Tag Archives: parenting tips

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. 

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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.