Where to Begin

I am not a sage, or even a person who gives advice by profession. In fact, there is nothing about me that would make you think that I would have any kind of expert advice to give: I don’t have a PhD at the end of my name; I got a C+ in Intro to Psychology in college; I only read one complete book on parenting—and that was after having my second child. I’m a lot of things, though. I am a kind person. I notice the people around me, like the woman struggling to put her groceries into the car without having it roll down the parking lot, or the man whose child really wants the latest new release at the video store, which I just returned—why not let him know that it’s in the pile of returned movies?

I am an intelligent person. I have a good job, one that forces me to use my brain, and challenges me to learn and do more each day. I have excelled because of this intelligence, along with a healthy dose of competitiveness and ambition. I also use this intelligence when I watch Dr. Phil or Supernanny—something that may sound contradictory—but, yes, I have found myself DVR’ing Dr. Phil, and I have been known to threaten my children with a call to Supernanny when they won’t listen to a word I am saying. One of the foundations of my parenting philosophy (if you can call it that), is something that Dr. Phil has repeatedly said on his show—we write on the slate that is our children, both with the good and the bad things that we say and do. When I first heard this, it actually made me evaluate the kind of parent I had been up until that point in my life. I have found myself hearing those words in my mind many times, and they have actually stopped me from potentially saying something out of anger or frustration that may have affected my children more than I would have imagined.

I am a lot of things, but most of all, I am not perfect. In fact, I’m sure that the list of things I need to work on is longer than my list of positive attributes. The first that comes to mind is my foul mouth. You won’t find me swearing at the office, and I would never drop the f-bomb in public, but at home it’s a completely different story. Unfortunately, I know that I am raising two children who will more than likely swear like truck-drivers when they are older—hopefully not until they are adults—and hopefully with some restraint. I thought about instituting a swearing jar, but I knew that it wouldn’t really stop me, and the kids may have actually liked the prospect of earning some easy cash. So, in the end, I swear but I try to limit it to the times when I am really, really frustrated.

The reason for this lead-in, or description of myself, or whatever you might call this rambling about myself, is to explain why I am recording my advice. A few years ago, my then eight-year-old daughter told me that she wished I could write down all the things I told her so that she wouldn’t forget them when she got older. In that moment, my daughter gave me such a sense of validation, something I hadn’t really experienced in that way. As parents, we don’t often receive confirmation from our children that we are doing a good job, or that we even know what we are talking about. Since that time, I’ve started to pay more attention to the things I tell her, often thinking to myself “Will she remember this when she is older?” So, this is for her, my words of advice to be read, thought about, laughed at, and maybe even used, when she is older.

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