My Top Ten Pieces of Parenting Advice

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  • I know all this free-range business is giving you new parents something to stress about, because your instinct is to hold up your precious William’s little bottom on the playscape so he doesn’t fall and free-rangers are all “let-him rip! Skin up those knees! You’re a nerdball-helicopter-control-freak if you watch your child run across the field!” Whatever, ladies. Chill the heck out and watch him as long as it feels comfortable.
  • Over the weekend our neighbors had a party and my children felt like swimming at 7 pm. They begged to return home for swimsuits. Naturally, I said no because I am a responsible parent. Thus, I continued to visit with grown-ups and ate more barbeque tacos. I then saw my children giggling and gathering up more children like they were ring leaders of a pre-school prison gang and they all decided to enter the hot tub in mass in their FULL ON CLOTHING. I stood looking at them like “Well, I could intervene, but I’m sitting here eating tacos.” So strike that on free range. It’s really quite lovely. Embrace disobedience in the name of creative exploration.
  • The other day my son had his 5th birthday party and another mom was like “this is the very first time my son has ever had soda in a can.” I sat there stunned, like “Seriously? The very first time? And this monumental event occurred at my house?” She spent five long years pushing watered-down fruit juice and all of a sudden here’s soda. I didn’t know if I should be proud of her or humiliated that I was letting kids slurp on Country Time Lite. It even had fake sugar, which means all these kids will get cancer and it’s on my head. OMG what have I done. But then I told myself to relax. We hardly ever drink these things. Curb the comparisons. Remember this if you want to have a Dora-the-Exploror party and Pinterest would scoff at your lack of creativity or absence of milk bottles with paper straws or you serve oreo’s instead of peppers with hummus. It’s fine. Little Mackenzie doesn’t even like peppers.
  • It’s raining and flooding here like the days of Noah so my children have had a ball with the cardboard house I let them make in the living room. Which is cool for a day but then the requests are like “can we eat our fried eggs in the little house?” and “can we sleep in the little house?” and “can we make furniture for this stupid little house and haul in all the leftover cans and milk cartons to the complete exhaustion of your sanity?” Kids, unless this little house comes with a housekeeper it’s being torn down on Sunday afternoon.   Then they cry and say you’re a horrible mother and how can they possibly live without this house/fort stuck together with duct tape filled with egg cartons. I’m not sure what advice I have for you on matters like this except that tomorrow they’ll move on to something else, so bake brownies.
  • There’s loads of guilt for not volunteering at school. Stop it with the guilt. I’m working full time so I usually volunteer for things like “napkins” and “games at the holiday party” and leave the lunch helpers to other mothers who really want to sit there with 20 or so loud children. And when I forget to bring snacks I’m that mom that shows up with a bag of carrots and a bottle of dressing, which shows my obvious effort, and when I forget my son’s blanket or pillow I’m like “somehow figure this out, people/surely you guys have a beach towel around this place that will work.” Now this might seem cruel to you, but from one mother to another I’m telling you your kid doesn’t mind eating carrots on a napkin or covering up for one stinking day with a towel. And if he or she minds, you have bigger problems. Come to my house and I’ll give them a soda.
  • Eating vegetables is an age-old battle. They have magical stomachs that can’t possibly stuff down one more green bean and yet there’s a reservoir for ice cream that never overflows. My suggestion is to simply tell them they have to eat their vegetables or no dessert, no matter the fact that sautéed spinach makes them gag or roasted beets taste like the bottom of a shoe or they’d rather starve until September than eat one more asparagus. You simply must never give in or show any emotion and treat dessert like an ex-boyfriend you don’t even give any second of thought to anymore. Then when they get smart and say “well I don’t want that stupid strawberry ice cream anyhow” you can bribe them with leftover Halloween candy. I’ve also heard statements like “EAT THAT STUPID KALE OR I’M TAKING AWAY TV TOMORROW FOR THE LOVE YOU ARE DRIVING ME MAD” may work on a pinch if you’re on your way to basketball practice in ten minutes.
  • Let’s discuss making beds. I think it’s stupid because we just get back into them in a day’s time so I’m the worst person to give advice in this area. My house always looks like it’s been broken into and the burglars took long naps.
  • I will point out, because I’m feeling like a bad mother making my kid eat vegetables and cover up with towels, that one particular year I didn’t bring carrots for snacks but instead followed a very detailed pinterest design. It involved making pencils for the beginning of the year out of cheese sticks, pieces of pepperoni, and bugle chips. I jubilantly hauled them to school to showcase my amazing mothering and my daughter was like “really mom? Do you have to walk these in?” So the lesson here is Pinterest is stupid and your kids care more about a love note written on a day-old napkin and stuffed in their lunch next to a cheese sandwich.
  • Get them all off devices. It robs them of all creativity and imagination. But then again, your house is a wreck, you have forts and books and roly poly collections and worm farms, so maybe limited device time is better than you becoming an alcoholic. So PBS and Little House on the Prairie only. Maybe a few others. Only once a day, maybe twice. Oh what do I know I’m such a pushover.
  • Honestly I don’t know what advice to give, except that reading to your children is never a waste of time, even when you’re bone tired, and never, ever, ever, withhold love. Love until your arms are sore. Love when they throw things and say they hate you. Love when they leave and say they will never come home. Love until your last dying breath. Love like nothing else has any hope of working, and when you feel all worn out just love some more.

We’ll see if it works out in the end, unmade beds and all.

 

photo:

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21 Things I will Teach my Children

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(1) If something makes you laugh, it just does.  You don’t have to know why.  Just stick with what truly makes your gut seize and you’ll be okay.

(2) Please floss.  It’s boring and awful but so are cavities in-between teeth and then you have to endure awful drilling sounds from the dentist chair like nails on chalkboards so PLEASE FOR THE LOVE JUST FLOSS.

(3) P.S. Your mother does not often floss because she wants to pop out her dentures for her grandkids.  See (1) above. Forgive her.

(4) Sometimes your body has a desire to move to the beat of the music.  Feet are notorious culprits. Please do not resist this urge.  It’s a natural and beautiful thing to allow the beat of song to match the beating of your heart.

(5) Cursing can be fun.  Don’t tell anyone I said this.

(6) I know that right now you hate onions and mushrooms and olives.  But someday try them again.

(7) Travel to New York alone.  Pack walking shoes and drink coffee and explore all the nooks and crannies.  It’s okay if you want to take pictures of signs or storefronts or subways. Sit on the second row of a Musical.

(8) Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings.  For example, I just tonight looked at your diary and you wrote “sometimes I’m bad at spelling.”  I think this is odd that you can write down anything in the world – made-up worlds about unicorns or glitter hair gel and yet you choose to write down this – but hey.  It’s your diary, kid.

(9) Don’t accept the premise that “it’s just food.” It’s not.  It’s what we put into our precious bodies.  It’s what creates memories.  It’s what makes our eyes roll back and our tongues drip with drool.  Food is energy on all fronts.  Learn to appreciate it.

(10)               Friends are more valuable than jewels.  If I could say it in multiple languages and hang it from banners in the sky, I would.  Because I want you to cherish them.  Love them.  Learn from them.  And keep them.

(11)               True love is elusive.  It’s scarce.  It’s the stuff novels are made of.  But it’s real.  Please don’t give up trying to find it.

(12)               I think by now you should be flossing.

(13)               If you get a poor grade, consider it an opportunity to improve, not a reason to call yourself a failure. I love you regardless of your status in fractions. Someday you’ll be sitting in a boardroom and you will lean to the person to your left, asking “what’s eight times seven again?” I mean hypothetically this might happen. Focus on flossing.

(14)               When you have the opportunity to travel, be on television, or bicycle across America, you should absolutely take it.  Be bold and wild when you are young without doing any drugs of any kind. Do I need to repeat myself.

(15)               Pray this often: “Please Lord, help me maintain a soft heart.  Full of warmth and forgiveness and compassion.”  This helps from building up stones inside that cannot be broken.  Because a hardened heart is a life of misery.

(16)               Don’t waste time on television when there are books.

(17)               Stinky cheese is better with wine.

(18)               If you don’t believe in God, Jesus, the resurrection, or the Holy Spirit, I don’t hate you.  If you don’t want to read Genesis or go to church and want to walk around scowling wearing nothing but black t-shirts, I will still lovingly claim you as my own.   That being said, I’m going to expose you to love as I see it. And I will sit with you in the hard nights when you need me.

(19)               I am your mother.  This means you can always come home.  You can always call.  You can count on me when everyone else fails you.  I am delighted in the mere existence of you.

(20)              Prayer works, even when you can’t see it.  I will sit tonight and pray hard for you.  Because you, my dear and beautiful children, are my fortune.

(21)               Floss.  In case I failed to mention it.

 

photo:

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A letter to my former self

Amanda,

This is so odd writing to you, a tall clunky fourteen-year-old, with the benefit of knowing your future.  Here I sit at 37 after going to law school and birthing babies and drinking an Americano with three raw sugars, all wise and sage and dolling out advice.

And yet nothing I say about treasuring the moment and “you are beautiful even though you don’t know it yet” and all other forms of motherly wisdom will mean much to you now. The reality for you is today, not tomorrow, and no one heeds advice to treasure today.

So I’ll say this instead:

(1) Lose the damn Coca-Cola shirt.  I know they’re popular.  I know you begged for one.  I know that everyone is wearing it.  Well girlfriend, trust me they are the dorkiest thing that hit that century and you don’t want pictures loitering around in thirty years that will forever be hitting facebook.  Wear it for pajamas, if you must.  But no photos.  Got it?

(2) What is facebook, you ask?  Well the minute you hear that word in your future you invest gobs of money into it and screw the haters.

(3) Please for the love of bacon don’t get bangs.  If you ignore me on this and do get the wretched things, don’t hairspray them up five layers.  Can’t you just leave them alone? And when you end up at a cosmetology school because “it’s cheaper” and “no one will notice,” trust me.  They will.  Use your best negotiation skills to get your hair cut at a real salon.

(4) And speaking of salons, you march in this very minute and tell your mother that home permanents are unacceptable.

(5) Save your jewelry.  All those fun James Avery pieces will forever be lost and you’ll miss them someday.  Put that jewelry in a safe.  I’m pointing my finger at you from your future.

(6) Letter jackets are irrelevant and useless and ugly.  When you hit college no one ever cares about them, so don’t stress about whether it’s a varsity jacket or whether it has patches.  Seriously – waste-o-time.

(7)  Read more classics. If you take nothing else away from this little lecture, you at least need to spend more time buried in literature.  Jane Eyre aside, you are behind, girl.  In the future you’ll have to play catch up, but then you’ll have kids and a mortgage and would rather be at the beach.  Read like a crazy person.

(8)  Someday your prince will come.  He will be tall and handsome and will take your breath away.  Take comfort in it.

(9) When you think your mother is old-fashioned and ridiculously strict and is the most evil and naive person on the planet, you will someday turn into her. So you might want to bring her flowers once in a while.  She ain’t that bad.

(10) You will soon have the urge to sew a Guess jeans label onto a pair of Levi’s in an attempt to fit in with the cool crowd.  You will be very impressed with yourself in coming up with this strategy and feel no one will notice.  But the label will come unraveled and cause a certain girl to point at you when you stand up in class and you’ll forever be stained with the humiliation of this day.  So spare yourself.  Just rock the Levi’s.

So yes, yes.  You’re secretly beautiful and you make really smart decisions moving forward.  Treasure today and soak in the youth and blahbitty blah.  But I swear you need to start plucking your eyebrows and quit wearing gobs of mascara.  And those warts on your legs?  Sister, they will go away.

What remains after the warts and the letter jacket is a really happy person all these years later.  You will go through trials of many kinds, but you’ll be prepared.  Thank God every day.  You’ll need it for tomorrow.

Love,

Mwah

Advice for my daughter

My dear daughter,

You are so precious at this age.  Everything I do is right, and true, and my kisses are like pink bubble gum sparkles on your cheeks.   I am taking it all in that you love me so.   But soon, you will see the ugly and cruel side of life.  I will stop making sense to you, and you just might not like me as much.   I always hope that you’ll laugh at me and consider me wise, even into my age-induced Alzheimer’s days to come.  But in the meantime, consider this advice:

  • When in doubt on what spice to use (whether it’s in eggs or potatoes), use Herbs de Province. You can’t go wrong.
  • You will someday be tempted with many vices.  Some are minor, but others have lifetime consequences.   Please don’t experiment with drugs.  They kill.  Got it?  Are we clear on this?
  • If your clothes are too tight, it looks like you’re tying to hard.  Let your body speak for itself.
  • Embrace who you are.  If someone suggests you to change your character, find a way to distance yourself.  Such people are toxic.
  • Laugh all the time.  It’s good for your soul.
  • Find true friends, and work to keep them.  They are more precious than diamonds.
  • Pray.
  • If you are engaged and you have the tiniest shred of doubt that the man you are about to marry isn’t right for you, walk away.  It can be the day before.  It can be the day off.  I promise I won’t judge.  Just politely return all the presents and keep your head held high.
  • Kids are glorious, but don’t rush into having them.  Enjoy your freedom.
  • Don’t eat low-fat ice cream.  Go for the real stuff.
  • A meal that takes a long time to prepare, with excellent ingredients, is worth it.  It shows how much you appreciate your guests.
  • Always, always, always tell the truth.  Lies are corrosive.
  • Nothing you could ever do in this world would cause me to stop loving you. Please remember that however hard you fall, I’m here to catch you.
  • Look for character traits in a man that your father has: strength, honor, loyalty, and wit.  Because you’ll be married to him for a long time, and you need to laugh through many trials.
  • Never email thank-you notes.  I have on occasion, but I’m not proud of it.
  • Reading fiction is never a waste of time.  It cultivates a garden in your brain filled with glorious blooms of words and characters.  Speaking of, read Atlas Shrugged, and Jane Eyre.
  • Wash your hands to the tune of Happy Birthday.  Twice.
  • Please know that when I die, I’m not forever gone.
  • Live life with wild abandon.  Freely and fully, knowing you are a child of God, rich in spirit and talents.
  • Sing and play any instrument you can.  Music is the closest you’ll ever feel to heaven.
  • Cut all your hair off at least once in your life.
  • Travel to Europe.
  • When you think there’s nothing left – when life is bitter and cruel and seems like it’s suffocating you – laugh.  Then laugh some more.  Always find the funny, because it’s there like a rough-cut jewel.

In your five-year-old world, I know so much.  But soon, when I fall out of favor in your eyes, I hope you take these bits of advice to heart.  My sweet young daughter, light of my life, child of my heart. . . It’s a rough world out there, but the battle has been won long before you entered it.  Your job is just to navigate through the best you can, with your head held high, smiling in the light of the morning sun.

Be the woman I know you can be.

Mom