My kids are 8 and 10 now, and I tend to think of them as tiny adults. They can mostly keep themselves alive without any assistance from me. But they’re still careless when it comes to noise, mess, and responsibility. In other words, they still act like, well, kids.

Which means that I get pretty annoyed with them. Easily and often.

The kids left a mess in the kitchen.

The kids didn’t feed the cats.

The kids piled Transformer parts and clean clothes in their dirty laundry baskets.

At the end of a long day, it’s easy to lose my cool when the kids haven’t lived up to my expectations.

Who knew Bob’s Burgers, of all shows, would end up introducing me to one word that would forever change the way I parent:

Babies.

Even while the Belcher kids are 13, 11, and 10, their  supportive, positive optimistic mom Linda still refers to them as my babies.

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It was like a lightbulb went off in my head: When I think about my kids as my babies, it helps me remember that even though they might look and act mature — especially compared with their toddler years — they’re still little. They still want long bedtime chats. They still want lots of hugs throughout the day.

My intent isn’t to coddle them or forgive them for seriously messing up. But calling them my babies has really helped all their moments of childhood.

Instead of getting sore over their faults, I now find myself more able to smile (well, usually) and remind them that even when they do something I don’t like, they’ll always be my babies, and I’ll always love them.

What surprised me most, though, is that once I started calling my tweens my good, sweet babies, they actually started acting sweeter, and — dare I say it? — good.

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It’s almost as if my words have given them permission to be young and tender again, even if at school and around friends they’re expected to behave like miniature adults.

Plus, I must admit, Mommy, your good babies took out the trash without being asked!  is a really beautiful sentence to hear.

Of course if my kids tricked me into teaching an independent study on synchronized swimming, or ran an illegal gambling den in our basement, I don’t know if I could be as lovingly forgiving as Linda Belcher.

But hopefully I’ll never have to find out.

 

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