If You Weren’t Mine, I Would Choose You



I noticed on the previous post that little fires of wisdom and experience popped up as soon as a question was posed about childrearing.  Today I read a great article in the New Yorker called “The Child Trap:  The Rise of Overparenting” (I’ll include a link at the end).  In addition to her deft dispatch of the cultural implications of one current parenting style, Joan Acocella offers a summary of the new books on the subject.  I highly recommend the article. 

Heaven knows I’ve spent a great deal of time over the past 24 years thinking about how one goes about rearing an infant, a toddler . . . all the way up to that beloved 24-year-old.  I’ve only come to a few definite conclusions:

  • If you make a plan for being a mother or father before you’re face to face with an actual human being, um.  Well.  Good luck with that.
  • What works brilliantly with one child will most certainly not with another.
  • Play every moment by ear.  Allow yourself to be inspired by a guiding spirit greater than your own ego or your own needs.  Reinvent yourself, if necessary.
  • There can only be one adult in an exchange between you and your child, and if it’s not you, um.  Good luck with that.
  • They’ve got enough stuff. 
  • Good outside and play.  As Delonda said, “I’m going to take a nap. If you need me, try not to need me.”
  • Never, ever do their homework for them.  My guess is that you already passed the third grade once.
  • Never, ever do their homework for them.  Never complete any task that reasonably, ethically, fundamentally or otherwise is theirs to complete, or there are years and a world of hurt ahead. 
  • Empathize, empathize, empathize.  If you find yourself repeating some trope shouted at you in your past, you’re probably doing it wrong. 
  • Just ask them.  It’s really easy.  If you’re scared, I’ll give you some handy examples: 

Why are you sad?

Why do you think my decision is unfair?

What are you eating? 

No, it isn’t food, it doesn’t even LOOK LIKE food.

Where is the rest of your hair?

If that’s a hickey on your neck, you’re going to see the walls come down around you, child.

Why are your feelings hurt?

Tell me who you would like me to kill.

Have you been smoking cigarettes? 

Have I told you what my dad did when he caught my brother smoking?

Oh ho!  Yes, you CAN be forced to eat them. 

I gave you life, I can take it back. 


  • Allowing them to play on the dirty floor is cheaper in the long run than asthma.
  • Your children were not born to solve your problems, fulfill your ambitions, make you happy, love you unconditionally, behave as you would wish, share your opinions, love your God, or dance to your tune.  Of this I’m certain.  You’re brilliant people – you know why those children are here.  By the same token, you do not owe them a shuttle service, an ATM card in your name, or endless patience if they are acting the fool.  You owe them your deep and abiding interest.  Pretend every dialogue is holy.  Vegetables and shoes are necessary; everything else is a bonus.  Encourage reading – it’s quiet. 


Now I’d really love to hear from you.



Published in: on November 10, 2008 at 9:09 pm  Comments (265)  


  1. empathize, empathize, empathize…perfect! my goal is to truly teach empathy to my children. it is so important. so important.

    also, go outside. we go outside everyday (my son is 2)–rain or shine. puddles, mud, sandbox, trail rides, wagon rides, hay rides, dirt bike rides…fishing and going on the slide…ahhhhh, and that is just when we are home….

  2. Oh, I hated outside. If I was forced to go I would just bring the book with me and sit down out there.

    My stepmother took them from me and then yelled if I tried to sneak back inside.

  3. i can easily say i prefer outside to inside 90% of the time. i love every season

  4. I do not have children but one rule my mother always abided by ” never let your children win a game on purpose. Treat them like an adult and play at your normal skill.Do not patronize them.” She said she realized this was working quite well when my older brother at the age of 4 had beaten her again at a board game and said ” Mom, I’m smarter than you aren’t I?”

  5. I always tell people that my oldest son Eric taught me everything I know about being a father. Now I have to collect my thoughts on this. Essentially it comes very close to what Haven said about owing them deep and abiding interest. My boys are, above all, interesting and good. They were hard-wired good, however.

  6. Don’t talk down to them. They will have incredible vacabularies and shining minds if you treat them, and talk to them, like they’re smart from the very beginning.

    Turn off that frickin’ TV. It is not acceptable background noise or a babysitter. 99.9% of what’s on it is crap (and if I say it, it’s true, because I love me some Bravo.) Only turn it on after consulting the tv guide and planning to watch a specific show. Then, whenever possible, watch shows together. Cuddling is good, even when they get to be six feet tall. Babies of all sizes and genders love their parents to love them.

  7. I’ll add one thing: Don’t be your child’s friend. Yes, empathize, talk to them, be silly with them…but always be their parent, not their buddy. They don’t want to know what’s wrong with their marriage. They don’t have to know how you lost your virginity. They do not need to think you’re cool. They just need to know that they can always, always feel safe.

  8. Meant to say “with YOUR marriage.”

    Damn. And I was being so eloquent.

  9. I have tried, over and over, to give my children the gift of believing in them.

    Now that they’re older, the message is often: Here are some things to consider. I know you can do this. Let me know what you need from me.

  10. My 21-year-old daughter was facing a tough decision recently. She called in tears, saying “I’m scared, Mama.”

    As we talked through the situation, I asked her to think about what she was afraid of and then to think about what she wanted.

    “If you genuinely don’t want to do this, don’t. But don’t give up because you’re scared. Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

    It was one of my best parenting moments, if I do say so myself. (Especially because I was scared about it mine own little self.)

  11. Jerri, it’s veerrrrrry different with the grown children, isn’t it?

  12. Different how, Haven?

    Can’t make them eat vegetables or forbid smoking anymore. Hickeys are none of my business. But the goals are the same: Hold up the light while they find their way.

  13. Oh my…I will have to collect my thoughts on this topic as I have so many. I have two kids (20 and 16, girl and boy respectively and the differences between the two stagger me), worked at an elementary school for 6 years (not a teacher…secretary in the office) and now work at a community college (where this very subject was the focus of a recent staff inservice day).

    I’ll be back…

  14. Didn’t mean to sound snotty, Haven. I’m really interested in the differences. Maybe I don’t have this thing worked out as well as I thought…..

  15. And may I say that today’s quote at the top made me snort tea on my macbook.

  16. What about grown children who are married? I wish my son would consult with me, but I am so proud of him when he doesn’t and relies on his wife.

  17. I don’t have any kids yet, but this post comes at a tremendously topical time, as just this past week a 21-year-old coworker shrieked at me that my biological clock was TICKING and I needed at least start the planning process NOW!!!!! (I might add for the record, I’m 27. Not 67.) After suppressing the desire to smack her bossy little mouth (maybe I WOULD be a good mom…not acting on those feelings is a bonus, right?), I gently informed her that at 27, she would not feel the slightest bit older than she feels at 21, and if SHE wasn’t ready to have children, maybe she’d understand why I was in no hurry. She said something along the lines of, “Yeah, right,” and flounced away.

    That aside, however (sheeeeeeesh) you all sound like really lovely parents. It’s really very inspirational, even above the roar of all that ticking… 🙂

  18. Hey Michelle, tell Little Miss Bossy Mouth that you know someone who had hers at ages 39 and 41, and they both turned out to be gifted, gorgeous and good people besides. (Okay, so we don’t really know each other. Feel free to say it anyway.)

  19. Thank you, polly! I will! (Though I do spend a considerable amount of time trying to AVOID talking to this girl, if you can guess why.) That’s always inspiring to me!

    I do wonder, though, if anyone wants to share, what prompted you all to have your children? Even after 6 super years of marriage, I feel like I’m still waiting for that thing to click… That “Time to make the babies!” thing. (Yes, I know equating babies to donuts probably isn’t a good indication of readiness either.) Does anyone have a reason that wasn’t, “Well, we weren’t really INTENDING to make a baby…” 🙂

  20. Where are Linda, Sher and Kate on this topic? I think y’all should get together and write a book on parenting…it would be way better that Dr. Spock.

    Erik and I are childless…and likely to remain that way since there is one Yea vote (me) and one Nay vote (Erik) on the subject, and I’m pretty sure it needs to be unanimous. But since I was raised by 4 people (biological parents and step-parents) and a village (extended family) so I think I can speak to some of the things that one SHOULDN’T do:

    1. Do not force your nearly-grown children into life paths that they don’t want. It just causes resentment that is hard to get over.

    2. Do not tell them they’ll burn in hell and die of AIDS because of a sexual preference they cannot control.

    3. When they are adults do not tell them or imply that they shouldn’t have children.

    4. Do not tell them they never visit when you live hours away if you’re willing to make the trip yourself every so often.

    5. Do not act and speak as though their lives are less important than their siblings simply because they cannot be legally married and do not have children.

    6. Do not attempt to buy your child’s love.

    Okay. I’m done.

    Michelle – Why is it that some people still seem to think that 30 is over the hill? I would have slapped that girl or cut her off at the knees with my tongue (bad habit of mine).

    George – You’re one lucky SOB!

    Haven – Yes, yes, yes to asking questions! Growing up I was rarely asked questions.

    I need to hop over to the Used World post…my favorite book and I missed the post.


  21. Michelle: My road to parenthood was filled with heartache and physical pain. My children are adopted.

    When we went through the home study, we were asked why we wanted children. Even then, long before Rafiki lifted Simba to the skies in The Lion King, before Elton wrote the song, before I fully understood what it meant, I wanted to be part of the Circle of Life.

    I wanted to nurture an infant, to see the world through the eyes of a toddler, to learn to read with a young child. God help me, I even wanted to ride the roller coaster of adolescence. I imagined myself in middle age with young adults coming home for holidays. I stepped into the comfy shoes of an old lady baking cookies with grandchildren. I didn’t just want babies; I wanted to share my life with the people those babies would become.

  22. I explained that badly, Michelle. The heartache and physical pain came BEFORE adopting the kids. Cancer, infertility, miscarriage: those are the things that led me to the path of adoption.

  23. The biggest thing I have learned about being a parent is that I know NOTHING. Also, it gets easier with each child. And if you are too depressed to be a functional parent, then fix your problem. Don’t take it out on the babies.

    I have a friend who chases her daughter on the playground with wet wipes and is constantly brushing off her clothes. I’m not that mom.

    I’m not good at authority, but I’m working on it. I tried to gain my kids respect the wrong way, and I’m working to correct that. But I do know I have their love.

    I believe in reading good books, hanging out, and making fabulous memories. I believe in showing my kids all the best things from my childhood, and then discovering new things together.

    I feed my kids real food, to the point that they will not touch hamburger helper or fruit cocktail in a can.

    My bed is always open for cuddles.

    I keep reminding myself, day after day, that childhood is one stop to adulthood, and that I am raising my children to be happy, functioning adults, not perfect children.

    Play is a child’s work.

  24. Jerri, adoption is such a wonderful thing… I have a friend who was (finally!) just given the name and photo of her daughter in China, and when I saw that little face for the first time, and thought of the loooooong road that this single mom had taken to be finally matched with her daughter, it moved me in such a powerful way. I wish there was a way to express that to all the adopted children out there who may not realize just how fiercely they were wanted.

    Kate, that was really nice! Man, you guys have some good stuff! My only parenting advice so far is “Never let yourself get outnumbered.” Ha ha…

  25. Whoops! Too late for us!!

  26. Michelle, I started to physically yearn for a baby at about age 30. My body started to actually hurt for one. But I wasn’t ready emotionally. I had a lot of therapy and became politically active in the feminist and incest survivors movements of the 1980s (speaking all over country, organizing national conferences, editing the national newsletter for incest survivors, many TV talk show appearances, etc.) as a part of taking control of my life and overcoming childhood abuse, starting when I was 25. It set me back in the parenting department, but I needed to take care of myself and heal myself before feeling secure in caring for children, because I was such a hurt child myself. Although we had our sons late, waiting was the right thing to do, for us. Over the years I built a private practice and my husband developed his career. Meanwhile we got ourselves financially in place, and bought a country property where we knew our children would have a healthy happy place to grow up in a small, safe community. The boys are now 12 and 14 and the whole experience of parenting has been wonderful. I do wish I’d been able to start a little sooner, but I wouldn’t trade a minute of it back for anything, even the rough parts. It has helped to have a great partner who has been supportive of me throughout this process and has always been as active a parent as I am (this man was born to be a father.)

    However, not everyone is as methodical (okay, controlling) as I am. I now think that if we had gotten pregnant by mistake and had a baby before we (thought we were) ready, things would’ve also turned out just fine. Sometimes we can’t plan things as well as we like, but for some reason the plans worked out just right in our case. I just happened to be Fertile Mertyl and Ken just happened to be Studly Dudly, so we got pregnant each time we tried, right away (like, wham bam bingo bango, the first try, no kidding.) That was good, because at the age of 39, if getting pregnant had turned out to be a problem for either one of us, we might have had quite a challenge on our hands. (I knew menopause came late in my family so I was counting on that, and I was right. On the other hand, I have a cousin who was in full menopause at 35. She didn’t have the luxury of the options I had.)

    I would say the same thing to you that I’d say to myself back then: Do what you need to to be ready for parenting, within a reasonable time frame in case it takes some time to get pregnant. On the other hand, if you do get pregnant before you’re ready, it’s okay. Trust yourself to rise to the challenge, because you will. And if you can’t get pregnant, it doesn’t have to keep you from being a loving parent. Jerry and Sock are perfect examples of that.

    I hope my long comment is not too personal or otherwise annoying to anyone. I love discussing this stuff. I hope some of this is helpful and if not, please just take what you can use and disregard the rest.

  27. I must bid you all adieu for now but I look forward to soaking up more of your brilliance tomorrow morning before work. Good night everyone.

  28. why we had children?

    Don and I both felt ready at the ripe old ages of 25 and 29 – we had lived together since our 1st official date (although we switched households on the weekends/work work), had purchased a house, and gotten married (because we wanted children).

    Why? I wanted to raise my own this time and not my siblings. I wantd to be able to create a blank slate that I filled with options and to let that mind develop with minimal brainwashing and see what happened. I guess that makes them petry dishes of non-traditional beliefs. Don wanted somebody to play with (this is joking, but mostly true).

    Luckily, I get pregnant when Don breathes on me . . . so we had the first, then at his 1st birthday I decided we could try for number 2 – but I was already pregnant, so there you go – the “pill baby”. 20 months apart.

    I was overwhelmed and not too smart during those pre-school years . . . but threw myself into full force – the craft projects, activities . . .

    then when they were old enough for preschool, they went 2 days a week and I went to college.

    After 5 years and a miscarriage (unintentional pregnancy with another form of birth control), I begged Don for a snipping . . . nope. Not gonna happen.

    Oopsey – new year’s 2001 . . . week long partying, too many glasses of wine, kids with the grandparents and . . . we broke some condoms . . . and I was puking in 2 days…preggers…..which meant months of hospitals………but I made him promise, no I threatened him, that I would never sleep with him again if he didn’t get snipped BEFORE the baby was born . . . and that I had to see evidence.

    The day he got his vasectomy, he was running around with a bag of frozen peas in his undies, I was in the hospital, and he was chasing 2 kids on the soccer field, and his dad died from a recurrence of throat cancer (he was in a hospice in NJ) . . . against all odds, little Claire, our last and only was born when I was turning 35 . . . and I feel every year of it.

    here is an essay I did after Claire’s birth:

    So with 2 accidental babies, I still feel that they were meant to be. I feel that it is a calling or a service that I do to the world and I feel that I am doing a pretty good job – because I never felt that I mattered to my parents, that is the main thing I want them to know – even if they don’t like me, they know I care and that I want to know them and what they feel (even if I don’t agree).

  29. No, that’s great! Thank you for being so open. No one ever tells me the “why we did it” part, just the “it’s so wonderful, you should do it, too!” argument.

  30. My first two children were complete surprises. And then I started getting the baby hunger, and I wanted a girl so badly, and I figured this is my life, it’s already happening, might as well go for broke, literally. And we did.

    I have wanted to be a mommy ever since I was four years old and breast-feeding my dolls. It’s only now that I realize I want other things too! But I think it’s a gift that I was born without ambition because I never thought twice about staying at home. Now I am grateful to work from home, but I think it would have been hard to give up a career.

  31. Sher–great answer. Do I have to have a typepad account to get to that essay? The link took me to a request for a password.

  32. Jerri – no, I am just an idiot, I am updating 2 art blogs and mine right now . . . had it open to my owner’s account . . .

    this should work:


  33. Love it Sher…and your pictures of Claire are too sweet!

  34. Kate –

    baby dolls – I had three triplet Baby Alives – Charity, Hope & Faith – and I carried a diaper bag EVERYWHERE – not to mention my own little sister (who my mom left in the trailer all the time – MOM, don’t we need to bring Snoozie?) Sans seatbelts or baby seats, mind you – our seatbelt was the MOM’s RIGHT ARM blocking the windshield “arm-bar” . . .

  35. Sher, good LORD!!! You and Polly should be the founding members of the Fertile Goddess club. 🙂 And I understand what you mean about it being a service to the world… I have the utmost respect for good parents. Especially living where I do, where so many of the neighborhood kids are just walking the streets, parents completely oblivious, or just magnifying the problems.

    Kate, you sound just like my sister! She’s not a mommy yet (just got married last month…give it time!), but she’s had that instinct since birth, I swear. It’s something I’ve always been a little jealous of, actually. I always thought it would be much easier to just KNOW that’s what you wanted.

  36. While I know very little about this topic, here are a few things I would add:

    1) You are your child’s advocate. That does not mean you defend his/her transgressions, but you are the only one(s) who can speak for him/her. (I’m sure this changes at some point. My kid is only 8 and I take it one day at a time.)

    2) Make them part of your life. Introduce them to as many different people as you can. Show them what you do– balance the check book, go to the office, volunteer. This is how they learn. Show their friends, too. (Our house is always full of neighbor kids.)

    3) That being said, don’t forget about yourself. A night out with friends goes a long way toward being a good parent. Especially when there’s vodka and chocolate cake.

    My son teaches me something new every day, even if it is just how to play the latest video game. When I figure it out I’ll let you know.

    P.S. Haven, thank you for the books!! I did the happy dance when I opened them, as Brandon can attest. You’ll be getting a thank-you gift soon. 🙂

  37. It might not take that much time…I got pregnant with J. 5 months after I got married!

  38. I think they’re secretly hoping it WON’T happen that fast (finances, etc.), but I think everyone in our family is convinced they’ll have a baby before their first anniversary. My sister would make too good a mommy NOT to have one right away. It would be a disservice to babies. 🙂

  39. my first child, but hopefully not my last was a pretty sudden jolt. we went from not trying for years and year to not NOT trying. i was pregnant in 2 seconds. literally, i know the day i became pregnant–i mean, only in hindsight (i hear it’s 20/20)…anyway, i partied on new year’s eve and found out i was with child on jan 4th. FREAK OUT. told the midwife everything. ever.eeeee.thing. she ripped up my patient info and said “you want insurance to pay for this, right? Just write ‘no’.”

    mason is now 2 and beginning to test boundaries. it’s weird, i sometimes tell my husband i didn’t realize that i could not live with myself. mason looks JUST like john (husband), but acts like me. macy is a boss. it drives me bananas. at 2 yrs old he will tell me “mama, stop talking”. are you kidding me, kid?

    i am learning as i go and as we like to put it, it is 75% awesome and 25% yelling/crying/screaming/disagreement, etc. good outweighs bad. i am geting excited about the idea of baby #2

  40. Motherhood has been Harder and yet more Natural than I expected.

    I feel BAD that I get pregnant so easily. I have friends who have been trying since I get pregnant with Dylan and I was embarrassed to tell them I had another accident with Claire (now, also, I was not medically supposed to have any more babies – that wasn’t just me being selfish, we both barely got through the last one).

    I can remember a gorgeous male gay couple at Seaside FL when we went there the Summer of ’93 – they were at the main restaurant SHADES (converted into the bank for the Jim Carrey movie – The Truman Show) . . . anyway, they were always around those 2 weeks and we got to be friends and I can remember the longing in their eyes when they watched Dylan . . . it just REALLY broke my heart. If I hadn’t had such bad pregnancies I was going to have a baby for another couple *in any form*. . . but after Lauren I wasn’t supposed to have any more.

  41. how about how stupid you are with the first baby – hello!!!

    even after I had raised siblings I was an i.d.i.o.t.

  42. like we would walk him up and down the stairs at night to get him to go to sleep, put him in his crib, crawled out on our hands and knees so he wouldn’t see us . . .

    2nd one . . . rock her, dance 2 dances to Bette Midler’s “Bette of Roses” cd . . . plop her in the crib and “night, night” . . .

    claire – – I was in college doing online courses and would somehow manage to (Kate will get this) breasfeed, burb, and hold the sleeping baby WILST typing a termpaper. after that semester I stayed home for 18 months because I was bonkers with the multi-tasking, dragging the baby to older kids soccer games . . . it was weird and I had forgotten how to bathe newborns and went to the library and checked out videos, I was that nervous!!!

  43. i can’t wait to get pregnant again. it is so special and wonderful and every cliche you can think of times ten. i love babies. i love toddlers. i love children and watching them grow and learn. i think it is the most rewarding when you witness it in action. it takes my breath away. and not only with my own child, when i was a teacher, too. kids are AMAZING

  44. I started to say my best parenting advice would be to take everything my parents did and do the exact opposite. But that’s not enitrely true. I will have to agree with the no TV rule. Or at least limit the time spent in front of it. The best summer that I can remember before my dad died was the summer our TV was busted and we didn’t have the money to fix it. Every evening was spent at the kitchen tables playing cards or some board game.

    One special summer evening still shines clearly in my mind. I was always terrified of thunder and lightning. Two close encounters when I was a toddler pretty much did me in. But one night that summer, Dad sat me down with him on our back porch steps and we watched heat lightning dance among the clouds to the north of our place. He showed me how beautiful lightning can be flickering back and forth across the night sky, illuminating the clouds from within. He just sat there with me for the longest time, his arm across my shoulder, holding me to his side, calming my fears.

    That’s the father I miss. That’s the father I hope to be.

  45. I still cringe over things that happened with J. I have tried to tell people I was not a good mother and no one believes me.

  46. Sher, that’s a really generous idea! While I think you have to accept that it may be one of those “thought that counts” situations, because you CAN’T actually go through with it for your own health, it’s still such a beautiful notion of giving back.

    I have often had similar guilt, that it would be such a SHAME if my husband and I never had children, because there are so many other wonderful people out there who want them desperately and can’t have them. Is there no end to the things women will feel guilty about?

  47. jim shue –

    well, then – you will be! That was beautiful and I love Lightning Clouds! That is a dear, dear memory you have there!

  48. I have the guilt too. I am almost positive that a girl I know left our church because it was too hard to see me with these babies that just seem to fall out every two years. It broke my heart to ever cause her pain.

  49. right after Dylan was born my friend came to visit, she was the Understudy to Sarah Brightman’s Phantom of the Opera back in ’92 – – she was beautiful, long curly read hair, wearing a green velvet dress . . . before she came I had breastfed Dylan so he wouldn’t need that during the visit (I was never comfortable brestfeeding in public or anywhere for that matter – just felt like a milk cow) . . . anyway, she is holding him, rocking him and singing LAVENDER BLUE when
    HE BLEW – PROJECTILE FERMENTED BREASTMILK ALL OVER HER – crown of her head to her waist.

    Oh my god, I thought I would die!!! How can you tell when your baby gets enough breast milk?

  50. There are many dark, dark memories of my dad, but that one really does shine out through everything else. He was a horrible alcoholic (no, actually he was good at that) but one of the kindest and gentle people you could ever have met when he was sober.

  51. I meant to say thanks, Sher!

  52. It is hard to be honest about the negative aspects of parenthood when you know there are people that are dying to have what you accidentally tripped into.

  53. That would happen to me Sher. The only difference is that I breastfeed in front of everyone, all the time. I’m discreet about it, but yeah. I’m not missing ANYTHING.

  54. I went to church with a woman who was (literally) pregnant ALL the time. For at least 13 years and as many kids. There couldn’t have been a single months downtime between her pregnancies. And as much as our pastor tried to dissuade them, she and her husband firmly believed that God was against birth control.

    Come to think of it, that family’s 13 children were like birth control to ME…

  55. hum – I have a brother that fits your dad’s description and it is hard sometimes to know who will be greeting you at the door. I’m so glad you have some bright spots to hold in your memory!

  56. Sher, just a guess, but when they projectile vomit fermented breast milk, well I’d say you’ve fed ’em too much.

  57. About the stupid with the first child: The night before we picked up my son, we made bottles for the first time. I boiled EVERYTHING. As I put the bottles together, I reboiled everything if I accidentally touched the inside of anything. The process took about 2 1/2 hours.

    When my daughter arrived 5 years later, I made bottles. Took 15 minutes flat.

    I was so worried about burning my son that I practically froze the poor kid to death until my mom arrived and showed me how to give him a proper bath.


    Thank God they survived me.

  58. Jim, I have a strange relationship with my dad too. On one hand he is one of the kindest, most generous people I have ever met, but he can also be distant and very angry. We have a better relationship than ever before, because my compassion for him has grown. If anything it made me very careful about the kind of man I looked for in a mate. I told my husband that our daughter(s) MUST be his princess. She must never feel that he is distancing himself from her, and she must always feel his unconditional love.

  59. and somebody said how each kid needs different things – different discipline, everything and that is so true.

    Dylan would never think of doing something dangerous . . . or lying . . . or whatever

    Lauren – hello, I hope she makes it to 21, she climbs the highest trees, used to have temper tantrums (no – only 1, because I picked her 3 year-old self up, stuck her in the shower with all her clothes and shoes on, and blasted the icey water on her) – she never said a world until she asked for a towel, we never mentioned it again, nor did she ever have another tantrum – that might sound like abuse, but I was automatic, didn’t even think about it, I’ve never heard of that before, but somehow I knew she needed a “slap on the face” so to speak.

  60. OH! Almost forgot, Haven is the one who taught me not to panic every time a toddler trips. What was it you said? They bounce? So when Riley started walking and would fall I’d make a “Bonk!” and a funny face so that she wouldn’t get upset. Now she thinks it’s funny to fall down.

  61. yikes – that sounds so mean up there – I’ve never hit my kids . . . I meant a mental “slap on the cheek” – I hope I don’t get turned in to Children’s Services now. . .

  62. Haha…Jerri…I am the exact opposite! I had one friend who would call me and ask me 1,000 questions and my answer was always “I don’t know.” I had so few routines and hard and fast rules. I was sort of oblivious.

  63. the first kid is made of china

    the second kid is made of melamine

    the third kid is made of rubber

  64. Jim, that is VERY smart. Knowing the difference between “hurt” and “just surprised” can save HOURS of heartache.

  65. YES…I do the same thing! I think I used to react too much when J. used to fall down and LORD he is dramatic! So now I just say “Did you go Boom?” And then “Shake it off Tiger.”

    My friend Sherri would rush over to her child, and then very dramatically check to make sure they didn’t break the floor! She’s good, that one. Has many tricks up her sleeve!

  66. Brilliant, Sher.

  67. people – I have to go to bed ’cause I have more people coming to the studio in the morning hours – god, what was I thinking???

    must go to bed . . .

  68. Kate, one of the best father/daughter stories I ever read – true story – was how Bruce Paltrow took his daughter Gwenneth to Paris when she was a young teen. When they got there he asked if she knew why he did that for her. He said it was because he wanted her first trip to Paris to be with a man who would always love her.

  69. well I once kissed my son’s diapered bottom at the playground when he fell too hard at the end of the slide – he asked me, I had to do it – at least it wasn’t with a poooey in there!

  70. jim – I’ve heard that Paltrow story – as long as it isn’t BillyRay & Miley, I am all about that . . .

  71. Sher, I have at least one kid who might benefit from the shower treatment.

    Yesterday I forbade Jarvis to speak until he apologized to his father. Wow, why did I never think of that before? Is there anything that kid loves more than talking?

    Still trying to figure out Linus. He has gone from being a piece of absolute sunshine to making me absolutely nuts. Today I upset him by being behind a door he BARRELED through without knocking and of course, he hurt himself. He informed me that “I am going to flush the whole world down the toilet!” and “It’s your choice, be dead or stay alive.” HE’S THREE! Good grief! I am kind of at a loss.

  72. I’ve learned that kids also find amputation very hilarious. Whenever my little niece thinks she’s terribly injured, suggesting a trip to the hospital to have the offending limb removed is always met with laughter.

    I’m also off to bed. Thanks for all your wonderful input about parenting! I’m checking back before work tomorrow to see how it progresses! 🙂

  73. That’s a beautiful story about the Paltrows. Had not heard that.

    I went to a Father/Daughter banquet with my dad a few years ago. It was sweet.

  74. ha – ignoring that is about the best you can do – or repeat it back to him:

    “I know you want to flush the whole world down the toilet, but why??”

    Dylan used to say “This is the worst day of my life” and “why does it always happen to me?” – so dramatic and sincere . . . no reasoning there, I would just say “that makes me so sad”

    or once when he said he hated me, I said “so what, that’s my job!”

  75. go to sleep,
    go to sleep,
    go to sleep my dear blog babies,

    go to sleep,
    go to sleep,
    go to sleep my dear ones!

  76. I know I am not supposed to tolerate bad behavior, but I am occasionally at a loss as to HOW I am not supposed to tolerate it. And advice seems hopeless, as each child is different.

  77. And Haven, what did your dad do when he caught your brother smoking?

  78. It’s funny, I spent four hours setting up a spinner of Christmas gift bags and tissue paper at my bookstore tonight — and it was such a slow traffic in customers, it was so kind of beautifully calming. I told my co-worker, Jorge, when I was nearly finished (it was like my own private Christmas tree, that spinner) how much I love little projects that have finite ends, finish lines where I can stand back and recognize it as “done” and be proud. I love the finality. And, of course, Jorge (who is a wonderful father to his 14-year-old) said: “You should have kids, JC — see what you make of the finish lines on those projects…”

  79. This is the tender most of all blog topics. How we parent? It’s the question I ask myself every day. What kind of a father are you? I have lived apart from my boys since they were 11 and 4. I was not there to celebrate many of their daily, routine small achievements, nor was I there to offer comfort or to be there when their day might turn out to be a tough one. I was their dad through the phone mostly. I am not one to feel much guilt or remorse over the decisions and actions I make — past or present — except in this area. My boys love me and I love them. We have created incredibly good memories and when I was there, I lavished them with love and unique experiences and opportunities. That will never, ever change. There is nothing that separates me from the almost unspeakable deep love, joy, honor and respect I have for my sons. Nothing but distance. And that’s the unvarnished truth of it. There is no way to actually calculate the damage caused by my absence. It’s a sum I really don’t want to know, be it slight or huge. So, no matter what, when the subject of parenthood arises, I may say this or that, and God knows I have enough stories because I remember everything — many things, at least — but there is this reproachful other voice that whispers in my ear: You weren’t there, were you?

  80. Your boys know you love them. That’s the most important thing anyone can give a child.

    Be kind to yourself, George.

  81. George, there are countless millions of children who would choose you over the father sitting right in front of them. It seems as though your own sons, in fact, chose you.

  82. Sock, he made him eat an unlit, never-smoked cigarette. Good old behavioral modification: see a cigarette, think you’re going to throw up in your yard.

  83. I don’t have any kids yet, when Michelle mentioned that the lady at church was like her birth control – I understand .. my sister is my birth control. Anyway.

    Looking back at my childhood, I’d say .. don’t ever try to compete with your child. No matter what it was, a stomachache, a drawing, any experience you could possibly think up, if I thought it was huge, or painful, or worth mentioning, my mother would ALWAYS say, “that’s nothing compared to the time I …. “. It hurt to not be listened to, it felt like she was the annoying kid who always had to one up you, instead of just listening. So .. share with your kids, definitely, but don’t compete with them. Sooner or later (in my case anyway), your kids will just stop trying to tell you things, ’cause they already know that you think your experience was more important.

  84. Kittery, that one is so important I hoped it would fall under the category of ‘you be the adult in the room.’

  85. Jodi, the blog time is an hour ahead! I’m going to bed, I am!

  86. Jerri: This is a very important subject and I think it is one of those core issues that all of us must confront. How do you parent? Even those who are willfully childless give their answer. I was being honest, casting an objective eye toward my own parenting. I do think I am a good father. All I am saying is that I usually wasn’t there. When I was there, I tried to make it count. Both my sons are good guys. They are making their own way in this world with their own intrinsic gifts. As for our relationship, I am sometimes astounded by the candor with which they share themselves. Maybe distance and the telephone made us listen to each other more carefully. I know that the truths they share with me surpasses what I could tell my own father, and he was there after 5 p.m. and on weekends my whole life. In the end, however, when the question is asked, How do you parent? I always know that whatever I say, if I could get a do-over, I would been there on the most routine of days, not just the most special.

  87. …the things I am picking up…Kittery, thanks, Jim and Jerri. I am so looking forward to GRANDPARENTHOOD!!! I do intend to overgrandparent, God help me!

  88. A couple years ago Kat and I were talking about what kind of grandmother I would be. I intend to do it UP. I told her I would follow her if she tried to move, and if need be I would buy their love. Oh, there was a lot more, including the phrase ‘candy and automatic weapons.’ Joking! It would be more like ‘shelter dogs and vintage suitcases.’

  89. Haven, my grandmother used to come and visit for two months out of the year, April and November. She used to wake me up in the morning and tell me she was ready to cook (my grandmother baked *all* day *every* day). If I asked sweetly (or not) she would almost always make me breakfast, and then we’d make cookies, turnovers, pies, everything, and then we’d make dinner (by the way, I was homeschooled, so I literally did bake with her all day, every day). And every night she would read to me. She was the one who first read me Little Women. I’d curl up in her bed in the guestroom and stay there as long as she’d let me. When she wasn’t living with us, she used to write me letters and send me pictures she’d cut out of the newspaper for me to color.

    That was all I ever needed or wanted .. when I see my mother buying all this (quite frankly) crap for my nieces and nephews, I just ask her, “why?” Grandma never needed to do that for me. And what does she get for it? My sister’s kids call her Oscar (Oscar the Grouch, from Sesame St) or worse, at my sister’s urging …

    Love your kids/grandchildren. It’s all they want. And as you said earlier, be the adult. I know I’m naive, but I really can’t think of what else a parent should be/do.

  90. My god. I think I was reading one thing and typing another. My grandmother sent me pictures to COLOR.

  91. Heavens Kittery! I was trying to imagine what lonely childhood you had that you needed to cuddle with pictures your grandmother sent. Thanks for clearing that up.

  92. Yeah … if Haven feels like being the Wizard of Oz for one tiny second, she has my freely given blessing to edit that message…

  93. Kittery, it’s late. Not as at the time stamp, which is 100% WRONG, Jodi! I’ve typed some things that made me wonder if I was using my trick fingers. Fortunately, I have the power to fix them so no one says, “Haven, why so dumb?”

    One thing I’ve learned from having children so far apart is — and it’s never failed me — children are happy if you’re just sitting in the room with them. They’re happy if you listen to them describe a weirdo cartoon experience in excrutiating detail. They’re happy if you say, “Go with me to get some dog food.”

    What your grandmother gave you — that’s concentrated love.

  94. Kittery, et voila!

  95. No one’s confessed yet as to who posted the anonymous comment on my blog. Thought I would try on this thread since it’s the newest one. It was a good comment, so don’t anyone blow a gasket. Just a nice little mystery as to who would know me and “beautiful, mercurial Troy”

  96. OK great and powerful wizard. Now my comment to Kittery makes no sense what so ever!

  97. I can also delete. AND I can write forward and backward at the same time, also upside-down. Wait, that’s not what we’re talking about.

  98. Being really happy when your father says, “yes, you can go with me to the post office/grocery store”? Yeah .. I know what you mean.

    Concentrated love .. interesting. It must’ve worked, ’cause she’s my favorite person. I adore her intensely.

  99. Thank you, Haven!! I no longer wince with shame when I see that message! 😀

  100. Ah parenting. Whew. My only prayer is that when added up, the list of ways I have wronged my children is at least equal to the one in which I have done them right. It is a see-saw. I smile at memories and I cringe at memories but when my daughter stands in front of me and leans slightly forward, very slowly, so I can kiss her on the forehead, I know everything is going to be ok at the end of the day. And when my son texts me back on the cell phone, “Love you too”, well, he is almost 16 so there you go.

  101. My sons spent the night at Grandma’s last night and OH MY GOODNESS I am ready to squeeze them and listen to them rattle on about this and that. This conversation just makes me miss them even more.

  102. An Indiana story for you guys.


  103. being a parent to my son has been the most rewarding part of my life to date. i have tried (and am still trying) to get out of the habit of saying “why don’t you…” it is a question and it leaves the door wide open for all the responses of why he doesn’t want to do what i have suggested. so i now try to say, please go put that toy away. i also try to give options so it seems like he has a choice. either way, he will eat a piece of fruit–i don’t care if he picks banana or apple. finally, i couldn’t agree more with the listening. mason has just started to play his very small guitar with my husband who plays his right along side and they sing twinkle twinkle all the way through. mason is so proud. he is at an age where he is getting better and better at telling me his needs, wants, etc. that is very exciting, too.

  104. Holy Moly!

    The only thing I was going to post on this topic is – Stay out of the way and let children be their own little person, and always, always, always make sure thy know they’re loved. I tell Shelby several times a day. She never leaves the house, or the car, or a phone call never ends without an, “I Love You.”

    Before posting my thoughts, however, I called my mother about a trivial little thing and she ended the call with an “I Love You.”

    That was weird.

  105. I have 3 boys and the ‘Golden Rule’ at our house is… if you cannot ask for it, you can not have it, and “no” is an answer, and therefore the end of a negotiation. It started with juice cups, and I’m hoping, praying, using every commercial worthy car trip to extend the conversation so they know not to try to impose their will on someone else. You must ask for what you want, and you must accept the answer. And rule number 2 – you are solely responsible for your choices – and you get to celebrate your successes because they are authentically yours, or you get to suffer the consequences for the same reasons – after you’ve apologized for your dumb*** action to anyone else effected by it.

    Oh, and turn that off and get yourselves outside.

  106. Good morning! I’m sure you are all still asleep as you blog late into the night. The kid thing is really complicated and wonderful all at the same time. Haven has wonderful advice…I’m sure because she’s got ’em at all stages.

    I’ve heard about the Paltrow story. We have two girls and my husband is taking each of them on a Daddy/Daughter trip of their choosing–so they can get his undivided attention and he can treat them like “ladies.” Old fashioned, but we ARE in the South. Hannah (the Queen-loving actress) wants to go to Idaho Springs, CO to pan for gold.

    My advice to parents: If kids are begging, give in right away or not at all. If they cajole and you give in out of exasperation, they know it just takes time to wear you down.

    Thanks for all the beautiful parenting stories. You truly have no idea until you bring home a tiny thing that depends on you. And has it’s own mind to boot. 🙂

  107. Jerri, them ain’t Hoosiers! They’s from da’ region!

  108. Two things that are important to me: honesty and being able to say I am sorry.

    If we cannot be truthful and honest with each other we have nothing.

    If I make a mistake, I always say I am sorry. I have said I am sorry a lot. But when I say it, I always mean it, and I do try not to repeat the error.

    Also, let go of guilt. I have a lot of guilt about drinking. A LOT. But, I have to let it go now that I am sober. I know that going to rehab raised me up quite a bit in my children’s eyes. I know they were grateful and relieved but I also know they were proud of me. They knew it wasn’t easy for me, they knew I was afraid but they were totally there for me. I have the most awesome children on the planet. They are wise and kind and courageous and brave. I know they got some of that from me. Unfortunately, I know they also got some of that because of me.

    Have a sense of humor and keep a sense of wonder. Always.

    Oh, and don’t be afraid to admit that you like to play with the playmobil people and animals as much as they do. Ok, more than they do, but come on people, little tiny guinea pigs with little tiny heads of lettuce and little tiny ladies with tiny flower bouquets. I want to play with them right this second.

  109. I did not have any type of parenting as a child. Naturally, I was terrified to have my own children, which at this point in my life I can not physically have. But, I have two wonderful step children, who live with us 1/2 the week, and who I have had the privledge in having a more mothering role than their own biological mother at times. My kids are 10 and almost 15, and I practice tough love and honesty. My step son has Aspergers (Mild autism) and a few other issues & manipulates his mom to no end and she babies him to death. I had a talk with him the other day about how that behavior is wrong, and that he is a big boy now and needs to start acting like one. He gets frustrated, but then I see him do things he’s never tried before after our talks. When I met him five years ago he would only eat four things. Because of my simple persistance this boy will eat almost anything now.

    My step daughter is smart and lovely and could be a model/actress/singer/musician. She had problems turning in her homework in junior high, and we finally tried the postive thinking approach, how she could be a doctor or anything she wants to be if she just applied herself and she just got a 3.6 gpa her first semester. I’m always truthful with her, and let her know that its ok to question authority (Respectfully) and that she is allowed to have her own opinions on everything, even religion, and how its my job to train her how to be a functioning adult in society. And, I’m honest about sex, and have had every sex talk with her, even the one about how anal sex is sex. (It was scary to start, the poor girl had her face in the pillow, but we got through it, laughing but yet serious.) I’ve taught her everything from how to get rid of a mustache to leg shaving to bra shopping to tampon use to fashion tips.

    I don’t feel there is a perfect way or the right way how to do this – you know your own kids, and you find the way that works best with each of them. Perhaps your a step parent like me, and I feel that is an important job, being there, but not having all the glory the real mom or dad gets. I just want to tell you matter!!!

  110. Angel girl, a wonderful and very charcteristic list (“I gave you life, I can take it back” would be recognizable as an HK maxim even if it were rendered in Cyrillic), but it’s so easy to overlook the rules that don’t feel like rules — the things you do every day without even realizing it. To wit:

    • Laugh with them.

    Your house rings with laughter — yours and all your chilluns’. And great gawd amighty, does it ever do the trick.

  111. i will echo the honesty, the laughter and the very important one: knowing how to say sorry, and really mean it.

  112. I put myself in timeout a few times. I stepped out onto the porch while two little faces looked through the window at me. I said, “Mommy yelled and she shouldn’t have so she’s in timeout to cool off.” That surprised them.

  113. In honor of Veterans Day, the school corporation where I teach is closed. Yesterday in my middle school classes we discussed the meaning of Veterans Day. We looked at photos taken during WWI, of dead and wounded soldiers, of displaced families living in caves, and read the poem Flanders Fields and put it in an historical context. The subject of other wars came up, and the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and the generational ramifications. One 7th-grade girl raised her hand, a look of smug anger on her face. She said, “It sounds like you’re telling us that the United States hasn’t always been right!”

    Education is all about learning to think for yourself. My aim with the kids was to recognize that today is more than sales at department stores. That millions of people died for a cause. Whatever side we take in terms of conflict, today is for examining our place in the world.

  114. Good one, Vanessa. I have taken many a time out myself.

    Robert- I just looked at your website and WOW. Another author and OMG comic books too. My son is going to freak out when I tell him. He already thinks Haven is the coolest person on the planet and is constantly made even cooler by her company. Yowsa.

    Sorry, lost my train of thought. Oh, Aspergers. One of my daughter’s best friends since 5th grade (she is a senior now), Watson, has Aspergers. She loves him and his quirkiness to death. Doesn’t Augusten’s brother have Aspergers and didn’t he write a book about it? I think so.

  115. Jodi:

    You’re a teacher! Just curious: how did you answer the little girl with smug anger on her face? How young do they have to be before you introduce them to Howard Zinn?


    Folks, this discussion on parenting goes straight to the bone. One thing I did try to do as a Dad was inject huge doses of silliness and absurdity, games and goofiness into our roles. Both of my guys are hysterically funny when they want to be. To me, that was important.

  116. Wow, that article could be renamed, Why Unschool.

  117. My daughter told me that her high school had a guest speaker yesterday who is a holocaust survivor. She said she was so grateful to hear his story. He is Czech but spoke fluent German and was in a concentration camp from age 14 to 18. He came to America using a fake passport his father got for him – he never knew where his father got the money to do that- through Ellis Island and then made his way to Nashville. He attended my daughter’s high school for a year and graduated and then went to Vanderbilt’s School of Engineering and graduated in 1950. She said he brought his diploma and two reports cards with him! Education meant everything to him. He was not able to go back to see his parents for 25 years and when he did his father had gone blind.

  118. George,

    If you phrase things correctly, you can introduce the basic ideas of almost any concept to kids. Since I’m actually a music teacher, Howard Zinn probably won’t be a depth I’ll plumb in my 6th-8th grade choir classes. But I would certainly introduce the idea of morality vs. military. For example, my classes do writing prompts once a week. The prompt might be, If you were a Civil War soldier, what might be your feelings about killing people from your neighboring states who disagree with your political ideas? After a discussion, I’m always impressed by the kids’ thoughts. In my experience, when I treat children like thinking people, that’s how they respond.

    How did I answer Marissa? I said, “People are hurt and killed in wars on both sides. You have to decide for yourself what you think about that.”

  119. Someone told me that “fifteen minutes of losing your cool doesn’t undo the other 23 hours of great parenting.” We are human and have years of scripting egging us on. My own mother was a mess who lost custody of us after 10 years of nutty parenting. I sometimes hear her voice in mine but do everything I can to let my kids know they are loved for who they are!

  120. Linda- PLAYMOBIL! Almost as good as old school Fisher Price!!

  121. Katherine…I sort of unschool. My kiddos are tiny, but J. isn’t going to kindergarten. We attend a co-op once a week. And the kid is TEACHING HIMSELF TO READ. I promise, I have not sat down with him once (when I do he gets all irritable, so I back off) but he can read lots and lots of words now. I’m pleased. And he likes to write his own stories. Any words he is unsure how to spell I help him with, or sometimes he dictates and I type.

  122. Jodi: You are a champ on so many levels. I think it’s great that your school system still has a music program. It’s so important. Just the other day my son Sam, a music major at Butler University, was decrying plans in Indiana that would diminish general music education. All I know that is the because of a music teacher when I was a kid, I wouldn’t have ever considered access to things like opera and symphony and such. I am talking general music ed. I personally can’t even play a radio, but I do hum and sing a lot.

  123. …my reading policy for my boys was to encourage them to read everything in a hungry undisciplined way. Sam was reading Emerson at nine and Eric was reading Maus at age 12. Both now are much better-read than I am and that fills me with pride.

  124. George,

    Is your son getting a music education degree? Is he an instrumentalist or a vocalist? I got my degree up the road at the school of music in Bloomington. Piano major, voice minor, education major. Music ed. isn’t leaving Indiana. Budget cuts, yes.

  125. For now, Sam isn’t pursuing music education degree, but that is an open file discussion between us. His preference is performance and theory. His area is percussion and he has toured the past two summers with these precision drum and bugle corps. It is so cool to watch him hit the giant gong and the bass drum simultaneously. His instrument of love and choice is a marimba. Just finished helping him buy one a couple of weeks ago. Jodi: please feel free to tell him that music ed. offers options that he may be glad he has in the future (that’s been my position.)

  126. Shelby would probably quit school if it wasn’t for choir. Her school’s choir is huge somewhere near 300 kids. When I went to school I don’t recall if there was even a choir, if there was I didn’t know one classmate that was in choir.

    At her school choir or band id THE place to be. They do a Singing Christmas Tree every year and it’s so successful and large they has to move it to the historic theater downtown. They claim it’s the largest in the country. The freshman class stands on the floor and they work their way up the tree each year. The first time I went to the tree Shelby was a freshman, and I thought It was just going to be another boring parental obligation. I was wrong. It’s incredible. It’s so moving, I cried. I cry every time.

    Here’s a picture:

  127. George – My brother is another data point for your son: Same background in percussion and drum corps shows, music performance in college, then did an online master’s and teaches in public schools.

  128. George,

    Musicians without education degrees are hungry, insurance-free people. There isn’t a performance job on the planet in which the people hiring ask to see your diploma. That whole starving artist, bohemian thing sounds romantic, but it makes for a rocky lifestyle.

    Orchestra gigs are tough to come by, even if your son is willing to move anywhere in the country or the world. And orchestras don’t need all that many percussionists …

    On the positive side, there ain’t gonna be any shortage of kids and schools. Your son, while he may need to move away to get a job (I started teaching in Kentucky), will find employment if he has a music education degree.

    There’s a saying among actors, to the effect that, if you can think of anything else you might possible do for a career instead of acting, do that. Musicians are a dime a dozen, literally. Your son is going to age out of the drum and bugle corps jobs. His best bet is to dedicate himself to extra classes in education now, so he can feed himself and his future family later. Welcome to the world.

  129. I can’t even begin to thank the great gods of music for the gifts they have bestowed on Sam. From music, he has a keen appreciation of subliminal communication that comes from the structure of music in its repetition and tonal scale. The music gods have granted him discipline. They have broadened his awareness and appreciation of diversity. They have even enhanced his awareness of the physical world — making him attuned to hitting his drum when necessary at not the exact point called for in the score, but when the sound from the rest of the ensemble arrives from the other side of the marching field or the chamber. He has taught me so much. Sam’s inspiration for much of this has been his brother Eric. Eric was a computer head from the moment I dragged our first computer into the house in the early 80s. Eric quickly got into synthesizers and music sampling and has created complex, deeply-moving pieces that arise from places within himself. Sam witnessed that, took it in, and made it his own.

    I always tell Eric that he is the best big brother I have ever seen.

    Now that they are grown, when I really think about it, what I love most is the bond and love between them. This will be a constant their whole lives.


    You know, I posted last night some real feelings of parental inadequacy I feel because I lived away from my guys after their mother and I divorced. Late-night posting in areas where you already feel a little vulnerable is kinda dangerous. In the light of day, however, when I really consider the big picture and ask myself how I parented, the answer is: Big love can transcend constant presence. Sometimes I dwell on what I missed in the routineness of parenting, but for the most part, after I moved to another city, routine was taken off the table and replaced with unique and special. I guess it wasn’t so bad. You’d have to ask them. Make sure, however, I am not around to hear the answer. Like I said, I do plan to over-gransparent. Hey F.Scott! You didn’t live long enough to know this, old buddy, but there are second chances, second acts. Thing is you gotta in the play, baby.

  130. Jodi, I have one emoticon for you, young lady…


  131. George,

    Your son Sam probably knows the answer to this one: What do you call a person with a performance degree?

  132. Kate, how lovely for your son. I planned to homeschool for kindergarten only. While I was at the kitchen table frantically trying to teach myself how to teach, my son was in his room reading the Harry Potter series, through book 3, to himself. At the end of that year I looked at my husband kind of apologetically and said, “how can we send him to first grade now?” Was he going to sit at a little table and fill out work sheets all day? When would he have time to read? From that first year, we have evolved into earnest unschoolers. Our story is quite average. Many families begin homeschooling exactly this way. Apparently, when you stop teaching so very hard, the children begin to learn in an unbounded way that can be shocking to behold.

  133. I’ll ask him…Jodi.

    One other thing, and I will shut up, last summer I went to an Aaron Copland retrospective at the Kennedy Center, which was hosted and conducted by Leonard Slatkin. It was so cool when I mentioned this to my son and he began citing chapter and verse on Copland from his biography to the development of his particular sound.

    I love how smart my kids are!

  134. Oh, Michelle. I can commiserate with the annoyance of the clock ticking…I am 27 as well, and when my boyf and I broke up in May (we’d been together 8 and a half years) one of the ladies at school said to me, “But when are you going to have your kids now?”

    I thought I would die. Here I am, a giant eggshell with fractures all over and she’s worried about the children I now don’t get to have with the love of my life…I was like, whoa. I need a drink. Or twelve.

    Sometimes how inconsiderate people are makes me want to scream.

  135. Like me just now. Sorry about the drinking thing.

  136. Katherine, your son was reading Harry Potter to himself at age 5? Whoa.

    J.’s daddy was reading him HP every night for a while…I think they have gotten through the first four books.

  137. I saw (on purpose) a docu-something or other on three or four parent/parents hysterically, frantically trying to get their children into elite, private elementary schools in Manhattan. I’ll give the directors this: half the children came from money, half didn’t. What must also be stressed: they were little bitty kids. There are lots of reasons to Unschool or some alternative, and an obvious one is because your first-grader has a facial tic and an ulcer, and is just hoping to get into MIT by the age of 12 so he can jump off one of those tall, tall buildings. But the deeper reason is because, STOP FALSIFYING LIFE.

  138. Kate, I promise, our story is unremarkable. The lesson of unschool is this: teaching does not equal learning.

    Haven, this: “But the deeper reason is because, STOP FALSIFYING LIFE” is beautifully said. Unschooling takes that shit macro.

  139. Ah, Miss K, you’re rested and ready to kick some butt! That’s my applause you’re hearing.

  140. See, that would give ME facial tics. I have enough trouble getting my kids to co-op once a week. The level of insanity it takes to be that…parasitically involved and desperate…well, I just don’t have that gene.

  141. I just want to thank all of you (especially you, Haven) for all of this lovely advice.

    I had my first child in July. Mothering hasn’t exactly come naturally to me. I frequently find myself at a loss as to what to do (in spite of the parenting books). He breaks my heart nearly every day. Fortunately, he’s also hilarious.

  142. What I mean to say by “unremarkable” is that we see children learning this voraciously and adeptly all the time, at home. We are not testing them. We do not bludgeon them with academia. And we see them fulling themselves in myriad ways. And they just keep flourishing. So we just keep doing what works.

  143. Welcome, The Wife! I just looked at your blog via your link and you are beautiful, The Husband is a cutie, and The Boy is precious and perfect. I have a feeling you are going to do just fine. 🙂

  144. Oh yes I understood fully, and it’s so wonderful! That’s what I am hoping to see with my kids. My dear friend Rachael literally did no school with her kids for 5 months aside from reading while they were in a big transition period. On a whim, she decided to just attempt to test her oldest daughter. She gave her a booklet, told her it was a “game” and told her to work on it as much as she wanted to, and to let her know when she was done. She feared the worst…inability to follow directions, coloring on the pages, getting all the answers wrong.

    Her daughter did 50 pages before she got tired. All the answers were correct…the directions followed flawlessly. And the only schooling she had that whole time was reading books.

  145. ok, so i have been reading all the post and thinking what i have forgotten to say–i think as a mother or father, an important goal to reach for is to have children in pursuit of life-long learning. i don’t think learning ever stops. my mom taught me that.

  146. I think there are two separate impulses in us as parents and/or teachers: the genuine desire to educate (my mother, Jodi, etc.), and the desire to control Chaos Theory Personified. The first is self-evident. The second goes something like: If I fill out these forms with some magic flourish, and if I can oversee and guide this feral mammal through thirteen years of worksheets and tedium and bovine testing procedures and Brazil-esque gestures stripped of all meaning, and if the child who is currently eating my Henry Roth trilogy, a page at a time not only conforms but excels, THEN I will have succeeded as a parent.

    To which I say: Yeah? Good luck with that.

  147. The Wife — the picture of your grandparents on your website took my breath away. It was an idiosyncratic reaction, but look at that light! The past OWNS that light, I swear.

  148. Oh, Haven, that New Yorker article gave me the chills. And not good chills. Eeek. I must admit that I was over protective of my kids when they were young. Their dad and I divorced when they were 4 and 6 and I just didn’t want anything to happen to them. In addition to working full time I volunteered for every parent in the classroom volunteer job, served on leadership committees, almost passed out from nail polish fumes during one fall festival when I sat in a classroom and painted finger nails for hours. That was stupid. I got better as they got older. I still do more for my son than I should. I will admit it. But I can’t help myself. I have gotten better about walking away from him when he starts to whine about homework or teachers or unfairness in life. I just say I understand. Life is unfair and that sucks. Sorry. Get over it.

    Sex and driving are interesting. Ok, maybe I should clarify that statment. I started talking with my kids about sex very young. I told them that they own their bodies and their choices. I cannot make choices for them but I want them to make intelligent and thoughtful choices and ones that will not hurt them or others. I took my daughter to the GYN for the first time a few months ago. My wonderful doctor, Libby, who delivered Emma 17 years ago. She knows that whatever she talks about with the doctor is private. A day or two later she asked me if the doctor told her that she had given her 2 months of birth control pills if she decided she wanted to try them and see how see does with them now (before college). I said, no, she did not tell me. She cannot tell me unless you tell her to. She said, oh I wondered because you had not said anything. My daughter told met this all on her own. She has a steady boyfriend (the one who had the car accident a few months ago) but I trust them and I know they are not to that place yet. But, she has the information and the intelligence to take care of herself when they get to that place. I actually worry a little more about my son than my daughter. Interesting, huh?

    Driving. Oooh boy. This has been harder for me than I thought it would be. Maybe it is because I don’t have money to buy a car for the kids. And my daughter goes to school downtown so she wouldn’t just want to drive to school. She does not really care about driving but my son. Yeah, he is a boy, and yes there is a difference. It is all he can think about. He has his learner permit and I let him drive often, but not enough and we have not done highway driving yet. What is the hurry? I don’t mean to shelter them, but kids and cars. Cell phones, distractions, that little fact that their brains aren’t fully developed yet. Ugh.

  149. Haven, I almost completely missed the quote at the top of this post. hahaha I normally keep my flame thrower safely packed away but some days I just have to drag it out, ya know?

  150. I wish to God I had the phrase: STOP FALSIFYING LIFE with me the time I had a conversation with my oldest son’s teacher who was concerned that he had dyed his hair blue and what that meant.

    At the time, all I could come up with was: “I am more concerned about what’s in his head than what’s on it and I wish you were, too.”

    From there the conversation meandered into all sorts of areas dealing generally with the concept of “Stop Falsifying Life. I couldn’t express my point of view in any way that the teacher could grasp.

    Finally, in frustration she said something I will never forget: “George, I teach only what I test and I test only what I teach.”

  151. I had to go check and yes…oh my I love that picture. Alice and Clyde! Alice is my grandma’s name, and my dear daughter, and Clyde is my dearly departed dwarf rabbit, so those names are quite sentimental to me.

  152. It takes a one such as Kate to have ‘grandma,’ ‘daughter,’ and ‘dearly departed dwarf rabbit’ in one sentence. And not just because of her brazen use of the letter D.

  153. The whole Falsification of Life is what made me hate school. But thankfully I went to a magnet school half a day during my last 2 years of high school, and I was away from the maddening principal who harassed me about holes in my jeans while ignoring the daisy dukes the cheerleaders wore. I discovered journalism, I was downtown everyday, and I was treated like a thinking individual. No one cared about my clothes. They just cared about me. Saved my life during quite possibly the worst time ever.

  154. George, I Teach Only What I Test And I Test Only What I Teach also sums the whole situation up in a matter of seconds.

  155. I do love the letter D. It’s my favorite one to write in cursive.

  156. Do you have the European Handwriting in Cursive keyboard, Kate? I stayed in a hotel in San Francisco once with house-computers using it and found the experience less than rewarding.

  157. No…I don’t…sounds like I don’t need it either!

  158. Just carry on as you are, Cupcake. That is all we ask.

  159. Yes, Captain.

  160. Nashville’s public school system fixed all its problems with uniforms. Oops. I mean, Standard School Attire. Dress all the kids alike and like magic no more problems.

    Yeah right. I guess you can all guess which side of the fence I was on in that battle. The battle we lost I am afraid to say.

    Before the Board of Education voted in the “SSA” I was proud to stand on a busy main steet corner during rush hour with my kids and a crowd of students and parents with sighs like “Books Not Looks” and “We Are Not All the Same- Don’t make us dress that way” —
    I was one of the parents interviewed on the news that night. So, for days after that people at work would say things to me like, “so, Linda, you are training your kids to be protesters?” To which I would respond, “Gosh, I sure hope so.”

  161. REPORTER: So, Linda. Are you training your kids to be protesters?

    LINDA: No, they were just born this way.

  162. KATE: Was that magnet school in Evansville?

  163. I’ve never lived anywhere else George, save a solitary semester at MTSU in Murfreesboro, TN!

    Yes, it was Signature School! Love that place. Hope it’s still going strong when the McKinney three or four are in school, provided we are still here. I’m beginning to doubt that.

  164. George,

    Following your afternoon with Haven, you remarked that you now have a completely different take on IODINE, or words to that effect. Could you explain?

  165. Kate, thank you for “I told my husband that our daughter(s) MUST be his princess. She must never feel that he is distancing himself from her, and she must always feel his unconditional love.”
    My daughter (almost 3) is in love with her father and wants me to just disappear most of the time. She wants her daddy to do everything…and has even said, “I don’t love you mommy; I love daddy.” He is a wonderful and attentive father, and I should be so happy that they have that close relationship. I need to be the adult and quit letting it hurt my feelings. “Be the adult”… YES!

  166. Linda, you are a Good Woman.

    One thing people fail to realize is that control breeds contempt, and rebellion. I used to leave my house dressed like a scarecrow with my hair dyed yet black and absolutely frightening makeup. My mom never blinked. So, that was obviously not how I was going to get her goat, and I gave up. No tattoos, or strange piercings on this one. I have never even dyed my hair any color stranger than Superman blue-black.

  167. Kimbits, do you have a son? Because one of them will be bound to fall in love with you. My three year old plans our wedding, and his mantra is “No more kisses for you and daddy. More kisses for you and me!”

  168. Kate, when were you at MTSU? I went there two semesters about halfway through my 27 year undergraduate experience.

  169. I am feeling over-sensitive to some topics today, so I preface my comments with that fact.

    I know no one here means to offend in any way at all, and as I do not yet have a child I have not taken your comments that way, but there has been much talk of pregnancy and how easily and naturally it has happened.

    I don’t know anyone for whom this is true. Everyone I love, and the authors of most of the blogs I read, have struggled to achieve, and maintain, pregnancy. I consider this community to be overlooked and unconsidered and I hope that we will be more aware in our daily lives that treating pregnancy lightly can cause great, great pain to others. (Kate, I know that you have observed this in life and in your comments and I appreciate it immensely.)

    For a truly well written and accurate source on what it means to struggle with infertility, miscarriage, and loss as well as hope, I highly recommend http://www.flotsamblog.com

  170. Linda, I was at MTSU in hmmm…1998? I can’t remember. I was the girl who always wore a big leopard coat and carried a Candy Land lunchbox. Oh, and red lipstick, of course.

  171. Hey Linda – How enterprising of you to seek out my website; thank you. Yes, the comic-book gig was a fun one while it lasted; almost indecently fun. Looks good on my résumé too, especially as a 52-year-old man in a youth-obsessed market. I just joined a band too, but probably that won’t give me as much youth cred since most of the guys are as old as I am.

    And yes, Haven’s circle of friends & acquaintances is choked with more cool people, respresenting more different strands and definitions of “cool”, than you can easily fit in your head. (That would include y’all.) She’s always saying things like “My friend Sasha the trapeze artist” or whatever, and you just learn to bite your tongue and not say WHOA, WOMAN, BACK UP every time. She’s, like, the Nexus Of Cool.

  172. AlmostClouds…it really isn’t fair, is it? I have known many, many people who have suffered in this way. Thankfully I also know many people who have been blessed to adopt through foster care or by foreign adoption. My own grandmother was adopted by her aunt, who was infertile, and I am so blessed by that.

  173. indeed, kate. few things have caused me to question the existence of God more than the loss of a child in a loving home where the child was badly, desperately wanted.

  174. i have to admit that i got pregnant with my son accidentally. now we are trying again and having a hard time.

  175. Robert, mine Otter, I dreamed of trapeze artists this morning!!

  176. A. Clouds, it can’t be said enough. Anyone who is childless by choice? God bless you, the world is crowded enough. Anyone who is childless by fate? Hardly bearable. But to lose a child — unfathomable.

  177. OH Kate, he sounds adorable. The day we found out we were having a girl (Brenna), I was thrilled, but a small part of me was sad that there would be no son. Bren will be our only child. I’m turning 40 in January and my husband is 42, and we both agree that we are done. Being a mom doesn’t seem to come naturally to me, but I am always trying to be better and have learned so much today.
    My father (who, btw, also called me Zippy when I was little) was always at a bar and my mom was always doing dishes. My older sister wanted nothing to do with me, and so tv and food were by comforts. Now, I don’t care if dishes are spilling out of the sink and there’s an inch of dust all over everything…if Bren wants my attention, I’m THERE. (let me just add that I am not home with her all day and therefore have limited time w/ her as it is).
    Thank you, Haven, for this blog.

  178. Oh, Amanda, it is a hard topic, but pregnancy is a mysterious and wonderous thing. I have several friends who have miscarried too at different stages and they have all taught me so much about that kind of loss. I am lucky. I had two fairly easy and uneventful pregnancies. But, my first, Emma, was “our pregnancy” and my second, my son, Sam, was “my pregnancy” We had to work at the first one but then we did everything together, their dad and I. But, my son is sort of my miracle baby because that was a one night deal. If it had not happened that night my daughter would no doubt be an only child. I am sure of that.

    One thing I have not mentioned that I really think is worth mentioning for couples who hope to have an infant in your life at some point. Remember to make your relationship a priority after the baby arrives in your home. I did not do that. Emma was the entire center of my universe. Bad bad bad. I was blinded by my utter and complete devotion to her to the detriment of so many other things. My marriage to her dad at the forefront. I am not saying we would still be together if we had date nights or vacations away, but if I had given him even half the attention I gave her things may have been different. He deserved that much from me. Of course, I was not the only person making mistakes, don’t get me wrong. We both did, big time. But, treasure your relationship with your partner above all.

  179. I’m so sorry almostclouds.

  180. almostclouds: I wish I could say something wise and poignant yet brief, but if I start typing on this subject, I may never stop. And none of it will be wise.

    All I can reasonably say right now is that I have been there and agree with what you’ve said.


  181. What a post! What a thread! all dense-packed with smarts and strategy and all coming from what children need, not what parents need.

    I’m childless by choice — though this may not always be the case — but am so fortunate to have relationships with so many kids (from birth to adulthood) of friends I’ve known for decades. And the common ground, with all these parents, is Big Respect. These amazingly vibrant, intelligent, considerate, empathetic, talented, hilarious kids have been this way from toddlerhood into adulthood. S. apologizes when she interrupts her daughter (13); a talented listener, she is rewarded with a wide-open relationship with a child so poised and funny and “self-actualized” (sorry, don’t know another way to put it) and beyond her years, it’s spooky. L. is the most fierce advocate alive for children’s rights at the most basic level: she requires that everyone who comes in contact with them treats them with respect. At 7 and 11 they came home from a friend’s house and said, mom! their parents hit them! — they were shocked and dismayed; they’d had their own boundaries firmly enforced with a mere look from their parents. L. says they like me better than any of their other seven aunts because I’ve always talked to them like they’re people, from the time they could talk. (I’m with Polly in not talking down to kids — either in style or substance: another friend never “dumbed-down” his vocabulary with his children, and was rewarded with a daughter who had such a huge vocabulary at 10, I never had to explain any words I used, and I never censored myself either.)

    I watch what listening — and staying out of their faces — does in terms of those children becoming so very much themselves that the narcissist thing never comes into play, moving gracefully through their lives — and it strikes me how rare that is, based on the evidence around me in the people I meet. People compelled to voice every single thought, who share the most intimate of details with strangers — usually women — and men who say nothing at all, ever. Something about being listened to makes one real, in some way. There are ghosts walking around us every day who only appear to inhabit their bodies.

    Coco: PERFECT advice for adults too. The world would be such a better (and oh how much simpler) place if we could 1) say what we want, and 2) accept the answer with grace. Katherine, you are wonderful. Linda: I really, really, love you.

    All praise to our lovely hostess, who always asks the right question at the right time.

  182. So, George. How’s about those Cubbies, huh?

  183. Amanda, I missed this: you were talking about yourself? I am so, so, sorry. My heart just goes out to you, and I wish there were something I could do.

  184. oh, carrie, not me. not yet anyway. 🙂 my past etc. make me fearful that it will be a problem for me, but i am only referring to EVERYONE i know and love who have attempted pregnancy.

  185. Lessons I learned / Things I was told

    Mowing the Lawn while crying is great therapy.

    Don’t pee in the yard

    ICE Fishing builds character

    Gun safety is important and you will learn it.

    Don’t hit your sister

    (either in or out Michael)but Go outside !

    Come when your called or before the street light comes on. (Terrifying)

    If I see you driving like that again I will take your keys (that was from mom Dad would be smirking)

  186. Jodi, I had a Cubbie in kindergarten, but I couldn’t read my own name so I always just threw my stuff on the floor.

  187. Michael T., you are always so great.

  188. I did misunderstand, Amanda — I am glad it isn’t you, though I do wish all of those stunningly talented parents without children could be gifted with them.

  189. almostclouds – I had chemo when I was a sophomore in college and was told that the regimen I needed would probably leave me sterile. My husband had an unfortunate bike accident and thought he may not be able to, ummm…provide what it took.

    Our daughter will be 3 next month.

  190. I loved being 8 and not having to be home till dark — and dark came LATE in the summers! (10pm or so)

  191. almost clouds,

    actually I don’t think anybody is being light about this subject, specifically last night some of us discussed the guilt we feel over getting so easily pregnant and 100 years ago neither me, nor my babies would have survived any of our gestations. although I can get pregnant easily, that doesn’t mean keeping them in there for 9 mos to cook was a breeze. I’ve watched a baby being pumped and worked on by 20 people in the room and waited an eternity for a cry . . . I’ve lost pregnancies . . . I don’t think it is fair to quantify one person’s sorrow over another’s. And the fact that we might also enjoy joking and having laugh does not make us heartless or insensitive.

  192. “I don’t think it is fair to quantify one person’s sorrow over another’s. And the fact that we might also enjoy joking and having laugh does not make us heartless or insensitive.”

    I am not sure how you took my comment to me anything of this sort, but I apologize if it sounded that way. I certainly did not intend to imply that anyone was being heartless!

  193. A postscript to my long post above: here’s what’s weird about the sharing of the most intimate of details: it brings you closer when it’s mutual. (How is it that a collection of virtual strangers feel like friends that “get” me?) It’s when it’s the woman in front of you at the supermarket starts talking about her terrible marriage that it’s a bit strange.

  194. The Colts really aren’t having a great year. Seems like they’re plagued by injuries, and some of the players are just getting older. Marvin Harrison can’t move the way he used to and he and Peyton aren’t in synch.

  195. I love you too, Carrie. xoxo

    I love you, too, Sher. And, Amanda. And all of you. Hugs all around.

  196. Jodi–where’s Suzanne when we need to advice on how to remove grass stains from silk?

  197. Jodi- the Titans are 9-0 😉

  198. And Sher? I am not at liberty to talk publicly about it but I will see that I am waiting this week to find out if a 3 month old that I love is going to be able to live to see his first birthday.

    Your comment deeply hurt me.

  199. And Sher? I am not at liberty to talk publicly about it but I will say that I am waiting this week to find out if a 3 month old that I love is going to be able to live to see his first birthday.

    Your comment deeply hurt me.

  200. Good Afternoon blog babies and one more thank you for all your kind thoughts while Dana has been in the hospital….he’s still there but more tubes came out today and he is very much better and to be home in a few days we hope….and this DOES segue into a comment about parenting…
    We tried and couldn’t have a baby and it was awful, involving cancer and high drama but we managed to have a guardian angel in the form of an elderly lawyer in a small Missouri town, who saw us grieving and arranged for us to adopt a beautiful baby girl…our one and only. Alexa is 27 now, and the love of our lives. She spent the entire day yesterday in the hospital with her father to give me a rest, and they were both happy chatting the whole day away. I found the most important thing to me in raising her was for myself to realize that my deficiencies as a parent (I am over controlling and a compulsive worrier) were offeset by Dana’s qualitites as a father…much more laid back and accepting. When she was a toddler he brought her home once from a fieldtrip with a huge scrape on her forehead because she had fallen down a bank while fossil hunting and while I was horrified he just said, ‘oh yeah, she fell down the bank’ like it was no big deal! They collected scorpions,spiders,lizards, hermit crabs, ants, beetles and every mammal available to children. They played hours of legos and ‘restaurant’ with him being the customer…I was the reading mom…we read tons of books together and watched all the disney classics.
    Also, one last thing and in this I agree with so many of you, Always, Always let them know you love them no matter what. I remember a few times when she yelled ‘I Hate You!” in teenaged rage at me and I would say, “I’m sorry, that’s too bad, because I LOVE you!” which usually worked. It’s a really hard job and I don’t know how anyone does it singly…two people at least are needed plus the whole extended family thing. The thing Alexa misses most is not having brothers or sisters and that has been our one regret.
    Oh, and getting ME to understand that she is hard-wired differently than me and to accept her as herself and not as someone just like myself (booklover, etc.) I wanted her to be…that lesson took me years to learn…I am so dense sometimes, it’s hard to realize that you have been your own worst impediment in raising a child…but it has worked out due to her amazing resilience…now I will have to go post her picture on the yahoo site.
    Y’all have such lovely families, too, I love looking at your pictures.
    P.S. I will be a WAY less controlling grandma…wanna go outside and make mudpies?

  201. Guys, I have an idea. Why don’t we all just extend each other an extra dose of grace, assume that everyone is as kind and thoughtful as we perceive ourselves to be and please, just bury those hurt feelings. It’s very difficult to communicate via written word. Few are skilled enough to never be misunderstood. We are missing nuances of tone here, facial expressions. The short time I have spent on this blog I know the people to be caring, and considerate. Sometimes it might feel like someone is stepping on your toes. I am sure this is 99% of the time accidental.

  202. Its cool Kate you must wear steel toe boots on the boards sometimes hehe

  203. Kate, I wasn’t going to comment on this particular blog post at ALL because I knew that I was feeling overly sensitive about what is going on personally, but I finally did and I probably shouldn’t have.

    Your advice is appreciated and attempted to be applied.

  204. Hugs to you. (I accidentally typed “hughs to you. No way, uh-uh!)

  205. JODIE:

    Regarding Iodine, Haven is, oh, what’s the word, CLEAR, that some things should be ambiguous. I’m cool with that. But I can clear a couple of things up. My read was wrong. My understanding of Iodine came from my assumption that the whole thing proceeded from Rita’s mind, and that she was the consummate unreliable narrator. WRONG! To Haven’s credit, when I posited this theory, she did not laugh out loud nor did she smite me with the nearest object, nor ask me to return my 1st Edition signed copy, and for that, she has my undying gratitude!

    You tell me she ain’t nothing but kind even when she is kicking butt!

    KATE: I went to the old Central High School in downtown Evansville. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I used to eat my lunch in the coin cafe in the courthouse, which was then a real courthouse. In the mornings, I would go to the Tennessean, drink coffee and smoke cigarettes in the back storeroom with Jim the owner, lawyers, a jeweler, and general riff-raff. When I skipped class, I would generally head over to Central Library or go down to the river. Obviously, we had an open campus policy. It was a great place to grow up.

    MICHAELT: Words, to live by, son.

    CLOUDS (and others): All too well, I know this kind of sorrow.

  206. CARRIE and COCO: Has anyone told you how darned smart you are today? Consider it said from me.

    BRENDA: Whew! So glad to hear how things are turning out.

  207. George…I used to eat lunch at the Flying Saucer Cafe, housed in the Tennessean building, which was run by I assume Jim’s granddaughter. It was a wonderful sort of West Coast style sandwich shop. She later had to move the restaurant when the building was razed for a parking lot or some other such nonsense. Later it closed. She and I dated the same guy, though not at the same time.

    I wouldn’t trade open campus for anything!

  208. Also, I was involved in a children’s theater troupe at the Courthouse, obviously after it ceased to be a courthouse. It has a spooky basement!

  209. KATE: One time I took a Tennessean hamburger patty off the bun and started reading the Courier newspaper through it. Jim was not amused. He said that if I did it again, I would lose my back room privileges. Ever so often, I get a real hankerin’ for Tennessean chile. I have a print of the Tennessean hanging in my office. Saw where the Courier just laid off 32 employees…well, there goes my secret ambition to take over the Good Morning column and make it 1. INTERESTING! 2. READABLE.

  210. George and Kate, I keep thinking you are talking about Nashville. Down on Broadway we have the Tennessean newspaper and about a block and a half away is the Flying Saucer restaurant http://www.beerknurd.com/stores/nashville

  211. Oh, me and Kate probably need to go off-blog for the Evansville, Ind. conversation. If I ever move back to Indiana, I will live there or very near by.

  212. The Flying Saucer Restaurant.
    sounds like a book title to me. I’d love to go there.

  213. GEORGE: Is that an Iodine spoiler up there or can I go back up and read? I closed my eyes and scrolled. heh

  214. Keep your eyes closed, Dee.

  215. o.k. 🙂 I started reading Iodine yesterday, but I have a paper due tomorrow and I just happen to be going through a slacker phase.

    I was just explaining to my teenager who drives, and who rides with other teens who drive something that happened near by early Monday morning. Three girls in their early 20’s were driving back from Grand Rapids on I-96 (a 70mph Highway) and the driver reached for a CD and the flipped the Chevy Blazer. The driver died along with the backseat passenger, the third girl is badly hurt. I said “my point is…” “My point is…” Wait, do you know what my point is?

    “Yes. Be careful, and make sure my friends are careful. And that Car is just like Chelsea’s Jimmy.”


    I’m so glad my kid knows what I’m thinking it saves me a whole bunch of trouble.

  216. I’m sorry to Haven and all the blog babies, but I have to say something. I’m not trying to be mean or a bitch. But like I wrote above, I believe in tough love and I have to give some right now.

    First of all, I do not understand amandaclouds at all. You seem oversensitive and critical, and not just today. I received three emails from you a few weeks back that were, well, shocking. I almost never returned to this blog because of them. And then today you do the thing you “told me” not to do.

    Then you tell Sher that her comments hurt you? I read over all the comments that you both left on this post as well as The Used World post and I see nothing hurtful or unkind.

    Perhaps you should not let the words that people write on Haven’s blog bother you. Simply, this is not YOUR blog. Nothing any of us have written should be considered an insult to you. I wrote that I could not have children. Something that is a huge deal to me, and bothers me the older I get. My god, I’ve gone to rocking my cat Beatrice like a newborn baby. But I didn’t see anything wrong with anyone talking about how easy it was for them to get pregnant, or how they had an unwanted pregnancy, suffered a miscarriage, etc.

    Amandaclouds, just breathe. No one is out to hurt you here. We are all in love with Haven, and I can see that many people on here are starting to fall for one another.

  217. i’m sorry. i’m sorry is all i can say. so, so sorry.

  218. What comes after

    “Thirty days hath September,
    April June and November …”?

    Does anybody remember the rest?

  219. April June Octember,
    Cabbages and kings,
    Sealing wax, buttons.
    My favorite things.

  220. Thank you.

  221. I live to serve, Yodi.

  222. Wanna hear offensive? Here’s something.

    I’m a mother because I was a pathetic alcoholic. I got drunk and had sex with someone, while blacked out, and I have no idea who it was. I couldn’t begine to point a finger at anyone. I can’t surprise Shelby one day with a ‘Mama Mia’ type thing by saying “this is your father, go find him and be happy.” She has to keep on telling her friends she has no father.

    I know that’s offensive and awful in the eyes of some people but guess what I DON’T CARE.

    I’m a great mother, and I have a healthy well-adjusted (more adjusted than I ever was) 17 yr old who makes me proud ankes me laugh every single day.

  223. Goodnight, you princes of Maine. You kings of New England.

  224. Dang! I’ve misplaced my recipe for Derby Pie. Do any of you have a recipe you could blog me?

  225. I quit making Derby Pie, Jodi. Could never get those derbys chopped up fine enough. Tickled my throat.

  226. Making Derby Pie is a ticklish feat, Jerri. Which reminds me how much I love that group from the 1970s, Ticklish Feat. Or was it Little Feat …?

  227. Big Ticklish Feet?

  228. Naw, he’s a rapper. I’m talkin’ rock and roll.

  229. POS…doesn’t matter how Shelby came to be. It just matters that she’s here. It sounds like she is a fabulous human being!

  230. Once a guy with a fantastic Georgia drawl sang and played me “Dixie Chicken.” I fell in love with him on the spot. I will always have a soft spot for dear departed Lowell George, for this reason.

  231. May I digress slightly? I went to see a singer/ songwriter name of Peter Mulvey last Friday at a house concert. (I put tickets on hold after 30 seconds of mp3s on his site petermulvey.com — I don’t have superlatives enough for his singing and playing and his songs,, I will just tell you all I was thinking of you all when he launched into “The Trouble With Poets,” which has a rapid fire recitation of a Shelley poem at the coda.) So here’s the question: has anyone else heard of this, or is it just a west coast thing? Where people with fabulous palatial houses with at least one room that seats 40 open them up to a musician and all the money goes to that musician? Where you bring your own wine and there may or may not be cheese?

  232. Particles of spirit, I love that line!
    I have just finished Zippy ( again) and I am dying to know-
    I even googled it and sadly could not find anything:~)

  233. Amanda, now my prayers have an image. I’m holding you and the little one in my thoughts tonight.

    Sending a hug and wishing you grace in everything you do this week. Be extra kind to yourself.

  234. Carrie, that concert sounds heavenly. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Here in California I’ve been to a handful of concerts held at a gorgeous winery in Napa. Very intimate, about 100 people and surrounded by nothing but stars and vinyards. The setting combined with the wine almost made Michael McDonald sound great. (Fans of MM, forgive me.)

  235. My step-grandma offered to burn me an illegal copy of Michael McDonald’s cd. I respectfully declined.

  236. Speaking of music, if you have not yet checked out my latest Texas crush, Wade Bowen, you should:
    because today I learned that he had a benefit that raised a bunch of $$ for postpartum depression research. His wife suffered from it following her first pregnancy and the second song on this jukebox is a song he wrote about that experience. It is called Turn on the Lights.

  237. POS: Sorry about not putting a spoiler alert up there. Hope I didn’t “spoil” anything for you.


    I just finished my re-read of Couch. The first time, I ripped through it. This time, it ripped through me! That’s all about I will say — can say — other than it captured every complicated nuance of being a child and being a parent. You could have stopped with this book alone, Haven, and had your masterpiece.

  238. Carrie- I never shared with you another Seattle area musician that I know and like:
    He is a friend of one of my favorite people on earth, our campus minister at Vandy. She brought Jonathan to a college retreat at the beautiful Montreat, North Carolina college conference two years ago and he is coming back again this year (Jan 2-5). I will be there again. I love the place. Anyway, Jonathan is a great musician and a wonderful human being. Maybe you can catch his show sometime.

  239. George, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

  240. Well, I mean it.

    and, thank YOU, dear, Haven.

    think I’ll now wander off and open up a can of blueberry pie filling and make myself a tasty toasted sandwich…wonder if it would work on the George Foreman grill!!! hahahahah!


    And Amy, a lemon phosphate can only be made in the past.

  242. Maybe so, but I would just like to know what one is. The entire time I read Zippy and Couch, I wondered to myself, “what the hell is a lemon phosphate?” I have never heard of one .. is it an Indiana thing that never reached New England, or am I just woefully sheltered..?

  243. Kittery, the Lemon Phosphate of the Gods was prepared by filling a waxed paper cup with ice, adding lemon syrup, and phosphated water.

    Twenty-six cents, please.

    The end.

  244. Ah, thank you. 🙂
    And, just as a clarification, I did get more out of your books than wondering about a treat at the drugstore.
    I thought Zippy and Couch were .. wonderful, and I devoured them in two days. They’re now sitting atop my bookcase, I don’t want to put them away yet ’cause I’m probably just going to pull them out again to reread them. And also? Your mother is a stunning woman. After reading about her, I went back to the CLEP website, picking out the ones that I want to try. So .. thank you for sharing your stories.

  245. Linda,
    The book about Asperger’s you mentioned is “Look Me In The Eye” by Augusten’s real-life brother – John Elder Robison . . . I enjoyed it – it isn’t the depth of Kimmel (who could be) but it was fun to see through his eyes and understand the persepective of this newly diagnosed syndrome . . . I have it in hardback and you are welcome to borrow it next time we visit.

    My favorite quote is from page 192:
    I marked this months ago . . .

    “people should not make statements unless they are prepared to respond to questions about the words they utter. But the world doesn’t always work that way.”

    Anyone near Nashville: this is a late invitation (as I was only asked to do this last week) but I will be exhibiting in our small town venue “Utopia”, opening Saturday night, Nov 15th with 2 other professional artists, we are hoping to get an art crawl going and 2 of the local art organizations are also showing work – – 6pm – 8 pm, Utopia, Spring Hill, TN – – then come by my house after the opening (about 5 minutes away . . .) Spring Hill is 30 minutes South of Nashville off of I-65.

  246. who knew??? – we can use hmtl coding in our comments to make them SING

    Hallejuh, hallejuh, hallllllayyyyjuuuuuh!

  247. How…how did you do that??

  248. Sher- email me more info about your show. I definitely want to come by.

  249. Late to this discussion…sorry, the story of my life-haha! I never had children for fear of turning into my own mother. I never wanted to put another human being thru that and although I could clearly see the mistakes that were made with us chillins, wasn’t confident that I could do it right myself. I love reading the comments here from all of the obviously wonderful parents.

  250. Jenny any dots like the T.S. Eliot poem? I love it!

  251. Yes…that is where I got it and thanks!

  252. John Elder Robinson is a great writer and has lived a facsinating life. He perfectly described what its like having and living with Aspbergers. (I have a few relatives w/it, so I appreciated someone sharing what their life was like … and it made me life easier.) The whole family has talent, have any of you visited John & Augusten’s mothers blog (Or was it just a website?) Facinating stuff!

    POS – I loved that you shocked us with your truth, bless you for your honesty and for being such a good mother. And I love that line from “Cider House Rules” … I just blogged about the Homer Wells character yesterday.

    Amanda – Its ok, its ok, its ok, I promise!

  253. I really went to bed after I left the CHR comment. It was like 8:30 or so. It was weird. It was wonderful. But I got up really early this morning.

    I don’t really like that it gets dark at 5:30 now.

  254. George, I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again since you brought it up – I thought Couch was sad, too. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE LOVE LOVE the book, and Momma Delonda is a HERO, but the tone of Couch was just so sad in my opinion. I think, too, because Zippy was so lighthearted. The contrast was delicous to me, though.

    And POS – you are amazing for your honesty! Thank you for sharing. The truth is we are all here for crazy, sad, horrible, and funny reasons – I love that you don’t beat yourself up for it.

    I don’t have kids for many reasons (much to Scott’s chagrin) but one of the reaons is that my mom was so awesome, I’m afraid I’d never do as good a job as she did.

  255. Linda — thanks so much for the Jonathan link. I’ll definitely catch one of his shows in the area in April.

  256. Couch made me weep. But it’s the nature of a coming of age story…with increased wisdom comes increased sadness. You see things more clearly.

  257. Steph and Kate:

    Couch made me weep, too, the stories were enough to do that, but Haven’s controlled, nuanced and almost perfect style in telling the stories was so precise was what nearly moved me to tears. I can’t presume to speak for her, but that precision derived from a deep love of her family and her upbringing. If this little book was a painting, you would have to look in the white space and the absences to truly understand it. This is what I think. Having said that, however, I am the one who totally misunderstood Iodine. Like I said, I raced through this book the first time — pretty much like I do with most memoir forms. The second time, I approached it like a novel and it became a totally different book. In the final analysis, I love all of Haven’s books. They are like my kin in that I love them for different reasons. But Couch is special and so is Something Rising.

  258. Oh George, what a beautiful way to put it: you DO have to look in the white spaces to understand Couch.

    I’ve been reading and rereading Zippy and Couch like texts as I work on big story right now. And that’s exactly what I’m studying: the power of what is not said. And how one story lays the groundwork for the next, which is part of that same magic.

  259. Jerri: What a task you’ve set for yourself…the power of what is not said. I think you are probably a heck of a darn good writer. I truly enjoy your posts. I will visit over at your blog and “read” you.

  260. The story as it exists on my blog (posts on Nov. 5 through Nov. 9) is kind of the rough draft of the big one. Most of the pieces are there, but so are things that don’t really belong. (I do tend to run off at the fingers, I’m afraid.)

    You can’t know how impressed I am that you put that Holocaust story together in about an hour. You’ve got mad skills, friend.

  261. George, you are absolutely right about Haven’s delivery. I had not realized it until you said it, but now that I think about it, you are right. I was so happy for Couch to come out because I finished Zippy wondering what happened next for everyone, but I read it knowing how it would end, and the impending dread made it a tough read for me. But I do love the book! What an amazing transformation for Delonda!

  262. SHE GOT OFF THE COUCH is a masterpiece. it’s brilliant, unique, breathtaking writing, it’s every bit as good as anything out there that’s highbrow. it kind of bothers me that it wasn’t marketed as a literary breakthrough. it tookmy breath away, and ithought Zippy was PHENOMENAL. but i wasn;t prepared for how powerful COUCH was. it needs to be a Modern Classic.

  263. Well, we are of one on that one, Suzanne. It is a classic…will be regarded as one, I’m sure.

  264. George, just read your story — it’s clear why you won an award for this one. Beautifully written, and what an ending…thank you.

  265. I think, Haven Kimmel, you are brilliant. I love your work, LOVE it. I wish I could write the way you do. I am presently reading “Treehouse” to my daughter. She is five. She is ageless, really. I am divorced. She has not seen her father since she was a year and a half old. Parenting, mothering, is not easy. Ha,ha – understatement of the . . . forever. I am an atypical mother. I am also soon to be the recipient of a B.S. in Psychology. It is never too late. Although, I would (and do) recommend to everyone who will listen – “get your education while you are still single,and childless.” I imagine it must be easier that way. It would have to be. I am not complaining. Besides loving your work, I also love being a student, being a mother, and of course I am in love with my atypical daughter. I try not to spoil her. But I do it anyway. Sometimes I am tough. Sometimes I am soft. I am always tired. I opted to take care of other children in my home, so I could spend time at home with my daughter during her early years. I don’t regret that decision. Having only one parent and having to share me with others, I am pretty sure she has not been “over parented.” I have a point here, somewhere. My point is, I think that as parents, we have to take a deep breath and pray, and then just love our kids and do the best we can with what we have. And we will make mistakes, and they will make mistakes, and we just have to keep on breathing and praying, and loving each other. We have to do what works for us and our children. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. Do your children need to sleep in their own bed? Is it okay if they sleep with you? Is it okay if you stay at home? Is it okay if you go to work? I don’t know. If it is right for your family (however big,or small) then it is right, period. It’s okay, if it is working. And if it’s not, change it. You can, your the grown up. You get that privilege. It comes with all of the responsibility, both of which by the way, belong to you. How do you know if it’s working? You don’t, for sure. But you may see signs. So look for them. I overheard my daughter saying to another child that it was good to eat vegetables, exercise, and read a lot, because this is what her mama (that would me) does and she (again me) is very strong and healthy. She also asked me the other day if there other mothers and children who were always late everywhere they go. I continue to breath, and pray, and love us both. I am glad that perfection is not required, neither one of are . . .

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