A Decade of Parenting Lessons

Parenting Tips, Parenting Advice, Free Parenting Advice, Parents

This summer, our oldest daughter, Ava, turned 10. That means I’ve officially been a parent for ten years.

With a decade of parenting lessons under my belt, I now qualify as a parenting expert. At least in my own mind.
Some lessons I’ve learned the hard way, like how it’s not a good idea to give your kid silly putty before she goes to bed.
Others, I’ve learned the very, very hard way, such as there is no way to protect my daughters from experiencing pain or sadness or disappointment, no matter how much I try.
In honor of our daughter’s 10th birthday, here are the top 10 lessons I’ve learned about being a parent so far:

1.  Screaming at your kids to get them to stop screaming is counterproductive

Go figure. Every few weeks I test this one just to be sure it’s true. Trust me, it is.

2.  Parenting is like watching your heart walk around outside your body

Watching those four long legs (two per kid) walk into their first day of school last week broke my heart. Thankfully my heart healed quickly and was soon jumping for joy.

3.  Stop trying to be the perfect parent

I tried for too long to be a perfect mom, regularly raising the bar of perfection to keep me on my toes. What did I get in return? A healthy dose of resentment and martyrdom. Brilliant strategy, no?

Now I strive to be authentic with my kids, to show them the real me. Am I too real? We won’t know for a few more years when the therapy bills start pouring in. Our kids’ future therapy appointments will go like this:

Our Kid:  Feelings, feelings, feelings, that’s all my mom cared about when I was growing up. She didn’t hide any of her feelings, and she encouraged me to express all of mine!

Therapist:  How did her obsession with feelings make you feel?

Our Kid:  Torqued and cranked. Why couldn’t she have pretended she didn’t have any feelings? Like normal parents. Would that have been too much to ask?

4.  If you think you’re in control, think again

I want my kids to express all their feelings, needs and wants and feel safe doing so, but I’d prefer it to be on my timeframe.  Preferably when I’m rested, fed and have finished using the bathroom by myself. Is that wrong?

Unfortunately, my kids couldn’t care less about my agenda, preferring to express their beautiful (aka loud) feelings as we’re trying to get to school on time or on the rare occasions my husband and I are both feeling amorous. They are giving that way.

5.  White lies don’t count if they keep your kids safe (or make your life more convenient)*

For years we’ve warned our kids about the imaginary snapping turtles that live in the pond behind my in-law’s home. Our girls never went near the pond without an adult, and we didn’t have to watch them every second they played in the backyard. A twofer – safe and convenient!

*Caveat:  I assumed our ten year old had figured out the truth by now, but this summer, after fishing on the pond with her uncle, she expressed relief at not catching a snapping turtle. Really? I can only imagine that future therapy session.

6.  Make peace with your kids’ disgusting habits (and await the positive power of peer pressure)

I spent months trying to curb my oldest’s nose picking habit when she was four or five years old. I tried to trust she would grow out of it, but mostly I tried to convince her it was a disgusting habit. She kept picking. By age six or seven, she’d stopped on her own, likely because her school friends teased her mercilessly.

I rarely notice when my youngest daughter picks her nose. She prefers to pick at home in the privacy of her bedroom (and to leave her boogers on her bedpost). I may have to wait a little longer for peer pressure to do its magic this time. At least until we start allowing sleepovers.

7.  Accept the things you cannot change (aka put down the whip you use to self flagellate) 

Our daughters are five years apart in age. I’m a different parent now than I was ten or even five years ago. Which one of my kids got the better parent? How badly did I screw up my first kid? Why hadn’t I learned to relax and trust way back when? Why am I even asking these questions? Our daughters “get what they get and they don’t get upset.”  (At least until they have a therapist on their own payroll.)

8.  Make peace with the “H” word

I don’t freak when my kids tell me they hate me. I try to remember that hate and love are kissing cousins. And I hate them too at times. Yet my love for my daughters is more intense and real than any other I’ve had in my life, even the love I had for my husband early on in our relationship. Lucky for him, I’ve also learned to hate him too at times.

9.   Look in the mirror

Our kids reflect our best and worst qualities. Both of our daughters are loving, kind and responsible. They’re creative and dramatic, bright and persistent. They’re also impatient, stubborn, opinionated and dictatorial. From their dad’s side.

10.  Stock up on support & self-care

I get by with a little help from my friends. And when I say “a little” I mean the daily, near constant, sanity-providing support I get from my peeps, spiritual groups and overpriced therapist. I credit them with the rare glimpses of sanity I string together. They remind me to put the oxygen mask on myself first and make time for myself and dates with my husband a priority.

None of this parenting stuff would work without support. And babysitters.

What are some of the best parenting lessons you’ve learned? Although I’m now a certified parenting expert, I’m entering the tween years, so cough up the good stuff in the comments. 

Memorial Day Menu: Humble Pie

After enjoying several days of a lovely long weekend, apparently I’d had my fill of relaxation, barbecues and fun with friends and family. I spent Memorial Day on a bender, tearing through our house in my best martyr mode, uncluttering, organizing, cleaning and folding the loads of laundry stacked up since my last martyr fest.

I was a whirlwind of non-stop activity. And I silently let all the lazy asses in my house know just how annoyed I was at them for relaxing and enjoying their day off. And by “them” I mean my husband.

As I hauled out bag after bag of clothes for Goodwill, I made sure to sigh in front of Mike as often as possible as he enjoyed yet another snack while reading the newspaper. I gave him my best evil eye as I cleaned the floor under the breakfast table where he sat. He smiled and expressed his love for me.

I gave him my best harrumph as I dragged bags of garbage out to the alley. He sipped his coffee, blissfully unaware of my seething inner monologue. (For those of you untrained in master martyrdom, keeping hostility bottled up is part of the fun. Asking for help isn’t nearly as satisfying as hoarding a heaping bowl of resentment.)

There was no reason I couldn’t have sat on my ass all morning. We had no big plans for the day and our daughters were playing happily together (after I cajoled them into picking up their toys by withholding the iPad until the playroom was cleaned. My husband is cajoled by one thing and one thing only, and I was too steeped in annoyance for that!).

Though I made myself miserable, I got a lot accomplished that day.

Today, my husband is working from home. He’s busy with reports and conference calls, a steady stream of activity. And I’m having trouble getting anything accomplished. Not one thing. I’ve sat down to write at least three times and haven’t been able to jot down a coherent thought (not that I usually let that stop me!).

The more he works, the less I accomplish. Has he harrumphed me even once? Not yet.

Is he feeling superior and resentful? Mike doesn’t work that way. Frankly, he’s not at all concerned with what I’m accomplishing. That treasured measuring task falls solely on my capable shoulders. I’m the scorekeeper and today he’s ringing my bell.

He could chastise me or rub my nose in it, but he’s too busy working. What I should be doing. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

Letting myself relax feels impossible today. I feel like shit for not accomplishing something. Accomplishment is my higher power, and I bow at its altar on a daily basis. I need a new way of relating. Or maybe a lobotomy. And sex. Either way … HELP!

And That’s Why God Created Doctors

Where did I get the idea that as a mother I have to be an unmitigated expert at everything?

I blame Google.


I’m honored to be guest posting over at The Mommy Mess today talking about our family’s latest trip to the emergency room, our third in the last six months. A veritable trifecta! (Surely we now qualify for the hospital’s frequent visitor program. I’m expecting discounts on medical services, complimentary valet parking and a commemorative plaque in the lobby.)

If you haven’t been following our ER saga, you can catch up here and here.

And if you aren’t familiar with the talented Adrienne Bolton and her touching, funny and poignant blog, The Mommy Mess, get thee over there pronto. You won’t be sorry.

Here’s the link again:  And That’s Why God Created Doctors.

The Mommy Mess

My Big, Wide Road …

Do you ever find yourself obsessing over decisions, turning seemingly small choices into life-altering ones? Does the entire future of your existence ever rest on choosing the right summer camp for your kids or picking the perfect nail polish color for your not-often-enough pedicure? No? Just me? Apparently all of you have actually learned not to sweat the small stuff? Miraculous!

If, like me, you lean perfectionistic and tend to talk to yourself less than lovingly (like this perhaps?) …


head over to Christine Carter’s place, The Mom Cafe, to read the rest of my guest post, My Big, Wide Roadwhere I talk about tightrope walking and what happened when I made all “wrong” choices for a day.

Christine is such a loving, inspiring woman and a talented, generous writer. I always leave The Mom Cafe feeling uplifted and encouraged. I’m confident you will too. Enjoy!