My Mom Once Threw Everything Out The Window — And I’m Getting Close

When I was 12, my mom had the psychotic kind of meltdown that most 39-year-olds can only dream of, but don’t have the guts to pull off. After days of repeating the same request to clean up over and over, she was done. She asserted herself as queen of the castle, and threw the contents of my brothers’ bedroom out the window. There are only so many times you can tell your darling darlings to clean their shit up, before all of your fucks go flying from the second story and crashing to the ground. My kids better watch it. I’m getting close.

I have four children, three sons and a daughter. Let’s start with the sons, shall we? And to set the stage, we’re going into the bathroom. The three of them share a hallway bath with a nice sized tub and a newly-remodeled vanity. It sounds pretty, doesn’t it? Well, it would be if it wasn’t covered in fucking boxer briefs and urine.

Urine first. There is no aiming. At all. Ever. It’s like they just drop their drawers and let it fly. The shortage of Clorox Wipes is because mothers of boys are hoarding them for this exact problem. I have often threatened to make them sit. It’s coming. They shower daily, win for mom, but they just leave whatever they had on in the middle of the floor. Doesn’t matter what it is, nothing is returning to their bedroom. And the next guy? Well, he’ll just step on it soaking wet and saunter back to his bedroom. By the time number three hops in there is a heaping pile of soaked striped underpants that I will have to transfer into a laundry basket that I hope doesn’t leak all the way down the steps.

The steps! Oh those fucking steps. That’s where it all goes to die. Every single day I collect what is on the first floor and place it neatly on the steps so that it can be taken to their rooms. Very June Cleaver of me. They’d rather fall to their death over mounds of shoes and books and toys than pick anything up. They will traverse that mountain 10 times before they even bother looking down. And then they’ll have the audacity to tell me that they can’t find their shoes. That’s when I start looking for the Xanax.

Wanna head to the kitchen with me? Please, let’s go. Do you buy your cereal in those giant boxes at Costco? I do, just so they can decorate my counter. No one actually eats it. Well, not in a bowl, I mean. No, they’d rather take it handful by handful and make a little trail like Hansel and Gretel to and from the family room. They’ll do that two or 37 times. Shit, they might even empty the box, but it’s not going to the pantry or the trash. Nah, mom likes her brand new, beautiful granite countertops, that she waited five years for, to be completely covered by General Mills. It makes her happy. And the cherry on top? Leave the milk out too. You know, the stuff you never used because you changed your mind and ate it dry. She loves that.

Remember I mentioned a girl? Well, let’s get to that. She is four, so she has a bit less responsibility than the others because she has less stuff and I still monitor bathtime. But don’t misunderstand, she can make an impact. Her room looks like a tornado ran through. And the dolls — holy shit, the dolls! They’re everywhere. There are clothes and accessories and shoes. She has stands for the dolls, but she’d rather leave them face down on the floor with their hair strewn all over the place so that it resembles a crime scene. Then she gets pissed if you step on them because you are “hurting them.” She has a wheelchair and I swear to God, she has put a doll in it because she has been trampled by a parent who should have ended up in a wheelchair themself for the pain inflicted on bare feet by pointed doll shoes!

For the sake of full disclosure here, I am not a clean freak. My bedroom has some stuff going on, but I’ll be goddamned if anyone’s going to tell me what I should be doing with it. I am 41! I can do what I want. You are 10 and I am tired of looking at the LEGO strewn across the floor. Pick them up! Repeat after me, “I am your mother, not your fucking maid!” (Leave the “fucking” out though, because people judge.)

My kids need to understand that my mind is a steel trap. The day my brothers’ room was emptied, I was in the backyard watching it all float through the air. I watched her remove that screen. I listened to her babble incoherently. I studied her form as she so eloquently tossed that shit out the window. I was primed for success that afternoon. I learned from the best in the business, folks. And I know how great that had to feel to let that shit fly! So help me God, they better watch it. I am one more wet towel in the hallway away from the whole neighborhood knowing exactly what those boxer briefs look like!

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Your 10-Step Guide To Making The World’s Most Epic Snow Fort

It’s that part of winter when the days stretch out like stale bubble gum, flavorless and grey. The holidays are over. School drags on.

That’s when you, the coolest parent on the planet, step in to help your kids build the most epic, unforgettable, impossibly beautiful snow fort ever. It won’t be easy, nor will it be fast. Expect frustration, sore muscles, and the occasional broken ice block. And then, when you’ve finished, expect to take a seat at your rightful throne as the ruler of all awesome winter projects.

Supplies

– Tupperware containers and/or empty plastic food containers

– 1 box of non-toxic food coloring

– Whisk

– Large bucket and or plastic sled

– Snow

– Waterproof gloves and other cold-weather gear

– Optional: extension cord and outdoor lights

Step 1. Live somewhere uncomfortably cold. The colder the better.

Step 2. Spend all your time at home, avoiding the social gatherings you used to cherish, and growing increasingly stir crazy. You’ll need to be desperately bored for this project to seem at all appealing.

Step 3. Maintain a career that lends itself to spectacular procrastination. In my own experience, being a writer mid-novel works very well.

Step 4. Gather all your Tupperware. If you feel extra motivated, buy a pack or three of Costco plastic takeout containers with lids.

Step 5. Add a couple of drops of non-toxic food coloring to each container, then fill it up with water. Whisk till the color is dissolved.

Courtesy of Rebecca Siegel

Step 6. Carry the container outside, making sure to slosh the vibrant liquid down your pajama pants. Set it somewhere flat. If it’s snowing, put the lid on. When your neighbor gives you a weird look, just wave. It’s fine.

Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you’ve used all your Tupperware. Encourage your children to help, then watch as they, too, soak their clothes in reds and blues and yellows. Embrace it. Life is chaos.

Step 7. Wait. Depending on your area’s temperatures, it will take a day or two for the ice to freeze. (If you have room in your freezer, jam some in there, too.)

Step 8. Submerge the bottom of each container in a tub of warm water, then pop the block out and store it in a shady outdoor place with the others.

Repeat steps 5-8 approximately a billion times. You need a mound of ice blocks. A mountain. A technicolored Mount Everest. For our castle, we used 475 blocks. Please see the above notes about ideal careers and lack of social activity.

Step 9. This is it! Time to build! Haul your whole family outside and make sure that everyone is wearing waterproof everything. And I mean everything. This part is very fun and very messy.

Make a mix of snow and water for your “mortar.” We do this by filling a plastic sled with snow, then dumping cold water into it and mixing it with our gloved hands.

Courtesy of Rebecca Siegel

Step 10. Layer your beautiful ice blocks with “mortar” to build any shape you want. After you’ve laid a row of blocks, use your hands to smear some extra “mortar” over them to help glue them into place. Stagger your blocks as you lay them to increase your structure’s stability and awesome appearance.

Optional: leave a little hole for an extension cord and illuminate your creation with outdoor-friendly lights. Invite your neighbors to stand at the edge of your yard for a very awkward, socially-distanced lighting ceremony and play Olympic Fanfare for the big moment.

Enjoy. You’re the coolest.

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Ask Scary Mommy: Help! My Four-Year-Old Is Giving Everyone The Bird

Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.

This week: What do you do when your preschooler won’t stop giving everyone the bird? Got a question? Email advice@scarymommy.com 

Dear Scary Mommy,

I have an issue that I’m too scared to post about in my moms group because I can only imagine the judgement some moms would fling my way. But, my preschooler (4 years old) won’t stop flipping people off. He flips off his teacher behind her back when he’s upset, he flips off his classmates during outside time, he flips me off, he flips off strangers when we are stopped at a red lights. He even flipped off his Nana on Zoom! Now his dad and I do curse, so he’s heard some choice words, but we do not flip people (or each other) off. I’m not sure where he learned it, but we can’t seem to make him unlearn it. I think he got attention for it at school, and the shocked reactions fueled the fire. But now, he won’t stop. We’ve tried talking him through what it means and why it’s not nice, time-outs, and even letting him flip things off in his bedroom only. None of it works. It was mildly amusing at first, but now it’s getting old. What the heck do I do here? 

Okay, I know what you are describing is a real problem and I totally get why you are upset. But can we pause for a second to acknowledge how incredibly hilarious this is?

Your kid likely has no idea what flipping someone off means exactly, but is basically doing what every last one of us wishes that we could – telling people exactly what we think of them, and how irritating and annoying they can be. I mean, this kid is living his best life, and I can’t help but envy him.

But back to your query. As I mentioned above, your child really, truly likely has no idea what giving someone the middle finger even means. He’s four years old, after all! But what he does know is that doing this is getting him a lot of attention, and he likely revels in that.

It probably doesn’t help that everyone he does this to is seeming shocked and upset by his actions. It’s understandable that people are having this reaction, because flipping someone off is not considered socially acceptable behavior, especially in environments like school, and among one’s grandparents.

However, the downside in feeling offended by his behavior is that it only seems to egg your child on, which is the opposite of what you want. I know you can’t fully control how others react, but if you are able to convey to others that they might want to try a “gray rock” approach to the whole situation—where you don’t react, or at least underreact to the situation—that might really help make the behavior disappear.

You can at least try this at home. Look him in his eyes and explain, gently but firmly, that his preferred gesture is something that many people don’t like, or think it’s mean. Then when he does it again, rather than lecturing him about it, doing a timeout, or trying to redirect him, just don’t really respond. Change the subject, move onto another activity, etc. Think of things that make your child feel happy and like he is getting attention. Swap this attention-getting activity for something more wholesome—or at least, you know, less expletive-filled.

Remember that whatever happens, and however long it takes for this behavior to end, it will end. Your kid isn’t going to be flipping people off for the rest of his life. Take comfort in the story of Scary Mommy’s Deputy Editor, Rita, whose youngest son was your son’s exact age when he also found an affinity for the middle finger – and its origins were innocent. “At the time, he called it ‘Spider-Man fingers,'” she explains. “He truly thought it was the motion Spider-Man made when he shot webs. But it got a reaction that he found hilarious.”

 

Courtesy of Rita Templeton

She’s happy to report that this phase didn’t last long; he’s eight now, and frequently praised for his good manners. (Whew!)

As for the jerks in your life who might judge you … well, they need to keep in mind that your kid is only four, isn’t doing this to be malicious, and that there is really no issue here besides the fact that he picked up something you’d rather he didn’t. Unless you were actively teaching your kid to curse people out, this doesn’t reflect poorly on you. It’s just a cute and hilarious kid mistake. Truly.

And for people who continue to judge you no matter what … well, you know what to do about that. Or maybe you can get your kid to do it for you.

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The 5 Best Parenting Decisions I’ve Made So Far

Pausing for parenting praise is not something that happens often. It’s February though, the month of love, and that love should extend to ourselves. In that spirit, I am sharing five of the best parenting decisions we (my husband and I) made for our family. Perhaps this may inspire new ideas for you and your family or affirm you are doing a lot more right that you give yourself credit for. Let’s get right to it!

1. Letting Our Children Start A YouTube Channel

Courtesy of Christina Moog

“Can I make a YouTube channel?” my then-five year old asked in a soft-spoken mumble of a voice. A question only mom and dad could translate.

There is soft-spoken and inaudible soft-spoken that no one, Grandma and Grandpa included, could understand my son. My son’s speech was the latter.

Contemplating the YouTube query, with immense reservation, I took the iPad and hit record.

My son and I watched the video back, “No one can understand me,” he shared, reflecting and speaking clearer that I had ever heard before. “I gotta do that again.”

I hit record.

His volume shifts from a one to a three; we were onto something.

I will save more of that story for later, but I think you see where I am going. YouTube gave my child a communication tool: he wanted others to understand him and knew the concept of YouTube was that there was an audience.

Now, at age eleven, my painfully shy son shares stories he has written, directed, filmed and edited on YouTube. With the camera and this channel, this communication tool, he is developing confidence. Deciding to support a child in developing their self-esteem is why letting my child start a YouTube Channel makes this list of best parenting decisions we made for our family.

2. Specific Rules Around Extra-Curricular Activities

Courtesy of Christina Moog

Music is instrumental, no pun intended, for a child’s development. Study after study, like this one — “Brain Structures Differ between Musicians and Non-Musicians” — describes how music enhances brain development, including receptors within the brain’s motor, auditory, and visual-spatial regions.

One of my children lived drifting into a comatose state weekly from age 3-years to 7-years, but his brain development concerns began a year before the seizures started. He developed a cataract at the age of two, and pain receptors stunted some of the synapses in the brain from firing “traditionally.” Working with his neurologist, she recommended piano. After researching the benefits, there was no turning back.

When my child could not read words, he could understand music and play notes on a keyboard. He learned how to follow the page from left to right and how the symbols on a page have meaning.

This rule to have piano be a mandatory activity for our children is one we have communicated with our children, so they understand why it’s so important to us — for their benefit. They get it. We are not strict on practicing, we keep the emphasis on fun, and the monthly concerts in the house, organized by the kids, surely is evidence of how much they enjoy the craft.

The extra-curricular activities extend to a rule around sport and physical activity. We have let our children know that if there is any sport they want to try, we are committed to making that happen. If they desire to participate in a sport, they must start/end the sessions/season before deciding whether or not they wish to continue.

When rocking climbing, equestrian and skiing (we are 3-hours from snow) made the list — the excitement of the diverse activities superseded the expense. I learned the hard way to get creative with budgeting, so our family is fortunate enough to follow through and make this a reality. This is a blessing of suddenly losing half of your household income — but, I digress.

Making this a foundation with our parenting guides dialogue for my husband and has a parenting team to keep this a priority. Encouraging music and sport in a fun and non-competitive environment unites our family through experiences. It also helps me and my husband keep budget discussions transparent, which is why our choices surrounding extra-curricular activities make this list one of the best parenting decisions we made for our family.

3. Paper Route

Courtesy of Christina Moog

When my oldest brought the idea of starting a paper route forward, my husband and I had much hesitation. We didn’t know whether or not he was ready and capable. The reality was and is; he is not — yet. Not alone, anyway. And that is okay; that is our place as his parents. It has been a bumpy (and wet) road, but an avenue of opportunity to develop skills towards potential independence. But there’s much more to this story and why it makes this list.

In addition to helping my oldest develop social skills and enhance his fitness (read that story here), our child’s paper route is helping teach our children financial literacy. The conversation around a Lego set costing $70 Canadian dollars has translated into completing the paper route for seven weeks to purchase that set; our children are more informed around making financial decisions than they were before the route began.

The paper route also gives our family time to unite on shared tasks every week: a family bagging papers together on a rainy day in a cool garage or pulling a wagon uphill while rain soaks through our clothes during a Pacific Northwest downpour is a bonding family experience.

Enhancing our children’s development, teaching them financial literacy and facilitating regular family bonding time — you can see why a paper route makes the list of one of the best parenting decisions we made for our family.

4. Homeschool

Courtesy of Christina Moog

Before COVID, we decided to homeschool our oldest child. We arranged to withdraw him from “brick and mortar” to homeschool for the 2020–2021 school year. As of March 2020, he was attending the local public school. When the government extended spring break, and uncertainty around the pandemic meant schools transitioning to remote learning, many in our region — parents and teachers alike — were scrambling to transition to home learning. Meanwhile, our decision affirmed; our child began to thrive.

My son’s neurotypical development reflected in his precise routine showed that he had the remarkable discipline to succeed in this environment. Combine this with technology and the course was set for success. Add-in: a distance education program filled with supports including a subsidy for art programs (piano fees now covered by the school), one-on-one sessions with his teacher and his educational assistant 3–4 times per week, two Zoom classroom sessions each week, and technology clubs and virtual field trips that are optional to join — it’s an exemplary, well-rounded package to support his learning. Our only regret, we did not transition to such a program sooner.

We were so impressed with the distance program; we also transitioned our youngest. That was a much bumpier road, but the learning and progress made far exceed anything we saw from attending the brick and mortar institution.

The flexibility within the school days adds another benefit. This flexibility is how we can fit a paper route into our schedule; we integrate it into their school day. Additionally, the skiing noted above — the hill is much less busy during the week, so rather than missing school to enjoy such an opportunity, we conveniently move things around.

While the safe and supportive learning environment tops the reason for homeschool making this list, the flexibility home learning allows is also why choosing homeschool is one of the best parenting decisions we made.

5. Purchase An All-Season Camper

Courtesy of Christina Moog

Freedom to adventure and an ability to be completely self-sufficient while keeping to a budget, yes please! The opportunity to explore and change environments, seeking new experiences, and making unforgettable memories is tremendous for family bonding.

The self-sufficient home on wheels and budget piece had us exploring this decision. With my youngest playing hockey, out of town tournaments meant costly hotel bills. Less than one weekend at a hotel covered two of our monthly payments on the travel trailer! After researching over sixty units, we selected a unit that demonstrated good resale value.

The practically initiated this decision; however, experiences with hours around the campfire, exploring new trails and beaches, and the memories purchasing an all-season camper allows for is why it makes the list of one of the best parenting decisions we made.

There you have it: five of the best parenting decisions my husband and I made for our family.

In compiling this list, a theme emerged with those actions that support family unity and bonding. Michael J. Fox says, “Family is not an important thing, it’s everything.” For us, nurturing our family values and fostering a connection of trust and community is our purpose. Our values and this action keep us grounded. They allow us to encourage compassion and neighborly stewardship beyond the walls of our household and have a lot of laughs along the way.

As hard as parents can be on themselves, there is a constant evolution of doing what is best with the knowledge you have at any given time. This story shares the knowledge I have right here and right now; these are the investments we are making in our family — for that, I think they each serve their place well on this affirming list of best parenting decisions for our family.

So, that’s our story; what’s yours?

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How My ‘Inner Child’ Is Helping Me Connect With My Teenage Son

It’s difficult being a parent. For me, with a newly minted teenage son, it’s doubly challenging because while I am generally a serious person, my son is not. He is playful, loves to sing, prefers YouTube to Hulu, and the stage to sitting behind a laptop writing — my preferred pastime. We both like to read, except very different genres. At the end of the day, my son is just a normal kid in many ways. He enjoys hanging out with friends, telling Alexa to fart, teasing his sisters, and losing brain cells watching YouTube influencers.

I am grateful he has another parent, my wife, who understands him better. She plays around with him more than I do. She laughs at his jokes — the ones I just don’t understand. They enjoy watching the same television shows (except for YouTube) like Star Wars and the Mandalorian. I am almost forty years old and far from being in touch with my inner child.

This is something I’ve struggled with my entire life, but especially since his birth fourteen years ago. Getting down on the floor and playing with him using my imagination didn’t come easy for me when he was little, and I’m fully convinced there is a part of my inner child which needs healing. My childhood was spent saddled with overwhelming adult responsibilities, and not much opportunity to be imaginative. When it came to playing with my toys it was all about my Cabbage Patch dolls and my Barbies, alone.

While my son’s teenage years are vastly different from my own, there is a carefree approach that he has to life, one that I am still searching for myself. 

Writer and motivational speaker Diana Raab has a few suggestions. In an article for Psychology Today, she says there are 10 ways to help  get in touch with your inner child:

– Keep an open mind.

– Spend time with children.

– Look at old photos to bring back memories of your childhood. 

– Spend time doing what you truly enjoy.

– Be playful.

– Engage in laughter.

– Write a letter to your inner child.

– Engage in creative play.

– Journal about special moments from your childhood.

– Engage in meditation and creative visualization.

Raab notes, “Being in touch with your inner child is a safe way to take a break from everything that’s going on in the world. The inner child thinks positively and believes in the possibilities in everything. If you put yourself in ‘child mode,’ you may find that you become more open to the magnificent opportunities that exist all around you.” 

In The Genius of Play, Child Development and Play Expert Kathleen Alfano suggests carving out time in your schedule specifically for play — even if it’s just to daydream and decompress. Smiling and laughing throughout the day can go a long way, in case you needed an excuse to look at funny memes and videos. And, she says, “Cultivate a happy, joyful, positive attitude, full of gratitude for even the smallest, everyday things.” 

In terms of being more playful with our kids, Alfano’s suggestion is: “Spend time with the children in your life, observing them as they play, listening to their conversation, and following their train of thought.” In my son’s case, that’s going to mean listening to his jokes and having a front-row seat to the musical theater that goes on while he’s doing his chore of washing dishes.

I focus on his ability to have and hold onto responsibilities, things that will make him (I hope) into a hardworking young man. He cannot live at home forever, so he needs the tools to make it — the real-life parts that will make him successful once he’s on his own. Yet I know there is a balance, a way in which I can teach him both. I can teach him how to cook a meal from start to finish and I can sit with him and watch his Saturday morning musical show without putting in earplugs. I can take a few weeks and read Harry Potter with him, or Concrete Rose, and have a discussion.

At the end of the day, I need to take a step back and out of the kitchen, or lift my head from my writing to hear his song from start to finish, including the accompaniment of his keyboard. When he breaks out into this John Legend cover every Sunday afternoon, I stand outside of his door listening closely. Maybe next time, I’ll open his door and act as his backup singer.

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My Husband And I Grope Each Other In Front Of Our Kids, And Here’s Why

My husband and I grope each other constantly. I don’t think a day goes by without at least one of us copping a feel. I say this proudly because after almost 20 years of being together, we are still hot for each other. And I don’t see any reason to hide this from our kids. 

Let’s be honest, keeping up with intimacy once you add kids to a marriage gets extremely challenging. You don’t have near the time or energy you used to have to focus on your spouse. And that can often mean that your sex life slowly dwindles down to nothing. So my husband and I will do just about anything to tend to the remaining embers of our childless sex life.

Yes, we hug each other for no reason, share lingering kisses in passing and cuddle up on the couch. But we also grab each other’s butts, purposely rub our bodies against each other, and cop a feel on various body parts. Although, the cop a feel part we usually do behind a counter, in the pantry or when we think the kids aren’t looking.  

We aren’t tonguing each other down and grinding in front of our kids. It’s almost always super casual and all in fun. It happens in the midst of mundane, everyday tasks like doing the dishes, folding laundry or making a meal. I mean, can you blame me for wanting to grope my husband when he is in the middle of washing dishes?!?!

We see groping each other as showing our love and affection in a quick, fun way. It’s like little snacks throughout the day to keep us looking forward to the meal to come behind closed doors. And no, we don’t have sex every night, so get your mind out of the gutter.

Now, based on a quick google search I did of married couples and groping, it seems I may be in the minority when it comes to liking my husband groping me and returning the favor. I will admit the word in and of itself is not the sexiest sounding word. And granted, groping is not the most romantic way to get in the mood. So, I get it if groping is not your cup of tea.

What works for my marriage may not work for your marriage. PDA might make you really uncomfortable. Or the idea of your spouse groping your behind might be a total turn off. But I can bet that every person in a relationship wants some form of physical affection from their partner. 

The way I see it, it’s a good thing that after 20 years, four kids, and lots of ups and downs, we can’t keep our hands off of each other. A little butt grabbing can go a long way in a marriage. It reminds me that my husband still thinks I am hot and still wants me. The day my husband stops is the day I start to worry that something is wrong.

We also bicker and fuss at each other in front of our kids over normal marriage things. They need to see that your partner can be your favorite person and still annoy the crap out of you. And you can fuss one minute and want to kiss each other the next. That is what real every day love is really like. 

I don’t want my kids to confuse the unrealistic grandiose romantic gestures they see in movies and TV with real life. That doesn’t mean there is zero romance going on. That just means that the majority of marriage is raising kids, working, keeping a house running, washing and folding clothes, cooking meals … and sometimes a grope here and there is how you let your spouse know you still see them and want them.

I want my kids to see the ups and downs of a healthy relationship. There aren’t many grand romantic gestures happening over here. Just everyday little moments that add up to a happy marriage. So I don’t hesitate to grab my husband’s ass even when my kids can see me doing it.

My kids rolling their eyes and yelling “ewwwww” brings me pure delight. I know they do it all in fun. And my husband and I never fail to point out how lucky they are to have parents that actually enjoy each other.

The way I see it, we are being the example of what we want for our kids. My husband and I are the barometer from which our kids will develop their future attitudes about sex and intimacy. I don’t want my kids to feel shame around physically expressing their attraction to their partner. I want my kids to see that there are multiple ways to be intimate in a relationship and it’s not always something that happens behind closed doors.

Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t tonguing each other down or feeling each other up. We do have boundaries. But I see nothing wrong with my kids seeing us getting handsy with each other just as I see nothing wrong with them seeing us have respectful disagreements. It’s so very important that they see all sides of our relationship.

Whether you agree with groping your spouse in front of your kids or not, I think we can agree that parents should be mindful of the relationship example they set for their children. Children deserve to be in a home where their parents exhibit love and affection towards each other. And every relationship will have its own version of what that looks like. So don’t judge me for groping my husband and I won’t judge you.

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My Authoritarian Upbringing Made Me Afraid To Discipline My Kids

“Look, I can’t always be the bad guy,” my husband expressed, exasperated as once again he had to raise his voice at our four-year-old son and haul him off to his bedroom to calm down. At the climax of a massive temper tantrum, our son had hurled random objects within his reach over something that seemed minute to us but was apparently rage-inducing for a preschooler. He had held his ground when asked to pick up said objects.

Mere minutes later, our little guy had reappeared in front of me, ruddy cheeks with a faint trace of tears in his eyes, and turned on the charm. “Mommy, I love you so much!” he said with an impish smile. I couldn’t help but respond with a hug with a big smile.

“See, he always runs to you after he gets in trouble,” grumbled my husband. “I need you to back me up.”

“OK, OK,” I relented. “I’ll try to be firm.” I totally got that we needed to be on a more united front when it came to discipline. And spending 24-7 with each other due to our daycare closing for half a year due to the pandemic only made the issue more urgent. Truth is, it wasn’t so easy for me to find the balance between nurturing and setting limits.

You see, I was raised in an environment in which I was afraid to speak much of my childhood. My immigrant dad took Asian “tiger parenting” to an extreme, ruling over his family with an iron fist. It was drilled into me that absolute obedience was expected and that the expression of emotion, especially those negative, was forbidden and considered selfish.

When my son was born, I promised him that I would nurture him to the greatest extent of my abilities and ensure that he feels loved and valued every moment. I wanted him to enjoy a relatively carefree childhood, learn to assert himself, and grow to be a well-balanced adult equipped to succeed in any field. “I want his childhood to be the opposite of what I experienced,” I explained to my husband.

Nadezhda1906/Getty

I’ve found immense fulfillment in caring for our son and enjoy heaping affection and encouragement on him. Determined to give him free agency in everyday decisions, I often consult him on which playground we should visit, what we ought to eat for lunch, and what games we would play. I’m happy to play the “first matey” to his captain in our pretend pirate games and be the student to his “coach” when we play basketball. I’ve made every effort to build up his “self-esteem,” a mystical Western concept that had been out of reach for me through my own childhood.

“Self-esteem — how superficial and meaningless,” my dad had scoffed when I suggested that I sought to instill it in my son, not in the inflated sense of the word but a healthy level. For me, despite an Ivy League education and MBA, my wavering sense of self-esteem meant that I was unable to progress in approximately half of the jobs I took on, resulting in job hopping that lasted through my 30s. I finally landed my first senior leadership role after a very deliberate effort to convince myself of my abilities and project confidence.

But I could still barely bring myself to raise my voice or utter a harsh word to our son, even when he was at his brattiest. Seeing the look of shock and hurt on his face the few times I managed to harshly scold him shattered my heart and triggered me, bringing back memories of how deflated and voiceless I had once felt.

I became aware I was becoming an indulgent parent. But it seemed like today’s parenting conventions affirmed my parenting style. At preschool, the teachers always “redirected” the kids when they showed bad behavior and were not allowed to punish. I read how even time-outs were now considered traumatic for children.

For the most part, our son seemed reasonable relative to his age group and threw tantrums on an infrequent basis. But when he raged, he did so with a frightening force that resulted in him delivering shockingly hard blows with his little hands and fists. A few times when we made him calm down in his room, he hurled nearly a room’s worth of toys and even furniture at the door. After the maelstrom concluded, we opened the door to find the bedroom completely disheveled and our son on his bed glaring at us.

Admittedly, I was concerned. I doubted that teachers would cater to his emotions once he reached kindergarten the next year. I didn’t want him to epitomize the “only child syndrome.” More critically, I needed to prepare him for the real-world, one that is fraught with challenges, disappointments, and detractors, but also one that presents boundless opportunities.

I’m happy to report that in recent months, we’ve made progress as a family. Avoiding yelling whenever possible but not beating ourselves up when we find ourselves raising our voices, my husband and I try to stay calm and firm when we need to intervene. We are doing our best to explain to our son the ramifications of his behavior and give him the chance to reflect on and convey his emotions once he’s calmed.

It was actually our four-year-old who helped craft the approach. After one particularly bad tantrum that led to much emotion on all sides, I could tell he continued to feel out of sorts hours later. “Can you tell me what’s wrong?” I asked gently. “You seem sad.”

“It made me really sad when daddy yelled so loud,” he expressed earnestly. In this incident, I had responded in my typical way, fading into the background while leaving my husband to assert authority.

“What would you like us to do instead when you’re being really bad?” I enquired.

“Just tell me to breathe and calm down and tell me how I emptied your bucket,” he suggested earnestly, referring to the popular children’s book that describes how each person has a bucket of happy thoughts that can be spilled and refilled. I was impressed by his maturity in offering up such a recommendation, which confirmed to me that although young children are challenged in managing their emotions, they can also possess an ability to reason that we often underestimate.

We are increasingly approaching discipline in a way that works for us — a way that I believe to be democratic and emotionally intelligent while also teaching, guiding, and setting healthy limits. My husband and I have just about made it to the point at which we are approaching discipline as a team.

The entire concept of discipline no longer induces a high level of anxiety within me. Perhaps I could even thank my authoritarian upbringing for driving me to be so cognizant of the various parenting styles and their implications. And my husband is pleased to be able to play the “hero” in our son’s words rather than the bad guy.

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Mom Shares Heartbreaking, Yet Relatable Picture Her Son Drew Of Her Working

Their exchange will feel familiar to too many of us

Mom and Flexable CEO Priya Amin is like most moms trying to work from home with kids at home. She shared a heartbreaking and relatable picture her son drew after an exchange one day, and it’s received a ton of attention because, it seems, we’re all very much feeling the same way.

Amin shared the picture and explanation on LinkedIn in December of a drawing her 6-year-old son, Kirin, made for her. It was a drawing of a parent at work and a child looking on. The child says, “Mommy are you done?” and the mother replies, “No,” without looking back. It’s what had actually happened between the two of them ten minutes before he gave his mom the photo.

Priya Amin

“At first, without looking at it, I was like ‘ohh that’s so cute!'” Amin tells Scary Mommy. “But when I actually looked at it, I realized he had gone back to his room and drawn out our interaction from before — and it broke my heart.”

The mom-of-two said she shared the image with colleagues who encouraged her to write a blog post. “I chose to share the blog originally via a LinkedIn post because I knew this was something universally felt by parents everywhere right now, and we’re all feeling like we’re shouldering this alone.”

The picture resonated with thousands, and it eventually went viral. Amin says she didn’t expect that sort of reaction when she shared it but understands it’s an exchange that happens dozens of times a day in one form or another as parents attempt to balance work and home full-time.

Priya Amin

“I started my company Flexable four years ago because I was personally struggling with the issue of childcare falling through for myself and now childcare support is even harder to find because of COVID,” she explains. “Parents everywhere are struggling to juggle home and work obligations and it’s causing massive burnout.”

Amin explains how she started Flexable and how it’s helping parents — especially during the pandemic.

Working with other companies and moms gives Amin a unique position to offer advice we all so desperately need right now.

“In terms of tips for other parents going through this right now, I’d say please be open and honest with your employer and lean on your team and your organization as much as you can to support you,” she recommends. “Right now, we can’t lean on friends and family, or our daycares and schools or other local support structures like we used to. The more we all reach out to our organizations with a cohesive rallying cry that, ‘this is too hard to try to figure out alone — I need your help and support,’ the more organizations will be willing to listen.”

Priya Amin

She’s right. The days of women pretending we have it all together (or pretending we don’t have a life outside of work at all) are over. We need help and the more this conversation happens, the more employers and colleagues can understand the severity of what is happening — especially to women — and what they can do to offload some of the burden and stress consuming us.

The post Mom Shares Heartbreaking, Yet Relatable Picture Her Son Drew Of Her Working appeared first on Scary Mommy.

‘Fourth And Final’ Feels Right For My Family, But I’m Still Very Sad

As a mother to four incredible, healthy children, you might assume that it would be easy for me to say that I am absolutely done with having children. Surely, a mother such as myself has no right to grieve the end of my childbearing years. I should gracefully bow out, and pass the torch to the 20-somethings with big dreams and thin wallets.

Holding my fourth baby, my precious little boy with a smile that lights up his whole face and a temper to match my own, I swear I can feel my heart constrict at the thought of his “lasts.” The last time he drifts to sleep while nursing in the dark, or the last time he will cling to my leg pleading silently with his beautiful hazel eyes to pick him up. However, it’s quite the opposite.

I am all too aware of how quickly the time passes.

With your first child, you eagerly anticipate the “firsts.” The first smile, the first laugh, or the first steps. You gently encourage growth, and beam with pride as your child blossoms before your eyes. For some, there may even be a little bit of relief in the independence their baby begins to insist on.

At this point, I would give anything for just one more day to snuggle that beautiful seven pound baby I first set my eyes on a short ten months ago.

There is something so powerful about carrying a child. Having the capability to bring a new human being into the world is one of the most amazing experiences a person can have. I never anticipated feeling such an enormous, overwhelming sadness watching a pregnant woman walk through the grocery store.

I am grieving a process that has changed my entire life, and been its sole purpose for the last nine years.

My life went from thirsty Thursdays, to 2 a.m. nursing sessions. Instead of rushing to the gym after work, I rush home to pick up my babies and cook them dinner. Rather than spending hours scouring through my closet trying to find the perfect outfit for Friday night, I am racing to the store to pick up the newest Trolls for family movie night.

There are pivotal moments in our lives that change the direction entirely.

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Realizing I will never again wait those painfully long nine months to see if my baby has brown eyes or blue, to see if all of that indigestion truly does translate into a head full of beautiful brown hair — it’s hard, y’all.

You would think I could count my blessings and sigh a long breath of relief that I will never again have to fit into painfully tight t-shirts at 38 weeks, or sport those dreadful mesh panties. Instead, I feel washed up. Old.

Rather than being asked if my baby is getting enough milk, or how long I plan on nursing, I am chomping at the bit and forcing myself not to give advice to my baby brother who just had his first baby.

Funny enough, I was not one of those women who glided effortlessly through pregnancy. For the most part, I actually disliked being pregnant. When you factor in sciatica, horrifying hormone changes, and endless bouts of morning sickness, it’s pretty amazing I had more than one child to begin with.

When you first have children, they often tell you how quickly the time passes, and to enjoy every moment. You obligingly nod your head, and roll your bloodshot eyes. How can anyone enjoy two hours of sleep at a time?

How did the roles shift so entirely? When did I transition from a young, new mother, to the seasoned veteran with scars to prove it? Next year, three of my four children will be in elementary school. My oldest will be in third grade.

Instead of celebrating for a job well done, I sneak into the kitchen after putting the baby to sleep, and drown my sorrows in a bag of chocolate chip cookies. With only the sound of the bag rustling as I reach in for number twenty-five, I stare at the enormous pile of clothes that no longer fit my baby. Reminders of the tiny little human he will never be again.

There are so many women out there who struggle to carry or conceive a child. Surely, I have no right to grieve an empty womb after giving life to four human beings. Right?

Life is funny. It keeps moving, changing, whether we are ready for it or not. Our children are a little bit older every day. We go through the motions, and often miss the “lasts” entirely without even realizing it.

If I had any advice to give, it would be to stop. Stop worrying about your messy house, and piles of laundry. Stop obsessing over the milestones your child hasn’t yet mastered. Put down your phone, snuggle that baby, and talk to your first grader. We don’t realize how quickly our children change. Their interests shift from Barbies and baby dolls to makeup and jewelry, seemingly overnight.

Try to find quiet moments in the chaos. See your children for who they are in that moment. They may not be the same version the next time you stop long enough to see it.

The post ‘Fourth And Final’ Feels Right For My Family, But I’m Still Very Sad appeared first on Scary Mommy.

On Teaching In-Person During A Pandemic––While Being A New Mom

I am so. fucking. exhausted.

I know it’s not just me, and I knew being a mom would be hard, but being a mom during the coronavirus pandemic plus teaching high school full time is on an entirely new level. I’ve always been relatively decent at managing my stress and anxiety, but this year isn’t a normal year for anyone.

I had my first meltdown in August during the first week teachers went back to school. I noticed one night, just a few days after going back and sending my 4-month-old son to daycare, that he was a little snotty and congested. Other than that, he seemed perfectly fine. By the time he woke up and got moving around the snot was all gone. He had no trouble eating. He didn’t have a fever. Everything was normal. I told myself it was just the inevitable “new to daycare” bug. In any other situation, this wouldn’t even be worth worrying over, but nothing about 2020 is normal. I agonized over what to do, all while he babbled and breathed normally and was totally fine. I took his temperature and he didn’t have anything even close to a fever. So, I sent him to daycare and I went to work.

Then, my friend whose son is in my son’s class texted to let me know she wasn’t at work that day because everyone in her house was sick. She had a sore throat, her son had the sniffles, her daughter was congested, and her husband had a sore throat. She called the doctor, and the doctor recommended that they go get tested for strep and COVID.

I panicked. I hadn’t trusted my gut that morning. I sent my son to daycare. And my friend did what I hadn’t done by keeping her family home. I called my husband, fighting tears, and we decided that I would pick my son up during lunch and we would try to get him an appointment with the pediatrician.

I broke down in the car leaving the school. We’re talking wracking sobs that had me shaking and gasping for air. Over the sniffles. And I am not a crier. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve cried in the last 15 years. The rational part of my brain knew my son was fine, but I couldn’t stop the tears. And I was right, it wasn’t COVID. My friend and her family all tested negative, too.

I know it’s neurotic. I know it’s insane. But this is parenting during a pandemic. No sniffle or cough or tickle in your throat is safe anymore. You can’t assume anything is benign. Everything is a symptom of COVID, so you never know what’s nothing and what’s a potentially deadly virus. Compound that with the fact that my baby is in daycare and I teach 135 high school students each day, and there’s no avoiding these kinds of scares.

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I had my second meltdown just before Halloween. My son’s teacher tested positive. His class was quarantined for two weeks and the daycare shut down for one week. Unfortunately, my school district doesn’t care if someone in your household is quarantined due to close contact, as long as you aren’t the close contact you’re still expected to work. So, my husband had to navigate working from home and watching our son, while I randomly took sick days to help when my husband had meetings he couldn’t reschedule. We tested negative, thankfully. But it took almost a week to get the results of that test. There weren’t any wracking/gasping sobs during this meltdown; it was more prolonged. But there was a lot of crying over that week, and a lot of temperature checks and over-analyzing every little cough or sniffle.

It was so hard for my husband and me to decide to go ahead with daycare and go ahead with me teaching this year. I just got my master’s last year. I just re-upped my AP Lit certification. So much would be lost if I didn’t go back. We agreed that I would go over the top in taking precautions, and we trust my son’s daycare and the precautions they’re taking. Even still, I question my decision every single day. Because this is the reality of being a new parent – or any parent, really – right now. What most people would write off as new mom paranoia, I can’t afford to ignore. I had those meltdowns because motherhood is already so fucking hard, but with a pandemic that half of society chooses to ignore, or claims is a hoax, it’s damn near impossible. Navigating all the politics and the health concerns and the deteriorating familial relationships of the world right now is something most new mothers don’t have to deal with.

I’ve always been able to keep a relatively cool head. I don’t get upset. I don’t usually let stress affect me like this. But this year is different. My son is seven months old now, still in daycare, and I’m still teaching. His teachers all wear masks. My students and I all wear masks. I keep my family away from maskless contact with others. I’m doing everything I can to keep us safe. But every day I wonder if it will be enough.

It feels like I am all alone on an island of sanity while everyone around me is swimming with sharks they refuse to acknowledge. They know the sharks are there, but they just hope the sharks decide to eat someone else in the water instead of them. After all, the odds are truly in their favor, and they really like to swim.

I don’t care about the odds. I care about my son and keeping him healthy and safe. If that means tense relationships with family, fine. If that means breaking down into tears over a few sniffles, fine. If that means wearing scrubs and full PPE to teach my high school English students, fine.

What I can’t handle, is the island. I need support. I need understanding. I need all the coronavirus conspiracy theorists and hoax believers and “oh, but only x% of people die” people to have some fucking empathy for once in your life and put on the goddamn mask. I need you to stop acting like this doesn’t matter. Stop acting like it’s okay for life to just move on as normal while people are dying of something that is preventable. Just because it doesn’t affect you, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I am drowning in anxiety on this island by myself. I’m tired of shouting at you to watch out for sharks. I’m tired of your anger at me for refusing to swim.

I’m just. so. damn. TIRED.

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