This picture cost me $20.

I don’t post many pictures of my kids on social media.

It isn’t because I don’t want others to know what my kids look like or I’m trying to protect their digital footprint.

I am in a unique position when it comes to social media – I have public accounts. Anyone can look at my Facebook page, Instagram page or Twitter page. We don’t necessarily have to be “friends.” I made those public because it’s a platform to showcase my work. I’m a writer.

And to be honest, an Instagram account with pictures of my kids would be boring to everyone but me. It’s the same concept as handing someone my kid’s scrapbook – anyone can look at it and enjoy it but I am the most proud of it. Social media only shows the good memories. Happy moments. Sometimes people forget that and families appear to be perfect.

I’m not perfect.

My family is not perfect. Happy – yes, most of the time, we are. Do I patiently wait for my family to run out of clean clothes before they realize I’m retired from picking up their clothes off the floor? Why yes, I do, because I’m a mean mom and evil wife.

I don’t post many pictures of my kids because I ask my kids’ permission to post pictures. Emma is eleven and Kate is eight. They both realize people they’ve never met will see the pictures. For the most part, Emma always gives me permission and Kate never does. I also never ask Kate because she rarely smiles for posed pictures. Her reason is because she “doesn’t like fake smiling” and no one needs to be in her damn business. Ok, she didn’t say damn but I know she’s thinking it.

I asked Kate to take a selfie with me at a neighborhood party this weekend.

She agreed.

I was shocked.

We took the photo.

Kate: That will be $20.

Me: What?

Kate: You heard me. I know you sold one of your books and you have a twenty dollar bill in your pocket.

Me: I’m not giving you twenty dollars to smile for a picture.

Kate: What if I let you put this picture on Instagram or Facebook?

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This picture cost me $20.

___________

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And don’t forget to buy my book, “But Did You Die?” 

Kate will take your money.

The letter P.

You guys, I fell asleep writing this last night.

I kinda want to leave it how it is because it slowly doesn’t make any sense which is exactly how life goes. I won’t do that to you. I’m re-writing P. And now I have Q to write today too and this is the point where I regret starting this A to Z writing challenge.

I struggled with P yesterday.

P is inappropriate – penis, poop, period, puberty, pimples.

P is boring. Pregnant. Oh, hell no. Pinterest. Meh. Purple. I don’t know. Pancakes! I suck at turning pancakes. There. That’s all I have on pancakes.

I decided to go with the mother of all Ps.

The letter P.

Parenting.

Parenting is a broad subject. I mean, what are we talking about here? Helicopter parenting? Newborn parenting? Teenager parenting? Biological vs. adopted parenting? Mothers vs. fathers? Step parenting? 

I’m not an expert. I’m not an expert at anything really. Even writing – am I an expert? “NO!” shouts every English teacher. I’m definitely not an expert on kids. I have two. I only know my own experience.

Unsolicited parenting advice on the school-age years? Maybe it’s more of a heads-up.

That’s the letter P for you.

  • If you have a daughter, you will need a bonnet. No, not for cutesy pictures when she’s an infant but for school dress-up projects. I don’t know why no one ever told me this – there are times in your kid’s school life that they will need to dress up like a pilgrim, the wax museum project, or a Civil War era woman. There’s always a bonnet and long skirt involved. Start looking now. And get your son a top hat.
  • It’s totally cool that your 2nd grader doesn’t know how to tie shoe laces. I still need to teach Kate. No one from the school has said anything to me about her velcro shoes. We’re cool.
  • Opposite sex parents are heavily favored. If you lost the lottery in passing your sex gene along, the school helps make it all ok. The father-daughter dance. The mother-son Kansas City Royals game. What about the mother-daughter? I’m special too, damnit. Oh! No, I don’t want to volunteer to plan an event.
  • Summer camps are worth every penny. Sure, it’s hard to shell out $400 for a 4-day, half-day camp for two kids but it will feel like a two-week vacation. Start saving money now. These things should have been paid for in February of 2014. The kid’s summer camp is a breath of fresh air in the middle of summer. A glorious Monday through Thursday in half day solitude. Bonus! Your kids will be exhausted.
  • You’ll ugly cry on the first day of Kindergarten. You’re a newbie parent. Us older parents – we get it – it’s a sad day. I give it one year and you, too, will be toasting your kid off to first grade with a coffee in hand, a skip hop back to your car, and the biggest smile on your face that will rival your wedding day.
  • After-school activities might just kill you. Financially and emotionally. Dinners are quick. Weekends are gone. It’s fine. We’re all fine. We totally have a life. I heard some great advice from my ear doctor – what? – cherish the time in the car. It’s really the only time you have trapped in an enclosed space with your school-aged kid. Use it to talk to them and tell them, “in my day, I didn’t have iPods to play with in the car so talk to me.”
  • Don’t you worry. If you have daughters, they will talk to you. And talk. And talk. And talk. WAKE UP! She’s talking again. I don’t have sons so I don’t know if they talk as much but the rumors are they don’t. I could be wrong, maybe it’s school-aged kids in general. My kids won’t shut up. I’m rambling. I’ll stop.
  • Long division will appear in your life again. It’s complete bullshit.
  • Foreign languages start earlier. This may vary from state to state or even district to district. My kids speak Spanish. They started learning Spanish from a girl named Dora in preschool and they never stopped. They know everything I learned in middle school. Middle school teachers no hablan ingles. By high school, my kids will be fluent in yelling at me in Spanish cuss words and I’ll be giving them the blinking Dora stare.
  • By the way, it’s called middle school. If you dare drop the words “junior high” your kids will scream at you. “No one says that anymore, mom! Stop it. That’s embarrassing.”
  • Practice equality with the kids. Your kids will remember. Kids won’t have any memories from before ages 4 or 5. Only you will remember your baby’s first step or your toddler using a plunger to plunge the potty training toilet. The school-aged years are fun because not only do you remember what happened but so do your kids. If you eat lunch at school with daughter number one, daughter number two will find out by recess. She won’t confront you that day. Oh no. She’ll file that shit in her brain. She’ll confront you months later and will threaten to tell her teacher that her mom plays favorites if you don’t eat lunch with her too.
  • Practice creativity because the parent projects are heading your way. Oh, yes. You will have homework such as printing off pictures of the family at midnight or interviewing Google headquarters. The parent at-home projects are 50% of your kid’s grade. The other 50% is to show off your parent skills in the hallway. I saw that on Pinterest, nice try. 
  • Remember that lice is not a medical threat. Lice isn’t a medical threat but it will make you want to set your house on fire because an arson charge is easier to deal with. Stop scratching your head. You’re fine.
  • Get a calendar. The school calendar will become a full time job. You won’t be able to memorize anything; it’s overwhelming. You will spend at least an hour of your life per week filling in spaces. If you let go of the calendar, your crazy mom will show because your life and your kids’ lives will collapse.
  • Dress your kids in something you would wear. My point here is that you will naturally want to make your kids’ lives better than your life at that age. I will never forget the day my junior high math teacher pointed out to the class that I was wearing roman numerals all over my shirt and she was so proud. The class busted out laughing and I’m just going to die right here in that memory.
  • Get a backbone. The insults are coming. You will be called the worst mother ever by your daughter and your daughter doesn’t even know why.
  • “Hi, this is the school nurse calling…” This is how your day gets ruined. Plus a doctor’s bill.
  • You’re always exhausted. Unlike new parents, you sleep through the night undisturbed. Doesn’t matter. You will fall asleep in bed while working on your favorite hobby. Parenting – it’s like magic.

___________

Wait, don’t go! Find me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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The letter K.

She came into the world with a middle finger up.

The wild child. She never did take a bottle. Her toddler nickname was “the bulldog.” She wouldn’t let me feed her baby food; she had to feed herself. She refuses to “fake” smile for pictures. The kid doesn’t take shit from anyone. Scott and I can tell which daughter is walking into our room at night based off the heavy footsteps of confidence. I’m scared shitless for her teenage years.

There’s only one.

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The letter K.

Kate.

Coming from a family of four kids, I knew what I was getting into with two kids. You need balance. Equality. Treat all kids the same or you will pay. I hope Kate never realizes we took Emma to Disney World for her 5th birthday and all Kate got a Kansas City theme park.

I wrote a blog post for the letter E – Emma.

I asked Kate if I could interview her for the letter K on my blog.

She told me to go straight to hell. I’m kidding. But she did tell me no one needs to know her business which is the 7-year-old equivalent of telling me to go straight to hell.

That’s fine. I expected this answer so I told her she could interview me. She agreed.

An Interview with Julie Burton by Kate Burton

Kate: What makes you cry?

Me: Geez, Kate. Well, when someone in my family is hurt or sick. I don’t like that.

Kate: That’s boring. Think of something else like the time Stella bit your earring off your ear.

Me: Yes, physical pain can make me cry too.

Kate: What is your favorite thing about yourself?

Me: Being your mom.

Kate: Correct. Next question. If you were two animals mixed, which two would you be?

Me: A fish and a human. I’d be a mermaid chasing a blue marlin.

Kate: Mom. Stop it. You can’t pick a human. Ok, new question – what is love?

Me: What is love? What kind of question is this? This is kinda abstract. Ok, let me try to put this in words. It’s a feeling. No. It’s, like, a strong desire to protect someone and you would do anything for. You love the soul.

Kate: You’re not answering the question right.

Me: Ugh! KATE.

Kate: If you could change anything on your body, what would it be?

Me: My honest answer? I’ve always wished I had smaller boobs.

Kate: Oh yeah. You got those big ‘ole boobies hangin’.

Me: Stop it.

Kate: If you owned a country, what would it be called?

Me: Uh, I’ve never really thought about…

Kate: NEXT! If you had a million dollars to spend, what would you buy?

Me: I’m not sure how big of a house it would buy – but I would love to own a vacation home in the Florida Keys. Right on the water. I would spend any money I had left on a boat. I’d be there all the time. Writing and fishing.

Kate: Correct. Work on that cuz I’m comin’ with ya. What is the best joke you’ve told?

Me: Oh. Ok, let me think…

Kate: Mom, you have bad jokes. You can skip this one.

Me: Wait, I tell bad jokes?

Kate: Mom. You’re not funny. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Me: I would love to fly. Travel to places like a bird.

Kate: Uh, no. You should have said snap your fingers and the house be clean.

Me: I thought you were interviewing me. You’re not supposed to change my answers!

Kate: Name some of your best friends. I’ll start for you – Christine.

Me: Ha! Yes, Christine. Cody.

Kate: Correct.

Me: KATE! This isn’t a right or wrong question!

Kate: Uh, yeah it is. It’s my interview.

___________

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I judged a mom today.

I judged a mom today.

I did. I judged another mother.

Treat others how you want to be treated.

Don’t judge a person before you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

Yeah, I know. I still did it. My jaw dropped. She probably heard my teeth slam together in an effort not to show my judgement. I didn’t confront her. I didn’t say a word. She wasn’t harming her daughter in any way I could see – other than her tween daughter will hate her in a few years and leave as soon as she’s 18.

I’m judging again. I’ll stop.

I took Emma to the orthodontist.

Some parents sit in the receptionists’ waiting area and some sit in the extra chair provided near the dental chair. I like to sit with Emma and discuss where we should play hooky before taking her back to school.

The row of dental chairs are separated by a free-standing, frosted glass window. There is no privacy. The orthodontist made her rounds. She examined the patient next to Emma.

Orthodontist: Oh! Look how nicely these are coming along.

Mom: Uh, huh. Can we take them off now?

Orthodontist: Oh, she still needs more time. We still need to fix her bite and then we’ll fine tune.

Mom: Can you take them off, please?

Orthodontist: We never hold anyone hostage with braces. But I am not recommending this. Her treatment is not complete.

Mom: Yes, I know. I would like my daughter to have an imperfect smile. You know? I don’t want her to have perfectly straight teeth. It shows character if her teeth are not perfect.

I looked at Emma. My mouth dropped. I tipped back in my chair to get a better look at the mom and daughter.

Emma: (whispers) Mom, stop!

Me: I want to see them.

Emma: How old is the girl?

Me: Your age? Maybe a little younger?

The daughter stared at her hands in her lap while her mom argued with the orthodontist.

Mom: I never wanted her teeth to be straight. I just want them almost straight.

Orthodontist: We can take them off today if this is what you and your daughter wish. Please understand that the price doesn’t change, whether you paid in full or are making payments.

Mom: Yes, I know. Please remove them.

If I thought this was best for my daughter and this was something my daughter wanted, by all means, judge me. Walk in my shoes. Write about me on your blog.

I have the feeling this wasn’t the daughter’s wish.

How long does a parent have control over how their child looks? Even if the daughter wanted straight teeth, she probably wasn’t paying for the braces herself. Braces are a luxury, in most cases. I’m not sure the daughter ever had a say at all.

A parent can somewhat control how a child looks when they’re young. A baby is a little doll you can dress up even if the doll keeps you up all night, shoots yellow poop up the back of the cute outfit you bought from Target, and rips out every hair bow you place on her head. And Emma still won’t let me style her gorgeous curls.

When does a parent cross the line? Deciding where bones should be – teeth are bones, right? Straight but not too straight teeth? 

I’m not the greatest mom. I yell at my kids in public. I’m sure I’ve put them in danger by road-raging my way to the grocery store. I rarely watch any gymnastics practice. I’m cool with making chocolate chip cookies for dinner when Scott is out of town. I show my daughter it’s ok to eavesdrop and judge others. I don’t want to have more kids because, well, I’m just done. 

Emma: Mom?

Me: Yeah, Em.

Emma: Thanks for letting me keep my braces on. I’m glad you’re not like that other mom. You’re the best.

I judged a mom today because sometimes you need a shot of adrenaline in the arm to let you know you’re doing ok.

___________

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No, thank you.

I thought I was in the clear for a few years.

Scott and I are deep into the school-age years of parenting.

It’s the years some might call the “honeymoon of parenting.” These are the years when the kids are independent enough to make their own dinner or take a shower yet aren’t old enough to roll their eyes and take off in their car.

Hm, honeymoon.

“A honeymoon is the traditional holiday taken by newlyweds to celebrate their marriage in intimacy and seclusion.”

This ain’t no honeymoon. 

This is re-living your childhood. I don’t have any memory of being an infant or toddler. I barely remember kindergarten or even life-changing events like my siblings being born. The pieces I do remember from my early childhood probably stem more from looking at pictures than the memory itself.

I couldn’t pull on my own life events to help guide me as I raised my babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Scott didn’t help either. Like every parent, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. Once Emma learned how to talk, the first thing we did was film her saying “tequila shots!”

Our daughters are in 5th grade and 2nd grade.

Without calling my kids out and embarrassing them with the details – they each tried out for two separate things they’re passionate for. They both didn’t get it and other kids did. They both got the “sorry, you’re not good enough” slip handed to them on their way out. To make it worse, they happened to receive this news on the same day.

They both came home in tears. That’s an understatement. Let me try again.

They both came home with their heart ripped out, humiliated for even thinking they were good enough, they swore every kid pointed and laughed at them, and they vowed to never pursue anything that required a try-out. I know the feeling. Whether it comes from a teacher or a peer, someone telling you you’re not good enough feels like a slap in the face.

And then the girls pulled out math homework and the world came crashing down again. We had a rough night.

The real world caught up to the two babies we have no idea how to raise. The world where everyone makes the team ended last night. Emma and Kate learned that there are kids out there better than they are. They learned about rejection.

“No, thank you” is hard to hear, even as an adult.

I told the girls they are braver than I was at their age. As a child, I didn’t even try-out for anything. If it involved a stage or drawing attention to me, I didn’t want to do it. My rejections came more from friendships. Scott’s rejections were always sports-related. Even now, I told the girls every book they read in school has a pile of authors that received rejection letters. Rejection comes with the writing territory. I expect the answer is no and often it is. But that doesn’t stop me from trying again because I have to be good if I heard one yes.

I realized the only way I handle rejection is through maturity, something both girls don’t have yet.

The girls are still hurt.

I guess the point of this post is parenting is hard. You trade sleepless nights for toddler tantrums. You trade toddler tantrums for your preschooler yelling, “tequila shots!” to the class. You trade “tequila shots” outbursts for facing rejection.

But I don’t need to tell you that.

Scott and I went to bed last night feeling worthless because our kids felt worthless. The same memories of rejection we felt as kids showed up again. Our kids are going through the part of life we remember.

I hope they come out with more courage.

___________

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Screw you, anonymous.

I couldn’t sleep last night.

There were monsters under my bed. Ok, that’s not true. They were in my phone. Fine. More like monsters in my head only they weren’t monsters. They were people yelling at me. People named anonymous.

These people read the New York Times article, Why I Decided to Stop Writing About My Children.

I don’t know why I read the comments.

Internet rule number one: never read the comments. It takes thick skin to read what anonymous has to say.

I couldn’t sleep last night because my thin skin got a paper cut.

I read the comments because I am this article. The author admits she screwed up. She’s not writing about her kids on her blog anymore. This author’s blog is not different than the thousands of other blogs written by parents – she wrote about her children growing up for the past seven years. Parenting is and will always be a hot topic because becoming a parent is life-changing. It’s metamorphic. It’s relatable. Your life, your body, maybe even your personality can be separated into before kids and after kids.

She wrote about her son starting puberty.

“It seems an obvious line-crossing that I wrote about such an intimate detail, but I did. At the time I didn’t pause for a split second; I was more than willing to go there. I had been writing and reading extensively about parenting tweens. I knew people might be mildly shocked, but mostly interested.”

Her dad called her and said she should stop to think about respecting his grandson’s privacy. She made the decision to stop writing about her kids. Now she writes about nature and trees.

I am not the author of this New York Times article. I don’t know anything about trees. I managed to kill three of them in our backyard.

This author might as well be called a witch and burned at the stake. I’m next. The commenters, anonymous, were talking to me too –

“You’re a narcissist. This blog is all about you.”

“Your kids will hate you when they’re adults. Have fun with that.”

“You just wrote about your kids by saying you’re not going to write about them.”

“Get over yourself.”

“How would you feel if your mom wrote about your first period?”

“You have no respect for your children. You are a terrible mother for giving them no privacy.”

“These bloggers think they can call themselves writers for using their children as stories.”

“That grandpa is a hero. Hopefully, this writer listens to his advice. Shame on her.”

“I hope your kid’s friends don’t read your blog. You just caused your son to be bullied.”

Then I woke up.

I can only speak for myself.

Screw you, anonymous.

I write about my children. I tell their stories. I write down what they say for others to read. I share pictures. I use their real names. I started this blog when Kate was 6 weeks old. My first post documented Kate’s first smile – which is funny because she hates smiling for pictures now. I have been writing about Emma and Kate for 7 years. It’s the only thing they know – “my mom is a writer.” They are proud of that. They are proud of me.

My kids know I write stories about them for others to read. I think they would like their stories as adults. I would want to know what I said as a child. Everyone loves to hear stories of an early childhood they don’t remember.

My kids have never read my blog in its entirety. I’m not sure they would want to read about my bikini wax or my advice to men on how to get laid. Maybe one day, they’ll appreciate my writing as a woman. Or not. I am not the first mother to publicly write about adult topics. I do not write about Emma and Kate’s changing bodies or their drama at school. I don’t write about their insecurities. I do not write about them as much as I used to but that is just because of their ages. That is life. They are becoming independent. My life – my blog – is opening up to more than just my kids.

This little blog – yeah, it’s about me. I’m the main character. It’s my perspective on life as a mother, wife, sister, daughter, and friend. I know my kids because I raised them. They are two of the funniest people I know. And they know it. I want the world to laugh with them.

If you think I’m taking away their privacy then don’t read it.

Oh, and make sure you tell Mark Zuckerberg that because, to me, a blog post about my kids is just a long caption to a photo. I wouldn’t post a picture of them naked much like I wouldn’t write about which future boyfriend makes them cry.

I can sleep tonight because I know I am doing the best I can. As for my future adult children – I hope they write. For damn sure, I hope they read and write. I hope they write stories about their crazy mother in the nursing home.

I hope they write better than I.

________

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It never rains on her birthday.

“Mom! UGH! It’s says strong thunderstorms on my birthday!”

Emma turned 10 years old on Tuesday. May 24th at 12:05 in the afternoon.

It never rains on her birthday.

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Ten is just another birthday to her. In one of those ten years – I can’t figure out which one – presents switched from princess clothes and tiaras to books and nail polish.

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She recieved more clothes than she would probably care for. But maybe that is how we raised her. I was never a mom to dress her up in dresses and bows.

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And what is 10 years to her anyway? She won’t appreciate her birthday until the privileges come with them. 16 to drive. 18 to buy a lotto ticket. 21 to buy alcohol. She’ll appreciate her birthdays when the birthdays give her wings.

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Birthdays are more meaningful to the parents, especially when the birthdays fall somewhere between the girl and the woman.

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This is not one of those open letters. This is not a post for Emma with advice on growing up. She’s 10. She won’t listen to me.

It’s just another happy birthday post.

It never rains on her birthday.

________

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Coors Light.

Beer me.

I use the term often, as any good parent should. When the kids push us off the ledge, the beer numbs the fall.

Even though I have two daughters that are at the age when estrogen is brewing just below the surface, they are still kids. When it’s time for bed, they still need help. I’m at their side, reminding them to brush and floss their teeth. They still ask for a kiss goodnight. I am usually the last one to turn off the lights. And after they are asleep, I still pick up their toys in the play area. The things I find amuse me – drawings, puppets made from socks, a stack of pillows for a fort,

an opened Coors Light can, full of water.

Emma: AGH! MOM! TURN OFF THE LIGHTS! TOO BRIGHT!

Me: Is this your beer can?

Emma: What are you talking about?

I squinted at her.

Me: Ugh, you’re telling the truth. That means…oh no.

I shut Emma’s door and opened Kate’s.

Me: WAKE UP.

Kate: UGH! MOM!

Me: Is this your beer can?

Kate:

Me: Kate Audrey. Is this your beer can?

Kate:

Me: I found this opened beer can full of water. Were you drinking from it?

Kate:

Me: You told me earlier today you got a cardboard box from the recycling bin. Did you take an empty beer can too?

Kate: (sighs)

Me: TELL ME NOW.

Scott: What’s the problem?

Me: Kate got your empty beer can from the recycling bin, filled it with water and she was most likely drinking it.

Scott: You sound so accusing.

Me: Kate, I’m going to ask you one more time. Is this your beer can?

Kate: Ugh. I’m done talking about this.

The kid pushed me off a ledge. She kept the beer and there’s nothing here to numb the fall.

 

___________

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Halfway there.

They say after you have a baby, you blink, and then that baby is headed off to college.

I call bullshit.

A kid doesn’t just wake up one day and become an 18 year old. It’s a process. Time slows down after the age of 9.

And do you know why years 9 through 18 are slowed down? I’ll tell you why – it’s so Scott and I can be slowly reminded we’re going to be grandparents one day. THAT’S WHY.

The hormones that will make my grandchildren have showed up with their pretty, little eye-rolls.

Emma turned 9 this weekend. I usually write a sweet post about Emma’s birthday. Emma’s birth made me a mom. She made Scott a dad. Her grandparents became grandparents and her aunts and uncles became, well, aunts and uncles.

And when you’re a newbie at raising a baby, you will get unsolicited advice. Maybe it’s not so much advice but a warning. Like a hurricane. It’s coming straight for us and all we can do is board up the house and hide.

“You’re doing good, mom. Believe it or not, you’ll miss these days when she’s a teenager!”  – an older mom at Target, watching me wrestle a screaming, arched-back baby Emma in my arms.

“Oh, this is nothin’. Just wait until junior high!” – my dad, during a five-year-old Emma meltdown.

“Well, she’s 9 years old now. She’s not a kid anymore. 4th grade is the year. You’ll start to see a few girls…with body changes.” – the pediatrician, at Emma’s wellness check.

If there is one thing my kid overachieves at, it’s exploding estrogen. The teenager showed up last year. It was subtle at first.

You’re the meanest mom ever! I tell all my friends you’re mean!

That’s cool. A big kid meltdown. When she’s mad at me, she runs to Scott. And when she’s mad at Scott, she runs to me. We have this all under control. She has no clue we’re on the same team.

Then it unraveled within the year.

I don’t like my hair in a ponytail because my face looks fat.

I just walked around the playground by myself because no one would play with me. I want to change schools now.

That girl said she’s not going to be my friend anymore. Everyone hates me because I’m ugly. And Kate is the pretty one.

Watching a child change into a woman is painful. Heartbreaking, even.

I could write advice about middle school and the awkward years. But she wouldn’t relate to it because she hasn’t been through it. And I know the first rule of age 9 through 18 because I invented the rule – don’t listen to your mother. 

She’ll figure it all out.

She’ll figure out those mean kids don’t hate her. Those mean kids will just turn into asshole adults. The world is full of them. They probably don’t even know they’re assholes. She’ll learn to brush them off.

She’ll figure out she is not ugly. It won’t take a family member to tell her she’s not. Or even a girlfriend. Or a stranger. The only person that will get her to believe she is pretty is a boy.

And as far as a dislike for her hair up, well, I don’t like my hair up either. Not because of the word “fat” but because I feel like I look like a boy. If she doesn’t like her hair up, then good. She cares. Wear your hair down, Emma. Be your own woman.

She’ll figure out that raising a child never gets easier. Worry is a cloud that hangs over parenthood. Worrying about her baby taking its first breath is just as scary as worrying about her toddler falling down the stairs. And that worry is just as scary as that “child” driving off to college, freshman-stye.

She’ll figure out one day that she’ll be a woman that blinked. And she’ll call bullshit too.

Because she is my child.

Kate quit soccer.

Can I ask you some advice?

Of course, I can. This is the internet. Everyone has an opinion behind the safety of a keyboard.

Do you force your child to take extracurriculars? 

Are you an enforcer parent or let-your-kid-quit parent?

Are you the parent that doesn’t let your child tell you no? She told me she didn’t want to but I’m going to make her go to summer camp anyway. It’s a part of being a kid.

Or are you the parent that allows your child to make their own decisions? Fine, call your dad and tell him you quit soccer. It’s ringing. — Hello? — I quitted.

Kate quit soccer.

Me: Kate, get off my leg and go run on the field with your new friends. They’re yelling your name. Go, girlfriend! Go play soccer!

Kate: No. I hate soccer.

Me: You didn’t even try it. Go kick a ball back with that little girl. Isn’t she in your class?

Kate: It’s too cold.

Me: It will warm up when you run around.

Kate: I’m not as good as Emma.

Me: But your team is with girls your age. You don’t have to play like Emma.

Kate: I don’t want you to watch me.

Me: Ok, I’ll turn around and watch Emma on the playground. Go play!

I turned around and felt Kate release my leg. I checked to see where Emma was at on the playground and then turned back around to sneak a glance at Kate.

She was gone.

I scanned heads again. Kate was not with her teammates on the field.

Then a pink coat caught my eye. She was a soccer field away.

Me: KATE!!

Kate turned around.

Kate: I QUITTED!

Kate sprinted towards my car.

Me: EMMA, LET’S GO! HURRY! KATE! STOP! WAIT FOR ME!

We made a solid choice when we enrolled Emma in soccer. We put her in. She didn’t complain. And the child blossomed. Athletically, maybe a little bit. But it’s her confidence that blossomed. She’s changed. She’s happy. It might have to do with switching schools and milking the “new kid” status. Or it might be the sense of unity that comes with a sport like soccer. Whatever we did, we scored a goal with Emma. The stands went wild. Parenting high fives all around.

We took Kate back to the second practice.

Well, here come the boos.

A soccer ball was thrown at my head. I cried on the sidelines. Kate kicked the car tires in a meltdown. Scott threatened to drop kick Kate back on the field. And Emma stormed off to the parking lot and screamed, “SOCCER PLAYERS DON’T QUIT, KATE!”

Kate quit soccer again.

The enforcer parents told me to keep trying soccer with Kate. Or try dance. Or gymnastics. Kate has said no to everything. I’m not an expert parent but my gut is telling me the school switch, the move and enrolling her in soccer was too much change.

Do I know what’s good for her? Maybe.

Is she a kid just being a kid? Well, she’s Kate being Kate.

Fighting with her sister after school is a childhood requirement. She’ll never quit that.

We told Kate she could quit soccer. To me, I feel like we just scored another goal.

Do your kids do extracurricular activities? Do you make your child stay in after-school activities if they don’t want to? Have you let your child quit anything? Do you think parents put too much time into extracurricular activities? Tell me. It’s just you and your keyboard.