From the Trenches of Motherhood

“Experienced” mothers owe it to younger mothers to be brutally honest occasionally . I wrote this in 1977; I had a 4 year old and a 2 year old. Two year olds get a bad press.


We lived on the 20th floor of Chelsea apartment building in Manhattan. We had a terrace that was 46 feet by 6 feet with gorgeous view sof the Hudson River. On the terrace was a kiddy pool, a sand table, a large table for arts and crafts and birthday parties. The terrace had a hose and a drain. The terrace below ours was 46 feet by 12 feet so things thrown off the terrace would likely land on our downstairs neighbor’s terrace. I was so thankful our building had odd and even elevators . I never had to meet this unfortunate saint in the elevator.

If the kids pointed the hose over the north side of the terrace, they could water pedestrians 20 stories below. They were allowed to blow bubbles and chalk the side of our apartment. We were certifiably crazy, but everyone loved to play at our apartment.

This journal excerpt was written in the summer of 1977.

A day like today convinces me that we have not expected enough of Anne (4). In many ways she is no easier to manage than she was 14 months ago. I have totally failed to set consistent limits. She has been allowed to do what she wants around the house. We have not expected her to follow any rules to kept the house from becoming intolerably chaotic. I have continually lowered my already low housekeeping standards to tolerate toys in every room, discarded clothing everywhere, sand everywhere, liquids spilled over rugs, chairs, and beds, crumbs underfoot, the terrace’s resembling a slum. All so Anne won’t be repressed, so her creativity won’t be reined in by artificial standards of order.

I read too many psychoanalysts on the subject of child care and not enough learning theorists or teachers. Undoubtedly, I misinterpreted what I read about setting limits. It probably never occurred to any of these gentlemen that any woman would be as lax and accepting as I am. Their strictures were appropriate for a compulsive housekeeper. No one advocated turning your living room into the beach.

I sit surrounded by the shambles of our living room. I laid down a whole set of terrace rules for Anne at the dinner table in my worst lecture-room fashion. I know such harangues make little impression on her. Just now she told me to “stop ruining her by talking to me.” If she can’t follow the terrace rules, she comes right inside.

  • No one except me empties the pool
  • Absolutely nothing gets thrown off the terrace
  • The hose can only be used to fill up the pool, not to water the ground or the terrace below
  • She can only pour water over her own head
  • No sand in the swimming pool
  • No forcing Michelle (age 2) to swim
  • Only a reasonable amount of water in the sand table
  • Sand and water stay around the sandbox and pool; they don’t go beyond the card table
  • No sand in the apartment
  • Turn off the hose when I say so

Did I succeed in enforcing these rules? Sporadically. Once the pool blew away, but that wasn’t Anne’s fault. Two years later we moved to a three-bedroom apartment without a terrace, and my mom took the pool and the sandbox. However, the living room was now a playroom, complete with a tent, a six foot blackboard, hundreds of blocks, thousands of legos, enough art supplies for a nursery school, and hooks in the ceiling for a swing, rings, and a trapeze.

About maryjograves

Children are my passion. I have 4 daughters, 5 grandkids under 5 with another on the way, 5 younger brothers, 11 nieces and nephews, 8 great nieces and nephews. I advocate a revolution for a child friendly US. I have been an editor, public librarian, social worker, and internet educator. Tweet @RedstockingGran @ChildrensWings
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