12 Lessons I Need My Kids To Know Before They Leave The Nest

I often wonder if I’m doing too much or too little to raise good human beings. Many articles discuss how the baby boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers were in some way damaged by their over-loving, under-loving, over-protective or under-protective parents. Of course, this isn’t encouraging news for the parents of our next generation, the Gen Alphas.

These days we as parents are trying to have and do it all. Our pace is frenetic; our lives are filled with activity after activity – all to ensure our kids are getting the best (fill-in-the-blank) out there. But I wonder how much of what they’re learning is truly meaningful?

During these blurred years of parenting, I’m trying my best to slow down, to be mindful of teaching them (and myself) these life fundamentals. Fortunately, I have 18 or so years with them to discuss and explore these ideas – many of which have been around longer than all our generations combined. I hope that despite the chaos of our lives and my many imperfections as a parent, these growth mindsets will help my children become decent, well-adjusted adults.

1. Adopt kindness as a way of life.

Always strive to be your best self, using kind thoughts, kind words, and kind actions. Be empathetic, be humble, be sincere, be moral, be helpful, be happy for other people’s wins. No gossip. No drama. But kindness doesn’t mean weakness – stand up for yourself or others if someone else is being unkind.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  – Plato

2. Cultivate gratitude. 

Most of what you’ll deal with in life will be first world problems so check yourself before you start complaining. Pause often to tell yourself that you have enough. Every night pray for those who need prayers. Every morning pray with thankfulness for what you have. When feeling down, don’t dwell on the “me,” get out and help the “we.” Always send thank you letters.

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” – Aesop

3. Be self-aware.

Realize your strengths and weaknesses and how your actions are impacting the world around you. Power through your insecurities and moods. Even if you’re uncomfortable, say hello and smile. Shake people’s hands firmly and look them in the eye when talking. Practice good manners and good hygiene before someone else has to tell you. Learn what your body language and tone is saying, not just your words. Pay attention to the lies you might be telling yourself.

“He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” – Lao Tzu

Salina Wuttke

4. Accept accountability. 

Own your actions. Most predicaments are due to being a victim of yourself; if crises seem to be a trend for you, consider that you might be the source. Never blame your past for why you’re making poor decisions today. You’ve hit the lottery of birth in both time and place so you can control your path. Control the things you can change, consistently making wise, mindful choices that’ll add up to a successful life that you’ve rightfully earned.

“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” – Sigmund Freud

5. Find your inner tranquility. 

Understand that we all get anxious and overwhelmed, so be kind to yourself and stop resisting your struggle – embrace it. Accept the present. Try to quiet your “monkey mind chatter” by thinking bigger. Take the “you” (i.e. the ego), out of your thoughts and think of time and seasons passing, the earth going round and round. Mindfully breathe. This temporal worry you are facing at this time — this too shall pass, and the world will still go on.

“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

6. Be mindful of how you’re filling your void.

We all come to this world with a void, a search for something meaningful to fulfill our lives. Money, cars, trends, social media – the pursuits of sensualists are buckets with holes (no pun intended). Fill your void with the spiritual or meditative. Learn to enjoy being alone. Slow down to question your life’s meaning and pace. Serve others. Connect with the people in your life deeply – below the surface-level. And create beautiful memories.

“When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” – Viktor Frankl

7. Work to solve problems. 

Being smart won’t sustain you long term. If there’s a challenge you can’t solve, take the time to figure it out. Most everything is solvable. When stuck, ask for help. Work hard to keep solving whatever life deals you, again and again – breeding confidence and an accomplished life. Accept you’re not perfect – you’ll make mistakes and fail. But fail fast and bounce back again. Be gritty, be resilient, stay motivated. Do any job to the best of your abilities.

“All life is problem solving.” – Karl Popper

8. Strive for moderation.

Learn to be moderate with food, exercise, technology, work, money, politics, spirituality. Work against compulsions. 80% of the time be moderate. But even moderation needs moderation. So, 20% of the time have fun and go big. Work to keep your life and all parts in it simple, organized, minimal, and with no or very little debt.

“Never go to excess but let moderation be your guide.” – Cicero

9. Seek the truth.

Read books. Cultivate a passion for all types of music, art, literature, history, travel, and religion. Continue to create. Don’t be a collectivist. Question yourself if you find that everyone around you has the same opinions and ideas as you. “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates

10. Take risks, smartly. 

Never run away from things you’re afraid of as your world will continue to get smaller. Growth happens most when there’s discomfort so dig deep to cultivate your bravery. Before doing something big and rash, ask yourself why with logic before heart as sometimes it can be for subconscious or existential reasons – realize those issues first before jumping in headfirst. And always try the food and go on that trip (if you have the money).

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” – Sren Kierkegaard

11. Learn to express love. 

Work to overcome your own life’s restrictions and insecurities that are preventing you from being open to your fullest measure. Lower your walls. Be first to express the love or appreciation you have for someone. Admit when you’re wrong and apologize immediately. No silent treatments. Always communicate and forgive. Live, love, and laugh deeply, as today may be your or their last. “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” – Mother Teresa

12. Don’t be a narcissist. 

Most of the time, life’s not always about you and you’re not more important or more special than anyone else. You do however have unique gifts you can contribute to the world. You’re loved. You’re valued. The world will never be a perfect utopia but that’s okay. You’ll have bad jobs and you’ll have to deal with bad people, but that’s okay too. It’s part of your journey — a journey that you should never sugarcoat. The perfect man/woman of your dreams doesn’t exist but a good, moral one does. There will never be a perfect time to have children so have them, adopt them, or be a mentor for them.

Life is an exciting business, and most exciting when it is lived for others.”  – Helen Keller

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It’s Parents Against The World When It Comes To Teaching Our Kids

My husband and I teach our sons that the most important thing in the world is kindness. I make sure to show kindness whenever I’m out with my sons; I try to never say a mean word in front of them. We never belittle them. We never belittle others in front of them. We’re incredibly strict about their media consumption. But even though they’re homeschooled, they see other children (we obviously don’t want them to live in a bubble). Those other children have taught them words, words you use to talk about people and things you don’t like: Meanie. Stupid. Now they deploy the words against each other, and we have to run interference.

Sometimes it feels like it’s parents against the world when it comes to teaching our kids.

We can’t keep them sheltered forever. And goddammit, we do our best, but no one wants to raise a child who isn’t prepared for the world. Your children are not your children, wrote Kahlil Gibran. And while this is a beautiful and poetic sentiment, it’s also the truth: your children belong to the world just as the world belongs to your children, and you have no right to keep the two completely apart. That means that even my supremely, supremely sheltered kids (my nine-year-old asked what gum was the other day) encounter the world, and I have to fight against it to instill the values I want them to grow up with.


Take guns. I hate guns, and believe in gun regulation as strict as Japan’s. But I live in one of the reddest of red states. My son’s best friend’s mother has a sticker on her car, something about loving Starbucks and guns. It nauseates me, but I like her and I like her daughter — and I know that she and my son probably play pretend guns when I’m not looking. I also know that my kids love Star Wars, and Star Wars means blasters, and blasters are a sidestep from guns. They see Star Wars everywhere — even if I confiscated every blaster that came into my house, they’d still encounter them — and so they play with blasters. The other day, I had them memorize the poem “America is a Gun” for school. My seven-year-old swung a toy blaster around his finger while he recited. I made him stop. He complained. We fight, but we fight against the world that tells us guns are okay, guns are part of the culture, guns are toys.

And there’s sex. You can’t keep your kid from talking about sex, or discovering ideas that conflict with your notions of sexuality. Right now, my children are young and sheltered: they’ve only had mostly us to talk to about it. But they’ve still had toxic messages filter in from the Catholic Church about masturbation, about premarital sex, about birth control (one of the reasons I wanted to leave the church to begin with). Their carefully constructed notions of consent, which we have hammered into them: I don’t like the way you’re touching me, or Stop touching me like that — those have been shaken when an adult laughs them off while they’re hugging our sons. We intervene. But these influences come from everywhere. It’s a rising tide, something all parents have to fight, have to face, have to cope with: how do you fight against the world?

You don’t.

You can’t.

You can only do your level best and pray.

I used to think that if I homeschooled my kids, they would be different. I thought they would never call each other names. But they came into contact with other children — and if we had kept them in a sealed bunker, they’d have heard us tell their brothers not to whine. So they call each other “whiney.” They say “You’re whining” as an insult. They’d have found a way. I thought if we discouraged violence and they never saw it from other children (they don’t, really), they wouldn’t act violently towards one another. But they see it on TV, and everyone wants to wrestle. They only have an old school Nintendo, but everyone wants to play Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. Then they want to act it out.

You can’t fight the world. It leaks in. So we pick our battles.

I don’t personally care if my kids curse. So we let them listen to music with curse words in them but I do care if they drink the toxic masculinity Kool-Aid. So I have to fight that battle. We actively hammer in that notion of consent not only for them, but for the girls they will one day encounter: so they know that no means no. We never, never tell them to stop crying; we say, “I see you feel ______ right now.” We simply can’t. The world tells them every day to stop crying, to toughen up, to be a man. We avoid shows for “boys” and stick to gender-neutral TV as much as possible. We let them pick unicorn and kitty shirts, pink and purple ones, from the girls’ department if that’s what they like. Other kids, one day, will ridicule them for this. We can only pray they’re secure enough to tell them to, in no uncertain terms, to (nicely) fuck off: colors and animals are for everyone.

And I sure as hell care if they’re kind. So I discourage friendships with kids who aren’t. When they see unkindness, either from other children or from adults, we talk about it. We know the world is going to invade. We can’t fight against the world, the rising tide of culture invading, pervading everything: the sex and the beauty standards and the devaluing of human worth and the guns and the Trump administration and the list goes on. All we can do is talk about it.

We can try our best to hand our children something better, to live that something better and make it more attractive.

But in the end, they have to pick for themselves.

We have no right to keep them from the world. We can fight against the world. But the world will inevitably win.

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Date Nights Aren’t Always As Simple As Hiring A Babysitter

Once you become a parent, everyone will tell you that you have to go on weekly “date nights” to keep your marriage alive. A night out with your husband, remembering what it was like pre-children, discussing something other than your kids sleeping habits, eating schedule, or bowel movements is an absolute necessity to keep the love strong. It really is a glorious event; having a laugh, maybe a glass (or bottle) of wine and just being a couple for a few hours can help provide new perspective on parenting. You return to your children nicer and ready to take on the next week, and plus, you remember why you married your husband.

Thanks to social media and “Insta,” you are bombarded with boomerangs images of cheers glasses with a cute little sticker proclaiming #datenight, #nokids, #parentsnightout… Or even “instastories” documenting weekend getaways with your BAE. Every parent should have the opportunity to get away because honestly, parenting is really freakin’ hard.

I am one of those parents who loves to have a night out with my husband or even a weekend getaway. We have three beautiful daughters ranging in age from one to nine, and between their dance, soccer, school, nursing, and social schedule we are pretty booked up. But like I said, it’s important to make those nights away happen. Unfortunately, for our family and many others like ours, date nights are not quite as easy and carefree as they should be.

My daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 13 months. Yes, we had 13 romantic months where we could take semi-worry-free “date nights.” But as most parents know, especially with their first child, leaving them with anyone their first year of life is challenging, so really I wouldn’t even count the first year. I don’t mean to complain, but over the past eight years that we have lived with this high-maintenance disease, I have had multiple nights of what I would affectionately call “date night envy.”

Truly, I am happy for all those parents who can call a babysitter at a moment’s notice or drop their kids off at “parents nights out” at the local YMCA. Unfortunately, that is not the reality for families that have “medically complex” kids such as ours. You see, my child comes with a set of instructions… a long set! Like a set of IKEA instructions!

For those of you who may not be familiar with type 1 diabetes, it is an autoimmune disorder that causes your body to attack itself, therefore your insulin (the stuff that breaks down the sugar in your blood from all the carbohydrates you eat) no longer works. Translation: your pancreas is now a useless organ, and in lieu of that useless organ you must now inject synthetic insulin into your body multiple times a day to ensure that your blood sugar doesn’t get too high.

That means that everything — I mean everything — that my daughter ingests must be monitored so that the person acting as the pancreas (us) can administer the right amount of insulin. Too little insulin can cause high blood sugar which has devastating effects on her future health, or too much insulin which can cause loss of consciousness and death. So you see it’s a very tricky little disease that has many factors at play.

Entrusting a babysitter or caretaker who is not familiar with type 1 to administer insulin, quite literally a medication that saves lives but can also kill you if dosed incorrectly, is very hard to do. Not only does it place a great amount of burden on the caretaker but it also creates stress on the parents and child. That is not to say that we have not had our fair share of date nights since her diagnosis eight years ago. We have had family members learn diabetic care and even a couple of trustworthy babysitters. And of course, thanks to the blessing of technology, I can now monitor her blood sugar from my iPhone, which makes life easier (thank you #dexcomg6).

I know I’m not alone in this “date night envy.” Many families have kids who are considered to be “medically complex.” So I can assume they can empathize with those fleeting moments where we are truly envious of our neighbors or family members who take carefree nights away, staycations just because, and are able to drop their kids at Grandma’s for the weekend. This is not our reality. When we go out, very specific arrangements must be made, trainings on technology must be done, and constant communication must be maintained in case anything were to go wrong.

Please don’t get me wrong, I would not change my life for anything. Our daughter is such an incredible blessing and an image of strength and perseverance. I am truly in awe of her resilience and positive attitude. There are times, however, when I feel the “date night envy” take hold, and I can begin to self loathe. I am only human, but what I have learned is that this is such a small moment in time. I know that one day my daughter will be able to care for herself and she will no longer need me to be her pancreas (though I will always worry). At that time, I am sure my husband and I can double down on the date nights that type 1 has taken from us. For now, watching a show on the couch after the kids go to bed is our way to connect. And that’s okay.

Type 1 diabetes is hard and all consuming, but it has created an intense bond within our family that I wouldn’t trade for anything… even a carefree date night.

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When I Realized My Tween Was Emotionally Manipulating Me

One of the most baffling and infuriating parts of parenting can be trying to decipher our kid’s feelings. Even as infants, they cry for a multitude of reasons and it falls on us to scramble around trying to figure out which need must be met. We eventually learn to distinguish one “type” of cry from another and respond accordingly.

When they become toddlers, our kids begin to learn to communicate their specific needs more clearly even as they simultaneously become more volatile and irrational. But toddlers also pick up another useful little tool to add to their arsenal: they discover they can manipulate the world around them — including us, their parents.

There are gigabytes’ worth of articles claiming that a little kid throwing a tantrum is basically on par with an infant crying. A tantrum is a bid for attention, they say — a crackling white flag of surrender, the only way they know to communicate that they have an emotional need not being met. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes a tantruming kid isn’t really mad about the thing they’re screaming about. Sometimes they just need a nap.

Except, any parent who’s had their toddler poke out their bottom lip and pretend to cry because they’ve been told they can’t have an extra popsicle knows that sometimes a tantrum is purely, 100%, a kid just trying to get their way. Kids can be manipulative AF. It’s a fact.

Albert Rafael/Pexels

It’s easy-ish to deal with a toddler, or at least, there are plenty of articles filled with ways to manage a toddler tantrum, but what about when your older kid starts to manipulate you? I’m not even talking about tantrums. I’m also not talking about more obvious emotional manipulation like sulking, door slamming, and other clear histrionics. I’m talking about more subtle uses of emotional manipulation. The more devious, clever type of manipulation older kids — and adults — are capable of. Cases where you’re honestly not sure what the best course of action is.

For example, when your tween daughter tells you she’s “scared” to go to school, but your gut tells you she’d just rather stay home and watch YouTube videos. Or when your kid accuses you of working too much and not spending enough time with them — and then asks you to drive them to the store to buy a gadget for their gaming computer.

How do you deal with information from your child that, if it’s honest, would require your sympathy and attention, but really you know it’s just a form of emotional extortion?

If you have even the slightest suspicion that the complaint is a legitimate one, deal with that first. Call their bluff. For a kid who says they’re scared to go to school, offer to go with them and meet with the school guidance counselor or with a private therapist. Once they realize they’ll have to put in a whole lot of effort to maintain their ruse, they’ll likely give it up. And if the fear turns out to be real, you’ll uncover it and help your kid overcome it.

For the kid who accuses you of not spending enough time with them (this may or may not have recently happened in my household), go ahead and allow that punch to the gut to settle. Then look at the situation and see if the complaint is really valid. (It was a teensy bit valid. I work from home and wasn’t available much over the summer for hanging out.) Then rectify it. (We watched some movies and did a big puzzle together. However, no gadgets were purchased.)

But, you’re not done yet. My son, in his desperate attempt to get something he wanted, hurled out hurtful words at me. I do spend a lot of time with my kids. Yes, the summer was rough. We’d just moved, and I was trying to balance a full work schedule while having my kids home with me all day every day. They were expected to entertain themselves a lot. Still, it felt like all my efforts had been taken for granted. So, I had a conversation with my son about how it hurt me that he’d thrown out that accusation in a way that made it look like he was only trying to guilt me into buying him something. It would have been different if he’d just asked for more time with me. Trying to get something material out of it wasn’t okay. He understood and apologized immediately.

We parents must teach our kids not to be emotionally manipulative, but more importantly we must model emotionally honest behavior. Think about how often adults use emotional manipulation to get a child to do what they want. Sometimes it seems almost harmless, like when Aunt Josephine pretends to cry when your child doesn’t want to give her a hug. Or any variety of withholding affection in order to get a child to do what they’re told. All of it is emotional manipulation.

Children need to understand that emotional honesty is important, not just when it comes to being a decent human being, but even for their own safety. Being in the habit of being emotionally honest fosters an environment where, when something really does go wrong, you know it. There is no question or confusion about how your child is feeling, either in your child’s mind or yours. This matters in your relationship with your child, it matters in their friendships, and it will matter in romantic and professional relationships. If emotional honesty is your child’s baseline, they will recognize when someone else is trying to emotionally manipulate them.

Whether it’s by outright tantrums or door-slamming or sulking or other manipulative behavior, or if it’s more this subtle variety I’ve described here, allowing our kids to manipulate us enforces dangerous habits that can be carried into adult relationships. We definitely don’t want that for our kids, so we need to both model emotionally honest behavior and expect the same from our kids.

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Why Childcare Is So Important To Me Even Though My Kids Are Teens

Here is the deal: my kids are both in high school. I can feel the ache and hope that is coming: the graduations, my empty arms, home, washer, refrigerator. My empty nest.

I am a long, long way from that wild time of searching for childcare when they were age zero to 5 — heck, conception to kindergarten might be more apropos. But even now, despite having nearly-grown sons, my 2020 vote will go to the candidate with the best plan to fix America’s broken child care system.

I’m not really a single-issue voter. Not at all. In fact, I care deeply about lots of issues: suicide rates, mental health, toxic masculinity, #metoo, common sense gun laws, mass incarceration, college costs, equality, health care, and general policies that create a society full of good people living good lives. Yet all of my issues, there’s one that I would wager would produce positive outcomes across the board and impact all of our issues — if only America would invest in positive, healthy, loving, and intentional early childhood development.

When my kids were little, we patchworked childcare together each week (and sometimes every day!) with a combination of trade-offs, shuffles, favors, and paid help. We couldn’t afford the well known, magical in-home daycare where the kids made organic food with the loving couple who ran the program. My mom moved in with us after her divorce and we all banded together to figure out childcare each day. Sometimes, that meant relying on Sesame Street’s blend of entertainment, education, and engagement. Thank God for Sesame Street. I would vote Sesame Street 2020 if I could. And Mr. Rogers as VP for sure.

As parents, we did our best. So do most people. But the system is broken, and not just for lower-income folks like we were at the time. The cost is enormous, and it’s risen more than 70% since the 1980s, more than college tuition in a majority of states. Availability is often nil — parents are regularly told they should have gotten on a waitlist before conception. Educators are burning out, with the average program lasting just three to five years and average childcare workers earning $11.50 an hour.

This leads to compromises. One parent quits his (or more often her) job because the return on investment isn’t there. Staying home to care for kids is cheaper. Or both parents have to work, but can’t afford or access quality care, so they compromise and accept an unlicensed program. Add in the chaos of having a sick kiddo, and the house of cards that is America’s childcare system crumbles. It is an impossible equation where no one wins. Not parents. Not educators. And certainly not, our kids.

Society at large isn’t winning either.

A child’s brain is most impressionable during the first three years of life, forming more than 1 million new neural connections every second. This has huge implications on everything from rates of incarceration and suicide to high school graduations. It’s also a major workforce issue, with U.S. businesses losing $3 billion annually due to employee absenteeism that is the result of childcare breakdowns.

A comprehensive early childcare solution is the biggest lever to pull to effect change, at all levels, for all parties. All Americans need to understand that this problem isn’t one that can wait until you have your own kids, or forget about once your kids are grown up. We are far beyond that.

My sons are 17 and 14. My oldest will be voting in the next presidential election, and guess what — the issues that matter to him are also directly impacted by the outcomes driven by high-quality early childcare solutions. My son and I are about equidistant from worrying about daycare, and yet here we are, staring down the ballot box at the same issues Washington should have addressed decades ago.

I am not (fingers crossed) a grandmother yet. But I embody many other great roles — a mom, wife, an entrepreneur, a friend, daughter. There’s not one hat I would take off. And that’s why I can’t give up. Every role carries a certain responsibility and weight, and sometimes it is all very, very heavy. I am often overwhelmed with the needs around me. There is so much to build. I want to fix too many things, right now, the broken hearts in Dayton and El Paso, and all around our country.

For each problem I long to fix, there are a lot of things I would love to break. To maximize and balance my building, fixing and breaking urges, I need to find the most elegant, effective and empowering place to put my energy. I need one thing to dig into that affects each of my (often contradictory) roles. It is a bit like a magic trick. America, we have one hat, and many rabbits need pulling out of it. One solid plan could solve so many issues.

So woo me, candidates. Show me your plans. Show me you care. Show my son. Show me that you understand the foundational work that needs to be done. If we want to talk about infrastructure, start here. Our future is crumbling. Fix it.

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No One Tells You That You’ll Miss Your Child Before They Grow Up

I look into my daughter’s sweet face, and it’s strange, but I miss her already. I miss her young self and these years where she is still my little girl. Where she still thinks I am someone to adore and spend most of her time with.

I know that we are hurtling towards the teenage years when emotions and angst start to rule her mind and I have already started to miss her, and I wonder…

I wonder how long she will still climb into bed with me in the mornings for a snuggle before she has to get up to get ready for school.

I wonder how long before she will no longer naturally slip her hand into mine when we are walking through a crowded place.

I wonder how long until she stops thinking I’m one of the most important people in her little universe.

I wonder how long before she stops thinking that my corny jokes are hilarious.

I wonder how long before she starts to get exasperated over everything I say or suggest.

I wonder how long before her friends’ opinions start to outweigh mine.

I wonder when she will no longer run from whichever corner of the house she is at when I arrive home for the day.

I wonder how long before she stops getting comfort from me playing with her hair while she rests her head in my lap.

I wonder when I’ll stop getting hugs before leaving the house, even if I’m just quickly running to the grocery store.

I wonder when the promise of a hot chocolate will stop being enough to get her to do extra chores for me on the weekend.

I wonder how long before going out with her friends is more appetizing to her than staying home and watching shows with her Mama on a Friday night.

I wonder how long before she stops needing me so much. Needing help brushing the stubborn tangle out of her hair, needing help getting her cheerleading uniform on properly, needing help with figuring out her math homework.

I wonder how long before I’m not one of the first people she runs to when something great happens and the first person she turns to when she’s hurt and needs some comfort.

I wonder how long before she starts pulling away from my hugs (temporarily I hope, but I know that it might come).

I wonder how long before she doesn’t want me to come tuck her in at night and say bedtime prayers with her.

I wonder how long before she doesn’t beg me to volunteer for the school trip so that we can spend that extra time together on a school day.

I wonder how long before she doesn’t really care if I come to the class play or the holiday concert (and just a head’s up kiddo, I’m going to come anyways).

I wonder how long before she doesn’t curl up right beside me on the great big couch. There’s lots of space but she always wants to be squished right up against me and I wonder how long I will get to have that.

There are so many “I wonders” as I watch my girl grow up. It’s such a hard and beautiful process to watch her sprout her wings and grow up and away from me in her independence. And right now, it makes me sad. It makes me want to grab a hold of this time right now with both hands and try to freeze-frame it. It makes me want to press pause and soak it all in and to emblazon these memories on my brain.

Don’t get me wrong, I know she’ll still love me as a teen, and as an adult, but it will feel different. It will be different. And I’m not ready for the change. The good part is that it will not happen overnight. It will be gradual and while we go through these years, I will cherish each of these things that she still does with me that I love. As they slowly drift away one by one, I’m sure I will find new and still beautiful ways to relate to my girl. New ways to connect with my teen or my adult child.

But I’m sure I will still be sad when one day she doesn’t climb in bed for morning cuddles anymore.

We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners,) daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook page is here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)

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Why You Shouldn’t Have ‘The Talk’ But Do This Instead

I talk to my kids about sex all the time. Lest you think we’re oversexed monsters — let go of those pearls, Carol — I don’t mean we talk about sexual intercourse constantly. I mean that, in my house, sex isn’t some giant mystery we sit our kids down and discuss all at once, bada-bing, bada-boom. It’s an ongoing dialogue about sex and how it works, about ethics and consent and masturbation and human sexuality and everything in between.

And that’s how it should be.

I never got “the talk,” unless you count two units in school, one in fifth grade that featured a movie with a mom making pancakes in the shape or uteri (I wish I were joking), and another taught by a strict Catholic school virgin who fervently wished we’d bring back corporal punishment and said we’d automatically fail the unit if anyone giggled at the word “penis.” This one went a little more in depth about sperm and eggs and penises and vaginas but never quite made it to penises being inserted into vaginas, let alone address other types of sex. Needless to say, these “talks” weren’t exactly accurate or healthy.

This led to a lot of confusion, sexual experimentation, and frantic late-night googling.

I swore my kids would get better than that. So from the time they were very, very small, we talked about sex. We forget sex doesn’t just mean penis in vagina. Sex isn’t limited to sexual intercourse. It means all kinds of things: oral sex and masturbation. Rape and consent. It means LBGTQ-positive language — especially for us, since one of my sons has shared that he could marry a girl or a boy when we asked (we take that seriously, like any parent should).

It means all kids of sex, and it means consent. We taught our sons very early: “No one has the right to touch you in a way that you don’t want to be touched.” That’s part of an ongoing dialogue about sex, and a really important part. It sets boundaries about their bodies, and about other bodies as well. My sons will not grow up to be Brock Turner, full stop, if I have anything to do with it.

We also talk about masturbation. We don’t use the word, since our kids are still prepubescent. But that doesn’t mean they don’t grab themselves. And rather than freak out, we calmly say, “When we want to touch ourselves there, we do it in private.” Note the use of the word we. This demystifies and removes the shame of it. Our kids aren’t some weird freaks. Everyone does it. It’s another part of this ongoing dialogue about sex. You don’t sit your kid down and say, “THIS IS MASTURBATION.” You bring it up bit by bit instead.

We also joke about body hair a lot, mostly because my husband has a lot of it. “You’ll have it one day,” he tells the kids. And the other day, my 7-year-old asked, “When?”

“Oh, when you go through puberty,” my husband told him.

“When’s that?” my 9-year-old asked. My husband explained it. “YOU MEAN MY VOICE WILL GET DEEP?!” my 9 year-old asked in disbelief, and laughed. Just another part of the ongoing conversation about sex. It happened to come up. So we explained it. Then life continued, as if we’d discussed lizards or toads.

I also get very bad periods — debilitating ones. For at least one day a month, I’m couch-bound. When my kids ask why, I don’t lie. I say, “I’m on my period.” Usually, the younger ones have forgotten and ask, “What’s that?” So I explain that it’s when the lining in my uterus, which is meant to support a baby, doesn’t have a baby to support, and comes out of my vagina. Sometimes a lot of it comes out at once and it makes me tired and crampy. They just nod and go on about their day, now knowing about periods, menstrual cramps, and the suckiness thereof.


They also watch a lot of animal documentaries. They know what mating is. So when they ask how people mate, we tell them the truth. “Oh, it’s when a guy puts his penis into a woman’s vagina,” one of us said. I don’t remember if it was my husband or me. “Oh,” one of the kids said, and it was so long ago I don’t remember which one or how old they were. “Okay. I wondered how that worked.”

Conversation over, next topic. No embarrassment. No weirdness. No “OH MY GOD I JUST TOLD MY KID ABOUT SEX AND IT WAS SO MESSED UP.” Just part of the ongoing conversation about sex, just part of the dialogue.

Sometimes it’s funny, like when they say their penises look different than certain adult males who shall not be named because they’re uncircumcised and he isn’t, and we have a conversation about circumcision. Or when they accidentally bust in on me changing my diva cup, and we have to have a conversation about Bathroom Privacy. Or when, after sex, my 9-year-old wandered out of his room and said, “Is mama okay? I heard noises.” And he clearly knew what was happening, that little bastard.

We’re also careful to talk about LGBTQ issues: what it means to be gay, people we know who are gay, that you can marry people of the same gender. We also talk about how sex means different things for different people, and not just penis in vagina intercourse.

Opportunities to talk about sex in a healthy and natural way come up all the time. My 9-year-old and I once started talking about the The Kinks’s son “Lola,” moved to David Bowie’s gender-bending sexuality, and ended up weeping at the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. This in one conversation. The opportunities for this dialogue are everywhere. You just have to look for them.

I’ve also casually asked, while talking about being gay, if they thought they would marry a girl or a boy. Two of my sons said girls. One of them said a girl or a boy, maybe. Okay then. What an amazing thing: my son was that unafraid to tell me that. I cry when I think of that moment of unabashed, unafraid openness, whether or not he turns out to be bi. He was comfortable enough to say that in front of both me and his brothers. And no one thought anything of it.


But all these are chances for that ongoing dialogue about sex to happen. And happen it does. Not that my husband admitted we were having sex. But he did say, “Mama’s fine. We were busy.” Good answer without being a lie, and without traumatizing the kid, who we thought was dead asleep (and I wasn’t being loud, Carol, so let go of those goddamn pearls again).

This is what kids need. It demystifies sex. It allows for a flow of information, so when the kids have questions, they ask them. It’ll pay off when they’re teenagers. Sex is part of who we are as people. Why treat it like something weird and strange and removed from the rest of life? That doesn’t mean your toddler needs to know the intricacies of sexual positions. But it does mean that hey, maybe he should know that humping his stuffed animal is okay if he does it in his bedroom alone. It’s not dirty or weird or shameful, it just is. If sex squicks you out, that’s your problem.

Your kids will pick up on that squick.

Do you want to raise kids who grow up squicked out by sex, then suddenly develop raging hormones and don’t know what to do with them? That’s how chastity rings and teenage pregnancies happen. It’s how college girls end up frantically googling “can I get pregnant on my period?” It’s why boys can’t put on a condom and twelve-year-olds think the ingrown hair on their balls comes from excessive masturbation.

Don’t do that to your kid. They deserve better than that.

The more you talk, the more you open up, the more you keep an ongoing dialogue about sex, the better your chances of raising an adult with healthy attitudes about sex.

Which, in the end, we’re all aiming for.

So let go of those squicks and start talking.

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110+ Hilarious Jokes For Kids That Adults Find Funny Too

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There’s really nothing sweeter than the sound of a child’s hysterical laughter. Kids are pretty funny and they’re always seeking out new, silly jokes to crack up over. We decided to jot down our favorite clean puns and kid-friendly jokes to keep the belly laughs rolling. Read on and check out the best jokes for kids!

1. What does a cloud wear under his raincoat?

2. What do kids play when they can’t play with a phone?
Bored games.

3. What do you call two monkeys sharing an Amazon account?

4. What do birds give out on Halloween?

5. Why was the weightlifter upset?
She worked with dumbbells.

6. Why are teddy bears never hungry?
They’re always stuffed!

7. What did the policeman say to his tummy?
Freeze. You’re under a vest.

8. What does one volcano say to the other?
I lava you!

9. What’s Thanos’ favorite app to talk to friends?
Snap chat.

10. What event do spiders love to attend?

11. What did one math book say to the other?
I’ve got so many problems.

12. Why do ducks have tail feathers?
To cover their buttquacks.

13. Why can’t you ever tell a joke around glass?
It could crack up.

14. How do you know when a bike is thinking?
You can see its wheels turning.

15. How did the baby tell her mom that she had a wet diaper?
She sent her a pee-mail.

16. How did Benjamin Franklin feel when he discovered electricity?

17. Why did the daddy rabbit go to the barber?
He had a lot of little hares.

18. What kind of shoes do private investigators wear?

19. How do billboards talk?
Sign language.

20. What is brown and sticky?
A stick!

21. What game does the sky love to play?

22. Why do we never tell jokes about pizza?
They’re too cheesy.

23. What kind of lunch do moms never prepare in the morning?
Their own.

24. Did you hear the joke about the roof?
Never mind, it’s over your head.

25. What time is it when people are throwing pieces of bread at your head?
Time to duck.

funny jokes for kids, appropriate kids jokes, corny kids jokes

Twomeows / Getty

26. What do you do if someone rolls their eyes at you?
Roll them back.

27. What’s the difference between a guitar and a fish?
You can tune a guitar but you can’t tunafish.

28. What did the sink say to the potty?
You look flushed!

29. What’s a snake’s strongest subject in school?

30. Why did the God of Thunder need to stretch his muscles so much when he was a kid?
He was a little Thor.

31. What kind of music do mummies listen to?
Wrap music.

32. What kind of nut doesn’t like money?
Cash ew.

33. Learning how to collect trash wasn’t hard.
I just picked it up as I went along.

34. Why is it so windy inside a stadium?
There are hundreds of fans.

35. Do you know how many famous men and women were born on your birthday?
None, only babies.

36. Why didn’t the lamp sink?
It was too light.

37. Why do vampires seem sick?
They’re always coffin.

38. Where do cows go on December 31st?
A moo year’s eve party.

39. Why shouldn’t you tell secrets in a cornfield?
There are too many ears.

40. Where do you find a dog with no legs?
Right where you left him!

41. What did the snowman ask the other snowman?
Do you smell carrots?

42. How do you stop an astronaut’s baby from crying?
You rocket.

43. What did the fisherman say to the magician?
Pick a cod, any cod.

44. Why did the cookie go to the doctor’s office?
He was feeling crummy.

45. What do Olympic sprinters eat before a race?
Nothing. They fast.

46. Why do bowling pins have such a hard life?
They’re always getting knocked down.

47. Why did the golfer wear two pairs of pants?
In case he got a hole in one.

48. Where were pencils invented?

49. Why are penguins socially awkward?
Because they can’t break the ice.

50. How much does a pirate pay for corn?
A BUCK-aneer.

51. Why can’t you trust zookeepers?
They love cheetahs.

52. Where do you learn to make ice cream?
Sundae school.

53. Where do cows go for entertainment?

54. Why couldn’t the duck pay for dinner?
Her bill was too big.

55. What kind of tree fits in your hand?
A palm tree.

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Imgorthand / Getty

56. What did Jack say to Jill after they rolled down the hill?
I think I spilled the water.

57. Why are ghosts such bar liars?
You can see right through them.

58. What animal dresses up and howls?
A wearwolf.

59. What’s red and bad for your teeth?
A brick.

60. What did the mother elephant say to her kids when they weren’t behaving?
Tusk, tusk.

61. What are bald sea captains most worried about?
Cap sizes.

62. What do you call a retired vegetable?
A has-bean.

63. What gets wetter the more it dries?
A towel.

64. Where do hamburgers go dancing?
A meatball.

65. What’s blue and smells like red paint?
Blue paint.

66. How do elves learn how to spell?
They study the elf-abet.

67. Why were bikes suspended from school?
They spoke too much.

68. What kind of music do balloons hate?

69. What time is it when a ball goes through the window?
Time to get a new window.

70. Why can’t your hand be 12 inches long?
Because then it would be a foot.

71. If you take your watch to be fixed, make sure you don’t pay up front.
Wait until the time is right.

72. What do you call a bear with no teeth?
A gummy bear.

73. What did the traffic light say to the car?
Don’t look. I’m about to change.

74. What did one DNA strand ask the other DNA strand?
Do these genes look okay?

75. Did you hear about the two guys who stole a calendar?
They each got six months.

76. What do you call a sad strawberry?
A blueberry.

77. What do you call a cow with no legs?
Ground beef!

78. Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl going to the bathroom?
Because the “P” is silent.

79. What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument?
A trom-bone.

80. Why can’t you give Elsa a balloon?
She’ll Let It Go.

81. Don’t leave any food around your computer.
It takes a lot of bytes.

82. Why did the dinosaur cross the road?
The chicken didn’t exist yet.

83. What’s a king’s favorite kind of weather?

84. What did the broccoli say to the celery?
Quit stalking me.

85. Why can’t Cinderella play soccer?
Because she’s always running away from the ball.

86. What happened with the kidnapping in the park?
They woke him up.

silly jokes. kids jokes, best jokes for kids

FatCamera / Getty

87. Why can’t the music teacher start his car?
His keys are on the piano.

88. What did Aquaman say to his kids when they wouldn’t eat their food?
Water you waiting for?

89. Why do you never see elephants hiding in trees?
Because they are really good at it.

90. How does Darth Vader like his toast?
On the dark side.

91. What do Alexander the Great and Winnie the Pooh have in common?
The same middle name.

92. What do cows read?

93. Why are spiders great web developers?
They like finding bugs.

94. What do you call a fly without wings?
A walk!

95. Why kind of bug is in the FBI?
A SPY-der.

96. Can a kangaroo jump higher than the Empire State Building?
Of course! The Empire State Building can’t jump!

97. I spent five minutes fixing a broken clock yesterday.
At least, I think it was five minutes…

98. Why are elephants so wrinkled?
Because they take too long to iron!

99. How did the barber win the race?
He knew a short cut.

100. What do you call a cow that can’t moo?
A milk dud.

101. What did one hat say to the other?
Stay here, I’m going on ahead.

102. What’s the best thing to put into a pie?
Your teeth.

103. Why was the broom late?
It over-swept.

104. What room doesn’t have doors?
A mushroom.

105. How do modern day pirates keep in touch?

106. Why did the scarecrow get a promotion?
He was outstanding in his field.

107. Where does Superman’s wife drive?
Lois’ lane.

108. Where do horses live?
In neighhh-borhoods.

109. What do you get when you put cheese next to some ducks?
Cheese and quakers.

110. What do you call a tired pea?

111. What do cats eat for breakfast?
Mice krispies.

RELATED: These Hilarious Baby Onesies Are Borderline Offensive

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The Day I Slapped My Child

It was a typical morning spent rushing to get my older kids out the door for school. There were breakfasts to be made, homework to finish and lunches to pack. It wasn’t a particularly memorable morning. We’d just gotten back from a trip overseas to visit my husband’s family in Scotland. I remember feeling jetlagged and cranky. My husband was out of town for work, so his usual helpfulness was absent. I have so many excuses.

Our son, who recently turned 4, had been sick with an ear infection. The pharmacy had forgotten to flavor his medication, so I had been trying—and failing—to get him to swallow his antibiotic. I bribed, cajoled and begged him. Finally, after an hour of tears, he reluctantly drank the yogurt and strawberry-laced concoction. It was to be his first day back at Pre-K in two weeks.

I noticed the time. I had a conference call starting in 30 minutes. We made our way to his bedroom to get him dressed. He’d begun wearing a uniform to school right before we’d left on vacation. That morning, I realized quickly its novelty had worn off. I set out his shirt and was met with immediate tears. “I no want to wear this shirt, Mama,” he proclaimed, fists tightly balled. I tried to keep my cool. I explained, as best as one can do with a toddler, that everyone in his class had to wear the same shirt. I told him it was the teacher’s rules—happy to throw her under the bus and save myself. The tears started to flow, and no amount of reasoning mattered. Every time I inched near him to put on the shirt, he would thrash and flail about.

I sat on the floor for what seemed like hours. I consulted the clock. With just minutes left to get him in the shirt and to school before I was late for my call, I attempted to hold him between my legs and force the shirt over his head. He arched back, and his head slammed into my nose. And I lost it. In that moment of pain and surprise, I smacked him clean in the middle of his tiny back. Hard. The sound was deafening. His big brown eyes met mine, and he started to wail. I sat, dumbfounded, equal parts surprised and disgusted.

I pushed the shirt the rest of the way over his head and hauled him crying into the car. On the short trip to school, I tried to talk my way out of what happened. “I’m sorry, Buddy, but Mommy is late for work. If I don’t go to work, I will be in trouble. Do you want Mommy to get in trouble?” Not only had I violated his trust, now I was also giving the impression that it was somehow his fault.

By the time we arrived at school, his tears had subsided. We walked silently to his classroom. As we turned the corner, his fat little fingers intertwined with mine. I lost my breath. What had I done?

I made it back to the car before collapsing into sobs. What kind of person was I? Would he ever look at me the same? Should I blow off work and spend the day making it up to him? But that wasn’t possible. I had violated a code. I am meant to be his protector. It is impossible to undo what I’d done.

When my husband called to check in, I could not tell him what had happened. I was too ashamed to admit what I had done. What kind of mother slaps her child? It was a mistake a thousand apologies could not erase. I am not a violent person. I don’t behave like this. This isn’t how a mother is supposed to behave.

At the end of the day, I went to pick him up from school. He was on the playground racing down a plastic slide. He spotted me and came barreling toward me, leaping into my arms. I felt elation and crushing guilt all at once. There is no amount of logic or explanation that can rationalize this event.

I know it is impossible to be a parent and not lose your temper. Having three children, there have been hundreds of times I was in similar situations, and I never laid a hand on them. Parenting is full of a million choices. But on that day, in that moment, I made the wrong choice. One I will never forgive myself for.

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I Used To Wonder Why It Took Parents So Long To Get Out Of The House, Now I Know

I finally got all three of my kids packed up and in the van to head to summer day camp when the sun broke through the clouds. Shit! Damn you Mother Nature! Alexa had told me it was going to be a rainy day, and it had been wicked cloudy all morning. I took these as signs to not put sunscreen on the kids—because what a fucking gift. Applying sunscreen to three squirmy kids bitching about how cold the water will be for lessons is about as much fun as it sounds. But now the sun was out and they would be in the pool first thing for swimming; the right thing to do was to at least put sunscreen on their faces.

As I went back inside, I thought, this is why we are never on time. I was fool for once judging other parents for taking so long to get out of the house. Because here I am, running back into my own house to grab roll-on sunscreen. Sigh…

But this was just the beginning of several more attempts to leave the driveway. Two of my three kids were happy to use the roll-on sunscreen, but my third child decided she would do things her way. As I was putting the van into reverse, she was apparently putting about a quarter cup of sunscreen onto her face via the tube she had in her bag for camp.


I turn around and see what looks like a child who didn’t just apply sunscreen on her own but tripped and fell face first into a pool of it. My daughter was squeezing her eyes shut while waving her arms around and screaming that her eye stings.

I had already dealt with a meltdown that morning, served breakfast, cleaned up breakfast, packed three lunches with snacks for the day, packed three backpacks, and was told I was the worst because I wouldn’t allow screen time. I finally had three kids out of the door and now I was cursing Mother Nature for her sliver of sun, which of course disappeared a few minutes after said sunscreen delay. I was not in the mood for the stubborn foolishness of a 6-year-old.

“Well. This is what happens when you don’t listen to me. Instead of waiting for your turn with the roll-on stick, you get lotion in your eye.”

I then took baby wipes to her face to get rid of the mess she had made. But she fought that, rubbed her other eye, and started screaming again.


I had zero sympathy.

“I don’t know. But I have a feeling you will be fine. But keep crying. That will wash out your eyes. I will also get a wet cloth.”

I went back inside, realized I had left the coffee pot on, rinsed cereal bowls, because no one wants to deal with hardened Frosted Flakes, found a wash cloth, ran it under water, and took it out to her. I told her to dab her eyes on the way to camp. It wasn’t even 8:30 am, and I was done. I looked at the clock as we finally left and realized that the last ten minutes had been spent in absolute fuckery.

And this was just one day, one attempt to leave, and one of many reasons why it takes so fucking long to finally go anywhere. I gotta say, though, at least we were all out of the house. We were actually in the car and buckled up, which is more than I can say on most days when the delays begin. And there are always delays. If it’s not a day-long project that a child thinks can be started and finished in a matter of minutes, or a request for more time to do whatever thing has to be done right that second, then someone has to poop.

Seriously, what is it about me saying it’s time to go that makes one or all of my children have to go?

And then the socks aren’t right. Shoes disappear. Toothpaste got on the wall behind the toilet. I probably have time to send this email while unloading the dishwasher and putting in my contacts. I am pretty sure I started the dishwasher without any detergent. I better go back in and check.

It never fucking ends.

Did I turn off the oven? Did I lock the back door? OMFG why are all of the lights on? JFC, the dog is still outside. Can someone please shut the door? I don’t know why your sister has that toy. I guess you can bring Optimus Prime—just go outside. No, you don’t need to pack a bag full of Pokemon cards, 17 stuffies, homemade slime, and a change of clothes for your imaginary monkey. Sure, bring the cards. Of course you dropped the cards. I would be happy to help you clean them up. Are you seriously asking me for a snack while I am the only one cleaning up this mess? And why are YOU back in the house?

It’s a miracle that we get anywhere, really. And if we are there on time, then someone give me a high five. And please forgive pre-kid me if I ever judged post-kid you or made you feel bad for being a few minutes late. I was an unknowing asshole, because holy shit, I get it now.

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