Thursday, May 21, 2015

10 Unfiltered Parenting Lessons I Had to Learn the Hard Way

Recently I have been partnering with Plum Organics for Parenting Unfiltered. Together with an awesome group of bloggers, we're talking about the crazy, messier parts of being a parent – which is pretty easy because that is what my blog is about. If you've been here for a while, you've stuck with me through unfortunate McDonald’s incidents, and epic fits, and stuck-in-traffic existential parenting self-evaluation.  None of it was pretty, but sometimes it was funny, and sometimes we got to grow together. And it was all unfiltered. It has never been my intention to make parenting look glamorous. It’s not. It is messy business. It is low to the ground. It is crawling around in the dirt. It is smelling a pair of tiny pants you found to see if they are clean or not.

Parenting is asking yourself ridiculous questions like “Is that chocolate or is that poop?” In the moment, there is no filter on parenting. There is only flying by the seat of your pants, doing your best, and trying desperately to not screw up. Luckily kids are pretty durable. I am pretty sure there is an evolutionary reason why we don’t remember being toddlers. Those first few years are like a parental buffer zone where we get to figure shit out. Here are ten things Stevie and I had to figure out... the hard way.

Duchess is a great teacher.
1. Not everything requires an emergency room visit

Our insurance company must hate us. We spent a lot of time either at the pediatrician or at the ER being told to treat a fever with Tylenol and that rashes are pretty normal for little kids. It is crazy how a screaming, crying, rash ridden kid can make you feel like an ambulance is needed one moment, and like you have completely overreacted the next. Full disclosure, we never actually called an ambulance for a rash, but we discussed it one time for a fever. We opted instead for our car, and ended up paying $150 dollar deductible for some orange juice and liquid Tylenol that I could have run and grabbed at Target for less than five bucks. Oops.

2. You have to clean inside the little fold on the top of kids’ ears. 

We bathe and wash our kids regularly. They smell ok, I guess, and they never visibly have a cloud of dirt and flies around them like that Peanuts character, Pig Pen. So, despite our frequent unnecessary trips to the ER, I figured we were at least winning in the clean kid department. That was until my daughter told Stevie and I that her ear hurt and we flipped up the fold on top to find a horror that I hesitate to describe with accurate adjectives. Fine, you wanted unfiltered. It was crusty. And gross. and we both felt horrible and embarrassed that we had missed it. It took a couple weeks of daily cleaning, some Neosporin, and lots of apologies, but we were able to revert her ears to normal. And now, with our second kid we know better. Sorry that you had to be our crusty eared guinea pig, Duchess.

3. Leaping out of your chair and running frantically to your child while acting as if they have impaled themselves on a rusty piece of rebar every time they trip and bump their head/knee/hand only makes your child act as if they have actually impaled themselves on a rusty piece of rebar every time that bump their head/knee/hand.

Seriously. Just sit back and give them a chance to react. They’ll let you know how hurt they are, you don’t have to tell them.

4. If you find yourself asking whether something is chocolate or poop, just go with poop. Really.

5. Both boy and girl babies tend to pee while getting their diapers changed. For girls, lay them on top of a towel or a waterproof matt. For boys, keep your mouth closed.

6. Toddlers wearing oversized backpacks are adorable, but they are also incredibly top heavy.

Our little Captain looked so cute and perfectly framed by the door to the front yard. The green grass and the blue sky was bright and crisp, and the world was his for the taking. It was a moment we had to capture. Little boy, big world. Stevie grabbed her camera and we watched as he fell face first off of our front two steps. Then we frantically ran to him and acted as if he had impaled himself on a piece of rebar.  Poor Captain. Poor Captain’s face. (It’s all better now, btw.)

7. If you give a toddler a banana, make sure you see them finish it. Don’t assume they just finished it and threw away the peel, because they may have decided that it needed to be saved in a toy treasure chest that they only play with every 3-4 months. 

8. Forcing your kid to eat a specific food will only make them hate that food forever

I should have known. As an adult I love Brussel Sprouts. As a child I was traumatized by them. I remember an hour long negotiation before I finally put one in my mouth, and I’m fairly sure the pain inflicted by the loss of that battle with my parents turned off my taste buds and also turned me off to the awesomeness that is Brussel Sprouts for the next three decades. It is sad, really.

So what did I do when we had Brussel Sprouts for the first time with Duchess? I nagged and cajoled and negotiated and demanded that she try a Brussel sprout before she could leave the table. Guess what Duchess hates more than anything now? It is a cycle of sadness, and it is all my fault. Oh well, more for me. MMmmmmm brussel sprouts!

Source: Wikipedia

9. What works today probably won’t work tomorrow

There was a point where we had bedtime dialed in. We had our routine. There were no tears. There was only teeth brushing, books, songs and joy. I even bragged about my system to my friends. Well, what the parenting gods giveth, the parenting gods also taketh away…eth. A switch flipped over night and the next evening bed times became World War 3. This didn’t just happen with bed time.

Our kid who ate everything became a picky eater. Our gentle, sweet two-year old became a face punchy three-year-old, and then went back to being a gentle, sweet four-year old. Every single time we thought we had something figured out and were finally getting a handle on this whole parenting thing, the ground underneath us shifted and we had to relearn it all over again. Which brings me to lesson number one...

10. You don’t learn how to be a parent by doing things right. You learn to parent by being less wrong. 

I read books. I read blogs. We got advice we liked. We got advice we hated. The only thing that really worked was getting to know our kids. And then getting to know them again. And then, when they changed, getting to know them again. Sure, there was some universal stuff, but when it came to connecting with our children in a way that made them OUR children, it came down to trial and error. It came from seeing how they reacted to our reactions to them. My solutions for kid problems are solutions for our kids. They are baptized in dirt and goop and unmentionable gunk. They are hand tailored and refined. And they are constantly changing. Just like our kids. Just like us.


Like this post? Be sure to come like the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page! We have lots of fun learning things the hard way over there too!

Like I mentioned up top, this post is sponsored by Plum Organics. They are an awesome company and I jumped at the chance to work with them. Be sure to check out their Parenting Unfiltered website and share your own unfiltered parenting moments with #ParentingUnfiltered. Also, this Friday and for the next few weeks I'll be participating in #UnfilteredFriday on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Come share your funny, silly, messy, sad, and beautifully chaotic moments with me and Plum Organics!


  1. My fridge is packed with sprouts now. I will take your advice and not attempt a negotiation with a mumbling toddler. :)

  2. Good call on the banana. We found a peel under the boys' bunk bed once

  3. Numbers 4 and 5 made me laugh.
    Nice one with number 10.

  4. We get old apple cores all your over the place...
    Regarding rule 9, I've also found some days that what works at 9:30 won't necessarily work at 9:31...

  5. I couldn't agree with these more. Also, I have been burned by the chocolate/poop confusion more times than i would like to admit. Seems like, even when they are fighting with each other, they can manage to team up against us parents. Haha