Resisting The Summer Slide.

Me: Why do you want to bring your composition book camping this weekend?

6-year-old: So I can write down all of the things I observe, like the flowers and the birds …

Me: (silently listening)

6-year-old: I have to keep my brain operating at an advanced level, or the “summer slide” will happen. That’s when you forget everything you learned over the summer.

Me: (silently listening)

6-year-old: The only “slide” I want to experience is a slide at the playground.

That’s my boy … 6 going on middle age.



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You Can Sleep When You’re Dead: Lessons From My 6-Year-Old

Maverick just wants to have fun.

That’s simple, right? He’s a kid — of course that’s what he wants.

I feel dumb saying this, but I’m going to say it anyway simply because I can: I have spent the past 6.5 years feeling frustrated on and off,  because I couldn’t figure this kid out. He is an enigma. If you know me personally or have followed my blog for awhile, you know what I’m talking about.

I did all the right things, and they didn’t work. I read a lot of books. I got a lot of pitying looks and comments from people who parented “easy” children. It all made me feel like something was wrong with me, or maybe something was wrong with him, or, most likely, something was wrong with my husband. I can always figure out a way to make things his fault.

At best, my son is a delightful, charming, witty, beacon of joy with a very clear, loud voice. He generally shouts, which is why I categorize his tone into “talk-shouting” and “shout-shouting,” which is not the same as the “yellisper” that I tend to do when I’m really upset.

Today I yawned, and he noticed, because he notices everything, and he talk-shouted, “MOMMY, YOU CAN SLEEP WHEN YOU’RE DEAD.”



Older ladies giggled as they wheeled their carts past us. One woman looked at me and whispered as she reached for the Kleenex, I had three of them, too. They’re adorable.

Thank you, I said. Because really, what else is there to say? They are. And this lady was still alive, after raising her three to adulthood. There is hope for me.


I’ve written about Maverick countless times. The tantrums. The mood swings. My inability to cope. The list of my concerns was endless, just like the notes sent home by his preschool teacher. “I have a problem child,” I’ve said over and over to close friends and family. “He’s a wonderful boy … but he is so hard to parent.”

Other people’s children would follow directions without arguing. Other people’s children would happily dig holes in dirt. Meanwhile, I looked out the kitchen window to see him buckle his little brother into the Radio Flyer wagon and shove him down the driveway.

Maverick has big ideas. Maverick is an entertainer. Maverick loves to laugh.

A year or two ago, epic battles waged when I was home alone with two, and later, three children for very long, hard days. I would collapse on the couch after wrestling them into bed, feeling like an utter failure in a million different ways and wondering what the hell was wrong with my eldest child.

My husband assured me I was doing a great job. “You’ll see,” he’d say. “He’s just like I was at that age. He’ll be fine.” But in the back of my mind I always worried, not because my husband isn’t an amazing man, but because of what he went through to get there. Do mothers know when their children are psychopaths? Was my child a psychopath? Would I recognize it in him if it were so?

And then, because I’m in a newly-released book and there are a lot of random promotional-type requests for head shots and snippets or, in this particular case, childhood photos, I went to my parent’s house. My baby pictures, which were once encased in a thick, emerald green photo album — the old kind, with sticky pages — are now tucked safely in a photo box. My mom sat on the couch as I opened the cabinet and pulled out the container.

It was heavy with memories.

For the next hour, we sifted through the faded photographs. I was a happy child, grinning in almost every single picture. Looking at 6-year-old me made me feel like I was home. Do you know that feeling? It feels like this picture looks. Like fun and carefree silliness in the warm sun with no one around to see it. That was my childhood in a nutshell.

11137113_10155648088130508_2407219665916664432_nI was lost in thought when I heard my mom say something that caught my attention.

“You laughed all the time,” she said. “Just like Maverick.”

Just like Maverick.

Just like my son. My mysterious, challenging, emotionally-charged son. The one who is too smart for even our craftiest parenting tricks. The one who at age 3 asked us if Santa Claus was real, and knowing I could never lie to him, lest he never trust anyone ever again, I took a deep breath and matter-of-factly stated that Santa is not real.

Same with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and every other make-believe creature, which forced me to endure years of chastising from my husband for robbing our child of a magical childhood. I don’t know what to say, people. I’m not a liar, and Maverick is a challenge. I do the best I can.

I went home replaying what my mom said: I laughed all the time, just like Maverick.

Laughing gets me through a lot.


This week Maverick is on Spring Break, and I have spent my time really paying attention to his laughter. This worked out well for me, because in all seriousness the extra laughs saved me from having a major meltdown. I made a conscious effort to practice laughing with my child who loves to laugh. Instead of getting annoyed with his flair for drama, I made jokes about it and we both ended up giggling. No one was mad. There were no slammed doors. One afternoon we even chorused together in angst, “LIFE IS HARD!”

Because it is.

When he whined about what was for dinner, I assured him he would love it — it’s POOP CASSEROLE! His favorite! We shared knowing looks and a lot of inside jokes this week. My mom was right. Maverick loves to laugh … just like me.

If there is anything I understand, it’s humor.

And because of that, I finally understand my son.

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The Best Of Me.

Yesterday, during an entirely-too-long road trip to Florence, MS, when Taylor Swift came on the radio and I started belting out the lyrics to “Blank Space,” I realized two things.

1. That song is not about Starbucks.

2. My children know me better than anyone else.

I’m not a shy person, but I’m admittedly prim and proper. It’s not on purpose, it’s just how I was raised — Southern and conservative. Minus the monogramming, because my mom wasn’t into it. I grew up in a church that frowns upon dancing, which means that as a 30-something adult I look like a complete idiot in my Zumba classes. I still haven’t learned how to shake my upper body, but don’t you worry, I’ll keep plugging away at it.

The side of me that my kids see is the side that belts out “YOU KNOW I LOVE THE PLAYERS, AND YOU LOVE THE GAME!” Yeah, I’m off-key, but who cares?

This is the side that makes ridiculous noises, chases them wildly around the house, hops on one foot through the kitchen and slides in socks down the hallway. Their mother is a non-makeuped, disheveled woman in mismatched lounge wear who is always teetering on the edge of insanity, but in a fun way. Unless she’s mad … which is no fun for anyone, because then she is non-makeuped woman in mismatched lounge wear who is parking asses in time out.

I have always worried that my kids get the worst of me because I seem to bumble through life in perpetual exhaustion. Tiredness is the basic truth of motherhood, right after unconditional love. It sucks the wind and the life right out of me and turns me into an impatient, rough-looking “momster” who sighs a lot.

In my non-mom life, I don’t belt out songs in front of other people unless I’ve been drinking, and I don’t dance unless I’m in Zumba. This realization disappoints me, because the side of me that doesn’t give a rat’s ass — that’s the side of me that comes out in my writing — is my best, most interesting side. That girl is a good time, and even my husband rarely sees her.

So maybe the side of me that the kids see really is my best side, even when I have been in pajamas all day, carrying a mug of cold coffee and yelling “FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME, PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT YOUR PENIS!”

Maybe the truth is, they don’t always get the worst of me.

Maybe they get the best of me, too.


The Highs.

Someone I love sent me this piece from The New Yorker this morning. I got it after a nearly-two-hour experience in the pediatrician’s office, which ended with me trying to peel my middle child off their front door when it was time to go. What kind of kid wants to STAY at the doctor’s office?!

Oh, wait. I know.  A three-year-old. Because nothing with a three-year-old makes sense.

I’m reporting to you from the trenches. And I could go into a tirade about who snotted on my one pair of clean yoga pants today or why bath and bed time has me wanting to rock in a corner, clutching vodka … but I won’t. You already know that parenthood is hard; the highs are always followed by lows that we get through by telling ourselves “everything is a phase.”

But everything is.

Maverick got a little wound up in the days following Halloween. All that extra red dye # 40 did a number on him, apparently. After a particularly long and difficult day, I finally said that he was going to bed early. He got mad, I got mad, we both dug in. I ended up dragging him to his room after reminding him in the living room who was in charge.


I gave him time to calm down and then tried to talk it over, but he was so angry and he just kept yelling that I was a horrible mommy — a very bad mommy — and he wished I belonged to someone else. “I understand that you’re upset with me,” I said as I covered him up. “But I am glad I belong to YOU.”

He replied with an angry noise.

Sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re doing the right thing. I’m all the time wondering if I’m too hard on them or not hard enough. Am I respected? Am I a doormat? I’m a fairly self-assured person, but I find motherhood to be discombobulating.

The next morning, Maverick crept into our bed at 6:15. It was still dark out, and I was fumbling around for my glasses when I heard him say the following words. I hope I never forget them, because it was the sweetest apology that has ever come out of that boy’s mouth.

“Mommy? I’m so sorry I yelled at you last night. You’re a good mommy and I love you. I really love you. And you know what else? I really WAS tired, like you said. I konked right out after you left! Man, I was tired. I feel better now. You know what I was thinking? Maybe I could go make you some coffee. I know how much sugar to put in it, and Daddy showed me how to use the Keurig. I’ll be really careful.”

Speechless. I still tear up when I think about it.

I struggle. We all do. And sometimes, yes, it’s even barefoot in the snow like the essay from The New Yorker suggests. That would be a low point. But the highs … they are so, so sweet. Just like my coffee.


That’s A Tampon.

Maverick has asked us repeatedly what “these things” are, and we have answered repeatedly that it is none of his business.

Finally, I guess he wore Robbie down.

“They’re for her armpits,” I heard him tell our son.

“What?! She puts them in her ARMPITS? Why?”

And then … I found him like this.


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Suddenly, Maverick is six.


He rides his bike without training wheels. He stands at the end of the driveway alone and waits for the school bus while I watch through the kitchen window. He insists on wearing boxer briefs.

On his birthday, I offered him a special pin to wear to school. He insisted on putting it on himself and I was silly enough to argue, warning that he might get poked, but he wrested it from my grasp and pinned it directly in the center of his belly. “I’m SIX now,” he said. “I can do things myself.”

He can. And he does. Maverick has always been fiercely independent, and it’s hard to find that line between being available when he needs me and backing off when he doesn’t.

Being a mom is hard.

His room is scattered with Legos and he keeps the door shut at our request, so the baby won’t sneak in there and eat them. A few nights ago I found him sleeping on the floor, surrounded by tiny helicopters and fire trucks he built from his stash, and I tried to pick him up to put him back in bed. But I can’t anymore — he’s too heavy. I stood in the dark realizing, this is it. This is the end of the little years for Maverick, and the beginning of the bigger ones.

I try to embrace all the stages — some have been easier than others — but this boy has a way of making me SO mad, and laugh SO hard, I can’t imagine him belonging to anyone else. As much as I struggle at times to parent him, I know I was specifically chosen to be his mother.

The other morning before I pushed him out the door to meet the bus, I whispered a prayer in his ear. He looked straight at me and said “Thank you for doing that, Mommy. It makes me feel less nervous.”

And then, he was gone.