The 6 Stages Of Mom Yelling (Sometimes It Doesn’t Involve Sound)

Before I had kids, I knew a few things to be true: I was never going to own a minivan, I would never wear yoga pants, and I was not going to be a mother who yelled at her kids. I would see harried yoga-pants-clad moms driving their veritable clown cars around town, and I was amazed to see just how short their tempers were when in Target. I’d stare openmouthed when I’d see a mom lose her shit in the grocery store, and I was certain that if I was blessed with children, I’d never, ever raise my voice — ever.

Boy, did that thinking ever come back to bite me in the ass. Motherhood came along and not only caught me with my yoga pants down but also gave me a giant bitch slap right into reality.

Turns out, a certain amount of yelling is required when raising kids. And I eat my words every single day when I’m hissing at my kids to be quiet in church or using “asshole lips” to get my point across when they are misbehaving in the grocery store.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Yes, I’m a mom who yells at my kids. But before you come at me with your pitchforks, I don’t mean scream-yelling. I am not a mom who always raises her voice. Rather, I’ve come to realize that there are many ways that I “yell” at my kids, and I suspect that you, too, yell at your kids using the same techniques.

1. Pursed Lips, aka “Asshole Lips”

Usually accompanied with a stern “Get. Over. Here.” the pursed lips method of yelling at your children is usually best for those times when your kids are misbehaving in front of your in-laws, or those moments in libraries when your kids are disturbing the peace by running through the aisles like maniacs. And pursed lips are almost always the optimal choice for shutting your kids up in a movie theater.

2. Clenched Teeth, aka “I. Said. NO.”

If you troll the aisles of any Target or grocery store, you will inevitably see a mom with clenched teeth issuing a cease and desist order to her children. This form of yelling is reserved for those times when you are in public and you just cannot even with having to say no one. more. time. Clenched teeth are also used when the ice cream truck rolls down the street and when the kids beg for more tokens at Chuck. E. Cheese’s.

3. The Single Eyebrow Raise, aka “Stop. Right. There.”

Of all the methods of mom yelling, I have perfected the art of the Single Eyebrow Raise. In fact, my kids stop in their tracks when they look at me from across a crowded playground and see my right eyebrow raised in a distinct arch. The Single Eyebrow Raise is best used when your kids behaving like assholes but out of earshot. Museums, community pools, and playgrounds are all places you will see moms executing the eyebrow raise of discipline.

4. The Unsettling Smile, aka “The Singsong Voice”

I don’t know about you, but my brothers and I were masters at misbehaving at corporate functions, company picnics, or any place where my parents were trying to impress others. We always knew we were in for it when my mom would say in a sugar-sweet voice, “You need to stop that right now, sweetie. It’s rude to stand on a chair that way.” She’d always say it with a creepy smile and wide eyes, and we knew that we’d hear about it on the way home.

5. Complete and Total Rage, aka “Your Neighbors Will Behave Too”

Okay, I admit, this style of mom yelling is the least acceptable, but we have all had those moments when motherhood has gotten the best of us. Whether it’s discovering that your kids have cracked an entire carton of eggs on the floor or someone just flushed your favorite sweater down the toilet, we have all lost our mom shit Incredible Hulk style. And usually, it’s when your windows are open.

6. Total Silence, aka “Shit Just Got Real”

And then there are those moments when yelling just won’t do — those moments when you have to stop and take stock of the situation because you are speechless from rage. Moms of teenagers know this type of mom yelling well, because let’s face it, teens can be total assholes. Total Silence isn’t used often, but when you invoke this style of yelling, let’s just say, the kids quake in their boots.

I am not proud of losing my patience with my kids sometimes, but the fact is, sometimes a mom has to do what a mom has to do in order to get her kids to act right.

Hey Kids, You Really Do Want Me To Say ‘No’ Sometimes, And Here’s Why

There they stood: my three oldest sons, mouths wide open as I put a scoop of icing onto each of their tongues. This was their reward for smiling for a family picture without a meltdown.

Yes, I bribe them for things like this. And yes, I am far past the phase of feeling guilty for doing so. So there I stood, tablespoon in hand.

As the icing dripped from their mouths, they looked up at me giggling and said, “You’re the best mom ever.” Then they looked at each other smiling. They couldn’t believe the reality of the moment. I was having fun too — until I heard my oldest son continue.

“No, Mom. Really, you’re the best. I can’t believe you’re letting us eat icing out of a can.”

Suddenly, my stomach dropped. He meant it to be a compliment. And the innocence of his accolade to my amazing mothering skills should’ve made me feel happy too. But instead, I felt a need to step back because I could truly see it in his face. He really thought this was me showing him my love — evidenced by his dimples practically jumping off his face.

I couldn’t help but remember what had happened the night before with this same son. I had told him no to something he had wanted to do, and he got so upset with me. He couldn’t understand why I would say no to this one request of his. But I stood my ground. And I remained strong. “No, son. You just can’t do it.” And he was angry.

I heard nothing of how great of a mother I was then. Hmmm, I thought to myself. Is it really that simple to them? Is love, to them, so skewed? As I pondered this, the laughing and the giggles confirmed the answer was “yes.”

So I thought long and hard the next day about what I wanted my sons to know about my love. Then I wrote this letter to them (and really to myself too):

Dear Child,

I want to teach you a lesson about what makes me a good mom, and what makes me a mom just wanting you to smile for a picture, so here goes.

In life, you’re going to hear me say no more than you’re going to hear me say yes. And when you hear that word “no,” I want you to know it’s another way of me saying, “I love you.”

Yes, I know. It’s doesn’t feel like that. It feels like I’m blocking you from what you care about. But you’re wrong. Because what I’m really doing is blocking something from hurting what I care about. And what I care about is YOU.

So you’re going to hear me say no — a lot. Or at least a lot more than you want me to. And you don’t always have to understand my reasoning. You don’t always have to understand my ways. I don’t even care that you do.

I just need you to know that most often I am being a better mother when I give you limits than when I do not. I would not be loving if I did not do so. Sometimes loves says no.

And don’t get me wrong, I will say yes as much as I can. Because I love to make you happy. But me loving you is not always about making you feel happy. So please don’t confuse the two.

And about that icing last night, a good mom may have chosen to say no to you because she cared more about your teeth rotting and obesity and the sugar high that would prevent you from going to sleep easily after eating all of that sugar. That love you thought you tasted? That was bribery.

My actual love for you is so much deeper and sweeter. And don’t you forget it.

Love,

Your Mom Who Is Going to Tell You No

Toilet Seat Covers Don’t Prevent Disease, But I’ll Use One Anyway, Thank You Very Much

An article titled “Why Using Toilet Seat Liners Is Basically Pointless” has been making the rounds. It was written in 2014 by Huffington Post‘s Amanda Chen, but it seems like social media archaeologists have unearthed it again, and now I can’t seem to avoid it in my Facebook feed. USA Today even made a classy little video about the article’s subject.

Chen interviewed William Schaffner, MD, a professor of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center who told her this, “That’s because toilet seats are not a vehicle for the transmission of any infectious agents — you won’t catch anything.” Then she points out that the original reason seat covers were invented were to prevent the transmission of gastrointestinal or sexually transmitted infections, but that idea has since been refuted in research.

Ultimately, using a toilet seat cover is basically a psychological thing now. It has nothing to do with preventing the spread of infections. The best protection you have is your butt skin. So now we are all left with a question: Do we stop using them because they don’t work, or do we keep layering paper on toilet seats because it makes us feel better about using public toilets?

This is a hard one for me, and I have to assume for others too. I’m actually addicted to these things. Sometimes I use two, depending on the nature of the toilet. When you pair two covers together like that they slide around a bit, but it’s cool. I end up with a pretty good core workout. And yes, I know that there are some environmentalists reading this right now who are not going to like that, but honestly, a naked public toilet seat feels like rubbing my bare ass against a complete stranger’s bare ass, and I just can’t live with that.

There are just certain things I am not ready to change, regardless of science. I’m not going to poop in a squatting position, regardless of how many Squatty Potty commercials I see showing me how crimped my lower intestines are. I’m not going to stop drinking diet soda regardless of how many people post articles on my Facebook page about how many tumors I’m probably developing. I’m not going to take my shoes off in the house even though there is hard data showing me all the nastiness I’m tracking into my home. And despite this information on toilet seat covers, I’m not going to stop using them. In fact, I have a little boy at home, and I’ve strongly considered getting some toilet seat covers for me to use in his bathroom because the kid can’t aim worth a damn.

What I can say about all of this is that unless my children are peeking in on you while you are doing your business in a public restroom (sorry about that, we are working on it), no one has to know whether or not you use a seat cover. It’s basically a guilty pleasure now.

Please keep in mind that this is just my experience that has lead me to a personal preference for paper-lined seats — my personal hang-ups. And women out there, I assume you have some real hard thinking to do because you spend a lot more time in the saddle than men.

Now here’s the really scary part. The more I think about this revelation concerning toilet seat covers, the more I wonder what this says about me. Usually, I’m a pretty big believer in scientific discovery, but this little slice of facts I can’t handle, and I wonder what else I can’t handle. Perhaps it’s because I’m in my 30s, and I’m starting to get stuck in my ways.

I’m not sure.

But what I do know is this. Amanda Chen ended her article with this very important message: “What does help to tamp down on the spread of gastrointestinal illness is hand-washing.”

Now, this I can get behind. Regardless of where you stand (or in this case, sit) on the toilet seat cover argument, please wash your hands. For the love of humanity, wash your damn hands.

You Don’t Have To Be A Grandma (Or A Farmer) To Be A Gardener

If you’ve even been to my house then you would notice that in all the windows are small potted plants and next to them little tea saucers with small piles of seeds. After years of training, I now know that when I do any of my husband’s laundry I must check his pockets very carefully because there will inevitably be a few seeds of some interesting plant he found in the forest hidden away in the lining of a pocket. He was born a gardener.

But I was not. For many years, I was the designated murderer of anything that requires chlorophyll to live. No houseplant made it past a month in my care. I even killed a cactus once.

Gardening, as it turns out, can be as cheap or expensive, simple or complex, as you want to make it. You don’t need to be a farmer with expansive land — or even own any land at all, for that matter. And you don’t need to be a grandma with a lifetime of Farmer’s Almanac style tricks and old wives’ tales about how herbs work or ways to ward off pests with strategically planted marigolds and mint.

If you want to get started with gardening with your kids, or for yourself, you can grab a few old yogurt containers, poke some holes in the bottom for drainage, fill with potting soil that you can grab from any hardware store, and let your kids toss in some seeds. Water the soil, place in a sunny window — and wait. I suggest starting with something fun like zinnias or even radish, these grow fast and are fun to watch.

If you rent an apartment and have no backyard, you can create a simple container garden with lots of small pots. Some folks even take container gardens to the next level by using a wooden palate (think Pinterest project) and filling the gaps in between the slates with yogurt containers of soil and seeds. When the plants start to grow and create a barrier so that the soil won’t fall out, you can hang the palate on a sunny wall inside or outside and have a really cool jungle effect. Plants that work well for this kind of project are herbs like mint, basil, parsley, and sage. Nasturtiums create a waterfall-like effect and are full and lovely with brightly colored flowers that you can actually eat (they taste peppery, add them to salads).

If you have a backyard big enough for some ambitious projects, you can try checking out books like Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together With Children by Sharon Lovejoy. The colorful pages are filled with great science facts about plants and insects for kids, and the fun and imaginative projects include things like a pizza garden where kids can grow all the toppings they will need to make their own pizza. There is even a fabulous (and unbelievably simple) fort project that creates a secret hideout for kids to play in.

The best part about gardening is that it gives parents a hands-on opportunity to explore science with their kids. From learning how seeds grow into plants to incorporating bugs (try creating a butterfly terrarium!), parents can take these small and fascinating moments of rapt attention from children and use it to lay down some awesome knowledge about how nature works.

But be careful, gardening can be a gateway experiment to other more complicated things like physics and math. For example, my kids have turned into budding gardeners thanks to my husband’s love of nature (and my willingness to learn how to stop killing our poor houseplants). They have started taking a keen interest in learning other cool science based things like how to build and use a compost bin, how to build and set up bird houses, and at one point, with the help of a professional, my oldest son even saved a swarm of bees.

You just never know what will happen when you start mixing seeds with soil, kids will ask a million questions, and if you’re willing to go down the road of curiosity with your child, will lead to some amazing projects that will lead to a lifetime of learning and passion for nature. It’s one of the things I love most about my husband, and I’m thrilled to see our children head down that path.

 

Having A Kid Who Gets Car Sick Is Hell

One parenting milestone that we could all live without is that first time your child pukes all over the car. Every parent has a nightmare story about projectile vomit in an enclosed space, and some parents even drive another 10 hours after that happens, which proves parents truly are rock stars.

Any parent who has had to drive with a kid covered in puke for more than five minutes knows that you can pretty much survive anything parenting throws your way after breathing through your mouth for hours.

That’s why parenting a kid who gets car sick can be hell. I was that kid growing up. We had what we lovingly called an “urp bucket” in the backseat of our minivan at all times. My sister and I were both born with this incredible ability to get sick on long road trips, or short ones. It didn’t matter, really. Sometimes it was just my dad’s driving that would do us in. While I’ve blocked out most of those memories, I do remember throwing up large quantities of grape Kool-Aid that one time. It’s etched into my brain. (And now it’s etched into yours too. Sorry.)

Now that I’m a little older, and almost always get to ride in the front seat, I don’t suffer as much. There are still times when I have to make my husband pull over, so I can step on solid ground for a few minutes and get some fresh air, but they are far and few between.

Of course, now that I can manage a car ride without barfing all over, I have a kid just like me. He gets sick in the car, and it can be awful. He came home from an outing with a bunch of friends one time and looked as pale as could be when he walked through the front door. He went straight to the bathroom and puked. Apparently, he had been shoved all the way in the backseat of the minivan that had a “weird smell” because all minivans do if we’re being totally honest.

But other times we haven’t been so lucky. There was the chicken nugget resurface of 2011 that is still seared into my memory six years later. And I swear, despite washing the car seat and wiping down the straps, I can still see stains from the milk incident of 2014. Recently, one hour into a long road trip, this same child started getting really pale and really quiet. My own puke history clued me in to what was happening. We were on the freeway in the middle of nowhere, and we had to sit on the side of the road for 20 minutes so he could breathe some fresh air. Car sickness can make an already annoying road trip seem like hell on earth.

Many families have an experience — or three — with a pukey kid in the car, but when you have a kid prone to car sickness, traveling anywhere can be a complete nightmare. And since we’re preparing to take a long road trip with our kids in a few weeks, I think it’s timely to share what helps our little family survive car trips vomit-free.

Teach your kids to look out the window.

This is a simple trick, but lots of kids don’t know that if they are coloring, reading, or watching the iPad, they might get sick. Have screen-free time and encourage your kids to look out the window instead of down in their lap. I remind my kids often that when I was there age, I just had to entertain myself with songs and made-up stories.

Make sure everyone has had a good meal.

One thing I’ve noticed is that if my son in the car with a sensitive stomach, it helps to not have an empty one. Give your kids a chance to eat outside of the car too if possible. Sometimes smells in the car can make it worse. The smell of chocolate is, of all things, my worst enemy when I’m feeling pukey. Although it seems like an empty stomach would be better, in the long run, keeping my kids’ bellies full helps keep the car a vomit-free zone.

Keep supplies on hand.

When I go on road trips, I don’t take an “urp bucket,” but I do take supplies. I have empty grocery sacks, paper towels, and wet wipes within reach at all times. Towels and an accessible change of clothes can’t hurt either. Trust me, there is nothing worse than panicking at the last minute when your child is about to hurl and realizing you have nothing to catch it. If your child gets really sick on short trips, consider having a little bag in the car at all times along with a change of clothes.

Keep air flowing.

Make sure your kids get plenty of air in the backseat, and check on them often. Even in the winter, it helps to have a little air circulating so that no one gets overheated and everyone feels like they can breathe. Mom cars are disgusting, so make sure there aren’t smells that will trigger nausea. And let’s be real: This may require getting your car professionally detailed before big trips.

If all else fails, try some anti-nausea meds or tricks.

Talk to your pediatrician if it gets really bad. They may recommend something like a small dose of Dramamine. You could also go a more natural route by trying ginger ale or some other natural anti-nausea remedy like peppermint oil.

Don’t be a bad driver.

I’m sorry, but some people are just worse drivers for those prone to car sickness. I had a friend who made me car sick every time I rode with her. Basically, slow and steady is the key.

Listen to your child.

My last bit of advice is to believe your kid when they say they don’t feel well. It doesn’t take much for those of us who have this problem to upchuck our lunch, and you’d rather take a few minutes to give them a break, than have to breathe with your mouth open for 10 more hours. Trust me.

The Incomparable Magic Of Watching Your Child Learn To Read

We’re snuggled in my 7-year-old’s bed, his head resting on my arm wrapped around his shoulders. He holds one side of a Winnie the Pooh book and I hold the other. He reads the last sentence out loud, then looks up at me, beaming.

“Mommy!” he squeals. “I read the whole thing!”

“Yes, you did!” I reply. “Look at you!”

It’s a moment I’ve experienced with each of my three kids, and it’s incomparably magical every time.

There are many noteworthy milestones in a child’s life, but there is nothing like watching your child read a whole book all by themselves for the first time. The learning to read process is wondrous and mysterious and unique to each child. When the various moving parts all come together and it finally “clicks,” it’s like seeing an entire world open up for them. As a parent, it’s an unbelievably fun and rewarding thing to witness.

Our oldest daughter read extraordinarily early. I remember telling a kindergarten teacher that she was reading fluently at 4. “Some kids memorize books and seem to be reading,” was her response. Um, no. The kid could read practically anything you put in front of her. She had a freakish interest in letters and words from the time she was a baby, and formed a connection to the written word much earlier than our other two. We used to joke that she came out of the womb with a book in her hand. (“Book” was, in fact, her first word.)

Our second kid read quite a bit later. In fact, I started to wonder at age 7 if she was ever going to read. She did okay with the mechanics for the most part, but she didn’t enjoy it. She never read for pleasure and pushed back on every attempt to get her to read for school. She was our feral child, much more interested in galavanting around in nature than sitting down with a book. But one day, her older sister started reading a series about cats, and she got hooked. She went from complaining about reading to spending hours a day devouring novel after novel.

Now our third kid — my baby boy who just turned 8 — is just entering that fluent reading stage. In the past year, he’s gone from sounding out most words to only having to decipher the big ones. And it’s been every bit as exciting and amazing as it was with the other two.

Reading is a significant tool for learning — perhaps the most important one as a child gets older. When you can read, you can go to any library and learn about literally anything for free. Reading stories can make us more empathetic and tolerant as well. Both fiction and non-fiction reading affects the way we think, the way we look at the world, the way we understand others and ourselves. I can’t imagine a life without being able to read.

Of course, there are some downsides to a child becoming a fluent reader, especially if they read early. It’s a special parenting moment when your 6-year-old scans the magazine covers in the check-out line and says, “Mommy? What’s an ‘orgasm’?” (Thanks, Cosmo.) You have to start shooing them away from your phone when you’re texting your husband about something you don’t want them to know about, or tell them to stop looking over your shoulder when you’re reading an article about Syrian children and their parents’ dismembered bodies. That whole new world is not always age-appropriate, so it adds a new complexity to parenting.

But that’s nothing compared to being able to discuss things they’ve read, or watching your child get so engrossed in a book that they don’t want to put it down. One of my favorite things to see is a kid tucked into bed with a book and a flashlight, even if it means they’re staying up later than they should. It’s a beautiful thing.

There aren’t many parts of parenting small children that I’d want to relive, but this is one. As much as I’m thrilled that my last child is reading, I’m a little sad that this is the last time I’ll get to see this process unfold in detail before my eyes. Watching a child enter the world of literacy is like watching a seed open up and become a flower — you know that it’s going to happen, but it still seems miraculous and magical every time it does. I have been awed by it with each of my children, and it will forever remain one the greatest joys of my parenting journey.

Hey Christians, Enough With The ‘I’ll Pray For You’ Politics

It was 2008, and Hope and Change were in the air. I was a college kid, doing what college kids do: drinking overpriced lattes and broadening my horizons. Much to the dismay of my Southern family, my horizons broadened the most politically. That sweet, churchy girl they once knew? She now resembled something more like the hippie liberal elite.

It was seven years after 9/11, and I was war-weary. Too many loved ones enlisted in the War on Terror, never to return. The economy was in shambles. The housing market crashed. Student loans were soaring, but the job market wasn’t.

To say the least, Hope was overdue.

I read up on the politics of a young senator and joined his campaign. We were young, informed, and loud. We organized canvassing projects, participated in Get Out the Vote, and at one point, I was interviewed on MTV for protesting local voter suppression. When that interview aired, holy crap. The amount of phone calls I received was obscene. Family, friends, long-lost relatives, all calling to express “concern” that I had gone full-blown Prodigal Son.

It turns out *looks around and leans in to whisper* good little Christians aren’t supposed to be political activists.

In more than one conversation, I was advised that when it came to politics, it was best to be quietly involved. That I should learn to “let go and let God.” Get my knees dirty. Speak with my hands folded.

Pray more. Shout less.

Clearly my gay friends didn’t need marital rights; they needed prayer. Women didn’t need access to free birth control; they needed prayer. Unborn children deserved a right to life, but their mothers? Well, they may be suffering and scared and desperately seeking medical advice, but what they really needed was — you guessed it — prayer!

Look, don’t get me wrong. I believe in the power of prayer. I pray. I pray a lot. And the idea of quietly voting and “praying the problem away” is appealing. A lot of stress could be saved trading campaign hours for prayer time, but that’s not how it works. A lot of grief, too, could be saved if I would hold my tongue on matters of injustice, avoiding confrontation entirely (especially with family). I’d love to practice “I’ll Pray for You” politics. It sounds easy.

The problem is, being easy and being right are rarely the same thing.

So, I have to lovingly call all of you “shut up and pray” people out.

People of faith, I need you to hear me on this one: We can no longer afford to be the “Pray It Away People.” We can’t simply pray, then feel like we’ve done enough and fulfilled our duty. With Trump’s administration systematically dismantling protections for the marginalized, the poor, the sick, and the needy, all eyes are on us. How will we respond to human beings’ pleas for help? Aren’t these the people Jesus cared most about? Aren’t these the people he called us to help, to love?

And yet so many of us sit on our butts, flicking prayers at the suffering like coins into a wishing pool.

“I’ll pray for you, LGBT community.” *plunk*

“I’ll pray for you, Syrians.” *plunk*

“I’ll pray for you, poverty-stricken families.” *plunk*

Prayer is great, but my obligation to serve this world doesn’t stop with simple spoken prayer. God gave me an able body and a bleeding heart, and I intend to honor Him with everything I was given. This concept shouldn’t be complicated:

Prayer + Action = More Results

Look at Jesus. Every single time He encountered someone in the Bible, He met their immediate need before ministering to them. He healed. He fed. He comforted. Did the suffering come to Him, begging for help, only to receive an “I’ll pray for you”?

Grab your Bibles, I’ll wait.

When there are children drowning at sea, searching for safe harbor, your answer should never be just prayer.

When there are entire cities of humans being wiped off the map, your answer should never be just prayer.

When a woman reports domestic abuse, and instead of getting help, gets arrested for her documentation status — offerings of prayer from a distance feel rather cold.

With all of my heart, I believe prayer can work miracles. But the intent must be genuine, and I guess that’s what I question in all of this: Has prayer become a political cop-out? An excuse for inaction? A way for evangelicals to hide from their responsibility to those who suffer in this world?

You should pray for refugees. But you should also care enough to let them in. You should pray for the poor, but you should also be willing to give them your bread. You should pray for your president, but you should also be willing to speak out against unjust legislation.

By all means, people, pray. Pray your hearts out.

Then get off your butt, find a place to serve, and give your prayer some legs.

Get involved. Politically. This is where you’re needed. Don’t be silent.

You might be amazed at the miracles you encounter along the way.

My Daughter Doesn’t Have To ‘Shut Up,’ And Neither Do You

An old friend and I were attempting to catch up the other day when, less than five minutes into our conversation, she paused, laughed, and said, “Boy, she doesn’t shut up, does she?”

Christ, I thought. Not again. Not this again.

You see, this isn’t the first time I have been asked this question. In fact, I’ve heard multiple variations of it over the course of my daughter’s short life (“Does she ever calm down?” “Does she ever slow down?” “Does she ever stop talking?” and my personal favorite, “God, she’s so loud”) but that is because my daughter is 3. Three freakin’ years old, and like so many children her age, she is friendly. She is outgoing. She is enthusiastic, inquisitive, and insightful, and yes, she is chatty.

She is especially talkative when I am on the phone, when she does not have my full, and undivided, attention.

Of course, I would love a few minutes of silence. I would love to have an uninterrupted conversation, and I dream of lying on my bed, kicking up my heels, and talking (just talking) while on the phone. But I don’t want said silence to come at a cost. I don’t want said silence to come at my daughter’s expense, and I sure as shit don’t want her to “shut up.”

Not now.

Not ever.

Because there is nothing wrong with “being loud.” There is nothing wrong with eagerness and expressiveness. There is nothing wrong with enthusiasm and curiosity, and there is nothing wrong with her.

There wasn’t a damn thing wrong with what she was doing.

Make no mistake: I do not let her talk over others or through others. She doesn’t shout at the library, and she knows better than to scream through a movie. Well, at the very least, she understands what is and is not appropriate. But again, she’s 3.

But implying that she should stop singing? Stop playing? That she should stop speaking in her own damn home just because I am busy? Just because I am on the phone? Yeah, no. Fuck no, because saying “shut up” isn’t just rude, it is ignorant. It is offensive. It is demeaning. And it is dangerous.

If she hears these words and like-minded messages enough, she may feel like a burden or a bother. She may feel inhibited in speaking her mind. Much as I did. Much as I still do.

Make no mistake: I grew up in a happy home. A loving home. A picture-perfect nuclear family sorta home. My parents cared for me and nurtured me as best they could, and they rarely told me to “shut up,” but I knew early on that I was “too much.” I danced too much. I sang too much. I talked too much. I climbed too high. I ran too far, and I was too loud, too hyper, too crazy, and too sensitive.

I needed to calm down, quiet down, simmer down, and settle down. I needed to breathe, chill out, rest, and relax. And I did.

Over time, expectations silenced me. Society swallowed me, and I became the girl I “should be.” A sweet and loving little people-pleaser who rarely stood up and never spoke her mind.

But I now know I didn’t need to “shut up.” (I don’t need to “shut up.”) You shouldn’t “shut up,” and my daughter better not “shut up,” because her words matter. Her thoughts matter. Her feelings matter. Even that story she just spent the last 15 minutes telling me —  you know, the one about Darth Vader and Cinderella riding a chicken? Yeah, it fucking matters.

And so do you.

So does your voice.

So to you, to my younger self, and to my sweet little girl, I say this: Be bold. Be brave. Stand strong, and take no shit. Talk as loud (and proud) as you like because you aren’t obnoxious. You aren’t annoying. Your words aren’t empty and pointless, and you aren’t a bother. You aren’t too much.

Instead, you are empowered and impassioned. You are fierce, fervent, and intense, and you are exactly as you should be.

You are exactly who you need to be.

Depression Is On The Rise For Teen Girls, And Social Media May Be Partly To Blame

The teenage years are among the most exhilarating, stressful, strange, tumultuous years of life. Bodies and brains are growing and changing at alarming rates. Hormones are overloaded to the max. And teens are seriously experimenting with limits — constantly testing the boundaries of their relationships with their parents, themselves, and their peers.

It’s no wonder so many teens deal with mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Looking back on my teenage years, I was so depressed and anxious at times, I’m surprised I made it out in one piece. My social world was an exciting one, and in many ways, my friendships saved me from some of the turmoil I was dealing with in my family. But the tenuousness of teenage relationships — coupled with a the deep desire to fit in — sometimes made life really hard for me then.

However, I had one advantage over the teenagers of today: When I was a teen, there was no social media. If someone thought that I dressed like a “dirty hippie” (yeah, that happened to me frequently), they had to say it to my face. And they had to watch me tear up and walk down the hall to the school counselor’s office for help.

Of course, not every piece of critique or bullying happened face-to-face then. Notes slipped into lockers, anonymous phone calls, and the rumor mill were all in fair play. And bullying could still be as cruel as anything. But back then, I believe it was harder to get away with the meanest stuff than it is today, when all you have to do is leave one nasty comment on someone’s social media account and hundreds of kids immediately see it (and also have the ability to screenshot, share, and pass it along).

Unfortunately, my theory about how much harder social media has made it for kids is grounded in some truth, and a recent study published in Pediatrics proves just that. Psychiatrists at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted the study to see whether depression among teens had increased over the past decade.

They looked at federal data from interviews conducted with over 172,000 teens between 2005 and 2014. What they found is that depression among teens rose significantly over those years — an estimated half a million more teens than in previous decades.

But even more striking than that is the approximately 3/4 increase among teens girls. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I saw that statistic, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Being a teen is no picnic, but being a female teen — in fact, being a female at all in this world — is rife with so much pressure and so little support, it’s no wonder females are feeling the brunt of it.

The psychiatrists at Johns Hopkins believe that social media is at least partly to blame for this uptick in depression and is a huge reason that depression is affecting girls more. The psychiatrists found the biggest uptick in depression in 2011 when social media sites like Instagram (which is frequented heavily by teens) gained in popularity and where outward appearance is often overemphasized, self-worth can come down to how many “likes” your picture gets, and cyberbullying runs rampant.

Ramin Mojtabai, one of the authors of the Pediatrics study, tells NPR that girls “are more likely to use these new means of communication, so may be exposed to more cyberbullying or other negative effects of this latest social media.”

Mojtabai emphasizes that family members, school officials, and anyone who works with teens should be on the lookout for symptoms of depression, which include changes in sleep patterns, appetite, energy, and the ability to concentrate. Mojtabai says that counseling or therapy is an excellent choice for teens who are struggling with depression and that even one session can help get them back on track.

Now, I don’t have a teen yet, but I will in just a few short years, and this all makes me even more terrified about entering those uncharted waters than I already was. But I think the thing to remember is that the more knowledge we have as parents, the better. And the takeaway from a study like this is that if our teens ever exhibit symptoms of depression or other mood disorders, we need to remember to take their symptoms seriously, address them, and get them the help that they need.

Dear Husband: Don’t F*ck With Me When I’m Trying To Sleep

My amazing, kind, intelligent, funny, sexy husband, we need to have a little talk.

Our relationship is based on trust, understanding, and mutual respect. You are the love of my life, the father of my children, and one hell of a babe. With all this in mind, I feel we can have the following conversation without anyone’s feelings getting hurt and move forward in a positive direction, strengthening our bond and our marriage along the way.

Just in case there has been any confusion, or if my swatting you away and hissing, “I literally just fell asleep, dammit!” has been in some way unclear, let me state the situation to you emphatically and with my utmost certainty.

When I put on my pajamas, crawl into bed, turn off the lights, roll over to my side, and pull the blankets up around my chin, the Sexatorium is closed. My vagina is in sleep mode, and if you try to disturb it, all you’re getting is that frustrating low-battery symbol that lets you know that charging is happening and must happen before you can turn me on again.

I am not averse to sex. I love it. I love it with you. But I also love sleep, and I need sleep. Once it is in my sights, there is no turning back. You can dangle a glowing, shiny, explosive orgasm directly in front of my face, and the only reply you will get is “turn that shit off.”

Do not nudge me. Do not poke me. Do not queue up any Barry White on your iPad. I will elbow you right in the nipple. I had my dentist make me a mouth guard specifically to avoid this situation. Putting that monstrosity in my mouth should convey the same message as a neon, blinking motel sign, sparking out before it turns dark.

My day was spent cleaning our house, which was clean before I went to bed last night but somehow managed to look like a frat house by lunch today. It was spent making food for our children and then supplementing my own nutrition with their leftovers over the kitchen sink before we ran out the door, almost definitely late to wherever we were going.

It was spent smelling something foul and then trying to find the source of that smell. It was spent driving to various errands and pickups and drop-offs. I’m sure your day was long and hard and  — Oh! Sorry! I know I’m not helping. Sorry.

Anyway, your day had its challenges — I am sure. And I understand and sympathize with that. I’m not saying that because I am tired I can’t have sex, because I am always tired. I don’t want to never have sex. I just don’t want to have sex when I am on the brink of some relief to my ever-growing sleep deficit. You may not know this because you have been gifted with an innate ability to fall asleep before I can locate my pajamas on the bedroom floor, but sex wakes me up.

That PTA mom who makes Wonder Woman look like a lazy slob? I know her secret. Sex at bedtime and Adderall. Girlfriend does not sleep. That’s why her pupils are so dilated. They’re full of secrets. As I am without Adderall, I am sorry to tell you that sex alone cannot sustain that kind of sleepless lifestyle.

Any other time of day, literally any other time, I’m down. Jump in the shower with me in the morning. Baby’s down for a nap? Let’s go. Put on that show that I never let the kids watch because it’s a 23-minute toy commercial, then run to the bedroom and lock the door because we have exactly 23 minutes. GO! Let’s bang it out during any of those or one of the countless other moments in the day when I am not drifting off to sleep.

Even the moment directly before I climb into bed is up for grabs. If after brushing my teeth and examining my pores like I’m going to find a pair of unicorn LuLaRoes in one of them, I come out of the bathroom and you’ve got “Let’s Get It On” blasting out of your iPad, then I say, “Yes! Let’s! Hell, let’s twice.” But that moment is the last of the evening in which the possibility of sex is still on the table.

This is not a rejection, rest assured. This is self-care in its most basic form. I am just trying to get some sleep so I can do everything I did today again tomorrow. But remember, this is not forever. I am not forgetting to put you on tomorrow’s to-do list.

Love,

Your adoring, tactful, gentle, delicate, well-rested wife