10 Steps to Great Parenting


Haha.  Not really.  I just called it that because it’s funny.  I have no idea how to be a great parent.  I’m still constantly surprised that someone let me bring two babies home from the hospital with no adult in charge.

At 19, my daughter is more the parent in the house.  She was most likely the parent at 9. That’s just her nature. My observation is that we do the best we can to teach kids to be good and kind, keep them from setting expensive stuff on fire and keep them safe.  They really come fully programmed from the factory to be who they are. It’s just our job to guide them.

I had someone tell me not too long ago that I was too much a friend, not enough parent.  I am good at listening politely and then laughing when I hang up and so I did.  This from a parent whose child would rather die than spend time at home.  A self righteous parent who has no idea what their child is up to, doesn’t want to know, and is parenting by the “do not” method.  If there is a surefire way to produce a rebellious kid, it’s by the “do not” method.

So I’m a friend, so what?  My kids, at 17 and 19, choose to spend time with me, their friends hang out here and in that way, I can be a real parent, keeping them safe and knowing what’s what.  They have both survived, so far, as good and lovely humans, even with a parent like me.  They are lucky The Goose came with an adult gene to keep us all in line.  So, to other happy hippie parents everywhere, these are my ten observations:

  1. Don’t keep Sharpies within reach until kids get a driver’s license and then only with limited access.  No amount of Kilz will make this go away. Once applied in indelible ink, a hallway will still say “poop” 16 years later no matter how many coats of “Creme No. 5644” have been applied.Image
  2. Cultivate a “nothing” face, so when your kids tell you who among their friends is getting into trouble and being generally stupid you can make them think you are non-plussed by this while you cultivate a plan.  I have heard volumes of information from both of my kids, who think I”m cool enough to handle it, and in this way, I have steered them from harm.  I should be used by the FBI as a secret weapon.
  3. Don’t brag about your kids to other parents.  They don’t care.  If your child cures cancer, another parent will still find her child more fascinating because she got the the spirit stick at cheer.  Everyone thinks their kid is the best.  That’s the beauty of being a parent.  No matter how fat, skinny, tall, short, smelly, freckled, wart covered, glittery or down right stupid a child might be, to Mom and Dad, they’re da bomb.  Just keep their vibrant glory to yourself, no one else is interested, especially at parties. Nothing harshes my party mellow than pictures of someone else’s kid. Especially when I know mine are the best.Image
  4. Any time a child is expected to be quiet or respectful, like at church or at their grandparent’s anniversary party, they will inevitably belt out something rude or toot loudly and fall down laughing.  Be prepared to explain that they have had a recent concussion and come armed with medical terms.Image
  5. A child will rat you out to grandparents every chance they get.  They will tell them you didn’t actually go to church but, instead, stayed in your jammies all day watching tv, with your door closed, while expecting the kids to eat reheated Bagel Bites.  They will pull up the hems of their skirts to show the clever way their mom uses duct tape. They will tell their teachers and Sunday school teachers every infraction you commit.  They will supply the answer “wine” when their Kindergarten teacher asks what their mother’s favorite thing to make for dinner is.  They will pull on your coat and say “nuh-uh, Mommy, you quit your job!” when you tell their teacher you can’t help with field day because you’re working.  This is their revenge.  Expect it.  Stay ahead of the curve and occupy them with something, anything, when trying to speak to another adult.Image
  6. Be the “fun” house.  Always let kids come over and have fun.  Be a little bit nicer than other moms and in this way you can covertly eavesdrop and know all.  Yes, it’s messy, yes, kids want to eat constantly, but, of all the things I did right, this was one of them. I know lots more than I really want to, but at least I’m not in denial. My kids’ friends have confided in me, my kids have told all and I think I’ve had a grasp on the real situation out there.  High school is a super scary place.  It’s good to be aware.


  7. Your 11 year old travel baseball player?  Probably not going pro.  Your daughter who spends 6 days a week at dance class?  Yeah, most likely not going to be doing that at 25.  All these things are fantastic if the kids love it.  Many times, though, it’s the parents’ dream.  For crying out loud, let the kid have a day off to catch salamanders and get dirty.  Lock up the xbox and send that little precious outside to play.  A kid that has to be stripped in the garage and carried to the tub because he’s encrusted in mud is a happy kid.  It’s like a secret recipe.  Kid + water + sunshine = kid that doesn’t wear black and listen to death music.  Imagination is an awesome thing.Image
  8. Don’t try to make kids be who they’re not.  I saw a video once, called The Animal School and it changed me.  I highly recommend looking it up if you have kids in school. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wN7QfjIcVvA or, look up “Raising Small Souls” and find it there. It is the most beautifully done video for understanding individual children I’ve ever seen.) If your kid is really NOT a math kid, quit shoving it down his throat.  Chances are, he’ll do something with his real talents that don’t involve solving for X. Let kids explore their talents and abilities.  If they spend all their time trying to be good at something they’re not, they never get to be really good at what they naturally tend towards.  Kids today are over scheduled, stressed and confused.  Teach them real skills like how to balance a checkbook, how to use the front loading washer with 42 settings and how to say “yes ma’am” and “I’m sorry”.   It’ll take them a long way.
  9. Be flexible.  Kids are going to try stuff.  Be ready to keep them safe through it all.  My 16 year old called me from a party and said “I drank some beers, come get me”.  I wasn’t happy about the drinking, less happy about driving 30 miles in my jammies, in hair curlers (not really, but my hair was almost as embarrassing) but I was so happy he’d called me.  When I got there, he seemed perfectly fine.  When I commented on this he said, “yeah, I had two beers four hours ago but I promised you I’d never drive after having a sip”.  How can I be mad at that?  Kids are going to experiment, better to be able to talk about it and hope they learn.Image
  10. Teach kindness.  I raised vegetarian kids. I told them that God loves all his creation, two footed, four footed, swimming or crawling.  The one thing I’ve stressed is goodness and kindness to animals and others.  I see this deep within them, no matter what phase we’ve been in, and there have been plenty.  Sometimes teenagers aren’t happy creatures with whom to share a home.  Still, there is a carefulness for the feelings of others, a swerving for squirrels, a moving of turtles, a scooting outside of spiders that lives in them that thrills me. Show me a person who has compassion for animals and I’ll show you a person who is good to the core and won’t grow up to keep human heads in their refrigerator.

Enjoy it.  I spent years worrying over the cleanliness of my floors and the dust on my tables instead of sitting down and coloring.  Now, when it’s late in the game and I’ve seen the loss of several of my kids’ friends, I sit when they want to, I go when they ask me along and I enjoy every minute until they move out and I have to call them several times a day.  It does go by fast, even though those preschool years seem to go by in long sleepless dog years.  Young mothers, it gets better.  It gets fun.

I’m no model parent.  I am silly, can’t stick to the rules, cannot help with math.  I have been described by my son as a pushover and, sadly, by my daughter as “shrinking” (surely not, I still say I am just slumping). I see all these parents with ten million rules, expectations and demands and think they might just be missing the point.  I’m not saying my kids will invent a new source of power, but they might.  They may not make billions, but they could.  They may not change the world, but they have changed my world, and I have changed theirs.  That’s pretty cool in itself.


Lots of women have asked me about “THE DRESS”.  I don’t blame them.  It is, frankly, awe inspiring.  It’s the piece de resistance in my dress up box, a pink confection of such magnitude that women who see it sigh from both happiness and jealousy.  This beauty weighs about five pounds and possesses a train that’s over six feet and so frothy it’s about a foot high.  It’s a quinceanera dress, a dress 15 year old hispanic girls wear for their coming out.  I am not only delighted to be able to squeeze, albeit uncomfortably, into it and never contemplate the fact that it was probably a chubby youth who wore it originally.  ImageI

I’ve worn it to several parties, numerous Friday night cocktail get togethers on my porch or around the fire pit and once, to the feed store. I wore it as a zombie this Halloween.  If you’re going to have to be a zombie, might as well be a fashionable one. I still have all my own puffy prom dresses and, believe me, my friends have, on many occasions, put them on as well.

One might think such perfection would be a stand out at the feed store, but that would be incorrect. I had a book club luncheon at my house once.  The book was the YaYa Sisterhood book.  We all came dressed, well, big.  After a long lunch someone mentioned that they had to go home and change and go to the feed store.  Then someone else mentioned that there were baby chicks available at the store and somehow, we all ended up in the car, big dresses and hair, on the way.

Walking in, we expected exclamations and fawning, such as we deserved.  We got NOTHING.  Not a raised eyebrow, not a leer, not one question as to why we were dressed thusly.  I can only assume that the feed store man has a wife at home who has him so thoroughly beaten down that nothing surprised him or that he had been taught southern manners by his mama and just didn’t want to say the wrong thing.  Either way, we got our 6 bags of horse food, a box of chicks and left.

The one bright spot was that the evil neighbor who lives between The Trophy Wife and me did see us getting into the car and, again, standing at the mailbox dressed beautifully and we know it only goes towards the many reasons why she hates us.  We love that.

So many people have called or messaged me about the dress.  I’m not kidding.  Nothing I’ve done in a while has spawned so many questions and comments.  At least not to my face.  Next election, I’m lending it to Ron Paul in the hopes that it will help his cause.

Ladies, you too can find your special princess dress at Goodwill or your fine Hispanic supplier.  I’m telling you, when you feel down, nothing will pick you up like going through your day with a poofy polyester train.  When your husband comes home, he’ll know you’re up to something, but just not what.  It’s good to keep your man on his toes.  Send me your pictures.  We’ll start a movement of sorts.  We’ll be the princesses we forgot to be AND get to hide a multitude of sins under those diaphanous layers.  We could form clubs, open restaurants where hoops would be a requirement.  I’m seeing that this could be the sparkle that’s gone out of many of our middle aged lives.

Let me know how this works out for you.  As for me, I’m going to take an aspirin as my tiara is giving me a headache.

Old Friends

ImageWhat is it about old friends?  I have lots of friends, some close, some acquaintances, some “uppity”, some downright hillbilly.  I enjoy all of them.  I can pull myself together when the need arises to be as uppity as I need to be and, heaven knows, I can sink to some depths best not remembered.  There’s something about OLD friends, though, the ones we make when we’re young, that cause all of us to let down our guard and regress right back to our youth.

I have a friend from fifth grade that I see maybe once a year, the Hollywood Glamour Girl. When we get together, we spend about an half an hour discussing what’s going on and telling each other how great we look and then one of us throws out a name from fifth grade, we both lean in and we’re off.  We are still verbally dissecting that big bully, Brett, to smithereens and we still laugh about the time she stuck out her foot and tripped a boy named Fitz into the fireplace.  Once, I looked down and she was wearing knee highs under her jeans, which made her ankles look tan, pink pom pom socks and new Adidas tennis shoes and I almost swooned with fashion jealousy.  We still have to talk about that.  Every time.  When she reads this, she will contact me and we’ll talk about it again.  You’re laughing because everyone does this.  It just feels comfortable, like often washed jammies.

(In a total aside, spell check told me to check the spelling of Adidas and I had to go back to school in my mind in order to spell it.  Remember when people said it stood for “all day I dream about sex?”  I once wore a t-shirt with Adidas on it and a boy pointed and yelled that and I almost called my mother to bring me another.  Now, of course, I’d just smack him but my fifth grade self was not as confident, what with the headgear and such!)

Last night, the Empress came to stay with me.  I met the Empress when we ended up in the same beach house with a bunch of mutual college friends.  Our old college group calls each other “our decent friends” said with a sneer and an accent. I despised the Empress on sight.  I mean, I loathed her, that bitch.  By the end of the first night, we were hanging all over each other and singing.  I believe there was some table dancing in spandex skirts.  She showered me with abuse about my clothes and I told her how she could improve upon her hairstyle.  There are photos of our 80s glamour, our giant earrings, enormous hair, shoulder pads, swim suit tops that could stand alone on our frail 100lb. bodies and these should remain hidden.  In typical 80s fashion, there was a LOT of time spent in hot tubs with this group. Those pictures have hopefully been burned (right Empress?).

When the Empress arrives, we circle each other for a minute or two and immediately start in on a conversation that does not take a breath for the entire time she’s here.  The Goose loves the Empress and especially likes to hug her, often, needlessly, and a little too long, with a little too much caress, but even he has to make a retreat from us after a while.

We made our hair as large as possible and squeezed into our glitzy pants, put on heels and and went to a bar to watch our friend’s brother’s band last night.  This friend was there when I met the Empress.  Our diminutive best Lesbianese friend (she is not gay, but there is someone from Lebanon way back in her history and somehow, this whole thing got twisted) was in our group as well and I will not take the opportunity here to say that I once saw her and the Empress so altered that they were eating chips with ants on them off the sand at the beach.  I would never do that.

ANYWAY, what is it about old friends that causes us to regress?  The dancing we did last night has left us sore and achy (but not achy brakey). I know we did NOT look as good on the dance floor as we did in our minds, but who cares?  The Goose sat and laughed at us all night, shaking his head like the old man that he is. My decent friends are my only group of friends who know that when someone yells out “boom boom” you immediately shout out loudly, and with gusto “out go the lights” and think it’s poetry.  I’m sure I saw a glint of a tear when the band pulled out AC/DC.  This was our music and our time. We say the same old things, talk as little about our kids and jobs as possible, revert to the same college behavior and crude humor and still see each other as wildly attractive, even though we are 50ish. It’s possible this is because of our diminished eyesight, but I’m choosing to believe otherwise. There are a lot of suggestive comments bandied about and it causes me, for one, to toss my hair around and bat my eyelashes.

You know fantasy football?  I have a fantasy retirement compound that I’m constructing in my head.  I am slowly filling it with those I love and would like to circle the wagons with when we get to retire. Pretty houses and gardens, lots of animals and, as the Goose likes to tease me, opossums and martinis hanging from trees.  I am definitely filling it with my old friends, and only hope we can survive it and that those others around us that weren’t there back in the day will either join in or choose to be tolerant.  Disclaimer: Were not as young as we used to be and there DEFINITELY won’t be any hot tubs!