A 5 Yr-Old’s List: What Makes a Good Mother

Not to nominate myself “Mom O’ the Year”, but…yesterday I did some pretty great motherly things–I led my five-year-old in painting two new sight words. I patiently put back the wrong fork, bowl, spoon, cup for the exact right one my two and a half-year-old wanted. (Kids can walk that fine line between particular and OCD). I was good. I read oodles of books with them, allowed only some TV, the smarter stuff, with healthy discussion. (That means the annoying teacher in me interrupts with vocabulary and comprehension questions).

We cooked, washed dishes, and wrote the list with them for the day we’d have since we’d be keeping them home due to my little guy’s tummy. No school and instead, mom all day and into the night.

Good, right? Welllll…

I cracked by painting time, post-their-miniscule nap. Call me nuts, but I didn’t like my son hitting and kicking me. I didn’t like the tireless whine and meanness my daughter was lashing out. I yelled. Loudly. I left the room for as long as one should leave paintwater and a paper plate full of watery acrylic paint with tired, upset, angry kids. I was a wreck. Actually, it started way earlier than that. Way earlier than their wannabe-nap.

It didn’t stay sour. Later we hugged. Later we forgave and made all well again. I’ll be a stay-at-home-mom again if they need to be home from school again. And for the next weeks of vacation. It is a joy and a gift, and (ps, being 15 weeks pregnant) some moments it’s tough. Like any job and gift. Like kids. Like humans are tough and good and amazing, especially when we love.

But I was overwhelmed. I get overwhelmed, not as much as I used to–not nearly, but yesterday, during that pocket of terrible, it was not good. Far from it.


Luckily, my daughter wrote out this list with me, during a calm thoughtful moment with a snack. “What do good moms do, honey?” I asked.

Here is what she came up with. It is not grandiose. It does not involve major plans, just consistent love. Look.

This is what my five-year-old says constitutes being a good to great mom:

A mom can be great…

*by saying she loves us. 

*by saying to the kids, “Listen.”

*teaching how to be nice

*with consequences

(…..changed her mind to an ardent “NO”, then said, “Ohhh, it’s good. Consequences are okay.”)

She ended with this light, happy thing:

*by teaching us to blow bubbles with bubble gum.


My son is out from school again and the daughter is in, with promises of an early pickup. As soon as my son came home with me, he launched into some hitting, that is, hitting me because he was upset about something. I handled it MUCH better than yesterday. It involved some all of the above, minus bubblegum. Cause that wouldn’t be so wise for a two-year-old. It ended with hugs, smooches, and understanding.

So maybe today is doable, tomorrow, too. Maybe I’ll meet and even exceed her list.

We can do this.

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