Home as a Haven

Home as a Haven

Home as a Haven

Home as a Haven

Oh, these little boys. Be still my heart.

One of the most heartwrenching parts of motherhood, I’ve come to realize this fall, is watching your child go to school. With other kids. Who will be sweet sometimes, tease sometimes, play nicely sometimes, hurt feelings sometimes. How hard to think that all those little ones sometimes will feel lonely or left out or embarrassed or sad. I know those are good emotions, too (we’re striving for wholeness, right?) but maybe not for him. Maybe just happiness for this child, okay?

Toby has had a somewhat tough time adjusting to a new school with new kids, many of whom have known each other for years. He enjoys school overall; he just has wobbly moments here and there. Plus, four-year-old Toby still seems so little. An exchange at the neighborhood playground the other day:

Another four-year-old: “Have you ever seen Star Wars?”

Toby: “No…have you ever seen Elmo?!!”

Well, as usual, the brilliant Jenny Rosenstrach must have read my mind because she recently wrote a Real Simple essay about her seventh-grade daughter, who was having a tricky time with some school friendships. Jenny didn’t know how to help, so she did what any self-respecting adult woman would do: she called her mom. Here’s what happened:

She told me what I already knew: I’d have to sit this one out, as well as the next one and the one after that and the one after that, too. It was time to let the kids figure this stuff out on their own. But in a vehement tone that I imagine she reserves for her most unruly clients (she’s a real estate attorney), Mom did give me one tangible way to help: “You just make sure that when those girls walk in that door every day,” she said, “they never doubt that home is the most comforting place for them to be. That is what you can do.”

So that is what I will do: Make sure that when my children walk in the door every day, they never doubt that home is the most comforting place for them to be. We’ve slowed down our evening routine and added some rituals. We light candles at dinner, we play games on the floor, we pile onto the sofa to read books. And Alex and I have started putting Toby to bed together—instead of switching off, we focus on him, and lie down (with Toby in the middle), and talk and sing songs and give “challenges” (like “what sound does an owl make?” or “pretend you’re swimming” or “count to 20”) which Toby loves. And, the next morning, when Toby pads into our bedroom at 6 a.m., and stands at my side of the bed saying “Mama? Mama?”, I pull off my ratty sleep mask and give him a huge grin, no matter how exhausted I am. Home is a haven, a soft landing place, and no matter what happens in the outside world, they will always have that.

P.S. Do your eyes light up when you see your child?

(Photos of Toby and Anton playing ice cream shop by Winnie Au)

  1. Great post. Something that will stick with me for (hopefully – my girl is only 9 months) a long time.

  2. It IS hard to let them go to school. Léo has been going to daycare / school since he was 4 weeks old and Jude is going to go in 2 weeks, at 2.5 months. Breaks my heart a little…

    When Léo comes home from school and tells us about a friend who did something to him or said something to him, we ask “was this mean or nice?” “Was this on purpose or an accident?” That way we know what HE thinks about it before we say anything (because in my case it would always involve mama bear trying to claw the other bugger!). And whatever happens, we give lots of hugs, we snuggle a lot, and we make sure to laugh and offer words of praise. Home as haven indeed.

  3. I love this post.

  4. What a beautiful post. Thank you for writing it and reminding me what is important in our little ones lives. xx

  5. Lovely. Brought tears to my eyes.

  6. Lovely post. And lovely ritual.
    As a parent of a 5 year old girl, I know she has to learn to stand on her own two feet.
    But, I also know that kids need to learn what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. So sometimes, I will step in. I will teach her that if someone is being manipulative, mean or otherwise unpleasant, that is not ok. She can walk away, play with someone nicer, talk to me about it.
    And I will also encourage her teacher to work with the children so they learn to be nice, useful little members of the community.

  7. “A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.” -Victor Hugo

    Enjoy this time with them!

  8. This brought tears to my eyes! I hope when I have children I have the presence of mind to BE present and loving to them always.

  9. Tear!

  10. I love this. I read it initially on Jenny’s blog. Her mom deserves some credit for pointing out this simple, beautiful, doable thing: making home the most comforting place. love.

  11. This post is perfect and made me tear up in a good way. My own mom made sure to give us plenty of hugs & offer respite from the perils of middle school, & coming home to her made even the worst days more bearable. Your post reminds me to make a conscious effort to creat a safe haven for my own family. Love reading your blog!

  12. Oh my heart! This hit home so hard… my almost four year old started a new school a few weeks ago and its been an adjustment. I just want to make everything ok for him and swoop in and save the day for him. He is slowly settling in and getting more comfortable. Being a momma is so hard… and so good! Love this post Jo!

  13. This is beautiful and I think this can apply even to homes without children, whether in your relationship with a spouse or with yourself. Home is a haven.

  14. You sound like a wonderful mother. If only more women who are fortunate enough to have their own little ones could be quite as loving and selfless as you. X

  15. This really gets to me!

    Whenever there is some article on bullying or a news items about someone taking their life because of bullying my husband always disregards it because ” I was bullied as a kid and I just dealt with it, kids are so weak these days”.

    After he talk me this one afternoon I specifically remember pointing out to him that he had a safe, warm, loving home to return to after school, where his mother was waiting to support him!

    unfortunatley not all kids have this, “these days” for various reasons, kids don’t neceassarily get to see their family right after school, or they don’t get to share the ups and downs of the day, home isn’t the safe haven and that’s sade to me.

  16. Hello Joanna,
    I think it’s the 1st time I’m leaving a comment here even if I’ve been reading for years.

    I’m not a mum yet, but your article moved me deeply, and I’m pretty sure I will keep it in a corner of my head until I can put it into practice.

    Thanks, a lot, from Paris.

  17. This post especially pulls at my heart. I am just a few weeks away from becoming a mother and hope to always be a haven for my children.

    I love my parents to death (and don’t hold it against them) but my home growing up was never a place of comfort for me. I felt judged and many times dreaded going home. I hope to never ever make my child feel that way.

  18. I absolutely love this. Genuinely made me think about how our home is for our boys. I know life is busy and most times I’m just trying to keep it all together at home but I definitely need to focus on making a home a haven for them. Thanks for this post!

  19. This is such a beautiful post! Thank you for putting such goodness out into the world. :)

  20. I love this post, and I love the Jenny Rosenstrach post, too.

  21. Thanks for posting this Joanna. I wish I could take credit for the “brilliant” parenting advice, but alas, all credit goes to my mother, Jody Rosenstrach! I am just brilliant at broadcasting it :)

    And of cousre, I’m so happy to hear that the piece was resonant with parents of kids of all ages. That was a surprise to me.

    One more question: Why do we have kids? Why do we do this to ourselves????? :)

  22. Kindness always. This just made my heart burst!

  23. This was just beautiful, and such wonderful advice.

  24. This is excellent advice. Mine are only 2 and 6 months, but I will keep this in mind as they get older! I also remember your post about being happy to see them, no matter how tired or cranky you may be. I do that too- even when I’m sick, tired, grumpy, whatever… I give my girls the biggest smile and hug I can manage, and it always makes ME feel better, too.

  25. Such a lovely post! Will put everything on board – when I mentioned it to my OH he said that I should make him feel welcome whenever he comes back from work… Bahahaa, right?
    When I saw the first photo of Toby and Anton – how mini lookalikes are they?? Anton is your husband without the beard and Toby is you!! Hearteyes!!! xxx

  26. and forever and ever, even when your boys are 27 and 29, out there doing so well in their careers, sure of themselves it seems …
    this is the place of comfort food and listening and encouragement

    and for the man you love too

    this is the place where you don’t have to be corporate and unflinching, you can just be yourself and that’s good and wonderful

    Barbara x x x

  27. So true. The most important work we will ever do occurs within the walls of our home.

  28. Oh, Joanna! I have the same problem too. My older son is so sweet, but he’s ten years old and sweetness can be a trouble for a boy at that age. He tell me that he feels lonely sometimes because he hasn’t a real best friend.

  29. A lovely reminder thank you for this Joanna x

  30. this is so true and something I remind myself of as my children get older and time together seems to wane. did you ever read the copy of mittens strings for god i sent you a while back. the rhythm of family is the best. your boys are so lucky to be loved by you.

  31. This is so lovely and inspiring. I have two little boys the exact ages as your boys. My oldest is sweet and kind hearted like your Toby and I worry about him at preschool as well. Thank you for sharing.

  32. brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing… it’s hard to imagine our kids going through the challenges that we did too… xo

  33. I can relate to this because I lived in. I had a tough time in middle school, especially 7th grade. Looking back I don’t know how we got through it but I remember my mom saying, we just made sure that you knew school wasn’t your life. We had fun outside of school, at home, evening or weekend activities- I guess in many ways they made our family a haven. Thanks for this post and I promise your little one will find his way!

  34. sorry i revised my comment- comment #2 please :)

  35. I spent the day trying to figure out THIS VERY PROBLEM with my son. He is 3.5 and watching him struggle with one friend in particular is BRUTAL to watch. Thank you for this post, it is a godsend. And thank you to all the commenters. The bit about “emotional muscles” really struck a chord with me. If anyone else has an article or book or advice to share please help! Mom SOS

  36. This comment has been removed by the author.

  37. Hey Joanna,

    I don’t have kids but this just tears at my heart. I have inadvertently become a mother-like figure for my little bro (who I admit, is a full grown person at 20 yrs old), but I’m the closest relative he has to him as he’s moved away for school.

    I also moved away when I went to college, but I didn’t have any family nearby to lean on, which at times made things lonely, but it also caused me to grow up a LOT and learn how to do things and deal with people in a mature fashion on my own.

    Yet as the older sister, I can’t help but want to help him out in so many ways, so your concept of making home (or the closest ‘home’ he has right now) a place of security and comfort made a very big impact on me. Thank you!

    (And eeek, if I’m like this with just my younger brother, I can only imagine when I have children. I will probably be a mess.)

    Fantastic post & reflection!,

  38. Reading this made me cry! I have two sons also (a boy Toby’s age and another little one a few months younger than Anton) and my oldest seems to be struggling to negotiate certain social situations too. It breaks my heart when he comes home and tells me that he tried to become best friends with another kid who rejected him, or that two boys told him they didn’t like his sandals (minor, I know, but it seems like a major insult when you’re 4!!). All we can do it to help him build his resilience while at the same time staying sweet. Which is sometimes easier said than done! I’ll think of the advice in this post next time we feel challenged by the big world out there :)

  39. This is the most difficult thing…watching your child go through childhood, and grow in ways that you can’t help control or make ‘right’. Making home a haven is a beautiful way to give a cushion to the growing ‘pains’. Thanks for sharing!

  40. Oh my. This was so special, Joana! What more can you do as a parent? My daughter is still very new, but I will remember this when the time comes. Whaaa

  41. You’re such a sweet mom, Joanna. Your family is very lucky. Another beautiful post. Thank you.

  42. It’s so true! One of my fondest, coziest memories is coming home after basketball practice in the winter times. I lived just down the street from the school and on cold, snowy evenings, I could see lights on in the house from outside the gym. I would walk home and immediately be greeted with the most pleasant spicy candles burning and stew on the stove. It was the BEST! I can’t wait to create a cozy home for my future children.

  43. This is so true! Even today when my college aged daughter comes home so mom can “press her reset button”, she comes in and flops down on the couch and I can physically see her relax. Then she asks “what’s for dinner?”…Oh, how I miss that darling girl…I enjoy your blog so much Joanna. Thank you for your candor.

  44. This post reminded me of my grandma, who died a couple years ago. Grandma always made me feel loved whenever I had the chance to visit her. I never felt “home as a haven” with my parents. In high school, I’d skip class and home to read in the library. I just couldn’t deal with my mom’s constant yelling and self-pity.

    Now that my mom says she has cancer, my siblings and I (all in our twenties) don’t believe her and I realize, I don’t really care.

  45. I don’t normally post comments but this post just stood out to me as being so lovely. It’s so nice to hear someone talk about how grateful they are for their beautiful children instead of treating them like an inconvenience or a job of some sort. I also love the idea of making home a real safe and comforting cocoon of love. My home is already this way for my partner and I but I know with absolute certainty that when we do finally get a beautiful little family, home will be everyone’s favourite place. Thanks for gorgeous little posts like this. Xx

  46. Love this! Your posts are giving me baby fever!

  47. This is so beautiful! I completely agree that home should be a safe place. Sadly so many times this is not the case. I love that you are taking time to really make sure that it is a safe place for your family. This is so inspirational! Thanks for sharing!

  48. “Home is a haven, a soft landing place.” Love this, Joanna. Toby and Anton are so lucky to have you!

  49. Wonderful post to share with everyone.

    I can relate so much here. I had a very difficult time. I’m was very tall, in sixth grade I was 5’9″ … Taller than a teacher and he was a man.

    So you can imagine. My mother always told me not to pay so much attention. I would have completely different friends when I went to high school … My world would expand … And I would turn out better than any of my current classmates,

    She was so right … How did she know. I’m sure she was heartbroken to hear about my tales, but neither of my parents ever doubted my future.

    Cheers and good luck … These are difficult times for a parent.

    Karen in VA

  50. This is so sweet. My husband and I were just talking with my mother in law about this the other day. Our son is almost 3, and while we’re excited for him to be growing up, we still think, “What if kids pick on him, what if he doesn’t make any friends, etc. etc.” – It’s heartbreaking to even think about, but I love this advice!

  51. This has to be your most beautiful post ever

  52. I like this. I’m 24 now and looking back I really didn’t fit in to school, or college, or even Uni. My parents have never commented on my academic or social life now I’ve moved out, but they just accept it. I think that acceptance of who I am is everything. When other people judge, they don’t. A home haven, to me, is where you can be yourself without boundaries.

  53. I love this so much. Oddly enough, I was just thinking this weekend about the post on your face lighting up when you see your child. With all my heart, YES.

  54. I don’t have children yet, but this is the sweetest, best parenting advice I’ve ever heard. I’ve sent it to several of my mom friends. So sweet :)

  55. brought tears to this hormonal pregnant gal. I hope my home is a place my child feels safe, happy and loved. such wise words from Jenny’s mother <3

  56. This post is so beautiful, but as a teacher that’s worked in homeless youth shelters it also makes me so sad. How much better would our world be if every single child had a happy home like this to go to? Thank you for this lovely and thought-provoking post, Joanna.

  57. When I was younger, I would lay on my stomach in bed and my mom would draw letters on my back and I would have to guess which letter she drew. After I guessed the correct letter, she would “erase the chalkboard” by rubbing her hand in a circle on my back. Having letters drawn on your back feels amazing. I highly recommend it once your kids get a little older.

  58. Aw, this made me tear up! What a good mom you are! Growing up my family had some tough times and our family of 4 left a beautiful old farm house and into a 3 room house. Even though we were there due to difficult circumstances, my mom made the house so cozy and cute and did everything to make it feel like a special place to be that it became my favorite house (and the favorite hang out of my friends throughout the time we were there). Mamas make the difference :)

  59. yes! my son is 7 and he still wants to take a stuffed animal places, but then gets embarrassed by it. we tell him to be true to himself. i’m firmly in the “don’t rush childhood” camp.

  60. Yep. I teared up too! What a beautiful post and such an important reminder. Thank you!

  61. Ugh…I think all mamas can relate to this post, whether our babies are big or small. My son is only 19 months old. He goes to a daycare center and just this morning after I dropped him off (he held back tears and it was so sad! Mondays are hard)I was thinking about what a wreck I’ll be when Kindergarten starts…in 4 years, ha ha. I think one of the hardest parts of parenthood is letting your child experience the unpleasant emotions. It will help them deal in the future, that’s for sure. But it’s not much comfort in the moment! What a great way to cope with it though…by making your home a sanctuary. I love it.

  62. I absolutely love this beautiful post. Will make sure my husband reads this as well.
    Thank you!

  63. this was maybe my favorite post to date! reminds me of bell hooks “homeplace” :)

  64. Love this :) I’ve bookmarked some of your posts over time to keep in mind for when I have my own kids someday. Thanks Joanna!

  65. This is heart wrenching and beautiful… I’m dealing with adjustment issues for my three year old…and she is a young three. I desperately want to fix the issues for her but am realizing she is her own little person. I love the idea of home being her safe place. I’ve always thought of my home and family as my shelter from the world. :)

  66. I read Jenny’s article when I was in labor this August. I totally cried as I read it in anticipation of his birth (not for 20 hours, but still). I think about it all the time when I’m soothing him – it makes it easier for me to be patient because this newborn phase is this time where almost all of his problems can be solved by a nice snuggle. When he’s sad he just wants to be held. And her someday his problems will be more complex, but as long as he knows how much we love him at home, that’s the best we can do.

  67. I remember when I was in Kindergarten, I had trouble getting along with this one girl who used to join me for the before school program. My mother gave me colored pencils to bring in so we could play together and that really helped. It’s funny, 20 years later I still remember that.

  68. Hi Jo! I just started reading your site and absolutely love it. I am a new mom in Vancouver on mat leave for a year (Thanks, Canada) from my career in public relations. I also blog about urban issues on the side. Really enjoy your tips on motherhood, fashion, beauty and life in general. Your style is very relaxed and caring. Look forward to reading more. I especially loved this post (even though my son is only 6 months old).

  69. Wow did I need this today… Toddler and dog in cahoots to drive me nuts. Some perspective is good. Thank you so much.

  70. what an encouraging and beautiful post. thank you for sharing this simple, yet poignant truth.

  71. I had tears in my eyes reading this, Joanna. I know you weren’t referring to bullying or anything over-the-top, but normal kid interactions that every child needs to experience. My girls are 9, 5, and 2, and I know that these uncomfortable experiences (and pain, to be honest), are necessary to help them grow into healthy, well-grounded adults. I read a book recently by a woman who grew up in an extremely sheltered, home-schooling environment (not to knock home-schooling, as I will probably do it in the future–we move around with my husband’s Navy job, and we won’t always be living in a place with decent school systems). But this woman simply didn’t know normal ways of making friends, because she had never had the experience and growing pains necessary to learn how to do so. She had to learn how to do it as an adult, when it was so much harder. I’d rather send my baby birds into the world and have them learn how to do it a little at a time, with my husband and me as their cheerleaders and supporters. So, so much easier said than done, though. Toby seems like such a thoughtful, sensitive soul (sounds a lot like your husband, actually, in personality type), and the world just hurts a bit more for people like that. I am a sensitive person, and it wasn’t fun to get those knocks in life, but it was necessary. I know I’m loved (thanks to my parents, family, and good friends!), and that gives a tremendous sense of security.

    All the best,

  72. Lovely, beautiful. I will try to do the same!

  73. Such a sweet post!

  74. A beautiful piece of writing here. So true that the world is not always a kind place, even if we wish it would be. I loved the mother’s advice. Thanks for posting!

  75. Beautiful post and something I needed to be reminded of today.

  76. This beautiful post brought tears to my eyes. So lovely and true. Thank you for such sweet, simple reminders such as this. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter most to our little ones…isn’t it?

    Have a gorgeous day.

  77. I love the idea of a “soft landing place.” I once read that marriage should be a soft landing place, too. I’m about to get married, and sometimes I catch myself right before I begin to nag my sweet fiance about something–that, yes, I’ve asked him to do six times, that’s driving me bonkers–and I remember that he goes out into the world every day and takes hits from it, and I should be his soft, safe landing place.*

    *(So I scratch his back and then ask sweetly about the thing he was supposed to do ;)

  78. Posts like this make my heart swell! Just like your post that your mom always has a happy tone when she greets you on the phone or in person. I love the simple poignancy. Thank you!

  79. Like times a zillion. I cannot possibly like this enough.

  80. This is the sweetest thing. I just teared up. I hope to do this for my almost 2-year-old daughter as well, thanks for the encouragement and inspiration! Loving the parenthood posts.

  81. Ah, I am balling. I have two boys the same age as yours and this rings so true for me. This is SO beautiful and I will be thinking about it for a long time. You are just wonderful and such a good mom!

  82. This made me tear up and I am not a mama yet. Thank you for always sharing such beautiful words.

  83. For some reason I am not usually one to comment, but I just felt especially touched by this post. My daughter is only 2, but she is already in school 3 mornings a week and our transition was really tough. She has always been home with me, and I felt somehow by letting her venture off on her own a few hours a week I was somehow letting her down.

    One of the hardest struggles for me as a mama can be knowing when to encourage some strength in your children – some “toughen up you’ve got this!” – with wanting to scoop them up and tell them you’re sorry they’re struggling and never letting them go. This balance is hard!

    Thanks for writing about this … I found it so relevant. :)

  84. This has me in tears! Such a beautiful sentiment. This is why my husband and I made the decision that I would stay home with our little ones, no matter the sacrifice. A warm meal, a cozy bed and the unconditional love and attention from Mom and Dad I can only imagine will be such a comfort to our children. Joanna, you sound like such a fantastic mother. Your boys will always appreciate and remember that grin first thing in the morning, no matter how truly exhausted you are. :)

  85. LOVELY post and wonderful advise!! Home should be the safest place for the child. It’s the place where they grow their roots & wings! xo

  86. Beautiful post. But it’s also OK if things aren’t always perfect at home. A safe haven doesn’t have to mean perfect, just loving and accepting. So don’t beat yourself up if sometimes Toby does see you looking a bit grumpy in the mornings! You’re allowed to show the odd ‘negative’ emotion too :) Those photos are beautiful, by the way.

  87. This is very sweet and so true. In fact, I have a spot on our kitchen counter where I light a candle as soon as I get home from work and the whole house feels a lot more peaceful. I’ve been doing this for years. It helps me (and my children) ease into the night. My son is 3 1/2 and even though he has been in daycare since he was a baby I still worry how he will handle kindergarten. He is a very shy boy and gets social anxiety very easily. He is so sweet and loving and doesn’t handle change well and unfortunately the world isn’t always a kind place. It’s funny because he is an exact replica of myself. Well said Joanna.

  88. Such a thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Joanna. Thank you for sharing. And your boys are so wonderful. I love the last photo where Toby and Anton are (perhaps intuitively) striking a very similar pose.

  89. Starting school has been so hard! My son is just starting to get used to Kindergarten, but I still cry every Monday morning (if not more often). I read that article in Real Simple too and we have tried to do the same thing you have:started new, fun traditions and made the evenings as soothing and relaxing as possible. I think it has been good for our kids and us. There really is no place like home!

  90. This is so wonderful and true! As a 28-year-old without children who has lived states, countries and CONTINENTS away from my parents for the last 10 years, home is still my favorite place. (Even if it’s not the “home” I grew up in, it’s simply being in the presence of my parents, especially my Mom. She literally makes everything better, all the time.)

  91. I’m due in about 3 weeks with my first and this blog post just warmed my heart. Thank you. What a beautiful thought that home = haven.

  92. This is beautiful, Joanna! And so timely as I have been going through something similar with my 9 yo son over the past three weeks. We have given him extra love and attention and he seems to be coming out of this funk very slowly. It’s so hard to watch him go through this, but I will focus on giving him so much love!

  93. This brings tears to my eyes! So well said I love it :) You are such a great Mama and such an inspiration!!

  94. I love this post and couldn’t agree more to the safe haven that home should be. Not only for the little ones, but for us adults as well. I am a newly divorced mom where my four year old daughter shares custody with her father. He’s a great dad, btw! Do you think a little child going between two homes can feel that safe haven? I’m not so sure and it’s so sad to think that it can never be the same safe haven that you describe in your post.

  95. jo says...

    This post just got me teary! I’m sure the fact that I’m a first-time-mother-to-be (and 4 months pregnant) has something to do with it. What a simple, yet beautiful concept. I will remember this for the scary day my little one starts his/her school career.

  96. Lovely.
    I am not yet a parent but I try to cultivate this type of environment for myself and anyone who walks through my door. I want all my friends, family, visitors to my home to feel welcome and comfortable.

  97. This is so beautiful! Preparing to raise children in NYC, I’m hyper aware of all the “real life” they will encounter at such a young age. This gives me hope that it will all be ok in the end! :)

  98. Such a beautiful post. It is so HARD so send them off to school. My first grader went from a very tiny,private school to a large public school and it was a hard transition. It is getting so much better.
    Thank you for the wonderful remind to keep the focus on them for a bit. It is worth it.

  99. lovely post. I do not have kids yet but will treasure this advice for that season of life.

  100. Thanks Joanna., this is really lovely. I love your thoughtful motherhood Monday posts and look forward to them every week. This one especially did not disappoint

  101. Lovely post. My boys are 36 and 39…I still felt a twinge in my heart when I read this. It’s true…it is terrible when your child is sad or upset by other children…children can be such shits (excuse my language, but there’s no better way to put it). Now I have grandchildren – my 9 year old granddaughter was put in a private school not totally because of other children, but that was a factor. My 6 year old grandson is disabled…now the other kids are thrilled to help him, but I am afraid of the times when they will not be so kind. The thing to do is to love them up at home…but to be ready to get involved with the school or other parents if necessary!

  102. Yes! Just yes! Since our baby was born, we’ve made an even stronger effort to show our son how much joy he gives us when he walks in the door after school, wakes us up at 5:45 a.m. and try to make it a comforting place, but this was a great read and reminder to work hard to make home mean comfort, peace and love.

  103. This was my mom’s philosophy, as well. “Home needs to ALWAYS be a safe place, nomatter what is happening anywhere else,” she would say. And it was for us. I aim at this for my own children, as well. At nearly 13 and 10-and-a-half, they seem to still appreciate the place. :-)

  104. I was just thinking about this the other day. I have a 6 month old and a ways to go before this is a real issue, but it’s going to tear me up when that day comes and his feelings get hurt on the playground. I remember being teased and bullied as a kid and how badly my mom wanted to intervene and there is only so much a parent can do except what you outline here. Beautifully written!

  105. This brings tears to my eyes, Joanna. Thanks for the reminder. It really is the “little things” that make all the difference.

  106. So beautiful and inspiring. My daughter is a little over 2.5 years old and I already have anxiety about her going to pre-school next fall. Mostly worries about how other kids will treat her and how she’ll work through it all. This post put me at ease, reminding me that home has the most impact on our kids. Thank you, Joanna! xx

  107. My children have now reached the age where they are older than I … but my eyes still light up when they walk in the door … now with their own kids.

  108. This made me cry. My son is 4 and is the smallest in his class and is having a hard time adjusting too. I cant do anything but to let him adjust by himself hopefully soon because its so heartbreaking to see him cry every day in our school run when its time for me to go home =(

  109. This is such great advice. We have a 10-year-old in fifth grade who is starting to hit some of those terrible tween/teen growing pains with his friends. It’s hard to see him struggle sometimes, but I can’t be there always to smooth things over at school. We try to focus on good stuff at home, and like you, have certain home-only evening rituals that make he loves (including a walk around the neighborhood as soon as it starts to get dark).

  110. This post is very timely for me also. We have a tradition at dinner where we share the “three best things that happened today”. No negativity allowed. It can be as simple as , ” they served pudding at lunch” or “we got new crayons at preschool.” Only happy thoughts it reminds us all that even when a day stunk there was a silver lining somewhere.

  111. I’ve found it challenging when my oldest is in class with youngest kids from other families, who are way ahead of him socially because of their older siblings. That Star Wars exchange really rang a bell with me. It is likely the answer will be YES! when Anton is asked that question in the future!

    But it makes me feel like we are somehow behind or I should be keeping up with this stuff or something, so he can relate to all the other kids. When really I shouldn’t. Just butt out and let him lead the way. Such a balancing act, this parenthood.

  112. Let me just say, for the record, you are a good mom.

  113. Beautiful. I needed this reminder.

  114. In light of the recent Seattle events, I read an article that said be sure to ask what problems your child has – you may be the only one asking. My daughter tells me outright but I have to pry with my son, who’s Toby’s age.

  115. Oh Joanna. Learning when to stand back and when to rush forward, arms outstretched, is such a part of parenting well. It’s the closest thing I know to active meditation, you have to watch them and yourself so carefully, and simultaneously. This is a beautiful post – I imagine your boys feel the beauty in your love for them, even though as littles they can’t articulate it.

    I don’t think you should intervene, directly, here, unless there’s bullying at play. But you can help Toby. There is research done on social skills for little kids. Look up “play bids,” for example. Turns out there are ways to make friends, and ways not to, and you can slowly communicate the knowledge to Toby, without ever having to actually meddle or get in the way of what he learns on the playground. xoxox.

  116. That is the most fantastic advice I can think of for this situation. We moved a LOT when I was little, and switched schools multiple times. No matter what, when we came home my parents acted like we were the coolest smartest kids around, and they were lucky to be our friends. It really wast the best thing they could have done for us, and I still think of them as our best friend.
    In Dramatic Fashion

  117. Oof. This one made me tear right up. My husband and I have had a similar rule about our home for each other and this was a wonderful reminder that this is something I can bring to our boys as they grow up and encounter more of the world’s challenges. Another great Motherhood Monday post. (And love to see your two little fellas, as always. What a pair!)

  118. How I love this one. I can perfectly emphasize, I used to feel the same way growing up. There was no place like home.

  119. I remember the author Toni Morrison saying how important, how vital, it is for a parent’s face to light up whenever their child walks into the room. Arms open wide, face aglow, always. No assessment, no remote appraisals. Just unqualified, non-judgmental, unadulterated adoration. So important! xo

  120. KR says...

    What a lovely post! And such great advice. Your boys are beautiful , they’re so lucky to have such a loving mum. My son is just 6 months old and it’s so exciting to see what still awaits us, even if challenging at times.

  121. Lovely, and so true. I make sure that when my (now older) kids come home I listen to their tales of the day, over a drink and a snack and let them download it all before they move on to home work/whatever. I am lucky enough to be at home to do that, but having a mother who wasn’t was what made it important to me. Sage advice

  122. i often say to my husband, “home is our homestead. our place to be safe, quiet, and [bad] chaos free.” i hope our two boys will always feel safe- wherever they are, but i think…life doesn’t always work that way. but when they need sanctuary- home is always with their family. “there’s no place like home.” -wizard of oz ;)

  123. What a beautiful post. I am so happy to read that you are striving to make your home a haven. We don’t have children yet, but this is what I hope for. I have 14 nephews and nieces and my heart breaks anytime they have troubles at school. Kids can be so cruel! What a privilege we have to cherish them and support them while not facing all their battles for them. Keep it up Joanna, I appreciate your example!

  124. This is so beautiful and true Joanna. And that’s all you can do, really. You can’t protect them from the outside world, they need to experience it by themselves.
    Every night before going to sleep I ask my boys: “What was the best scene of your day?” They love that. I want them to fall asleep keeping the best memory from the day in their little heads.

  125. That last paragraph is beautiful. I have a three month old sleeping in my arms at this moment and it quite choked me up. Thank you for that.

  126. I’m not a mama, but that sounds like such a beautiful, loving family life. I’m in my early twenties and STILL see my parent’s house as the most relaxing and comforting place in the world.

    Always, Anita

  127. Oh Joanna!
    You are such a good mom!
    When I was teaching K and 1st grade, it would tear my heart open to see my students hurt. But, we do have to stand back and allow them to build their own social muscles.
    What a great post.
    Have a great day.

  128. we struggle with these things too, as our 4 yr old just started school. love the bit about ‘make sure your home is the most comforting place to be’.
    the bedtime thing is key too, but having a baby in the house, we do have to do the dad takes the older one and mom takes the baby part or it would never work.
    i feel like we are constantly struggling for balance! c’est la vie!

  129. I’m not a mother yet, but I think this truly is one of the most important things you can do for your children. I’m 25, living halfway across the country from my family, and there are many nights that I drive home from work wishing that my evening commute would lead me to my parents’ house, the coziest place in the world. (My boyfriend also thinks my parents’ place is the coziest place in the world, so I think they’ve done a good job).

  130. Gosh that really makes my throat and eyes swell! Never felt such a tug as watching my son go off to kindergarten. Thank you for the encouragement!

  131. Beautiful

  132. jo says...

    I love this. it’s so timely for us too. our oldest is 5 and youngest (20 months) just started daycare. it’s tough letting them into the pasture. i love your mom’s advice. especially because evenings can seem rushed and with two working parents it can sometimes get tense. I needed this. Thanks.

  133. What a wonderful post! Home was always my haven through hard times at school and I will make sure my little one feels the same way.

  134. this is beautiful reminder, thank you!

  135. Goodness, I love this post. I am 26 years old and living in NYC—a world away from my parents in SC—and to this day, there remains NOTHING so comforting as stepping foot through their front door. There, I am safest, most loved, and most understood. It’s a feeling I desperately hope to give to my own children someday. Bravo to you for giving it to your sweet boys :)

  136. oh Joanna this is such a great advice… I think I already do it, in a unconscious way! Thank you…

  137. Oh – this post is so lovely it made me cry! Joanna, you are such a thoughtful mama and are part of such a sweet family! We are our kids islands of safety – I am getting my appendix out tomorrow and am already worried on how my almost 3 y.o. will be (he already tells people mommy’s tummy is sore, as he has been trained to not jump on me as the antibiotics have been reducing the infection.

  138. This post is so heartwarming — I read that article by Jenny in Real Simple and, even though we don’t have children (yet!), I told my partner how we need to buy some potatoes and mash them : ) You are an inspiring mother, Joanna!

  139. This is beautiful, Joanna. You’re a great Mama.

  140. Oh I love how each favors you and Alex so differently. Sweet boys…

  141. Oh! This made me tear up, Joanna!

    I think it’s so true, making sure that relationship is established with your children as they grow so that you are their respite. It’s so hard to see the innocence of our children when they interact with older, or just more worldly, children. But the scariest thought for me is that upcoming tricky adolescent time when their peers are everything to them. THAT is when I’m going to chant this to myself, “Home as a haven, home as a haven…”

    Thanks again for a wonderful, personal post.