Mommy Fail

A few months ago, I stumbled across what has become one of my favorite parenting memes on Pinterest.


I was all the more excited about this JPG find because I often joke that my life resembles a comic strip whose main character has two left feet.  The many spills, falls, and awkward life moments over the years have taught me not to take myself so seriously.  After all, to quote the great philosopher Jimmy Buffett, If we couldn’t all laugh, we just might go insane.Last week, my six-year-old daughter played hookie from summer camp.  On the agenda?  A mommy-daughter lunch date and a dentist appointment.

After working from home that morning, like usual, I was running late.  Especially after I stepped in a huge pile of puppy poo when trying to leave the house.  *sigh*  Lunch at a local Mexican restaurant would have to be swapped for Wendy’s. (FYI, we live in the country. Our dining options “heading into town” are pretty limited!).  After having already turned around once to retrieve something I’d forgotten, we arrived at Wendy’s only to realize that I’d forgotten my wallet too.  Back to the house we go.

My sweet girl was pretty talkative in the back seat trying to understand why we had to go back home and why we didn’t have time for lunch.  She was STARVING (with dramatic six-year-old emphasis) as her breakfast consisted only of a small frozen pizza.  *deep sigh*  Clearly I needed to go grocery shopping too.

We made it home (again) and grabbed my wallet, but now we had to be at the dentist in 15 minutes and our pantry was bare.  Solution?  An improvised to-go lunch from the convenient store.  My lunch?  A Twix and a Dt. Dr. Pepper.  My daughter’s?  Mini M&Ms and Bug Juice.  (And a child-like lecture from my kid as to how unhealthy our lunch was, and how the dentist would be disappointed in us for eating candy without brushing our teeth).

Mommy Fail.

As it’s often said, “There is no one way to be a perfect parent, but a million ways to be a good one.”  And, standing on the coattails of grace and the knowledge that kids are pretty resilient and forgiving, I try to approach parenting much like I do everything else in my life: with a sense of humor.  Clearly, last Wednesday was not my day.  But, my daughter and I made it safely to the dentist, and three hours later than promised, we finally made it to the Mexican restaurant where we had an overdue lunch.  And some giggles.  And some fun taking pictures and texting them to her daddy to rub it in a bit that we were having a fun girl’s day out.

Thought for today:  Many of us are super busy juggling a million and one responsibilities.  Whether you’re a SAHM or one who punches the clock, we’re all exhausted from walking our thin parenting tightrope (pleading desperately to make it from sun-up to sun-down, day in and day out without stumbling too badly).  The more I work with families, the more I’m realizing how (typically) we’re all doing the best we can with what we have.  When it’s all said and done, my kiddo won’t remember my mommy fails, but rather a mommy who tried her best, loved her wholeheartedly, and laughed in spite of it all.  My challenge for you today is to wipe the figurative puppy poo off of your shoe too.  Take a deep breath, and give yourself a little credit for being a good parent.

Practicing What I Preach:  Using Narrative Parenting, I indulged my daughter’s conversation on the way back home and then to the dentist, and we laughed about how it just wasn’t mommy’s day.  I apologized for forgetting my wallet and for feeding her “junk” food all day, explaining that mommy was doing her best given the circumstances.  I affirmed her “lecture” about healthy eating and good dental hygiene (apparently mommy had taught her something after all! Mommy win!), and together we brainstormed a healthier grocery list that included more than frozen pizza and candy.  We ended up having a great afternoon, and had a pretty funny story to tell everyone that evening…

Best Behavior

“Remember, kids, we have to be on our best behavior.”

It’s a phrase I utter quite often.  Because, despite my training in child development and parent education, I’m a normal mom with normal kids who behave in normal ways.  I like to think of my kiddos as…

One bosses takes the lead, while the other wreaks havoc gets into innocent mischief.  Together they’re a lovable force to be reckoned with–even for this mommy!

Often when talking with other parents and educators, the most frequent questions that arise pertain to applying discipline techniques.  What behaviors are expected in “kids just being kids”? When are misbehaviors a cause for deeper concern? And, probably most importantly, What should I do when my kid misbehaves?

Years ago when reading The Parent’s Handbook, a phrase stuck with me that I continue to use as my personal and professional philosophy for how to approach childhood discipline:

“We discipline our children to teach them self-discipline.”

We discipline our children so that they become more and more self-disciplined as they mature.  Discipline is not intended to punish, hurt, or try to embarrass our children.  We don’t want to instill fear in our kids — we want to teach them to respect usthemselves, and others.

Teaching children to become self-disciplined is a process that takes a fair amount of consistency and patience.  Below are a few suggestions for approaching discipline using Narrative Parenting techniques:

  • Pick your battles wisely.  When it comes to discipline, I try to pick my battles wisely.  There are a few non-negotiables in our house.  (Namely, fighting with one another, hurting or putting yourself or someone else in danger, and blatantly disobeying or back-talking).  For “minor offenses,” I’ll give a small verbal warning or a non-verbal eye glance.  For other things, I make sure my kids clearly know my expectations.  By focusing on a few clear rules at a time, the minor things tend to resolve themselves.
  • Don’t be a bluffer.  If you issue a warning, be sure the consequence will be carried out.  Kids know when you’re bluffing.  Make sure the consequence for a misbehavior is explained clearly.  And if you say no TV, no video games, no going over to a friend’s house — stick with it, offering reminders as needed.
  • Set timers.  My timer on my microwave has become one of my greatest allies.  I set it for time out periods or if I’m trying to get my kids to do something quickly (like pick up their toys).  It helps to establish limits and clear boundaries.  “I’m giving you 5 minutes to pick up your toys in the living room if you want to go outside to play.”
  • Debrief after any applied consequence.  If I set a “time-out” timer (or if a kiddo has to go to his/her room for a “chill out” session), we always talk afterwards about why it was they got in trouble.  I have them explain in their words what they did, issue apologies when necessary, and we talk about what we can do better next time.
  • Offer second chances.  Any time my son or daughter gets in trouble, I try to remind them mommy loves them very much, I just didn’t like that particular action.  I give hugs.  And kisses.  And do-overs.  And when I lose my cool (because sometimes I respond impatiently and raise my voice in anger or frustration too), I ask for their forgiveness.  “Mommy is sorry for yelling.  I shouldn’t have gotten so mad.  But do you understand why it’s important that we don’t do X, Y, or Z?  Because someone could have really gotten hurt.”

Thought for today:  Parenting is tough.  I get it.  And believe me, every time I think I have some aspect of parenting figured out, my kids prove me wrong.  I often joke that they’ve intercepted my playbook and can anticipate my parenting moves before I make them.  My challenge for you today is to pay attention to how you narrate discipline in you house.  Do you sound like a broken record?  Do you yell or respond impatiently?  Do you talk with your kids after applying a consequence?  Focus on being a narrative parent.  The more self-disciplined we can become as we discipline our kids — the easier it’ll be for them to learn from our example.

Practicing What I Preach:  Recently we got a new puppy.  And as several people forewarned, it’s like having a toddler in our house all over again.  As we’re working to train our puppy not to bite, destroy things around the house, and potty inside, I’m constantly reminded of the patience and consistency it took when first beginning to discipline my children.  To firmly (but in a gentle and loving way) explain our house rules.  Over and over and over using reasoning and redirection.  Now, eventually we could reason with our kids.  The dog, not so much… But I find myself using a narrative parenting approach with her as well.  “No, Belle, we don’t bite mommy’s pants.  Here, chew on your toy instead.”  (As I pry open her firm grip on my hemline and redirect her to her ball.)  It’s a simple analogy, but the same approach can be applied to childhood discipline.  Explain to your child what shouldn’t be done and why, and then redirect the child to something that is appropriate.  Eventually, your kiddos will catch on.  Fingers crossed our puppy will too!

Being Different

If asked to describe my almost-four-year-old son, I’d use words like smart, shy, creative, handsome, mischievous, sweet, and special.  Very, very special.  See, at 11 days old… at what now seems like a bad dream suppressed somewhere in the back of my mind (and etched forever in my heart), we almost lost him.  But, by the grace of God, the help of my mother and husband, and the EMT personnel who responded to our 911 call, we didn’t.  What we now know is that our son has a rare food allergy to milk protein called FPIES (Food Protein-Induced Entercolitis Syndrome).  That mid-summer July evening, he had his first reaction.

In the days, months, and years that have passed since that night, I’ve become an unofficial advocate for kids’ food allergies.  Not only did I have to fight for a proper diagnosis, but once we received it, I’ve had to work to keep my son safe.  Every. Single. Day.  My biggest weapon: education.  I quickly had to educate not only myself about his condition, but my husband and daughter, our family, friends, teachers, babysitters, medical professionals, and anyone that interacts with our son.  Most importantly, as my son has grown, I’ve also had to educate him.

Through all of this—at the wise age of three—my son has learned that he’s different from most other kids.  After all, most kids can go trick-or-treating and eat the candy.  Most kids can have cupcakes at their class party.  Dinner out at a restaurant.  A donut on National Donut Day.  Most kids don’t have to BYOB (Bring Your Own Brown-Bag) to birthday parties, weddings, and any other social function where food may be served.  Most kids don’t have to sit in a “special” seat when they eat snack and lunch at preschool.  Most kids don’t have to ask with a trusting but scared voice, “Mommy, does that have milk in it?” or “Can I have that?” before they take a bite of food in fear of becoming sick.

As I’ve educated my son on FPIES using Narrative Parenting, it’s allowed us to embrace what it means to be different.  To be special.  Maybe your child is different too.  Maybe it’s a food allergy.  Or maybe it’s ADHD.  Autism.  Aspergers.  Dyslexia.  A leg brace.  A hearing impairment.  Maybe your child has a physical challenge, or a learning disability.  Whatever it is—big or small—that makes your child different from most.  As our children grow, we want them to be different.  We want them to develop into unique, dynamic individuals.  But… when they’re small, sometimes—as parents—we just want them to be like everyone else.  We want them to fit it; to feel unconditionally included.  Or at the least, we never want them to feel the pang of feeling excluded.  From a special snack, to a game of tag on the playground, to a mainstreamed classroom in elementary school.

Thought for today:  If your child is “different,” chances are you already know everything there is to know about his or her difference.  My parenting challenge to you today is together with your child, reach out to someone else who may feel excluded.  Not sure where to start?  Talk to your child’s teacher or summer camp counselor.  See if there is someone in your child’s class or school who could use a friend.  Maybe they’re like my son and have a food allergy.  If so, learn of a safe snack that you can bring to the next school function.  Maybe they’re having trouble academically and need a study-buddy.  Maybe they’re shy and need a pal on the playground.  Have your child brainstorm ways they can be a better friend, one who can make a difference.

Practicing What I Preach:  Between the ages of two and five, children begin to incrementally notice differences.  Whether it’s gender, race, or size — kids notice and seek explanations as they become more acutely aware of how they differ from others (and how others differ from them).  With practice and patience (and a few embarrassing outtakes — even now), I’ve tried to teach my kids that it’s okay to be different.  If they notice someone “different” or “unique” when we’re out in public, wait and bring it up to me (or their dad or grandparent) in private.  We don’t stare, we don’t point, we don’t yell descriptives, and we don’t hurt feelings.  For example, my daughter may ask on the car ride home about someone she saw in a wheelchair.  Or a lady without hair.  By encouraging discussion, we’ve had the chance to talk about embracing many differences while also talking about being polite and inclusive of others.