the end of my rope

July 16th, 2017


This post was written seven years ago when my daughter had just turned 11, what I  now recall as a particularly anxious year in the life of a girl and her mother. Truth is always true, though, so perhaps it is what you need today.

Yesterday morning trying to pry my daughter out of bed and off to school was so completely awful, so terrifyingly bad, so angry, so loud, so confounding, that I thought: she needs a new teacher, she needs a new school, she needs a new attitude, a new diet, a new bedtime, a new mother, and short of that, an exorcism. I trembled with the weight of the disaster all day after. Something big would have to change, right away, and I had no idea what that could be.

This morning was different. A radical change occurred overnight. It’s called “a new day.” I never know for sure exactly what my daughter needs, but when I’m at the end of my rope what I need is more rope.

There are a lot of contrasting parenting styles and an endless supply of dos and don’ts. You’ll find a parenting expert of the day on the daily morning shows, and that expert isn’t me. Don’t get me wrong: every bit of information that comes your way can be helpful. If I have anything to offer it’s just my ever-renewed trust that our babies will be okay. If I have anything to give you it’s just more rope.

I always invite people to stay in touch with me, to write me with their questions and concerns. Sometimes they do. They might ask about discipline, handling sibling rivalry, overcoming their own parental fears and anxieties, or how in the heck to get the kids dressed, fed and to sleep through the night. It might sound like I’m giving an answer, but what I’m giving is simply rope – the lifeline that keeps us bobbing aloft until the blessed rescue of a new day.

Do you know who makes the day new? Only you.



  1. Ah, Karen, we all need more rope …..”until the blessed rescue of a new day” ….
    need to remember where/how to find it:)

    Comment by Mary Petro — October 28, 2010 @ 5:53 pm

  2. Are exorcisms something you preform as part of your priestly duties? Ha! Thanks for making me giggle and feel not so incompetent with this mom thing on an otherwise challenging day.

    Comment by Nichole Churchill — October 28, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

  3. In a way, yes! But the only exorcisms I can perform are on myself. 🙂

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — October 28, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

  4. I have a daughter (pre-teen)who could qualify as the neighbor of the beast in the morning.(I could have sworn she had the numbers 668 tattooed on her )
    Not easy for the Dad’s either. Have to keep fighting the good fight,and keep kicking the darkness till it bleeds daylight.(Metaphorically of course, although …nah ! wouldn’t work!)

    Comment by Brian — October 29, 2010 @ 12:44 am

  5. oh Teacher. this post is very fortuitous. once again, when i needed your words, when i was ready for your words, they came to me. Just as you assured me they would.

    I’m working on a post called the Mother Whisperer and how I need a visit from her. You’re that Whisperer. Your practice, your ancient wisdoms guide me on my daily cadence.


    Comment by denise — October 29, 2010 @ 12:52 am

  6. Husband laid-off; all of us sick; a deadline; altercation w/ preschool; my son’s speech delay amplifying (literally) the natural frustrations of being almostd-three & and suddenly having Mommy AND Daddy home.

    I couldn’t count how many times in the past few days I’ve said something like “I’m at the end of my rope”, “I’m about to go over the edge”, “I’m at wit’s end”. Also, “he’s possessed by demons.”

    I’m peeking up over the edge from where I”m hanging by my fingernails and see another coil of rope.

    Comment by Laura — October 29, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

  7. So true, we never know what our children need from one day to the next. My son walked ahead of me to school for the first time this morning. For the first time he wanted to be officially “separate” from me. I tried to joke about it, letting him know I noticed without trying to grasp on. I second guess so many of the tiny, split-second decisions I have to make as a parent. It must be in the rulebook somewhere.

    Comment by Kim — October 29, 2010 @ 2:54 pm

  8. While I don’t take comfort in your pain, I am comforted by your honesty. Lately C and I engage in epic battles at times, over teeth-brushing, etc. She has increased her need to push back and control. One evening I lost complete control of myself; fortunately I only yelled and didn’t act out on angry impulses, but that animal-yell terrified her nonetheless. I felt really bad, apologized, calmed her, and it weighed on me. The next day I had a chance to do better. I have to remind myself many time a day that she is only three and back off my agenda. This is a lot harder than I imagined it ever could be.

    Comment by Kathryn — October 30, 2010 @ 2:35 pm

  9. Ah! Karen simple and perfect: more rope. Yes, may we all have more rope.

    Comment by Ines — October 30, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

  10. As a parent of “challenging” kids (whose aren’t?!) I have taken this ‘new day’ phrase and told them,and myself, that this very moment is a new start, this one, you don’t have to wait for a new day. Although some things do require the cooling time of a day, days, or even weeks before a new start. But, I encourage folks to try thinking how this moment is it, a brand new start. It has made daily living magical.

    (I am sorry to admit that your post made me smile, with relief, to know that I am not alone. Come to think of it, that is my reaction to many of your posts, a sense of belonging. Thank you.)

    Comment by mj — May 19, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

  11. I need more rope. Please. Like, 3 days ago. Make that 3 months ago. Thanks. Currently engaged in battle with bratty 2 year old boy. He is winning.

    Comment by Shelby Lessary — May 19, 2012 @ 9:11 pm

  12. Also, thank you thank you thank you for your book and blog. It has had a great impact on me.

    Comment by Shelby Lessary — May 19, 2012 @ 9:13 pm

  13. Lovely! Yes. More rope, please — in 8′ lengths!

    Comment by Katie — May 20, 2012 @ 7:23 am

  14. Even us non-parents need all the rope we can find. Thanks Karen…

    Comment by Bobbi — May 20, 2012 @ 9:27 am

  15. Yes, I too needed an exorcism and extra rope today!!!
    Sometimes it is so draining to have to say the same thing over and over and get grief (or an angry face) about it on top of that. So very hurtful at times.

    To Kathryn: I have two childeren, the first one is a “hugger” and being held gives her safety. My second needs her boundaries and these are her “hugs”. Knowing that the world is still (and always) controlled by the same boundaries and rules over and over again makes her feel safe and soothes her anxiety about the world around her (she sees more than is age-appropriate, that scares her as well). Maybe your child has the same thing?

    Comment by Simone — May 20, 2012 @ 10:07 am

  16. A radical change occurred overnight. It’s called “a new day.”

    Now that is my kind of radical.

    Comment by Jena — May 20, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

  17. Yes! Thank you for the extra length of rope, and for the marvelous image to help me through the rough mornings of parenting teens. B’shalom, Pamela

    Comment by Pamela Gottfried — May 21, 2012 @ 5:57 am

  18. I’m going to find some with sparkles and glitter. Maybe even a cup of tea attached to it somewhere.

    Comment by Hannah Marcotti — May 21, 2012 @ 7:57 am

  19. I love both your honesty and that of all those providing comments. After a weekend of battles w/ my four yr old daughter, I felt like I came up the grand loser. It’s so easy to have all those negative feelings bring you down even more. What a beautiful reminder that I can chose how to start each day. Thank you again!

    Comment by Kelly — May 21, 2012 @ 9:35 am

  20. We work in the dark.
    We do what we can.
    We give what we have.

    ~Henry James

    Comment by Kim Piper Hiatt — May 21, 2012 @ 9:38 am

  21. [I like Mary Petro’s comment.]

    oh Karen. thank you for the rope reminder. every night I recite a book/poem to Lucinda about that rope, and end by singing her this lullaby:
    “Good night, sleep tight, I’ll see you in the morning / Good night, sleep tight, tomorrow’s a brand new day.”
    That’s about all there is that matters, that I know of: faith, hope, and love.

    Comment by Allison — May 21, 2012 @ 10:34 am

  22. Thank you. I can’t think of a day lately that I haven’t cried. I’m crying right now. Three and a half is hard, for him, for me, for his brother, for our family. This Mama’s been set to overwhelm lately and finding a hard time out of it. New bedtime? No treats? More friend time? What am I doing wrong? I try so hard to wake up with “it’s a new day” attitude and a “new moment” attitude, but feel so stuck sometimes. (Sigh.) Thank you. Love, Nichole

    Comment by Nichole — May 21, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

  23. Your morning sounded like a few in my life ……. wish I’d had someone like you to share with back then:)

    Comment by Mary P. — May 24, 2012 @ 9:54 am

  24. […] –Karen Maezen Miller, the end of my rope […]

    Pingback by The One Hundred Year Perspective « — May 30, 2012 @ 6:04 am

  25. Karen,

    This is my modus operandi…every day. It keeps me pressing on, doing my best, muddling through. For no matter how badly a day can end, how unsure I can feel about what happened, how it happened, are my kids going to be ok…I close my eyes, saying “Tomorrow I will start again.” You are soooooooo right.


    Comment by Kirsten — June 1, 2012 @ 5:38 am

  26. […] I still had Jena’s blog post from 2012 in a tab, I followed the link from it and found that Maezen’s original 2009 post was back–but with an updated italicized intro making it current (and today’s […]

    Pingback by A social media lesson learned: slow down – King's Corner — July 16, 2017 @ 1:44 pm

  27. Thank you so very much ??

    Comment by Andrea — July 16, 2017 @ 2:20 pm

  28. We never know where the rope will come from, or when. My son (now nearly 32) is a red-head, and I’m convinced red hair and the volatile temperament are linked on the same gene. (He’s fine now.) When he was in afternoon kindergarten, I usually let him watch Mister Rogers in the morning, but one day we were watching the later broadcast and had to turn it off in the middle to make the school bus. He wasn’t having it. I had to push him onto the bus while he screamed. In the afternoon he came home with a note from his teacher: “[x] had a very good day today.” I cried.

    Comment by Jo Ann Staebler — July 16, 2017 @ 2:49 pm

  29. It made me cry, too. Thank you.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — July 16, 2017 @ 3:31 pm

  30. Five years makes quite a difference. What does your daughter think of this?

    Comment by Bill — July 18, 2017 @ 4:27 am

  31. As a Mother whose two daughters are now in their 30s, I can tell you now have patience. They do get better about 25. In fact even turn into lovely people you want to be around.

    But, do hold onto the rope for dear life throughout those teenage years!

    When my oldest daughter turned 25, she apologized to her Dad & me for all the S*#T she had put us through.

    Comment by Shawn — July 18, 2017 @ 7:05 am

  32. Yes. With TWO 11 year olds right now preparing to start middle school … I am lost, confused and need much more rope! I am learning to both lean in closer but also take extra good care of me!

    Comment by Shawn — August 17, 2017 @ 2:25 am

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