing you how much she trusts you and loves you. She knows she can’t behave like that for just anyone! On more than one occasion, I had people comment on how GREAT my patience was. How “we could all learn something about patience from you”. WOW. I ended in tears many days. And honestly, he is 7 now and I DO NOT miss it at all ;-). As far as the cartoons, I say whatever helps with your sanity. Yes, we all have things that we know probably aren’t “ideal” but in the human world, it is not acceptable to eat your young!

  10. Lisa M /

    Brilliant! I wish the iPad had been invented when my kids were little. Use it as long as you need it. I would have!

  11. briordan /

    I really needed to read this today – it was that kind of morning. Thanks for your openness and honesty every day!

  12. Marsha Vonderwish /

    Don’t feel bad about the iPad! You can wean her off in a few months. My grandsons, 6 & 3 yrs., watch while they eat and they have my blessing (not that Mimi’s blessing really matters). But those two can make meal time a war zone! So use what tools you have and enjoy the calm.

    And don’t feel guilty about enjoying every moment no matter what is going on. As a cancer survivor you need to keep the stress level down and I doubt long bouts of screaming are very peaceful!
    Have a wonderful day!

  13. Kent Duffey /

    Jen – I always say that I’m the “x” factor in my family. My two girls (7 and 10) are great for husband/dad, grandparents, friends, etc. I walk into the room and “kaboom”. I think you are doing a great job and we all do the best we can with what we’ve got. Sending good vibes to you!

  14. Use the ipad! Use whatever works right now, because as you said, you are a better mom (wife, friend etc) when you get that peace at mealtime! In a while, in a LONG while after your nerves have had time to recover, consider using the ipad time as a reward for ____ (5 mins of eating alone then finishing the meal with the ipad…then 10 mins…then eating the whole meal with no screaming she can watch one show). Ipad time is my 6yo son’s reward for most challenging situations. I think my ipad was a God send and we as moms should use whatever tools we have at our fingertips! Hang in there, mommy!!

  15. Jen, you are a good mom, you are doing a super job with Greta and if allowing her to watch a movie while you have a few mins to do Mom/Jen activities then, my dear, that’s what you need to do. Allowing yourself room to breathe is the most important thing otherwise it is impossible to be there for them and you eloquently stated that above. Stay the course-we are holding you up to the Universal Healing Power as you and she work thru these unfamiliar and uneasy times.

  16. Christin /

    I was so happy to read this post! 1: Zak tells me often how Simon is worse when I’m around and I never know how to feel about that. It’s cool to hear you say the same thing!!
    2: I try to soak in every moment, but sometimes life/toddler/new baby can get frustrating! It’s so reaffirming to read that, even with the ultimate “do today well” perspective, it’s still tough juggling all this mom stuff. I really love the encouraging parts of the blog, too! I feel normal and encouraged- thanks, Jen!!

  17. teresa /

    Never, ever feel guilty or bad about the tactics you use to find peace and be a better parent. You have nothing to feel bad about here!
    Also, your post immediately reminded me of this video. It made me laugh SO much the first time I saw it, so am hoping it’ll do the same for you! Enjoy.

  18. Amy in CO /

    Whatever works is my motto! Some days you just have to do what you have to do to get through until bedtime!

  19. Peggy /

    Having been through the child-raising years, I can say it’s far, far better to have a “street angel” and a “house devil” then the other way around! I do think kids behave far worse for their mommies. We just returned from spending 5 days with our “little bits” (7, 4 & 3). The 3-year old screams a lot ~ usually only when her momma is around. The iPad soothes her as well. A good way to wean Greta from her “lovey” is having it conveniently run out of charge! Don’t, for even one second, think you’re not a terrific mom because of having a “screamer”. We all go through it and we all survive!

  20. The no screaming is worth every second of that iPad, IMHO. You are a good mama. ♥

  21. Catherine Butterworth /

    It is comforting to hear that bribery is alive and well and producing the desired results for this generation of Mom’s. Three cheers for the iPad and modern technology!!!


  22. My brother thought he was a cat. So my mother let him eat his food under the table. He has grown up, fathered two amazing daughters and no longer eats under the table. This season is just that, a season.

  23. Brenda /

    Sounds like you found what you need for this season! My son used to wake up screaming after a nap and take forever to calm down. I started taking a little piece of chocolate into his room when he woke and I’d slip it in his mouth. He would stop crying immediately and be a cheerful toddler. Whatever works! He is now 12 and I have to tell you that I don’t miss the screaming at all. Not even a little bit! Lol!