Tag Archives: raising kids

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. 

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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.

The Strangest Habits of Kids

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My five-year-old, Austin, has bitten his nails for years. Since I did it as a child, I haven’t felt qualified to stifle that habit. Kids will be kids, right? I figured he’d probably grow out of that one like I eventually did. (And the nose-picking thing…yeah. Sometimes you’ve just gotta turn your head and pretend you didn’t see it.) But his latest compulsion? Biting his TOES. Not the nails, but the actual toes. Once he’s bitten his nails bloody, he moves on to the tips of his toes and starts chowing down like a rabid puppy. I know! Weird, right?

The first few days he’d ask for a band-aid because he “tripped over” something or “scratched” it, but after awhile I knew something was going on. And when I first discovered his little body contorted on the couch, his toe in his mouth, I decided it was time for drastic measures. Like cheeseburgers.

We don’t eat cheeseburgers much since my diet started (when mom’s dieting, everyone’s dieting). So I offered to take him out for a burger on Saturday if he could go a whole week without biting his toes. He hopped up and down on the injured toe and agreed. I figured the problem was solved. I’m never above bribery, after all, and it was for his own good. Right?

Two days later I found him sneaking band-aids from the cupboard. He denied it, but upon closer inspection I could tell that he had, indeed, been biting his toes. And it wasn’t just the daddy toe this time. Oh, no. He’d moved on to every single toe on his right foot. And the poor daddy toe didn’t look so good. He’d bitten off the scabs, which left bloody gashes in the skin. It looked like he’d taken a knife to the poor thing.

Since it was obvious that this would take more than a cheeseburger, I offered to start the week over and threw in ice cream as well. He looked sincerely contrite and promised–pinky promised, even–that he wouldn’t do it again. I bandaged the toes, knowing full well that the band-aids wouldn’t last five minutes, and resolved to keep a closer eye on him.

Two weeks. After two weeks of bribery, threats, and guilt trips, nothing was working. And his toes looked horrible. My husband jumped on board and took over “bandage” duty, which involved cream, tape, gauze, multiple bandages, and socks at this point. He only seemed to enjoy the extra attention.

I was getting concerned. Did he feel unloved? Nervous? Ignored? Was he one of those pain-loving kids? Was I bad mother? My husband and I discussed putting nasty-tasting goop on his toes to discourage the habit, but we didn’t dare since the skin hadn’t healed yet. 

Finally, at bedtime one night, I told Austin that if he would stop biting his toes, I’d take him to Chuck-E-Cheese’s on Saturday. (You have to understand how desperate I must have been to make such an offer. It’s not my favorite place.) His eyes lit up and he pinky promised again. 

The funny thing is, he stopped.

Nervous habit? Attention-grabbing activity? Or is he just an incredibly smart kid who knows how to manipulate his parents? I guess we’ll never know.

Meanwhile, I’m keeping the first-aid kit stocked. You never know what he’ll come up with next.

What is your child’s weirdest habit, and how did you kick it? I’d love to see comments, especially ones that convince me that I’m not alone in this strange world of goofy children. 🙂 

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