Monthly Archives: July 2013

5 Dummy-Proof Parenting Tips from Disney Movies

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My seven year-old daughter loves the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty. I’d guess it’s really the long blonde hair and the pink dress (well, when it’s not blue) and the fact that she can talk to animals–which, when you think about it, is really quite creepy.

Anyway. We were reading the story together recently and she was like, “Why did the king and queen outlaw spinning wheels and send her into the forest? Why didn’t they just teach her not to touch one?”

And I was like, duh! Even a seven-year-old girl gets it. Thus, the idea for this blog post was born: Parenting tips from Disney movies. Here are five of them:

Tip #1: Toss the Control Issues Aside.

Just as Aurora’s parents freaked out and tried to control everything (thus defeating the purpose), we learn from Finding Nemo that we really can’t control our kids. We can control what we teach them about the world, and to some extent we can limit what they’re exposed to, but ultimately the choice is theirs.

Take Ariel from The Little Mermaid. What would’ve happened if her king father had admired her human possessions instead of destroying them? What if he had sat down–um, well, the mermaid equivalent of sitting down–with her and told her all he knew about humans, the good and the bad? What if he’d gone with her to take a quick look and satisfy her curiosity? Or even given her legs himself, and accompanied her on land so she could find out what they were like in a controlled environment?

Yes, we are responsible for our children, and we do have a little control over what they experience–but locking them up and forbidding any knowledge of what’s out there isn’t the way to do it.

Tip #2: Enjoy Childhood.

As Wendy’s father learned in Peter Pan, kids do strange things when forced to grow up too quickly–like jump out of windows with strange flying boys in tights, for example. Or in Alice’s case, slide down holes into mysterious worlds with shrieking queens and crazy tea-drinkers in top hats.

When you think about it, a kid’s childhood doesn’t last all that long–maybe fifteen percent of his life, a time when he’s taken care of by others. After that, there’s a short transition during college when they get to take care of themselves and (usually) nobody else. It’s a rite of passage, a fleeting stage we recall with fondness.

When we start raising our own kids, suddenly it’s never about ourselves ever again. Like, ever. Even after the kids leave, there are grandchildren, and then great-grandchildren, etc., etc. And besides, childhood isn’t without its lessons–play is a child’s work. It’s how they learn about consequences, teamwork, friendship, and who they are as people in this world. So why rush them into teenage-hood and the real world? That’ll come soon enough.

Tip #3: Bad Things Happen to Orphans.

Have you noticed that the proportion of books and movies regarding orphans is much higher than that in real life? It’s because when you remove a child from his or her family, he either has to grow up and learn life’s lessons right away, or fade into the darkest parts of society.

Bambi got just enough lessons to keep him alive before his mom was killed, as did Simba in The Lion King. Miraculously, they were both of royal blood and had to realize the full scope of that before they could reach their potential. Same with Snow White and Arthur from The Sword and the Stone. And then there’s the regular Joe or Josephine who just got the short end of the stick when it comes to life: Lilo from Lilo and Stitch, Mowgli in Jungle Book, Aladdin, Cinderella, and Quasimodo.

Have you ever wondered about their parents? How dare they die! Almost makes you wonder if cartoon characters avoid marriage and children, because as soon as they have kids, they die! (I know, that was a stretch. Sorry.)

The crazy thing is, some real-life kids grow up with the same survival instincts as orphans, even when their parents are alive–because their parents are there, but they aren’t present in their lives. (It’s ironic that I’m typing this right now, since I just remembered that I don’t have a clue what my kids are doing downstairs…Ahem. Excuse me a moment while I go check…)

Okay, I’m back. But seriously, let’s be there for our kids so they don’t end up orphans–because orphans make great characters in Disney movies, but real life tends to be much harsher.

Tip #4: Parents Should Work Together.

There aren’t many Disney movies where the mother and father are both present. But in movies like The Incredibles, it can make for great conflict. Anytime you’ve got two super awesome people doing something as hard as raising a family, they’ll disagree on some things.

The key is to find what you have in common and work together. Think The Parent Trap, where the threads of their affection for their twin daughters are what eventually pull them all back together. Aww. Precious. Same with Wendy’s parents in Peter Pan. Usually, the mother character is right and the father character is wrong (smart scriptwriters, I must say), but in real life, it could go both ways, and it totally does. I’ve been wrong about the kids at least twice.

Don’t tell the hubby I said that.

Tip #5: Parenting is Hard, But Worth It.

In the words of Dory, sometimes you have to tell yourself, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.” There’s nothing more worthy of the reminder than parenting!  The biggest lesson that Mary Poppins taught wasn’t even to the children she nannied–it was to their parents: Your little ones are priceless. Enjoy them while you can.

A letter to the Joggers Who Saw Me Go Crazy

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Dear Joggers from Last Week,

I know you were having a leisurely run that morning, probably enjoying those precious few moments of freedom before your intense day of mothering began. And I know the sweet silence of morning was broken by a crazed, screaming lunatic in her backyard, yelling like a banshee at her kids at eight o’clock in the morning. I’m sure you didn’t mean to stop and stare, but you couldn’t help it. I mean, who does that? Most people are still asleep that time of day, and here she was, already yelling at her kids, and the day had barely begun. You probably shook your heads, thinking, I’d never do that. You probably grumbled to each other as you continued on your way, whispering comments about “child protective services” and “nurturing.”

Luckily, you probably didn’t know that mom, disheveled and wearing her pajamas, was the author of a parenting book. Whew. How embarrassing would that have been?

I don’t blame you, ladies. I’ve done that before, too–watching crazed parents screaming at their children at the grocery store, the park, and even in stopped cars at an intersection. Even though I knew they loved their kids (hey, each family member was proudly displayed as a stick figure sticker character on the back window, so that proves it), it always made me think, Wow. I’d never do that!

So when this incident happened the other day and you walked away, shaking your heads, I just wanted you to know what you missed. You didn’t know how little sleep I’d gotten the night before, and the night before that, and how the kids were awake and roaming the neighborhood in their pajamas at six o’clock to “take the dog on a walk.”

You didn’t know that my two-year-old (also called Houdini) had gone missing because the older kids left the gate unlocked, and of course he’d been found playing and running in the street. (At least he wasn’t naked this time.) You didn’t see the stress of work, deadlines, and the looming financial disaster that I carried that day, clenching my jaw inside as I forced a smile. You didn’t hear the sassy remark from my daughter when I asked her to come inside and do her chores. And you certainly didn’t see how I cried harder than she did, or the awesome breakfast I made them, our lovely family trip to the park later (which miraculously, went very well–even with the dog). All you saw was that one moment in time, for which I will forever be branded in your minds. And boy, I bet it was entertaining.

I hope you enjoyed it. But above all, I hope you said, “I’d never do that,” to each other. Because honestly, I believe those words are worse than breaking a window or walking under a ladder, because they don’t just bring bad luck–they ensure that yes, you will do that–and you’ll probably have two mommy joggers walking by when you do.

Because that’s the way the universe works.

Sincerely,

Me

What Makes an Author? Thoughts on Self vs. Traditional Publishing

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My kids watched a cartoon after lunch today. I half-listened as I cleaned the kitchen, perking up as the young character showed his teacher a story. The teacher said, “Good job! You just wrote your own book. That makes you an author!”

Well, no, I argued internally. It hasn’t been published, so he’s not technically an author yet. After all, if every person who wrote a book called themselves authors–whether the book was Uncle Fred’s yet-to-be-proven World War II story or the next great American novel–then the title “Author” would lose its value, don’t you think? There are millions of people who say they’ll write a book but never do–so shouldn’t those of us who actually do be entitled to the term Author? 

I’ve thought about it all day. I know, I must be bored (hey, it’s cleaning day, all right?). But here’s why–where do you draw the line between two people and say, “You’re an author, but you aren’t.” It’s like saying, “You play football, but you aren’t a football player.” Some of the best cooks I know don’t consider themselves chefs because they don’t have their own cooking shows. Some of my favorite teachers didn’t have degrees, but taught me powerful lessons. So what is an author? 

Fifty years ago–heck, even twenty years ago–authors were writers who’d had their work published traditionally, in a hardbound book that people could purchase at bookstores. Now, it’s not that simple. Mine was published traditionally, sure, but what if it had been exclusively an ebook? What if I’d self-published, and my book wasn’t available at brick-and-mortar bookstores? What if my book had come out in sections in a magazine, but nowhere else? Now it gets complicated. The old definition of an author breaks down at that point. We’ve got Amazon, handheld reading devices, and thousands of books available for free online. So what is an author?

It makes me sad when some high-and-mighty authors who’ve chosen the traditional route frown on self-publishing authors, as if their method is the only legitimate one. I love being able to go to the bookstore and see my book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces, on the shelves–it’s a great feeling, and I’ll never get tired of it (or the funny looks I get from the staff when I pull out my camera like a proud momma). But does that make me more an author than someone else who chose a different publishing path? In an age of worldwide media at the click of a button, where 300,000 books are released a day, does it really matter HOW it entered the universe? Personally, I don’t think so. I think it’s an exciting time for writers and authors alike. There are more books enticing readers to their pages–er, um, screens–than ever before.

Honestly, this musing has confused me more than anything, but I do feel strongly about one thing. An author is someone who loves to write, lives to entertain others, and will never be able to stop–because the art of storytelling is one of the most fulfilling services a person can leave behind. Free or not, print or not, and best-selling or not. Period.

Best of luck to my author friends. For more information about my book and fun content, click here.

10 Symptoms: You Know You’re a Mom When…

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I love Jeff Foxworthy’s “Redneck”clips so much that I wanted to give them a little twist. So here you go, for your reading enjoyment:

You know you’re a mom when…

1) You have a secret candy stash–and not even your husband knows about it.

2) You run to the bathroom, lock the door, and cover your ears to avoid the sudden wailing and catastrophes that indefinitely occur while you do your business.

3) You have a stack of parenting books you intend to read, bills you intend to pay, diet recipes you intend to follow, and Pinterest projects you intend to try someday–like, ten years from now. Hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

4) You adore your kids the most when they’re gone or asleep.

5) You wake up tired and go to bed awake.

6) When the house suddenly gets quiet, you leap up in panic mode.

7) You can sleep through the snoring, earthquakes, and the zombie apocalypse, but jerk awake at the tiniest whimper of a child.

8) A homemade dinner consisting of a vegetable and protein is Hollywood-Walk-of-Fame worthy. (Wait, are you saying it’s not?)

9) If a child walks out the door in matching shoes and clean clothing (never mind the wrinkles), you are Mother of the Year. Seriously.

10) You use Clorox wipes nearly everywhere–not because you’re a clean freak, but because the smell gives the illusion that you’ve spent the day cleaning. 

Can you think of another one? Write a comment below. Check out my mom quiz or my book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces, for fun parenting and writing content. Thanks for reading.