Always Watching


People always told me that my kids are always watching me.

Pretty creepy at first thought, but it makes sense to me. Every day, our kids are taking in how their parents are navigating life. We see this result in the form of imitations — everything from how they want to drink out of our cups, wear our shoes, to even crawling into the car and pulling on our sunglasses to pretend to drive the car.

This morning was a bit different — I got to be the one watching. While I was nursing our baby on the couch, I watched our almost 3 year old dress up as a pirate-chef combo, get her baby dressed as her parrot, and then head to her play kitchen to cook. With her baby on her hip and a potholder on the other hand, I watched her stir a pot and make apple and onion soup. “Be aware,” she told me as I got close, “it’s hot!” When I asked her what she was doing, she said “I’m the mommy today!” She told me she was making sure everyone had full bellies to start the day. How sweet, I thought, as I told her what a great mommy she was. Luckily, she only dropped her baby one time while she was cooking!

The next part hurts. She then proceeded to yell at everyone — “come sit down now! It’s time to eat now! Come on! Hurry up! Breakfast is ready NOW!” Ugh. Is this what I sound like, too? Always in a rush to get my tasks completed and onto the next one. Our ever-watchful daughter sounded like a mad mommy.

Am I a mad mommy? Honestly, sometimes. I didn’t always feel this way, though. Being a mom is the absolute hardest and most humbling thing I have ever been a part of. I often recall in my moments of being a mad mommy, the time my father-in-law lovingly told me I missed my calling being a drill sergeant with my high attention to details and organization alongside my high expectations. Today, however, was a wake-up call.

Why am I mad and angry when my little people act more like little people than tiny robots instantly obeying every command I give? Where is that fun mommy who wasn’t always in a rush and could sit down and enjoy playing on the floor with my kids for long lengths of time without thinking of the never ending to-do list? Piles of laundry to wash and put away, dirty dishes needing to go into the dishwasher, the unread messages on my phone and aways a snack to grab and a bag to pack. On paper, these things seem so small, and yet here in the moment, they feel so heavy and important.

I try to teach my kids to help with our household to-do list to not only teach them important life skills, but to also lighten my load. While they can put away their dirty laundry and set their dishes on the counter, it’s my job to teach my little humans the expectations and help hold them accountable. They are watching who does what and how we do it. Is something only mommy’s or only daddy’s job? They watch how we navigate our relationship dynamics. Did I yell at my husband for not putting away his dirty cup again? Probably, and they saw that, too.

Does this mean I’m going to be a perfect robot mom who never gets upset? Of course not. I can, however, take a step back and look at the bigger picture – why am I yelling over something so small. My children are watching and observing how I engage with people and navigate that seemingly impossible to-do list. I can choose to be happy and helpful or not. What’s the point of yelling and getting upset? Maybe I’ll guilt someone into doing something which of course doesn’t seem to be the right answer either.

Natural consequences seem to be a better teaching tool in our home. As I constantly am telling our children, it’s your choice to be in a good mood and how you act. Yelling doesn’t help me understand. I’m sure it’s confusing to our children to be told one thing and to watch another. Now to only practice what I preach.

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Janelle Cumro-Sultzer
I’m just a normal mom who is trying to figure out how to have it all. Married to my best friend Dylan, we have 3 children, 2 senior dogs, 10 fish and a frog. Our children are 4.5 years, 2.5 year and 8 months who regularly like to do yoga with me and see if I can carry all three of them at the same time while doing squats. I’m originally from Junction City and together with Dylan have lived in New York, Denver, Kansas City and now Manhattan for the long haul. My Bachelor's is in Family Studies & Human Services from Kansas State University and my Master's is in Mediation and Applied Conflict Studies. I spend my free time trying to plan dates with my husband, writing and aggressively applying eye cream.


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