Tag Archives: motherhood

What a Mom Should Do at a Park–An Official Guide

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I was wasting time on Facebook the other day and saw a blog post with lots of comments. I think it was called, “To that mom on her cell phone at the park,” or something like that. The writer proceeded to bash this unknowing mother for her lack of parenting finesse. How dare she go to the park and then text her friends, ignoring her children? Didn’t she know how fleeting childhood is? Blah, blah, blah.

I couldn’t help but wonder about the mom who’d written the post. Didn’t she have better things to do than judge other moms? Like, play with her own kids, for example? There’s this thing called karma–what goes around comes around, and I hope that hostile soul wasn’t trying to validate her insecurities about motherhood, or something psychological like that.

I’d guess that the poor cell phone mom, unaware that she was being slandered across the world online, had had a rough day. Maybe she’d taken her kids to the park as a last-ditch attempt at sanity, relieved for a five-minute break. Maybe she’d been waiting all day for an email from her deployed husband in Iraq, and wanted a little peace to read it alone for once. Or perhaps she was newly pregnant and morning (afternoon and evening) sick, and the park was the only place her kids could be entertained while she sat down to rest. Who knows? Even if she was texting her friends–does it really matter?

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s self-righteousness. And I’m beginning to think all of us moms are guilty to some extent.

Guys are so different from girls. Go to a gym and watch men lifting weights, and I guarantee you’ll laugh. Girls at the gym look at other girls in disdain, sizing up their competition and wishing they were skinnier (or bigger-breasted, or blonder, or tanner). Guys just grin at themselves in the mirror and admire their own muscles. They don’t care about the guy a few feet away doing the same thing. Men don’t have to shove others down so they feel better about themselves (usually). They just live their lives. Dads don’t look down at other fathers at the park, whispering to themselves, “I’m so much better than him, because he only brought a frisbee. I brought my entire garage’s worth of balls and bats. I should write a Facebook post about this. Hello, Father of the Year!”

The other day, I had a conversation with some girl friends and discovered something. Every single mom had a different opinion about what to do at a park. One said that was the only time she had to catch up on emails and texts. I said I was more likely to make a fool out of myself chasing my kids around, pretending to be a crocodile. Another woman chuckled and said she liked to sit on the bench and make fun of moms like me, and still another said that she wished she could play with her kids, but she usually ended up on the bench in an exhausted slump. So which was the better mother?

IT DOESN’T MATTER. We’re all great mothers, and we all love our children. How do I know? Because we all take our kids to the park! If we weren’t good parents, we’d lock our kids in a dark basement instead. We use different methods and have differing opinions, and that’s fine. Rather than looking down our noses at each other, or wishing we were more like other moms, why not sit by another mom on the park bench and ask her how old her toddler is? Or allow other moms’ kids to join us in our crocodile game so other moms can have a break (and make fun of us to their friends as they text)? Why can’t we lift each other up instead of tearing each other down? Being a mom is hard. It’s teeth-gritting, hair-pulling, never-ending diet hard. It’s difficult enough without people judging every move we make. Especially at a community park, for goodness sake.

I, for one, pledge to reject the feminine sense of competition. I will strive to never again judge the child-ignoring mom at the park (with the exception of the ones who pretend not to notice when their kids are being dangerous bullies–that bugs me to no end. But anyway). Instead, I will reach out and lift others. I’ll teach my kids that being nice and making friends doesn’t end when they leave elementary school, and even a tired (exhausted) mom can make a difference in someone’s life. Who knows? Maybe someday, when I’m that half-awake woman sprawled out on the bench, someone will return the favor for me.

Gotta love karma.

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Hero vs. Bully–A True Story

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I saw a true hero today. I don’t know if it was a woman or a man, but s/he drove a silver four-door sedan and made me proud. Yep, this person stood up to a road bully–and reminded me of our number one family rule: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

On the corner of University Pkwy and Geneva Rd in Orem, there’s a relatively new sign. It’s posted in the right turn lane, and it says “Stop On Red.” I remember groaning when it went up because it meant north-bounders on Geneva couldn’t just stop and turn right on a red light. Now we had to wait for both lanes to turn in front of us before the light would turn green. 

I’ve been tempted to cheat a couple times, mind you. Especially during the day when there’s little traffic and no one’s paying attention. 

But tonight, there was plenty of traffic, and I was coming the other way this time. In fact, I was one of the cars turning in front of that irritated lane of would-be right-turners. And I knew something was wrong before I even got to the intersection.

Someone had laid on their horn for several seconds already, and it didn’t let up as I turned. By the end of my turn, they were still, ten seconds later, laying on their horn in irritation. But the front car sat there, waiting patiently, obeying the light and the sign, knowing that if they went they’d get hit (by a turning car like me). 

I was absolutely disgusted. First of all, how do you get a driver’s license without being able to read? I’m pretty sure that was a requirement when I was sixteen. It’s pretty hard to miss that giant sign that says “Stop On Red.” My kindergartner can read all three of those words, dang it.

Secondly, let’s assume that the obnoxious driver missed the sign somehow. How do you not miss a line of cars turning in front of your lane, just feet away from the lead car?

And third, even if you miss the car and don’t see the double-laned army of turning cars, WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU? I think the lead car got the message within the first second or two. So you’re impatient. You want the car to go, so you can too. Yep, we get that. You don’t have to lay on the horn for half a minute. The only message that gets across at that point is that you are 1) an illiterate idiot, and 2) an obnoxious bully with no common sense. What if you’d freaked out the poor car in front of you, making him go when it wasn’t safe and forcing him to plow into oncoming traffic? Would you have felt better then?

But no. The heroic silver sedan sat there, all four wheels obediently behind the crosswalk line, not budging at all. I don’t know what the poor driver was thinking at that point, whether s/he wanted to flip the guy off or whether that was a rough ending to an already hard day. But s/he was a hero for me.

As I drove home, I realized that there are all kinds of bullies–and they don’t stop once they reach adulthood. I actually think they get more subtle and more powerful the older they get. These people believe they’re always right, smarter than everyone else, and above the rules. They feel entitled to the first, the best, and the most desirable of everything. They bowl over those who get in their way and have tantrums when they don’t get their way. And the scary thing is, sometimes these people actually have kids. Heaven forbid.

If we’re lucky (at least in one way), their arrogance extends to breaking the law–then we can finally do something about their actions. But most of the time we just have to shake our head in wonder, reminding ourselves to teach our kids NOT to be like that. We have to step up and become our own kind of heroes. We teach our children “please” and “thank you” and “wait your turn.” We resolve to genuinely thank the waitress who just got publicly flogged for getting an order wrong. We step aside for the guy bowling over people in the grocery aisle. We back up the cashier when she tells a bullying customer that she’s not authorized to use that expired coupon. 

Why do we do these things? Because at least WE understand that it doesn’t have to be a dog-eat-dog world. We have to live with each other, and we may as well help each other out–life’s hard enough without people like that around. Just as our kids are taught in school to stand in line, and each student gets a turn to be “star of the week,” we have to remember to give RESPECT even in adulthood. It’s not Just about any one of us. It’s about all of us.

And frankly, it takes guts to stand up to people like that–even if it means keeping your foot firmly on the brake, like that brave driver I saw today. S/he kept my family safe and obeyed the law, and I noticed. I hope the bully got the message. 

I think I’ll use that intersection more, so I can pass the message on. 

ONLY Three Kids–One Author’s Story

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A couple weeks ago, I sat in a hard chair at a book signing event, trying to get people to come talk to me. Finally a man came over and asked what my book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces, was about. I told him it was about motherhood and overcoming the feelings of guilt, stress, and inadequacy that many moms face every day. 

“How many kids do you have?” he asked.

“Three,” I said proudly.

He gave me a funny look. “Only three?”

I knew exactly what he was thinking. There are books out there by mothers of eight, ten, and even twelve children. Now those are the books you want to read. Those moms must have it all together, right? They know all the tricks and secrets to motherhood, after raising so many kids. So why would you buy a book by a mother of three? 

And that, my friends, is my point. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to other women who have said, “I know we ONLY have four, but I just can’t handle more than four. Do you think that’s selfish?”  Or, “My mom had eight kids. I’m going out of my mind with five! I don’t know how she did that. I want to be a good mom, but I just don’t think I can handle another one.”

I live in Utah, where sometimes it feels like the number of kids you have is the familial equivalent to the brand of car (or minivan) you drive. In some peoples’ eyes, children are like pets, cute little collections that you play with during the day and then lock up at night–adorable little faces that you dress up on Sundays and parade around the neighborhood on family walks. Then we go home and struggle with back-talk and natural consequences and messiness and chore lists, and wonder where we went wrong.

We live in a very different culture here. In many ways, it’s not “how many kids do you and your husband want?” It’s more like, “What’s the maximum amount of kids you can juggle and keep alive?” And frequently, you add one or two more on top of that.

I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek here, but seriously. In other states, ONLY three kids would be above the national average. It would mean that each one was wanted, raised, loved, and cared for. Each is a person with a personality and dreams. I may ONLY have three kids, but you’d better believe they’re my world, not just numbers. When did adding to a family become an Olympic event, or a status symbol?

Does a mom of ONLY three kids know any less about her children than a mother of eight? Does a mom of ONLY three kids not experience pain, guilt, stress, and overwhelming love? At what point is a woman eligible to share what she’s learned on her journey–when her kids are in college, or when she’s still on the rocky road of parenthood, taking notes as she goes and trying to lift others?

At what point does the ONLY go away? 

My children are still young, and yes, there are ONLY three of them. I’m sure we’ll have more someday (and no, it’s not really everyone’s business). But I believe that every mom, whether she has one child or ten, whether she works or not, and whether she’s single or married, experiences the same bleary-eyed, sleepless shock of a new baby. Every mom knows how it feels to wake up, force a smile, and begin the arduous mountain climb of motherhood all over again. It would sure be nice if moms felt comfortable expressing their feelings about motherhood with each other, instead of comparing number of kids and ages and deciding who’s a “good” mom and who’s not. It would sure be nice if we could help and pull each other along, able to rely on other people instead of feeling so alone.

I hope it happens someday. I hope that women who read my book feel that way. I really do hope that moms understand how important and rewarding their job is, regardless of the hard stuff–because each child is a person, not a number, and ONLY three is a pretty dang good job.

So the next time someone looks at me and says, “Only three?” I’ll smile and say “Yep!” And then I’ll ask about their own children, because that’s probably what they really want to talk about anyway.

Do you have any thoughts? Please comment below. 

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

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.

3 Powerful Rules for Raising a Grateful Child

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“Mommy, I want one, too,” my five year-old said as he watched me give a piece of toast to his big sister. I resisted the urge to correct his manners and whipped it up. When I set it front of him, his mouth turned into a pout and he said, “No! I wanted a bigger one.”

Does this sound familiar? This happened just this morning, and when he said it, I knew I had to write a blog post about it.

The thing is, I’ve taught them manners since infancy. I’ve read them the manners books. I’ve enforced the “magic word” and insisted on gratitude. I even model good manners, hoping they’ll pay attention. But after that scenario this morning, I did some good, hard thinking and realized that I needed something bigger–the “big guns” of anti-spoiling parenthood. So I did a little research and found three powerful rules to curb that sense of entitlement and ingratitude. I hope they help you as much as (I hope!) they’ll help me:

Rule #1: Set expectations.

In one of the articles I read, the parents called each errand day a “look” day or a “buy” day. If it was a “look” day, they were just window shopping, and the kids knew in advance not to ask for anything. If it was a “buy” day, they knew to bring their money because they’d be allowed to make purchases. That way, they weren’t constantly setting their hearts on objects and expecting treats. Setting expectations in advance can be a great teaching tool.

Expectations should also be clear at home. In our house, respect is the number one rule. My kids (usually–but not today, apparently!) know to begin their requests with “Please may I have…” or “Thank you for…”

Each member of my family must follow the respect rule, even the parents. I’ve sent myself to my room before. It wasn’t the punishment my kids thought it was–I think I pulled out a book–but it did show my kid that respect is something that everyone should give. Even Mommy.

Rule #2: Serve others–and make it fun.

I know. This one sounds like a sermon, but really, kids are pretty eager to serve other people when they’re young (unless it involves chores and Mom). One year at Christmastime, we passed a tree in the mall called “The Giving Tree,” decorated with ornaments of children who needed gifts that year. My daughter asked what it was, and I told her (a complicated task, considering that I had to explain why Santa brought some kids gifts, and not others). She was quiet for a long time. Finally she said, “Can we give them the money from my piggy bank? I don’t really need it.” We didn’t follow through with it–we made if a family project instead–but for that moment, she stepped out of herself and her wants, in exchange for someone else’s needs and wants. Hurray!

It doesn’t have to involve a huge sacrifice, though. It can be fun. My six year-old niece decided to draw pictures and set up an art stand outside her house. She sold her pictures to neighbors for 3 cents each and gave the money to Primary Children’s Hospital. It was a great way to combine something she loved with helping others (and frankly, her mom didn’t have to find a place for all her art. Definitely a win-win).

Oh, yeah. One more thing. My kids love making thank-you notes. It’s a good way to help them recognize the efforts of others, but still have fun creating something. And what grandparent can’t resist a thank-you note with greasy fingerprints and baby slobber all over it? I mean, come on. Priceless.

Rule #3: Teach them about the less privileged.

I talk about this a little in my book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces, but I worked in a Romanian orphanage for a few months in college. The children I served were the ones with physical and mental disabilities, the ones no one would ever consider adoptable. They were ignored all day until meal time, during which they had food shoved down their throats in record time. They were never potty trained, and since the orphanage couldn’t afford diapers, the orphans did their business in wadded-up pieces of clothing stuffed into their pants. I look at my own children and think, “Wow, kid. You’ve got it so good.”

I remember groaning at my dad’s “When I was a boy” stories. (How can the way to school be uphill, both ways? And how did you have snow? You lived in southern California…) But now that I have my own family, I understand why Dad was so insistent. My sisters and I grew up in better circumstances than my parents did, and my kids are living better than I ever did.

With such a limited perspective, it’s nearly impossible for kids to understand why they need to be grateful when they can’t see past their own circumstances. Maybe it’s time to carry on the “When I was a girl” stories–except they’ll start with “When I was a student, I lived in Romania…”

Well, there you go–three powerful rules for raising a grateful child. I promise to follow up on this subject and let you know how it goes. Do you have a good anti-spoiling idea? Please post it! Thanks for following.