“8 rules for raising kids” or ” random stuff i’ve learned while being a parent”…yeah, i like that better

***i wrote this almost 6 years ago when my kids were 21, 19, 15, 12, and 10 1/2 (at the urging of a friend who thought i might have some insight to offer on the subject). some of the references to times and ages have (obviously) changed, but the theme remains the same. i’ve learned even more since then, but that’s for another day***

what are the rules for parenting? where is the “blueprint”? what is the “right” way? …honestly? i don’t know. i know we have done some “right” things, which only means they “worked” and we have done A LOT of “wrong” things, which means…well you get the point. worry over teething, eating and the color/consistency of poop quickly turns to worry over driving, drugs, and the opposite sex, seemingly overnight. since i have worried about all of these things at one point or another i hope i can share some of what we have learned and are still learning.

we had our 1st child when i was the age he is now (HA!). he likes to joke that we grew up together. there is probably more truth in that statement than humor. i knew i wanted to have kids. they are cute and sweet and cuddly. what could be so hard? well, for one thing, they grow up! when our oldest was a baby, i prided myself on what a GOOD baby he was! he slept through the night from the time we brought him home from the hospital. he ate good and gained weight and was healthy. he rarely cried. he was happy. i was a GREAT mother! fast forward 20 months: baby number 2 came. he never slept. when he ate, he threw up. he lost weight. he wasn’t healthy. he cried all the time (so much so that it became like background noise you couldn’t turn off). he was not happy. i was a TERRIBLE mother! lesson number 1: when you, as a parent, have done your part do not blame yourself when your child does NOT act the way you think they should. likewise, when you, as a parent have done your part do not credit yourself when your child DOES act the way you think they should.

i am one of those crazy moms who LOVES summer and hates when school starts back. i love having my kids home. i like hanging out with them. they like to laugh (especially the girls). they like playing games and watching movies and playing outside. sometimes they fight. sometimes they get mad at each other. sometimes *gasp* they even get mad at me!
i grew up believing that good kids don’t get mad at or talk back to their parents. it is wrong. it is disrespectful. it is not “allowed”. i was sure that our kids would never talk back to us. it is wrong. it is disrespectful. it would not be allowed. i remember talking back to my mom once. i didn’t like how it felt to be smacked in the mouth. i never talked back again. that didn’t mean i didn’t have things to say. everybody has feelings they need to express; everybody has hurts; everybody has ideas inside their soul waiting to be heard…as a parent, i now wonder what thoughts or ideas  i never shared because i was not allowed to talk back. reminds me of REM:

“When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone,
When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life, well hang on
Don’t let yourself go, ’cause everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong. Now it’s time to sing along
When your day is night alone, (hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go, (hold on)
When you think you’ve had too much of this life, well hang on

‘Cause everybody hurts. Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts. Don’t throw your hand. Oh, no. Don’t throw your hand
If you feel like you’re alone, no, no, no, you are not alone

If you’re on your own in this life, the days and nights are long,
When you think you’ve had too much of this life to hang on

Well, everybody hurts sometimes,
Everybody cries. And everybody hurts sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes. So, hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on
Everybody hurts. You are not alone.”

i want my kids to share with me when they disagree. this in turn leads to sharing their hurts, their ideas, their feelings. it’s called a relationship (NOT a dictatorship)… by the way, i tried the mouth smacking on my oldest when he was 12, it didn’t work so well. i also tried “making” him go to church when he was 13, it didn’t work so well. i am sure he can think of a lot of other examples of my parenting failures, but i think you get the point. one of our family’s favorite movies, “matilda”, has a scene in it where matilda’s dad says to her:

“I’m smart; you’re dumb. I’m big; you’re small. I’m right, you’re wrong. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”

lesson number 2: we are people. our children are people. just because we are bigger does not mean we are superior. if you try to demand respect you will lose the relationship (and they won’t respect you either).

i have vivid memories of each of my children wearing, doing, or saying weird/embarrassing stuff. one went through a phase of only wearing cowboy boots, even in the summer when it was 98 degrees out. another one only wanted to wear a tu-tu. still another a princess costume complete with plastic sequined  shoes. i’m talking dr.’s office, grocery store, church…they all went through phases of not showering or brushing their teeth (one actually told me, “i don’t brush my teeth on weekends, holidays, or in the summer). i had to give up my dream of my kids all clean and manicured wearing their matching kelly’s kids outfits. so what things matter and what things don’t?
lesson number 3: choose your battles…carefully, and don’t give a flying f… er flip about what other people think about your kids! when i stood back and really assessed myself and my motives, intentions, and heart i had to ask, “why do i care? why does it matter? what is more important,  my child’s feelings and sense of imagination and play or some persons opinion of my child and my parenting skills?” dr. suess said,  “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” (smart guy) i have learned that most (yes MOST) things don’t matter or at least they aren’t worth the fight. let them wear the boots, the tu-tu, the princess costume, or the hideous non-matching outfit. let HIM pierce his ears, have his hair long, wear skinny jeans. let HER cut her hair short, skip a shower, never wear a dress… once a year have dessert for dinner (this is my husbands thing and of course they LOVE it). concentrate on making memories, not rules. once you have gone through some of the “bigger” stuff you will realize how meaningless the little stuff really is.

i have heard both sides of the argument about being a friend to your child or being a parent. i tend to believe/hope you can be both. obviously there are responsibilities that come with being a parent: caring for this child you created. but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with them too. i don’t have some secret formula for achieving this, but it can be done. like any relationship it takes time and effort and attention. kids want to be heard and if you listen, they will talk. but if you are constantly in “parent mode” pointing out everything wrong that they do, all you will hear is crickets. on the other hand don’t try to be “oh so cool” just so they will like you. they really do want to be parented. it’s safe and comforting and allows them to be children. lesson number 3: listen to your child, you might be surprised what you can learn.

when we got married 22 years ago in august, we were living” la vida loca”. we were full of love, hormones, and ideas about babies…22 years, 5 babies, and lots of memories later, our kids have  grown up with a”chinet” spoon in their mouths.(i say “chinet” because those are the nice plastic spoons. we have never been poor, but not well off either.)  i don’t say that bitterly, i say it gratefully. they don’t get disappointed, they rarely ask for, and they never expect. sometimes this makes me sad, but mostly it makes me glad. lesson number 4: don’t set up expectations in your kids. if you constantly buy them the newest gadget, get them the coolest clothes, shoes, etc., let them make a purchase every time you visit the mall, target, or even the grocery store they will begin to “expect” it and it will then become a burden on you and a joyless adventure for them. also, unless you plan to continue funding their lifestyle into adulthood, you are only setting them up for disappointment.

one thing our family tries to do every year is go to the beach for a week in the summer. a few years ago we realized it just wasn’t gonna happen, we couldn’t afford it. it was one of those times i felt like once again we had blown it and couldn’t give our kids this one simple thing. (kinda like all the years we kept promising the boys we would go to disney “someday”…ask them if they have ever met the big mouse) well, we tried to talk it up big time, this “staycation” we were gonna have! i don’t remember everything we did, i know we went out to dinner, went to a movie, the pool, played lots of games together, but i do remember laughing a lot and spending lots of time together… we just booked our week at the beach recently and my youngest said, “when are we gonna do that stay at home thing again? that was fun!” well, mama needs a week at the beach, but maybe someday…lesson number 5: kids don’t need stuff they need you. spend time with your kids, it’s FREE!

teenagers are just kids trying to grow up and it’s our job to help them. they need our love and support more than anything. rather than think that “my child” will never do “a, b, c…” go ahead and prepare yourself by losing the expectations, talk to your kids about everything, make sure they know you are there for them no matter what, and then fasten your seat belt. lesson number 6: you cannot control the weather you can only prepare for it and if you expect nothing but  sunny days you may get drenched. (when the storm comes refer back to lesson number 1)

a few weeks ago my girls had a 1/2 day at school and i had a 1/2 day of work, so i decided to take them to lunch. i was short on patience after having a stressful morning. i  had a coupon for the restaurant we went to, but ended up not being able to find it in my purse. after standing in line figuring out our order i got irritated when 1 of them would not agree to share a regular portioned meal (the other 2 had decided on a kid’s meal). i made a smart comment and said, “fine, get whatever you want”. i immediately felt bad. (we rarely go out, she never orders anything big. is acting like this  worth the extra $2? all these thoughts are running through my mind). so we get up to order and i tell her i really want her to get what she wants, she says no, she is getting a kid’s meal. i insist and she declines. now i feel even worse. we sit down and i start apologizing, telling them all i am sorry and i am wrong and it isn’t their fault. i had a stressful morning and should not have taken it out on them. i turn to the one and say, i am really sorry, i wish you had gotten what you wanted. she said, i did. i changed my mind because i wanted the cookie that comes with the kid’s meal. LOL!!! lesson number 7: don’t be too proud to admit to your kids when you are wrong (they aren’t stupid, they already know you are wrong) and you won’t regret it. it always makes things better.

there are several things that  will always make my kids laugh (or roll their eyes, or both). just mention “the stock market” to my boys or stand across the room from their dad, hold up a paper and ask if he can read it. i will admit, i can think of way more examples involving my husband than me just because he is a better sport, but i take my share of ribbing too. lesson number 8: learn to laugh at yourself it makes life way more fun, especially for your kids.

lest you begin to think it’s all fun and no order, full of chaos and craziness at the peterson home, i do have my “things”. just ask my kids…here are a few: good food very important! i cook almost every night and that is what we eat, has always been that way. you don’t have to like it, but you have to try it. you don’t have to eat it, but i won’t be making you something else. name calling is not cool! i would rather hear you say “shit” than call your brother/sister “stupid” …this does not mean i want to hear you say shit. other people are important, other people deserve our love and respect and help. we are not better than anyone else (richer or poorer), we are equal. you CAN survive without cable, we did it for 21 years…until the devil we call time warner decided to “give” it to us 6 months ago…must. turn. it. off…don’t hate me my “disney loving” children if you come home one day and it’s gone! everybody needs to help around the house and no you aren’t getting paid for it. if you want to drive you have to pay for insurance and gas.

these are just some of the things i have learned in my 21 years of parenting. they aren’t hard and fast rules, they may not work for everyone and tomorrow they may cease to work for us. we are in a continual classroom of sorts called life and we all have to be open to new things, ideas, and ways of doing things. the day we think we have it all figured out is the day we close our minds and cease to be teachable…that would be a sad day. there are always new things to learn.

lost boy

to live with fairies and boys not found
and fly to another world

to never grow up, yet still be motherless
and fly to another world

to sprinkle pixie dust and think happy thoughts
to leave behind a broken world and live in peter’s lair
and fly to another world

to soar above the world below and know my journey clear
to feel hungry, yet be sated with a child-like imagination
to live in my thoughts and never wake up
and fly to another world

to believe in pirates and ships of gold that float through swirling clouds
to hear the tick tock in the belly of a crock and to dream of a land of never
and yet here i am; back to this land of ever


like a newborn babe
like the deserts dry core
we thirst

like a ship  off its course
like a sheep lost its way
we search

like lovers forlorn
like a fatherless child
we yearn

like a mother’s heart
like that bird in my soul
we hope

when we no longer thirst
when we search no more
when our yearning has ceased
when our soul loses hope
it is then life is gone;
death has come


the substance it seems, is all in the skin
not the thought in your head or the learning it brings

every day it is seen, what we value and choose
is a beauty of outward, cause “with looks you can’t lose”

we worship our bodies while our souls thirst and yearn,
for a rest and renewing from the grind and the burn

but never to slow or reflect or consider
will rob you of all that life can deliver

take care of your mind, of your spirit, your being
for joy comes in thinking, in loving, in seeing

to discover, to listen, to learn, to be taught
these things are rich, but cannot be bought

so value what’s real, what is lasting and true
for beauty will fade, but wisdom renew

equality, justice, fairness…

earlier today when i thought about blogging i decided against it. my reasoning was that whatever i had to say would just get lost; lost in the noise and the chaos of what today is. so much polarization among friends, family, neighbors, strangers…but then i thought back to the conversation we had last night. what started at dinner as a discussion about colleges and who of the 3 girls would be in college at the same time (phew!) and majors and double majors and even questions about triple majors (if there is such a thing) turned to church, religion, politics, humanity, morality and community. this is not something we do every night or even every week, but it was great! i often forget how different our children have grown up than my husband and i did. until times like last night. “absolute truths” and certainty were a major part of my childhood, and my life at 16 or 17 years old bore little resemblance to the life my children lead. so it’s not surprising that they are a lot more thoughtful about what they believe is true and right. my husband has this quote he likes, “it is a lot easier to rely on rules and absolute truths to define who you are and what you do/don’t do. it is much harder to get up every morning and decide what is right for that day, for you”. ( i am sure that i butchered that, but hopefully you get the idea). we talked about beliefs and where they come from. we talked about morality and what that looks like for different people. we talked about community and connection and cleansing. we talked about love and genuineness, kindness and equality…equality for all.

“equality for all” is really an oxymoron. the very definition of equality is, “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities”. so to say that we stand for equality implies that it is “for all”. we as a society, as a people, as americans talk a lot about equality. and liberty. and justice, for all.  but what does that look like?


equality and justice, though similar, are not the same thing. equality without justice is unfair; at least to one side, but maybe that is the problem. justice is defined as, “the maintenance or administration of what is just, especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims…”. fairness is pleasing all parties involved; offering a solution that is attractive to everyone.  shouldn’t we want justice for all? and shouldn’t that make things fair? if we as people are able to enjoy things equally (justice) why do some feel this is unfair?

i remember when my kids were younger it seemed that i was always hearing, “that’s not fair!”. and so many times what i realized that they meant was this: he/she should not be given the same as me, because i deserve it and they do not! i tried, as a mom, to make things as fair as possible, but as is our nature as humans (especially the tiny humans) instead of focusing on the fact that we have what we need or want, we focus on others who have been given the same; and we feel that they (unlike we) do not deserve it! i cannot count the times i said (say), “why do you care if they have the same thing? what they have, should have no affect on you.” and many times i had to say, “you’re right, it isn’t fair, but it’s still the right (just) thing to do.”

so it seems that we could look at that definition of fairness and say, “well, this must not be fair because although “my neighbor” was given the same thing that i was given, i am not pleased by that and therefore it isn’t fair!” true, but it is just.

this concept of equality and justice and fairness is why i voted the way i did. it is not because i believe that one candidate or party is perfect, or will make all things right, or is some kind of “savior”. it is because i made an informed decision to choose who i believe will not only strive for equality, but justice and fairness for all. and i am beginning to realize that the last one may be the hardest to come by. perhaps we all need to stop acting like the “tiny humans” and grow up! there are so many things in our country that are not just, but when things are changed and the equality we strive for also includes justice, then hopefully we as a society can begin to accept that our neighbor having the same rights as we do is not only right, but it is fair in the sense that we are all pleased.




round and round we go

i see it spinning
the colors so bright
your eyes light up
hands clap with delight

i see you spinning
you never grow tired
you smooth down the tulle
you lift your hands higher

i see it spinning
your hands wrap the pole
i smile and i wave
as you ride on your foal

i see you spinning
a tale long and tall
your eyes avert mine
as you stare at the wall

i see it spinning
the wheels on the drive
seems like only yesterday
you were just five

i see you spinning
dropping clothes on the floor
a peck on my cheek
as you rush out the door

i see it spinning
each day through my mind
my life up to this point
i cannot rewind

i see you spinning
you feel so far away
but all of that work
was to get to today

i see it spinning
like the hands on the clock
time waits for no one
tick-tock, tick-tock

i see you spinning
your colors so bright
my eyes light up
my child, my delight


the stars above shine on all below, yet darkness encompasses many
all around us oceans are full, and those that thirst have none
the earth grows an abundance, but hunger gnaws at their belly
the sun wraps us in her warmth, as they shiver with cold

we wipe dust from our trinkets that sit on a shelf
they wipe dust from their feet naked and worn

our plates are full, our glasses clink
they beg for a crumb and a sip

our wallets are heavy our houses are full
they stand on their corner; pride dead and gone

we swim and we laugh on the shore that divides
as their bodies lay lifeless far from our sight

we claim to belong and think we are blessed
chosen and special, the fortunate few
yet our backs we have turned as we hoard our shares
and he stands at the edge begging for mercy

the amused life

like a carousel spinning around and around
never stopping just gliding up and down
i want to get off, i want this to end
but he waves to keep going and nods with a grin

faster and faster like a mouse in a maze
the very same motion day after day
i look at the others positioned in line
and try to compare those in front and behind

we all came for the same thing, we all paid our fare
to be on this ride and to grab our “fair share”
there’s nowhere to go, the rules will not bend
so on this wooden horse my days i will spend


the armour i wear to protect my heart
a hardened shell against the harshness of life
it keeps things out, but also things in
i feel i will suffocate inside my own skin

i want to speak, to yell, to shriek
to let you know that i am weak
a child’s heart inside of me, broken and bruised
tossed like a rag doll, feeling abused

but fear is a giant not easily slain
a few smooth stones won’t ease this pain
hidden deep where no one can see
are all of the things that make me, me

the aching, the worry, anxiety, distress
pride and anger and all of my mess
it’s ugly, it’s raw, it’s scary and harsh
grown over with weeds like a dark muddy marsh

an imposter it seems with a smile painted on
but the torment is real when left all alone
comfort and happiness seem to elude
like noises competing, always a feud

each sunrise that comes and brings a new day
is a chance to start over and find a new way
continually searching, not finding the cure
makes it easy to let blind enticement allure

“take this, buy that and you will be well”
instead as time ebbs i continue to fail
to give up seems the option, the only thing left
but the pain is mine, i must bear the heft

the focus it seems not outward, but in
is the only way for tranquility to win
a treaty is needed as the sides wage a war
the hope and the longing rise up from my core

the doubt and the damage take up their arms
they have their ways and all of their charms
the fight that is raging each day and each night
is not easy to ignore, though try as i might

as long as i live this battle will rage
it will fight to keep me inside of this cage
people around, but lonely i feel
it’s not just in my head, i know it is real


i wrote this post 7 years ago. with the election less than a week away, i thought we could all use a little…”perspective”

august 21, 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we look at things and judge. It’s easy when you’re on the outside of a situation to say what you would do or what should be done. But what happens when you’re the one in the middle of it? Do things change? The situation is the same, but how you relate to it takes on a whole new meaning. For whatever reasons, religious, moral, political, familial…we form beliefs and opinions about things then hold them to be truths. One thing that got me thinking about this was watching my grandmother dying. it took me back. 21 years. i watched my mom when she was dying as well. it gave me a new understanding for people who help someone who is terminally ill die. I can’t think of very many things worse than watching someone suffer and not being able to help relieve their pain. Yet most people have a “belief” about this. One that was formed based on the reasons I mentioned earlier.
There is a great debate over healthcare reform, but where do we find the answer? My opinion about it is based on personal experience as is most people’s. So where is the truth? The Bible? I’ve heard scripture quoted on both sides and as with most situations, we hear what we want to hear.
When all of my kids were little, I used to think I knew what I would do in certain situations when they got older. I looked at people who had teenagers and made judgements about them. I was so sure MY kids would never… Then I had teenagers and all of that flew right out the window. There is nothing like being in the middle of it to change your perspective. So why is it that we can’t see things from other people’s viewpoint?
Maybe the answer lies in caring for people rather than truth. Maybe it’s about loving your neighbor as yourself rather than protecting yourself. Maybe if we all stopped judging long enough to look around us and reach out to help those in need rather than insulating ourselves from the world then our differences wouldn’t matter so much. Even our differences in opinion…


footnote:  i cannot and will not claim to understand how people can vote any other way than i did, however i do believe that in any given situation if we were put in the other person’s place i.e., we were born, raised, and lived the life they did, we would make the same decisions. it doesn’t mean that we have to agree, in fact we probably won’t, but it does mean we should try to have respect and look at the bigger picture. the bigger picture being feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, fighting for equal rights for all, making sure everyone has affordable healthcare…the list goes on. it is my perspective that these are the things that matter, these are the things we should fight for. these are the things i will continue to support…and it doesn’t matter who the POTUS is, that will never change.