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Category: a good day

The Only Parenting Advice You Will Ever Need

When my first baby was a year old, my mother-in-law came to me with a serious piece of news: my son needed speech therapy. She knew this, because her good friend was a speech therapist and when my mother-in-law described my baby’s development to her, it was evident they needed to step in. They advised immediate professional intervention.

I was floored. And, coincidentally, speechless. Not by the revelation—I happened to think that my son’s speech was on target, and I was right—but by the audacity of these two women, discussing my child and making pronouncements. As a new parent there were so many things I was unprepared for, but how to deal with the never-ending stream of well-meaning and not so well-meaning dollops of wisdom was dizzying.

I’ve learned a one or two things as a mother, so let me give you some advice about all that advice.

First, follow your instincts. Each child, each parent, each family is unique. You will have to find your own way, discover your own solutions for the myriad of challenges that you face, from the baby who won’t sleep, to taming toddler–and teenage–tantrums.

You can listen, you can file information away, but you are never obligated to take anyone’s kibitzing seriously. Just smile and say thanks. You can read all the baby and child books you want…

Summer!

Proof Positive

Listening to an NPR show discuss the Ferguson, MO, shooting in the car this morning, my daughter asked, “Why don’t they just call people by their name? Not black or white, they have a name. I just want to know their name and if they are good people.”

My Favorite Picture of You

“I just don’t look good in pictures,” was what my mother would say. It was a statement, a fact.

Her mother had probably told her that, more than once.

She was a pawn for her socially climbing mother, an only child in New York City, stained by her parent’s divorce. She spent her childhood being braided and straightened and showcased.

There are so many pictures of my mother as a child. Professional, expensive photos. I can feel the scratchy wool stockings, tight patent leather shoes and pinching hair clips when I look at them.

My mother would look at a one of these pictures and say, “Look, you can see how I was getting fat there.”

My mother found her rebellion after my father moved her out to the country. But she truly came into her own when he died, and she was left with two young children. For some women, the second

Girl Meets World

The First Two Years with Bruce

[This is a special edition of Great Moments in Parenting: a mother (Lola) and a father (Jason) perform a written duet to peel back the curtain on the first two years of life with their baby ( Bruce).]

LOLA: I remember being told that women forget the pain of childbirth; that they have to, or else they would never be willing to do it again. What I was not told is that this is true for the first six months of the baby’s life. When new mothers ask me for advice about the first few months, I feel like someone trying to recall a particularly debaucherous music festival: “I don’t know, man … I mean, I know I was there, but it’s all kind of lost in a haze of crying and vomit …”

JASON: Speaking of vomit, there was an awful lot of that during those first months, not all of it Bruce’s either.

LOLA: Yup. I remember that first experience of all three of us being sick at the same time. I was taking care of you, I was taking care of Bruce, and during a fit of particularly excruciating stomach cramps I remember thinking, “Who’s going to take care of me?” That was a harsh realization that I still struggle with: Not only did I need to learn to care for this new, tiny person, but I also needed to re-learn how to take care of myself. “Moms don’t get sick days” is a cliché but it’s true. If I don’t treat self-care as a serious responsibility, I’m putting the care of my family on a very shaky foundation.

JASON: I suck so bad at being sick … sorry for all the puke.

LOLA: Oh I’m over it. It’s the carpet that never quite recovered.

JASON: What no one tells you about the first six months is that they will last approximately three years …

No Child Left Inside

The Perfect Anniversary Gift

What do you get the woman you love to celebrate 16 years of marriage? In my case, I knew the answer. There’s only one thing my wife wants more than anything else, and that’s a healthy future for our son.

Along with being a bright, energetic, playful kid with a quirky sense of humor, our son

Mom, Can We Get a Goat?

Full Circle

Kmart, the kiss of death for social status in Junior High. My Mother’s favorite store for deals, Kmart. My utter loathing of the store, epic.

Picture a sweltering hot September day in Las Vegas. Our station wagon with peeling woodgrain prominently parked in the first row in the Kmart parking lot. The windows are open to allow the whisper of a breeze, not unlike the air from an oven when it’s opened. I’m hiding under the seat, drenched in sweat. My hair is stuffed into a ball cap to cover up my trademark red hair. I would rather have heat stroke and literally die than be caught in a “discount” store.

Looking back, I wouldn’t doubt that my Mother specifically chose the parking spot in front, and probably extended the shopping trip by playing the slots at the store. (Yes, even Kmart has slot machines in Vegas.)

Fast forward a decade. I’m buying

First Roller Coaster!

Pack the Ideals

Before I became a real mom, I envisioned my future mom-self packing up the car with camera, baby, pen and pad and hitting the road to explore. I imagined how I would stop to take pictures and plop my sweet babe down on a quilt in vibrant green and yellow fields against a backdrop of brilliant blue sky. And I would write.

Right.

When motherhood did become a reality for me, you might say I was a bit… surprised. Once I had my own babies, I cringed when someone mentioned loading up the kids for a road trip to visit them just a few hoouuuurrrrs away.

When we did travel so the relatives could see the kids before they grew up, I would pack bags of activities and snacks to keep a baby (whose view faced the back of the back seat) and toddler occupied. When my stash ran out, we would stop

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Distractions bat at me from all sides, between various freelance job responsibilities to financial worries to bad hair days. Sometimes, I’m frustrated that the laundry isn’t done and I don’t want to do it. Sometimes, I’m thinking about dinner that needs to be made, and I’m missing a key ingredient. I’m not tuned in to my son. Here’s what I have realized (and maybe I’m a little slow): when I am annoyed at him or he is acting out, it is usually not him who is the problem. It’s me.

Granted, he doesn’t need for me to be tuned in 24 hours a day. He is an only child, and he knows how to entertain himself, for periods of time. On the other hand, there are times that he needs my attention, and giving it to him in a way that is both positive and loving is the way to defuse any oncoming preschooler hurricane in our house. It’s up to me; I’m the adult. And I can almost always pinpoint the cause of his dismay and it points back to something I wasn’t paying enough attention to notice.

During Thanksgiving weekend, with a chance to truly unplug for five days in the rural lands of west Texas, I could see the before and after of the “It’s not you, kid, it’s me” for both my son and my husband.

We set off for the three-and-a-half-hour drive out west…

Favorite Moment: Evening Decompression

Parents decompress at the end of the long day.

Photo: Jote Khalsa

Best Moment of the Year

After successfully completing another big conference for moms, MomCom–this one national (whoot whoot!)–this mom finally got some free time to unwind and reconnect with her patient daughter. This is how the moment went:

My daughter as she’s putting her feet between my legs while we’re reading in bed: I’m not cold. I just haven’t seen you

Why I Chose Alternative Education

For one bright, shining school year—fifth grade, to be precise—I experienced the joy of unbridled learning. I was part of a pilot education program in Memphis called Creative Learning in a Unique Environment, CLUE for short.

Even though I escaped my regular classroom to attend CLUE class for only a few hours each week, it made a lasting impression on me. More than any other factor in my life—including wonderful mentors in college and a family full of talented and dedicated educators—it shaped my attitudes and habits as a lifelong learner, my work as an advocate for authentic education, and, most of all, my parenting.

The special class wasn’t about absorbing facts and figures; it was about exercising our minds in all kinds of ways.

We practiced logic as well as creative pursuits. We learned to identify different forms of propaganda and to form and express our own opinions in a respectful

Laundry Basket Robot

Love Makes Us Rich

 

Me: I feel really happy right now. I just wanted to tell you that.
Six-year-old son: Why are you so happy?
Me: Well, we have a safe and beautiful home, reliable cars, enough to eat and all the love we can handle. I feel like the richest woman in the world.
Son: Love is what

How to Find Pleasure as a Parent

After putting the kids to bed and finishing the dishes, I knew I should be sleeping like my husband. We usually fall into bed without a word because tomorrow will be just as busy and draining as today was.

But I took a mini vacation instead. I went downstairs (up late!) watched Louis C.K. (adult TV!), ate a chocolate bar (not sharing!) and drank beer (carbs!). No one was shouting in my ear or asking me to wipe them. It was bliss.

I could do that everyday; why don’t I?

Because I’m parenting Puritan. Like so many moms (and dads) of my generation, I strive to follow the books that detail the best way to raise children. The advice points to a hands-on, very present parenting style. When my children talk, I bend down to listen to their every word.

Not for us the baby plopped into the playpen in front

No Such Thing as Too Much Dessert