Category Archives: Motherhood

Unsolicited Parenting Advice To That Poor Woman In The Library

First of all, it should be known that I have never: received a Mother of the Year Award, been nominated for such an award or ever felt worthy of applying for said award.

Mother of the Year, I am not.

Not now.

Not before.

Nor never will be.

But……… (and that’s a big but) ………. I have the trial and error experiences of 2 foster children and 3 they’re-all-mine-can’t-send-’em-back children. And over the past 21 years, I’ve learned a few things.

Every mother’s nightmare is a child acting up in a very public place. The grocery store. The mall. The vet (one of my worse nightmares happened here.) A restaurant. Or, better yet, at a very quiet place, like church.

Or the library.

My sons and I were trying to read, doing the “first page test” as we call it, to narrow our library book choices. (We read the first page of a book and if we get so lost in the book that we don’t notice that we’ve turned the page? The book is a keeper. Very scientific, I know.) Two of us were distracted.

“Mommmmmmmy! But I don’t want to go home. I want to stay here! Mommmmmmmy! Noooooooo!”

A mother and her 3 year old were having a battle of the wills.

Now, let me begin this parenting critique with a full-blown pass for the mom in question. She was probably: sleep-deprived, coming down with a cold, distracted by marital problems/financial despair/the washing machine just broke after fixing the air-conditioning (twice) and the lawn mower died and the brakes of her car were replaced, all  in the past 30 days. (That last pass was actually me this month but that’s for another post.) 

Let’s just say, she was already at her wits end and we are going to give her a huge get-out-of-parenting-hell free card. We will simply observe the behavior at hand and discuss why the tactics never seem to work. Remembering, too, that the not-really-an-expert (me) has never received parenting awards, her own book deal or a guest spot as a consultant on Dr. Phil.


The scene as it unfolded….

#1 – “Stop screaming right now!”

Said, over and over, while looking at the reserve shelf. Never giving her child the attention she was begging for. Never looking at her. Never acknowledging her.

And said seven times.


Yes, I counted.

Because by the second time, I started to think, as loudly as I could, ‘This isn’t working. You need to change tactics.’ Needless to say, she didn’t pick up on my telepathic encouragement.

Remember the phrase: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?” She was driving us all insane with her insanity.

Time for her to move on to….

#2 – “You are being very bad. You are a very bad girl!”

I think I gasped. I remember an article, a long time ago, suggesting that you never tell a child they are “bad.” You can point out the bad behavior. But your child isn’t inherently “bad.” (Now, they also say, you shouldn’t tell your child is “good” either. And I’ve broken that rule many times. — yet, another reason I’ve lost the Mother-of-the-Year award — But I like to think I’m encouraging them to fulfill that prophecy. And that’s a good thing, right?)

And when that didn’t work she resorted to….

#3 – “You are making Mommy very angry!”

Now, I know we’re splitting hairs here but I am a firm believer that no one can “make you” be or feel anything. YOU make yourself angry by allowing your child to high-jack your feelings. And I’m not saying my emotions have never been high-jacked by a willful 3 year old with super-human-whining-and-crying-powers. I’ve just never blamed them outright and given them that power. You can choose how to react to a situation. You can choose to be irritated or amused or indifferent. Or you can choose to be the bigger person, because you are the bigger person, and understand that this is a tantrum, a miscommunication of a bigger picture and this tantrum will eventually go away – with or without intervention.

So when tactics #1, #2 and #3 didn’t work she pulled the…..

#4 – “If you don’t stop screaming we are never coming back to the library ever again!” card.

My son’s eyes about popped out of his head and he had to stifle a giggle.

First of all, never say never.

Second, don’t make promises you never intend to keep. (I know. I said ‘never.’ But in this case, it’s true.) 

Seriously. I can use “never” here because if she’s taking her 3 year old to the library now, I’m pretty darn sure she’ll be taking her to the library at least once more before she’s……4.

Because, really? You’re going to deny your 10 year old a trip to the library because of what she did when she was 3?

I don’t think so.

And then the stratagem that all of us, if we haven’t tried, have thought seriously of doing……

#5 – The mom walked right out of the library and left her child standing there near the check out desk.

It was deliberate. It was mean. And, according to my son coming back from the restroom who saw it all, it was fast. Meaning, the mom was walking with deliberate speed that a 3-year-old could never catch up. Already down the steps and to the curb fast.

And that’s when the child let out a blood-curdling scream that brought me to my feet and caused everyone in the library to take notice. (As if they hadn’t already.) 

My first thought was that the precious child’s fingers were caught in the automatic doors. Or her mother had just smacked her and seriously injured her. But my son, seeing the fear in my eyes, shook his head and said, “She’s okay. She’s just scared.”

Just scared.

When he described what had happened, I was angry. Abandonment is a very real fear for children. I’ve dealt with it in my own children on many different (foster/adoption/daily life) levels. That little girl couldn’t catch up to her mom if she tried. And she knew it. Those tiny little legs have a hard enough time keeping up on a good day, let alone on a day when she was far from home and had no idea how to get back there. Mom was racing away without her and as much as she wanted to stay at the library, she didn’t want to stay there forever.

Now, I know Mom knew she was coming back or would at least slow down so that her little girl could catch up with her. But her sweet cherub didn’t know that. She was being abandoned. Plan and simple. And that’s a fear you should never, ever, ever put into a child’s head. Ever.

I have to admit. Walking away from my child, to encourage them to keep up with me, is a method I’ve used myself. I’m not proud of it. And I remember the one time I did it, the fear in my foster daughter’s eyes brought me to my knees. It was a bad-mommy moment for me, for sure.

So, after this lengthy critique, what is the solution to a whiny, screaming, war-of-the-wills tantrum from a 3 year old?

I don’t know.

I DO know what worked for me.

Whenever my kids were annoying or whiny or pitching a fit in a public place (or anyplace, for that matter) I resorted to holding them. No matter how annoyed or angry or crabby I was, I held them. Close. In my arms, until the tantrum subsided. And if it didn’t subside quickly enough, I’d whisper. I’d whisper, Shhhh. I’d whisper, I love you. I’d whisper little mini-soliloquies until they quieted down. And then, I’d tell them what I knew.

I knew they wanted to stay/go/have that candy bar/etc. But today we have to make dinner/finish grocery shopping/eat some fruit because we just had ice cream/etc. And next week, when we come back I will make sure we have plenty of time for story hour/run in for just the items on my list/skip dessert at lunch so you can have that candy bar/etc.

I’d make sure they felt heard. I’d explain my position. And I’d assure them, that next time, I will take their needs and desires into consideration — as much as I can, that is.

Because the bottom line is: they just want to be heard. And understood.

That is the bigger picture in any tantrum.

The end result, not getting their way, becomes irrelevant.

What matters most is that you listened to them and you understood.






Filed under Motherhood, Observations, parenting

In An Effort To Squeeze As Much As I Can Out Of My Son’s Childhood

My 11-year-old son has been a little extra cuddly lately. My son who isn’t typically cuddly.

With my daughter, I know what this means. It means that something is going on in her life that she isn’t particularly proud of or she’s experiencing some bullying or peer pressure to try things she shouldn’t.

So, I ask all the right questions.

“How are things in school? Made any new friends? How is David doing? Troy? What’s the weirdest thing that happened this week? What made you laugh out loud today? Did you help anyone today?”

I sit. Waiting. Hoping all of his troubles pour out.


I push as far as I think I can push without him figuring out what I’m doing.

“Mom? Can I go play xbox?”

And off he goes.

This goes on for about a week. I’m stymied. And then, in the middle of snack yesterday, he says, “Mom? Do you think I’m too old to Trick-Or Treat?”

I want to scream “NO!” and cuddle him in my arms and tell him to treasure every single moment that is still his childhood. But I can’t. He’s a middle-schooler now. He’s my tough guy who has been too cool for my hugs and snuggles for awhile now.

But it all makes sense now. His 10-year-old brother is fired up about his zombie costume. He’s been talking about it for weeks. While my other son watches from the side lines.

“I’ll just be a bank robber. It’ll be easy. I’ll wear all black. A ski mask and paint a dollar sign on a pillow case,” he says non-nonchalantly.

“Do eighth graders trick or treat?” he muses.

He started middle school this year. He’s moved from being on top to the bottom of the school food chain. He’s intimidated by everything all over again. What to wear. What to eat for lunch. What to share with your mom.

And whether to hold onto  one of the last pieces of childhood.

When I was a freshman in high school my friends and I had a sleep over on Halloween. The plan was to watch scary movies, stuff our faces with pizza and giggle into the wee hours.

“We should go trick or treating!” someone said. I looked around nervously. I was among the youngest of our group, We were all on the swim team together and there were sophomores present. What would they think?

“That’s a great idea!” A sophomore shouted. “We can all go as swimmers!”

Not a hugely original idea, but everyone loved it and we raced around, grabbing what we could from my house and then going to other girls’ houses to scrounge up more swim suits, caps, googles and warm ups.

Despite our fun-loving attitude and our polite thank yous, about 1/2 the time we were not well received.

“Aren’t you a little too old for this?” A little old lady (she was probably 45) asked.  One man actually refused to give us candy.

About 1/4 of the time, nothing was said but with the reluctant handout, the sentiment was understood.

And the rest of the time, we had warm welcomes, light-hearted comments about our “costumes,” well wishes for our upcoming League Championship and lots of candy.

We had fun, despite the nay-sayers. We laughed. We let loose. We stuffed our faces. We treasured and embraced the last days of what was still our childhood.

“No, sweetie,” I said to my cautious-confused son. “You are NOT too old to trick or treat.”

“But how will I know when I am too old?” he asks. I can see the wheels spinning, wondering if that day is just around the corner, coming much sooner than he is ready.

“You are too old when you can afford to buy a whole pillowcase full of candy for yourself,” I tell him.

He jumps off the stool with a big, goofy grin on his face, happy with my answer that seems oh-so-far-away.

And we just squeezed one more Halloween out of his childhood.






Filed under children, Growing Up, Motherhood

How Young Is Too Young? And Am I Setting My Kids Up For Social Suicide?

A friend shared with me her shock and dismay that her niece had an Instagram account. First of all, her niece was constantly on her phone, fingers in motion. Second, the child’s mother spent the weekend saying things like “Ohhh, such a cute shot. You should send that out!” and “Six more followers! Good job!” Third, my friend’s daughter was now begging for an account because all the cool kids had one.

And last, her niece is 10 years old.


As in, one and a zero.


So, I ask. Why does a 10 year old need a phone? Why is her mother so concerned about the number of followers her daughter has? And are my kids uncool because they don’t even have a phone yet?

Social media is difficult enough for an adult to navigate, and I’m talking about the emotional aspects, not the mechanics. Cyber bullying is now addressed in high schools and middle schools. Must we address it in elementary schools, as well?

Of course we must. But that doesn’t mean I want to.

I don’t see the need for my child to have a phone just yet. Knowing what I know about the dangers of the world and how close our technology can connect my child to these dangers is not appealing. Call me a worrywart. Call me over-protective. I don’t care.

My children are at an age when I am having to address this issue and I don’t want to. I want to keep my kids young and innocent and pure. I want their phone conversations to be supervised by a long cord tethered to the phone in the middle of a common area, oh say, like a kitchen. I want to know who is calling and at what time. You know, like it was when we were kids.

I’m struggling.

How young is too young?

Am I setting my kids up for social suicide because I want to prolong their innocence?

What do you think? And how are you handling this tricky, yet common, new century conundrum?



Filed under Growing Up, Motherhood, parenting, Ponderings

The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and Jane: The Holy Trinity of Trickery And Fraud

“Mom? Are you the tooth fairy?”

Stunned, I can’t look up from the puzzle I’m working on. “No, Sweetie. I’m your mom.”

My son walked away satisfied.

Oh. God. What did I just do? I lied to my son. But I was unprepared and I knew the inevitable question was next, “Are you Santa Claus, too?”


My husband chastised me. “You can’t lie. If he asks the question it means he’s ready for the answer.”

Well. That might be so. But maybe I’m not ready for the answer.

I’m not. Ready, that is. I fully believe in Santa Claus. Not in the concrete way that children do. But in the esoteric, allegorical sense. Think Miracle on 34th Street or the amazing Colonel Harry Shoup. And the Pollyanna in me clings to this belief for dear life.

I’ve tried to prepare for the inevitable. I’ve practiced speeches in my head. But I stumble and fail. I found this amazing letter that another mother wrote for her child. I’ve bookmarked it, hoping to be inspired when the time comes. But that moment will sneak up on me, just as it did the other day, and catch me by surprise. And I will bumble and fumble for the right words. I pray they come to me.

Think back to the time when you believed in Santa. This extraordinary man, who encourages goodness and kindness and magic. The joy, racing down the stairs, to see what was left under the tree. Finding just what you wanted and he only wanted a cookie, some hot chocolate and a carrot for his reindeer in return.

As my children grow older, I’m trying to come to terms that this magical time is ending. The mysteries of Santa will be revealed. And to those of you who have never lied to your children about this mythical man, you may now smile smugly as I wrestle with my lie and the fear that my children will lose confidence in me. I am a fraud, just as Santa Claus is a fraud, and I may never again be trusted.


“Will you put the dollar under his pillow?” I ask my husband.

“Me? Why me? You ALWAYS do it!” My husband is panicked and I try to get him to take the dollar.

“Well, that way I haven’t lied. I’m not the tooth fairy. You are.” Loopholes. I’m always on the lookout for loopholes.

“Well, I can’t. I mean. Uh. I don’t know how.” He stutters and stammers.

I glare at him. “You don’t know how? What is that supposed to mean? You slip your hand under his pillow, remove the tooth and leave a dollar in its place.”

He sheepishly trudges upstairs and I follow for moral support.

He tries to sneak his hand under the pillow but our son shifts in his sleep. “See? I’m going to screw it up.” He hisses.

I glare again.

He tries again, barely slipping his hand under the pillow and gives up. “I can’t find it. It’s not there.”

Ticked, I snatch the dollar, slip my hand under the pillow, immediately find the tooth and replace it with the dollar bill. My glare has now turned icy and menacing.

“You made a liar out of me,” I snarl.

My husband just stands there, with a sheepish grin.

I guess he’s not ready for the inevitable either.


Filed under children, Holiday, Motherhood

Black Friday. Worth Every Penny. And Then Some.

I’ve never liked to shop. Ever.

Still don’t. So when my 17 yr. old daughter asked if we could shop on Black Friday I laughed. Out loud. When she told me she was serious, I eyed her suspiciously.

“Only if we go at 5am,” I said, confident that she would back down immediately. You see, I’m a morning person. She’s a night person. A very late night person. She sleeps ’till noon every chance she gets. I knew I was safe.

“Ok!” she said enthusiastically.

Huh? What the…? How did that happen? I then tried to weasel out of it.

“Seriously? You’ll get up at 4:30? I don’t think so. Besides, I don’t think the stores you’ll want to shop even open up that early.”

Remember? I don’t like to shop. So in my forty-something years I’ve never shopped on Black Friday. I’ve avoided it like the plague. I thought only large discount stores and appliance stores were open at that un-godly hour the day after Thanksgiving.

“No, I already checked,” she said, “The mall opens at 5am.”

Rats. I was stymied. I had no idea where to go from there to get out of it.

“Ok…….” I said, voice trailing. I still had 5 more days to figure out how to get out of it. Surely, something would come to me.

But Thanksgiving Day arrived and I still didn’t have a way out. And she was so excited. Sharing this story with my sister on the phone she chastised my lack of enthusiasm.

“You set that alarm for 4:30am and enjoy yourselves. You’re creating memories,” she said, “Just don’t forget your helmet and elbow pads.”

Yikes. That got me. Especially since my stomach sinks every time my daughter receives a letter from a college trying to recruit her. I’m trying to cherish every moment she wants to spend with me. What was my problem?

So on Friday morning, we woke up before the crack of dawn and set out. We drove past our local Wal-Mart at 5:15am. Every, and I mean EVERY parking spot was taken. People were parking on the grass, off the curb. I’ve never seen it so busy. What was I getting myself into?

We arrived at the mall by 5:30am. It was busy but not unbearable. We shopped. We laughed. We waited in lines. I had to go check out the deals at the Disney Store (of course) and she reluctantly tagged along. 

The line was about 10 people deep and she rolled her eyes. “This is just like waiting in line for the rides, ” she groaned. But when we went to Hollister (her favorite store) the line for the cash register winded, weaved and wove through the store. “This must be SOME roller coaster!” I said excitedly. She pretended not to know me.

We chatted on the way to other stores. We chatted over coffee. We chatted in lines. We chatted in the car on the way to lunch. We observed people and talked about that. She shared with me things that were going on with school and with her friends. We reminisced. Mostly light things but some heavy things came up, too. And when the heavy things surfaced it slipped into our conversation easy, calm. I was able to share things I’ve always wanted to say – things every parent should say. She shared her feelings with a little awkwardness. (She is a teenager, after all.)

It was an amazing day.

I remember hearing Dr. Phil impart his wisdom on teenagers once. He said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that if you want your kids to talk to you about the big things then you’d better listen to the little things. In theory, I wholeheartedly agreed. But that day, I was able to see it in motion.

I’ve always felt I was a pretty involved parent. But days like this remind me I can always do more. Listening to those little things – how many sisters we could tell were shopping together, who her friends were dating, the latest fashion must-haves, how awful school lunches were – turned into conversations and snippets of some really big things. (And since I’d like to preserve some of her privacy I’m just going to let you guess what those were.) I heard her thoughts. She heard mine. It was amazing conversation with a little shopping thrown in. We enjoyed ourselves so much we’ve decided to make it a yearly tradition.

I saved a good bit of money on Black Friday. I lost a little sleep. Looking back, it was a simple gesture that became grand. And I can’t believe I tried to get out of it. What a shame that would have been.

(This is a repeat post from my first year of blogging. But it’s a lesson I have cherished. As I’m about to approach our 4th Black Friday Extravaganza, I thought I’d send a shout out to all of you to get out there and start making memories with your daughters. And sons. In ways that are meaningful for you. For us, it involves shopping. Yes. I have been reformed.)


Filed under Holiday, Lessons Learned, Motherhood

Teach Your Children Well

Most people who stumble upon or actually choose to peek in on my blog are moms. Almost all are parents who want to raise healthy, happy, well adjusted children. You find practical advice on head lice (it’s still my #1 seller! Go figure!) or find solace in my anecdotes. Or, in laughing at me, you sit a little straighter, knowing you can top Jane in parenting ability.

Now, I’ve never claimed to be a parenting authority.

But I know someone who is.

Madeline Levine, PhD., author of Teach Your Children Well: Parenting For Authentic Success, uses “cutting edge research and thirty years of clinical experience” to help us be the parents we want to be. The best kind of cheerleader for our children. Encouraging, supportive, and nurturing. Her book shows us that superficial success is not what shapes an authentic self.

I am familiar with Ms. Levine’s book The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating A Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids.  I found it so interesting, I decided (since I’m not eligible for the giveaway – and I’m cheap) to request her newest book from our library. There’s a waiting list. Out of the 7 copies, all are checked out with a wait list. Looks like is going to squeeze a book out of me this month. Yep. I don’t want to wait. She’s that good.

Harper Collins has graciously offered a free book (read: GIVEAWAY!) for a reader of my blog. Simply comment below and share a proud mommy/daddy moment, a learning (aka bad mommy/daddy) moment, or simply respond with “I want a free book!” Any comment will do. I’m not picky.

Comment before 12:00pm, EST on Monday, August 13th 2012 and a random winner – from the U.S. or Canada – will be chosen. (Yes. Your fate lies in the sticky fingers of one of my sons.)

Good luck!

Thanks for reading!

And have a happy parenting day full of highs and short on lows!

Update: And the winner is……..Naptime Writing! I guess your two entries increased your odds just the right amount. That and the fact that my son rolled your lucky number on the dice. Congratulations! And thanks, too, to TKW, Robin, Velva, Rudrip and Cool Joe for playing.


Filed under children, Motherhood, parenting

Pinch Me. College Age Daughter Actually Wants To Come Home For A Visit.

“Mom, they cancelled my shift on Tuesday. I don’t have to work until Wednesday,” #1daughter whined over the phone.

Boy, this is a switch, I thought. The realities of college expenses are finally sinking in.

I’m dying to ask her to come home, spend some time with us before the boys start school, but I want to be the “cool mom.” I want to be the mom who gives her daughter the space and independence she needs to become a functioning, healthy adult.

So, I bite my tongue. I ask about weekend plans, instead. I suggest biking or checking out the pilates class at the school fitness center.


I joke, “If you were a little closer you could come home for a few free meals.” (Okay. I’m not really joking but I’ve run out of suggestions.)

“Really?!” she says excitedly.

“Of course!”

“Okay! I’ll pack a few things and call you as soon as I’m on the road!”


Four hours later my angel was home. Teasing her brothers and taking them out for frozen yogurt. Watching the Olympics with her mom. Late night B-movies with her dad.

Given a few free days and my daughter actually wanted to come home and spend them with us.

What a relief. Maybe I am doing something right.


Filed under Adult Children, Motherhood, parenting