Category Archives: parenting

The Call: It’s Not A Matter Of If. But When.

We’ve all received that dreaded call. At least once. Probably at least twice. And some of us, uh-hem, more than that. And if you are sitting there, shaking your head “No” that you’ve never received “the call,” just you wait. It’s coming. I promise.


It happens to all of us. And if it has never, ever happened to you, than you’re lying.

Because my kids are angels. They truly are. Oh, sure. They make mistakes. They learn from them and move on. But most of the damn-near time, they are sweet, adorable angels.

Except when they aren’t.

Whenever we see people out in public, especially children but sometimes adults, behaving in ways in which they shouldn’t, I point it out. I say, “See? They are teaching us how NOT to behave.”

Well, one son in particular took that “teaching moment example” to a whole new level.

At age 5, in the dark, dank corners of the playground, he gathered his friends. He whispered in hush tones and said, “Now, this means something really, really bad. And you should never, ever do this.” And then, he clenched his fingers into a tight little fist and pried a certain spectacular finger away from the others (because he couldn’t do it without the help of his other hand) and showed his friends the offensive gesture. They were awed and amazed at the power one little finger could have. And then they ran off, into the safety of the sunshine, to play on the swings.

A few days later, I received the call.

“Mrs. Jane?” his teacher asked tentatively on the phone, “I need to make you aware of something.” She then informed me of the fateful day on the playground, how SHE received a call from another parent asking that her child be separated from my son and never be allowed to play with my child again. Ever. I was mortified. I was sooooo embarrassed. But the teacher kindly informed me that she had spoken with my son and that his reaction was so innocent, so matter-of-fact in the merits of his lesson shared with his friends, that she felt it was an innocent mistake. That this would all blow over and that the other parent would cool down. Eventually. In the meantime, she would separate the children as well as she could for the time being until all was forgotten.

It sucked.

And then there was the call from a good friend. She opened the conversation up with, “I feel like we’re about to create a scene right out of A Christmas Story…” and then she proceeded to inform me of how when they had been over for dinner the weekend before and our (now a little older) kids were upstairs playing my sons taught her sons a bad word. A word that rhymes truck. Apparently, one of her children misspoke the word truck and it came out sounding like the word that rhymes with truck and giggles ensued. Leave it to my sons to inform the mis-speaker what it sounded like he said.  Oh, but that’s not all. It seems they also watched music videos on YouTube that were inappropriate. Videos more appropriate for older teens. I was mortified. I was sooooo embarrassed. So, a big discussion took place, and a Net-Nanny went into effect.

And it sucked.

And then, a few years later, a son (who shall remain nameless) came home from school in tears. I asked him to explain. And through the tears, all I could understand were the words “She” “My friend and I” and “Bullying.” WHAT? Did I hear him right? He was mortified. He was soooo embarrassed. He said the teacher would be calling me. And he ran up to his room and slammed the door.


I got the call. And it was awful. It was terrible. I was mortified and more than embarrassed.

But after speaking with the teacher, a teacher who is amazing and wonderful and worked hard to get to the bottom of what had actually happened, I was relieved. Apparently, some name-calling was tossed around between a young lady who had a crush on my son. My son did not return the affection. His friend, leaping to his defense, joined in with some name calling of their own to “get her to stop crushing on him.” It backfired. And with the school’s No-Bullying Policy in place, the loudest name-callers got into trouble. (Bullying is a word we are tossing around too flippantly and easily, I might add. But that’s the topic for another post.) 

It was all resolved. Eventually. And my son learned a valuable lesson.

But it still sucked.

Parenting sucks sometimes. You get to be embarrassed in ways you never dreamed possible. Your peers get to see you struggling, while their little angels shine. Except when they don’t. There will come a day when the hot, white spotlight reveals their little angel’s flaws and mistakes.

And then YOU get to slink back into the shadows.

And thank the dear Lord above, that at least it wasn’t YOUR son.

This time.

(This post was inspired by a true-confessional by my dear bloggy friend, Nap at Naptime Writing. Please check her out.)



Filed under children, parenting

What I Learn From Reality TV And Why I Can’t Stop Thinking About I Am Jazz

(Disclaimer: I want to formally apologize to the transgender population if I misuse terminology, make inaccurate assumptions, etc. I am learning. I am trying to educate myself. I am human.)

I watched a series on TLC over the summer and I can’t stop thinking about it. I watched because I was curious. I watched because I wanted to understand. I had no idea it would resonate and touch me, as a mother, so deeply.

Before “I Am Cait” on the television station E! featuring Caitlyn Jenner (formerly known as Bruce Jenner) there was “I Am Jazz” on TLC. It was an 11 episode series featuring Jazz and her family as she navigates the world as a transgender adolescent.

The Jennings family from I Am Jazz on TLC

The Jennings family from I Am Jazz on TLC

In the very first episode, Jazz’s mother talks about how, as a pre-preschooler, Jazz asked her mother “Am I a boy or a girl?” Instead of pointing to her anatomy, her mother asked her what she thought. “Well, my body says I’m a boy but my head says I’m a girl.” And so began their journey of helping Jazz to become the person she was meant to be.

Now, I know some of you out there are shaking your heads and saying, “Who she was meant to be? He was born with male anatomy.” But think back. Way back. To when you were a preschooler. Did you feel uncomfortable playing with dolls? Or desperately wanting to wear a dress to feel pretty but you were told “boys don’t wear dresses?”

No one, not a tiny 4 year old but especially an adolescent, actively chooses a way of life that invites ridicule and death threats. Gender identification is not a choice. And I Am Jazz illustrates this beautifully.

And the beauty in Jazz Jennings’ story is that she isn’t the only one telling it. Her family, from her parents to her siblings to her grandparents and friends, are helping to tell her story. They are supportive. And kind. And wanting nothing but for their loved one to feel confident and comfortable in their own skin. Just like any one of us.

Jazz struggles with the anxiety of starting high school and finding flattering clothes and wanting to fit in with her peers. What 14-year old isn’t struggling with these issues? Each episode dealt with her specific struggles but when watered down? Her struggles are no different than those of any teenager anywhere in the world.

What touched me so deeply was the love and acceptance from her family, especially her parents. All they want is  a confident, secure, happy child. Just like me. They want their child to excel in their strengths and work on their weaknesses. Just like me. They want a productive, self-assured, joyful adult life for their child. Just like me. They want all the same things every other parent out there wants for their child. And they have the courage, more courage than most of us are ever expected to draw from, to help create that kind of life for their child.

Jazz’s story is one of struggle and pain. But that’s not what you feel watching her story unfold. Her smile sparkles on screen and you realize that her joy is carrying her through. She has a deep and powerful optimism that is inspiring and contagious. And as a parent, you realize that we have so much influence on how well our children face the challenges they are presented with. Jazz’s parents are her greatest cheerleaders and as a result she is blossoming into a beautiful human being and role model.

I Am Jazz has shaken me, but not because I am dealing with gender identification with my children. It has helped me to understand the transgender population as little better, sure. But more importantly, it has reminded me of the incredible influence I have with my children and how I react to their struggles in life. I can help them to face challenges with courage and strength and hope. Or I can teach them to bury and destroy their truth. I can appreciate their talents and encourage them to be the best they can be or I can mold them into a model of my own choosing.

Jazz has said, “Other people don’t define me. I define me.”

Wise words from a 14-year old.

And a lesson for each of us.



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Filed under Be-Causes, parenting

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

So Sue ME. I Bought Baby Einstein Videos For My Kids.

How is it that I am late to this party?

Not a polite 5 minutes late.

Not a day late (and a few dollars short.)

But six years late.

Apparently, in 2009, Disney offered refunds to parents for the Baby Einstein videos because they didn’t turn your darling little angels into …..well, Einsteins.


The consumer group, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, took the children’s video giant to court crying “foul” to their claims that Baby Einstein videos are “educational.” In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that video watching by the under 2 set is actually damaging to their tiny little brains. So Disney removed the verbiage from the packaging. But that wasn’t enough. Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood demanded that parents be fairly compensated for the trauma they had been put through, as their expectations fell, realizing that little Johnny and little Jane were (gasp!) still just average.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a Disney nut who tends to defend Disney at all cost. Claiming that these videos were “educational” based on anecdotal evidence and the fact that they played classical music in the background is wrong. And, I’ll admit it (only to you) that I, too, fell prey to purchasing not one, not two but about 5 of these little beauties.

But ultimately, who is at fault here?


In 2004, I bought the videos. Even though my pediatrician gave me the developmental handout telling me not to sit my baby in front of the television. Even though I knew that real life stimuli trumps passive TV watching every time. Even though, in my heart, I knew I should be the one entertaining my baby.

But I bought the videos anyway. And I plopped my then one-year-old in front of the TV so that I could nurse his little brother, age 2 months, in relative peace. Or both of them, so I could start dinner. Or fold laundry. Or pee.

I played the role of educated consumer and I traded the opinion of the experts for a few moments of sanity.

So sue ME.

If you completed at least a middle school education, you should know by now that there is “truth” in advertising but most times, it’s a twisted truth. My husband always cracks up when “health food” claims what they are selling is “all-natural.”

“Arsenic is all-natural,” he’ll scoff.

We, the parents, bought the $15 dollar DVDs. We, the parents, decided that they were acceptable entertainment. And we, the parents, are ultimately responsible for nurturing our child’s intellect in a way that will help it to reach its full potential.

Not television.

And certainly not Disney.





Filed under parenting, Soapbox

Negotiating iThis, xThat and Every Screen In Between

A Facebook friend alerted me to an article on the Washington Post that has resonated with me in every fiber of my being. “Parenting as a Gen Xer: We’re the first generation of parents in the age of iEverything.”

I was born on the cusp of Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. I remember the days in college of wrapping rubber bands around the punch cards you inserted into the computer. Then, just a few years later, I  purchased  my first “home” computer shortly after graduation.

I have three children. A 21 year old daughter and 10 and 11 year old sons. And that 10 year difference might as well be 3 generations of technology users. When we finally let our daughter have a cell phone, that’s all it was. A cellphone. You called people with it.

Now? It’s a phone, a mailbox, an urban dictionary, an internet surfer, a radio, a photo album, a camera, a video recorder. It connects you to your parents, your siblings, your family, your friends, your friend’s friends, and every other sick-o stranger on the planet.

How do you teach “Stranger Danger” and stay current with all the tricks that twist and turn by the minute?

screen time

One answer: You can’t.

My sons, especially Mr. 11-year-old, have been begging for a phone. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not necessary. I drive them everywhere they need to be. We still have an old-fashioned land line phone at home.

But if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m scared to death to break down and let them have a phone. It’s one less screen in front of their faces. It’s one less screen I have to worry about breaking. And it’s one less screen that’s going to take their precious innocence.

We have limited screen time. Weekends = 3 hours each day. Weekdays = unlimited. Well, that’s what we tell them – so they think they’re getting away with something. But between school, swim practice, baseball, Kung-Fu and Boy Scouts it works out to about 1.5 hours a day.

We have “Unplugged” days when no screens of any kind are allowed. We recently took an unplugged 4 day vacation to the mountains. Just fishing and hiking and board games and card games . Campfires and mosquitoes and skipping rocks. Books with real pages and that intoxicating “new book” smell.

It was heaven.

Like the author of the Washington Post article, I just can’t outright ban the screen time. It’s oh-so-necessary in this day and age. They need to be connected and savvy. On the other hand, I worry about what it is doing to their social skills. Will they develop a Dowager’s hump, hovering over their Kindles and iPads? And who ARE they talking to on xbox-Live?

This is truly a rickety-tricky age in which to live. Oh, sure. I know that every generation has its struggles. But this is one arena where we don’t have a role model to guide us. It’s trial and error. And with cyber-bullying and sexual predators, it’s an error that can be devastating.


I struggle.

And you struggle.

And our kids hate us for keeping them from their precious screens.

But that’s just how it’s going to have to be.


Filed under children, In the News, parenting

An Open Letter To The Fathers Of Daughters Around The World


An Open Letter To The Fathers of Daughters Around The World:

Starting at a young age, at a very young age, make father/daughter time a priority. Make it a such a regular, natural occurrence that by the time she is a teenager, she expects you to take her out for sushi or ice cream.

When she’s six, laugh at her knock-knock jokes, teach her to fish. Walk the dog with her and dance the Macarena. Listen to her giggle about her favorite television show. Sit in the front row at her school music assembly. Let her fix your hair with barrettes and bows. Tell her she’s beautiful, inside and out.

When she’s ten, indulge her passion for ice cream. Ask about her teachers at school. Know her best friend’s name. Ask about her friend’s friends. Tell her about your friends when you were a kid. Go to every gymnastics meet. Play catch with her in the backyard. Go on a hike. Listen. Watch. Teach. Tell her she is beautiful, both inside and out.

When she is 14, share your passion of sushi together. Have her teach you how to use your iPhone.  Even if you already know. Watch a baseball game together. Go to her cheerleading competitions. Listen to her babble about things that seem unimportant. The important things will slip into the conversation when you least expect it. Listen harder. Tell her she is beautiful , inside and out.

When she is 19, take her out for coffee to hear all about her college classes. Listen as if your life depends on it. Nod. Smile. Offer advice if you think she’ll hear you. Sit silently, if you think she won’t. Just be there. As close as a text. As close as a phone call. Send her a funny picture in the mail. Make sure she knows you think of her every day. Tell her she is beautiful, both inside and out.

You have a power we mothers don’t have. You have the ability to teach our daughter that she is worth treasuring. The partner she chooses will be a reflection of you and all the work you did when she was still a little girl.

Will she pine for a boy and wait by the phone, just as she had to pine and wait for you? Or will she expect to be treated with kindness and consideration and respect? Will she allow her heart to be trounced on, over and over because she doesn’t feel she deserves better? Or will she let go of the frogs and hold out for a prince because you taught her that she is a princess?

Model good behavior with her mother. Show her how she should expect to be treated by her future soul mate.

Do these things, these simple, yet oh-so-important things to make life a little easier for the mothers of the daughters of the world. We tell our daughters that they are beautiful, both inside and out, every day. But they roll their eyes at us and say, “But Mom, you’re paid to say that!” When you say it, they hang onto your every word. Their eyes sparkle. They stand taller. They begin to believe what you say.

And then someday.

One day.

They will find a man, like you, who is beautiful.

Both inside and out.


Filed under Adult Children, children, parenting

My Son. The Supernanny.

We all have good days and bad days as a parent. We all pray that our children won’t end up on Dr. Phil one day, telling the world how we messed them up.

And then, out of nowhere, when we least expect it, we get a glimpse of how we’re doing.

While folding clothes and watching a re-run of Supernanny, my youngest son sat down. Just to be in the same room. To play on his Kindle. And he started watching.


“Mom? They should put her in a time out. Shouldn’t they be in bed by now? I can’t believe he even knows that word. How old is he?”

Then a Supernanny parenting question pops on the screen. We have to wait until the commercial break for the answer.

“I don’t have to wait. That’s an easy one. The answer is C!”

Sure enough, he’s right.

“You’re going to be an amazing father someday,” I beam.

“Yeah,” he muses, going back to his game.

“Just remember everything I taught you,” I say, kissing the top of his head.

“No,” he says, “I’ll remember everything you DID.”



Today is a GOOD day.


Filed under children, parenting