Sleep While the Baby Sleeps and Other Unhelpful Parenting Advice

Sleep While the Baby Sleeps and Other Unhelpful Parenting Advice

They say sleep deprivation is a lot like walking around drunk.

That must be why I keep running into doors and passing out on the couch and forgetting where in the world I put the new baby’s clean diaper when it’s literally right in front of my face—I’m looking at it and it’s looking at me and I STILL can’t see it.

After the first baby, all those people who have walked in our shoes give us that helpful advice: “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” And if you’re like me, you don’t realize they’re serious until you’ve spent sixty hours awake.

People also give this advice after baby number two and baby number three, which always makes me wonder if they ever really had more than one. It’s just not helpful advice once you’ve passed the first baby.

Kids, you see, at least a tribal group like mine, need constant supervision. The only time I sleep is when they’re ALL sleeping. Which is never.

(Actually that’s not true. My kids sleep like champs. In their beds by 8:30, the first one usually falls asleep by 8:45, and the last one by 10, and then that first one will wake up by 6. Which leaves me a whole four hours for sleep, after I finally wind down from the thirteen times I almost dropped into dreamland only to hear a knock on my door from the one who needs to tell me about that new character he’s developing for the story he’s writing or another one who needs to tattle on a brother for kicking him in the face or another who just wants his third kiss goodnight.)

Sleep while the baby sleeps.

Oh, I wish it were that easy.

Once, when I slept while the baby was sleeping, my 8-year-old, 5-year-old and 4-year-old boys climbed to the top of our minivan parked out front and decided to see what it would be like to pee off the top, in clear view of every house on the block (sorry neighbors). Another time I passed out involuntarily, I woke with a start, five minutes later, because I heard something clinking in the background. Turns out it was my 2-year-old twins, racing out the back door with knives they wanted to use for sword fighting. And how could I possibly forget the time I took a twelve-second nap and my 5-year-old ate two pounds of grapes?

Sleep while the baby sleeps.

It’s just not helpful anymore.

Another piece of used-to-be-helpful advice that is no longer relevant after the first child: Take care of yourself.

Well, see, I tried it one time. I tried putting up my feet for ten minutes of quiet in my bedroom. Just ten minutes. When I came back out there were one hundred paper airplanes scattered all over our living room floor. Another time I went to the bathroom for no more than two minutes, and my third son located a black permanent marker and turned his yellow shirt into a black-and-yellow striped shirt. Impressive, but that doesn’t come out. And then there was that time I felt brave enough to rinse off in a fifty-two-second shower, and my 5-year-old used the time to cut a chunk out of his hair, draw whiskers on his face and glue his hand to his shirt.

“Hold him all you can. It sure goes fast,” they say.

Yes. I know. This isn’t my first infant. That’s part of the problem.

I tried holding him every minute I could. And then a 2-year-old figured out how to open the under-sink cabinets, even though they’re baby proofed, and sprayed vinegar cleaner all over the floor so his twin brother would slip in it, flip his feet over his face, and bust his head on the tile floor. There was that time at the children’s museum I tried to hold him and stare in his eyes for five seconds or so, and the 2-year-olds snuck into an elevator and we searched for them for twenty whole minutes, nearly giving them up for lost before the elevator door dinged and out they came running with grins on their faces and not enough vocabulary to tell us what exactly they were doing in there.

Once, when I thought I’d feed the baby in the privacy of my room so we could share some one-on-one time, because the 2-year-olds were sleeping, one woke up, unbeknownst to me, and colored his entire door red. It’s still a mystery how that happened, since their room holds NOTHING but beds and clothes. I think he was hiding it under his tongue.

OK, kids. You win.

I just can’t use all that well-meant advice anymore.

When I was talking it over with Husband, trying to figure out a new plan, some way we might be able to sleep while the baby was sleeping and hold him all we could and actually take care of ourselves, he looked at me for a minute and said, “Maybe we just need to buy some kennels.”

I think he might be on to something.

his is an excerpt from Parenthood: Has Anyone Seen My Sanity?, the first book in the Crash Test Parents humor series. To get access to some all-new, never-before-published humor essays in two hilarious Crash Test Parents guides, visit the Crash Test Parents Reader Library page.

The Mysterious (Or Not-So-Mysterious) Phenomenon of Perfect Parents

The Mysterious (Or Not-So-Mysterious) Phenomenon of Perfect Parents

I used to be a perfect parent. Well, actually, who am I kidding? I still am. Between the hours of 9:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m.
Unless, of course, one of the kids wakes me up.

The rest of the time, (which is anytime my kids are awake, in case you didn’t catch that) I’m a less-than-stellar parent. I hate to admit this, because I really wanted to join the Perfect Parents Club (P.P. from here on out), and I know there will probably be a whole lot of P.P.s out there lamenting the fact that I have six boys who should probably only be trusted to P.P.s.

Well. I remember being one of those. I remember Husband and I would go out to eat before we had kids, and we would see a kid throwing a tantrum, right in the middle of the restaurant floor, and we would look at each, our eyes screaming it if our mouths couldn’t. Never, ever, they said. Not in a million years would we let a kid lose his mind like that. I would meet a stay-at-home mom in her home to interview her for a news story I was working on, and her kid would be climbing all over the back of the couches and her head and the table while his mother was otherwise occupied, and I would leave thinking, My kid will never be that kid. I would hear an 8-year-old backtalk his mother, and I would shake my head. Absolutely not.

I wish I could laugh in that clueless woman’s face.

I had kids. I had a toddler who didn’t want to leave the park, so he took off running hyper-speed, screaming bloody murder so people who didn’t know I was his mother probably thought I was kidnapping him against his will. I had the boy who thought it would be fun to jump off the upright piano onto the couch and nailed the landing so impressively I was too shocked to even correct him. I had a spirited 8-year-old.
The thing about P.P.s is they either have a really short memory or they don’t have kids at all—in which case they should stop talking to the rest of us about our lackluster parenting.

None of us is a P.P. Sometimes we get really lucky with a kid who has an easy-going temperament. I’ve got two out of the six. The rest of them trade off being devils on an hour-by-hour basis.

It’s not because we’re bad parents. We’re about as perfect as we’re probably ever going to be. And that’s okay. It’s perfectly fine, in fact.
I’ve worked hard on my parenting over the years. I’ve read books. I’ve intentionally used the knowledge I’ve learned from them. I’ve worked every day to improve my connection with my kids.

But I’m still far from a P.P.

If perfect parenting means I have the privilege of getting on a forum and pontificating on the virtues of P.P.s who raise perfect children, then I’m not interested.

Perfect Parent: Oh, come on. You know you want to be in our club.
Me: Thanks for asking, P.P. It’s just that I’m washing my hair. Yes, every night this week. For all the evening hours. What’s that? No, it’s just that I have dirty hair, because my kids like to play with it. And, well, do you know how many nasty things live on kids’ hands?
Perfect Parent: But don’t you want a kid like mine? My kid NEVER did THAT.
Me: Oh, I know what’s going on, P.P. Your kid was so bad your memory blocked out the trauma of whole years. Well, I don’t blame you. I don’t remember the first year of having infant twins, and, frankly, I don’t think I want to.

Here’s the thing, though. Memories are often faulty. Looking back, we don’t usually remember the hardest parts of parenting, the everyday stuff like tantrums over the blue plate instead of the orange one or the way he totally went all dramatic-crying on us when he stepped on a LEGO we’ve stepped on a million times and we had to stop the demonic laugh and the words it carried “YOU SEE? YOU SEE HOW IT FEELS?” We just remember the good stuff, the way he was such a good sleeper, the way he could stay buried in a book for hours at a time (but couldn’t keep his attention on a math worksheet for two minutes). We remember those moments right before sleep, when he’d sneak back into our room (even though he was told not to) and give us “just one more kiss and hug.”

We remember life much better than it actually was. This is a good thing. When I look back over my journals recording my first year with twins, they are filled with desperate cries for help. But what I actually remember from that time is a sweet little baby sleeping on my chest while I tried to quick-clean the living room because the dust on the shelves was an inch thick. What I remember is watching them sit in their Bumbo seats and the way they’d laugh because it was just like looking in a mirror. What I remember most is the way they would smile when any of their brothers came into view.

Perfect Parent: My memory’s rock-solid, because, well, I’m perfect. My kid always did whatever he was told.
Me: Hey, I didn’t know it was opposite day! Well, in that case, my kid always does whatever he’s told, too.

Also, on the off-chance that you’re not speaking in opposite-day language, that’s a lot of absolutes, P.P. I don’t like to speak in absolutes, personally. I do make an exception for this one, though: There is absolutely, positively no kid who does everything he’s told. Absolutely. Positively. No way.

The easy kid who today will clean up all the Pattern Play blocks he got out at Quiet Time is the same kid who tomorrow will spend the whole of Quiet Time planning how he’s going to run away because he doesn’t want to clean up the LEGOs he dumped all over the floor. The kid who says this hour you’re the best mom in the whole wide world because you let him color in his coloring book is the same kid who, two hours later, will call you the worst parent in the whole wide world because you said it wasn’t time to turn flips off the couch while you’re reading stories together. The kid who wants to do a puzzle with you right now is the same kid who, come bedtime, won’t even want to kiss and hug you because he doesn’t want to be anywhere near you and your mean self.
Parenting is full of paradoxes like these.

Here’s the thing. There is no such thing as a perfect kid. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, either. The sooner we can wrap our heads around that, the better.

We’re all just doing the best we can. I make mistakes. I do better. I love.

And today I made it through all the hours without thinking about putting them on Craigslist’s free page.

At the end of the day, that’s really all anyone can ask.

This is an excerpt from Parenthood: Has Anyone Seen My Sanity?, the first book in the Crash Test Parents humor series. To get access to some all-new, never-before-published humor essays in two hilarious Crash Test Parents guides, visit the Crash Test Parents Reader Library page.

How to Talk Like a 3-Year-Old (As If You’d Want To)

How to Talk Like a 3-Year-Old (As If You’d Want To)

We’ve been working on manners in our house. This might seem like a losing battle with a bunch of boys who think it’s hilarious to arm-fart while they’re covering their mouth coughing, but nobody ever said I wasn’t up for a challenge. I am the only female in a household of seven males, after all. Challenge accepted.

By far the rudest people in my house are my 3-year-old twins.

They make demands, no matter how many times we tell them we’re not demand-givers. They brutally tell the truth (“Are you having another baby, Mama?” No, little devil sweet boy, that’s just the after-pregnancy pooch. Seven months later.). They pick up words from their older brothers and try to use them in sentences that don’t make sense (“I need very literally to the potty.” What does that even mean, son?). They love the word NO, in all caps. They have their own opinions about what they think should happen, and it’s not ever what you think should happen. Never.

If you have the great privilege of living with or caring for a 3-year-old on a daily basis, you’re probably very familiar with the following:

Me: Please put your shoes on. We need to take your brothers to school.
3-year-old: NO!
Me: Yes.
3-year-old: But I too tired.
Me: Okay. You can stay here and go to bed.
3-year-old: Actually I hungry.
Me: You just ate three eggs and a two pancakes. There’s nothing left.
3-year-old: But I firsty.
Me: You can get a drink at the water fountain after we drop your brothers off.
3-year-old: But there are crayons on the floor.
Me: I’m getting tired of your buts.
3-year-old: Mama! You said butt!
Me: Just get your shoes on.
3-year-old: NO!

On and on and on it goes, until I’m carrying a screaming child out of the house at 7:15 in the morning (sorry again, neighbors) because he wanted to put his shoes on himself and I had to do it.

It’s like talking to a completely incompetent human being. Oh, wait. Silly me. It’s not like. It is. BECAUSE 3-YEAR-OLDS ARE COMPLETELY INCOMPETENT HUMAN BEINGS.

You see, 3-year-olds aren’t all that great at remembering that there are other people in the world. They don’t really want to know how else anything is done besides the way they want to do it.
Me: You have to pull the tongue of the shoe out, you see? Your shoe magically fits now.
3-year-old (starting over): No! That’s not how you do it!

They can’t really compute that not everything in the world is going to go their way.
3-year-old: I want the purple plate. [Gets the blue plate, because a purple plate doesn’t even exist. Cries for the next half hour because of a plate that doesn’t exist.]

They don’t know how to learn from their mistakes.
Me: Sit down. I don’t want you to fall.
[3-year-old remains standing and falls out of his chair, out of his brother’s chair and face first onto the hard tile floor. Console him and make sure he isn’t really hurt.]
Me: See. That wouldn’t have happened if you had been sitting down. Now get back in your seat and sit down on your bottom.
[Turn around to cut the last strawberries. Turn back around to see 3-year-old still standing in almost the exact position he was before, except this time he’s dancing on one foot.]

I’ve discovered that finding humor in the speech mess-ups my 3-year-olds make is one of the only things that keeps me from walking out on them when they’re fighting for 45 minutes about whether the exact same Lightning McQueen cars are the dark red Lightning McQueen or the light red Lightning McQueen. (The answer is neither. They’re the EXACT SAME CAR.)

So I’ve made this handy little list so I can remember and laugh and find my way back into thanks for these two 3-year-olds who fill my house with mayhem laughter.

1. Demands.

These can sound calm, like a simple, “Get me some milk” or “I need my shoes” or “I want a peach.” Or they can come from a belligerent 3-year-old who’s been taught the correct way to ask but just won’t, because 3-year-olds.

3-year-old: Get me some milk.
Me: …
3-year-old: I firsty.
Me: Nice to meet you, firsty.
3-year-old: Get me some milk, Mama. (A little louder this time)
Me: I don’t do anything for boys who demand.
3-year-old: I NEED MILK!
Me: Not when you ask like that.
3-year-old: GET ME MILK, MAMA!

I can play this game all day, because it usually happens at dinner and I’ve got my wine.

2. Buts.

I have some strong-willed 3-year-olds, and I hear a whole lot of buts.

Me: It’s time to brush your teeth.
3-year-old: But I not finished playing.
Me: I know it’s hard to quit playing. Right now it’s time to brush your teeth.
3-year-old: But we dinnent eat durnner.
Me: Yes we did. You had five pieces of pizza.
3-year-old: But we dinnent get to play.
Me: What are you doing right now?
3-year-old: But I need a drink.
Me: Go brush your teeth.
Other 3-year-old: [eats half the toothpaste while I’m occupied with his twin brother.]

There are also the buts that don’t make sense.
Me: It’s time to go upstairs, where you’re supposed to be.
3-year-old: But my cup is itchy.
Something tells me I don’t want to know what that means.

Me: Please don’t leave the door open.
3-year-old: But my eyes are tired.

Me: Don’t chew on your shoes. It’s really gross.
3-year-old: But my legs are itchy.
I wonder why. *Shudder*

3. Completely wrong words.

My twins have great vocabularies. The problem is, they haven’t really paid attention to the context in which those words are used. So their tries sound something like this:

3-year-old: I dinnent do my hisand today.
Me: You didn’t what?
3-year-old: I dinnent do my hisand today.
Me: I have no idea what you’re saying. Do we have an interpreter available?
8-year-old: He’s saying he didn’t do his highs and lows today.
Good thing there are older brothers.

3-year-old: I sweatering really bad.
Me: You’re what?
3-year-old: I sweatering really bad.
Me: You mean you’re sweating?
3-year-old: Yeah. I sweatering.
So close.

3-year-old: I have to very poo poo.
Me: …

4. Consonants are hard.

Consonants are not the friends of 3-year-olds in certain instances. Those certain instances would be words like “costume,” which will become “cossayume;” “actually,” which will become “ashaley;” and “shirt,” which will become “shit” (You’ll want to have a video camera trained on the kid who does this. You may even want to make a Christmas video with the kid saying, “Oh, shirt! Merry Christmas!” and send it to all your friends and family, which we definitely did not do. I’m just throwing out ideas here.)

For all their arguing and mispronouncing and demanding, 3-year-olds can be holy terrors truly delightful little people. I’m really glad I have two of them, and I’m not looking forward to their fourth birthday at all, because, dang, I just want them to stay 3 forever and ever and ever.

I’ll just say what all the other parents of 3-year-olds are thinking: Sometimes it’s a good thing time marches on.

This is an excerpt from Parenthood: Has Anyone Seen My Sanity?, the first book in the Crash Test Parents humor series. To get access to some all-new, never-before-published humor essays in two hilarious Crash Test Parents guides, visit the Crash Test Parents Reader Library page.

The 5 Eating Personalities of Ravenous Children

The 5 Eating Personalities of Ravenous Children

My husband and I used to sit down to a quiet dinner, just the two of us. We used to be able to eat the same thing every week. We used to be able to hold hands when we wanted and pack up leftovers for the next day’s lunch.

Kids changed all that.

Now we sit down to a dinner with more words than you’ll read in a George R.R. Martin novel. We have to have something different every night of the month. We use our hands to dish out food, and there are never any leftovers.

Over the years of eating dinners together, which, in spite of the mayhem six boys can rouse, we still find important, my boys have emerged with very different eating personalities.

There is The Picky Eater.

This is the kid who asks what’s for dinner, and, before you even get “chicken noodle soup” out, he’s already looking in the pot and saying, “I want something else.”

“If you can cook it,” I say. (He can’t. He’s 4.)

“But I HATE that.”

“Do you even know what it is?” I say, because I’m a cook, not a chef, kid.


I have to give him credit. He gives it a chance. In fact, he gives it three chances, in three separate helpings, all the while saying how much he wishes he could have something else for dinner.

We also have The Player.

This is the kid who will take a string of spaghetti and swing it around like a rope. He’ll set up a forest with his broccoli. He will wear his pizza like a triangle hat.

“Stop playing with your food,” I’ll say.

“I not playing,” he’ll say. “I eating. See?” He puts the broccoli in his mouth, shouting, “I eat tree! Oh no!”

Well, at least he’s eating broccoli.

And we have his twin brother, The Wanderer.

This is the kid who cannot put one bite in his mouth without moving from the table to pick up the book he wanted to show his brothers. He’ll take another bite and remember he forgot to show Mama the toy he found under the couch today. It was gone for so long. Another bite, and he’s up again, using the bathroom or putting his shoes where they go or remembering he left his Thermos in the refrigerator.

“The rule is you stay at the table and ask to be excused,” I say.

“I am staying at the table,” he’ll say.

“You’re not.”

“I AM!”

“No. That’s not staying. See? You just got up from the table.”

“No! I staying.”

Ever argue with a 2-year-old? Not only does it not make sense, YOU WILL NOT WIN.

So we strapped him into a booster seat. The Wanderer wanders no more.

One of our boys is The Talker.

This is the kid who will take so excruciatingly long to eat his dinner he’s the last one at the table and we’ve all fallen asleep.

It’s not that he isn’t hungry, because he’ll always ask for more, even if dinner has already been cleaned up.

It’s just that he has to tell us every single second of his day, and he forgets that there is food to eat. The loud rumbling in his belly will not make him shovel that food any faster.

“You should eat,” I’ll say, after he’s told me in finite detail what went on today in his Sage class.

“But I want to tell you about my day.”

Twenty-five minutes of every person he came across at school today and what he did in math class and who he played with at recess and I’m getting a nervous tick in my leg, because dinner is almost over and he’s only taken two bites.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad he talks. It’s just…Eat.

Then there is The Inhaler.

This kid is the opposite of The Talker. He will start eating at the exact same time as everyone else but will finish when everyone else is on their second bite.

“May I have some more please?” he’ll say.

“You’re already done?” I’ll say.

“I’m really hungry,” he’ll say.


These are the only words The Inhaler will say during dinner, except for a quick one-word answer when asked what his thankful is for the day. He’s too busy shoveling to talk.

“Chew your food,” I’ll say. “Take your time.”

He’ll shoot me that you-don’t-know-what-you’re-talking-about look.

“My stomach hurts,” he’ll say after dinner.

“Do you think it’s because you ate too much?” I’ll say. “Too fast?”

“No. I think it’s just gas.”

I’ll wait a while before I tell him that eating too fast causes gas.

All I know is mealtime sure has gotten interesting.

And, if I’m being honest, a whole lot better.

This is an excerpt from Parenthood: Has Anyone Seen My Sanity?, the first book in the Crash Test Parents humor series. To get access to some all-new, never-before-published humor essays in two hilarious Crash Test Parents guides, visit the Crash Test Parents Reader Library page.

My Kids Know (and Use) the Worst F-Word of Them All

My Kids Know (and Use) the Worst F-Word of Them All

My boys are playing together just fine over in a corner of the dining room, on the glass table we never use for eating, (because it’s glass and kids have twelve thousand sticky hands). They’re occupied with the Contraptions, these really fun wooden planks they like to make into tracks, so it looks like the perfect opportunity to sneak into the kitchen and cram down another of those dark chocolate brownies I made last night, even though I just got done telling them, when they asked, that it’s too early in the morning to have one.

I should know better by now. I mean, I’ve been a parent for 8 years. I should know that in a household of kids, there is never, ever, ever a perfect opportunity. But sometimes I go a little wild and get my hopes up.

So I’m in the middle of cramming, hiding in the pantry just in case they come wandering into the kitchen, when the 8-year-old catches me, red-handed, with chocolate all over my fingers (the curse of gooey brownies).

He looks from my face to my hands and back again. And then he tosses out that bad word I just love to hate: “Aw, no f**r. You ate a brownie. You said it was too early for us to have one.”

I think fast. “Well,” I say. “I’m a grownup. When you’re a grownup you get to eat whatever you want in the morning.”

Real smooth, I know. Real good example of the way I DON’T want my children to eat. Well, parenting and paradoxes go hand in hand. We’re all hypocrites. The sooner we can face up to that, the happier we’ll be.

Hours later, when it’s time for lunch, I pile some strawberries and sliced cucumber on their plates beside their PB&J sandwiches. Off to the side, I put a handful of raisins on everyone’s plate except the 8-year-old, who doesn’t like raisins. I give him pecans.

His brothers notice, of course. “No f**r,” the 5-year-old says. “He gets pecans.”

“You have raisins,” I say. “He doesn’t like raisins. I’ll take your raisins and give you pecans, if you want.”

He shuts his mouth and shakes his head, because, of course, he prefers the sweet raisins to the pecans.

I get so tired of the phrase, “No f**r.” They have several variations. Those variations might sound like “It’s not f**r” or “That’s not f**r” or “You should be f**r” and so many more I can’t even remember right now, in my annoyed, flustered, I’m-so-sick-of-this state of mind. All I know is I hear them 15 billion times a day.

When someone goes out to play because he’s finished his after dinner chore: “That’s not f**r. He gets to go play already, and I’m still stuck here doing dishes.” When someone pours his own milk and it’s half a centimeter more than I gave the brother: “It’s not f**r. He got more milk than I did.” When someone comes down the stairs with a red shirt on: “No f**r. I never get to wear a red shirt.”

What I want to say every single time I hear these delightful words is, “Welp. Life’s not f**r. The sooner you can learn that and accept it, the better.”

What I usually do, instead, because I’m a good parent, is empathize with their feelings and then explain exactly why fair isn’t equal. Sometimes they understand. Most times they don’t.

But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take incredible strength of will to keep calm when they’re throwing out and kicking around the f-word. In fact, this is what it usually sounds like in my head:

When we’re eating dinner, and their daddy and I have a glass of wine:
3-year-old: “No f**r. You get wine.”
What I want to say: “If you only knew who I’d be without it…”
What I say instead: “Want to taste?”
He gets close enough to smell and picks up his cup of milk without a single complaint.
That’s right, son. This stuff is NASTY, because it’s cheap and it’s survival.

When we’re watching a movie and the boys get their cups of popcorn.
6-year-old: “Hey, no f**r! He got more than I did!”
What I want to say: “Wow. Aren’t you an efficient counter? You know fractions already? Because he has half a kernel more than you.”
What I say instead: “Here. Have another.”
Because, dang, I don’t want this fight. I know what it will look like. It will look like five cups of popcorn dumped onto the floor so they can count it, and the 3-year-olds can’t even count past 12, which means this will take ALL DAY.

When the older boys are sitting around during art time, and the 8-year-old decides he’s going to make the most epic paper airplane ever.
5-year-old: “No f**r. My brother knows how to make a paper airplane.”
What I want to say: “Stinks to be you.”
What I say instead: “Here. Let’s learn how to make one.”
Forty minutes later we have a paper airplane that won’t even fly, because making paper airplanes is much more complicated than it looks.

When it’s almost nap time, and I’m telling the 3-year-old twins what they need to do next.
3-year-old: “No f**r. My bruvers get to have Quiet Time and I have to take a nap.”
What I want to say: “Only boys who know how to say ‘brothers’ get to have Quiet Time. Besides, I don’t need a break from your brothers. You, on the other hand…I need a thousand year break from you.”
What I say instead: “Do you want to crawl like a dog to your bed or run like an ostrich?”

During dinner, the oldest is sitting beside his littlest brother, watching me feed him.
8-year-old: “No f**r. You get to feed him.”
What I want to say: “What the—?”
What I say instead: “You can do it if you want.”
Two minutes later, the baby sneezed sweet potatoes all over his face, and I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing hysterically. Not so fun now, is it?

Everybody in my house knows this bad word. Everyone uses it. We’re born knowing how to use it, I think.

Kids have such a messed up definition of what f**r really is. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make the feeling of unf**r any less real to them.

The other day, when we were playing a game and one of his brothers drew a yellow card he needed, my 6-year-old said, “That’s not f**r.”

“What does f**r mean?” I said.

No one answered, because none of them knows. All they know is they want life to work for them right now. They want it to be perfectly smooth and perfectly easy and perfectly their way.

And, honestly, so do I. But I’ve been alive longer than they have, and I know it’s just not. I know it’s not f**r that some lose babies while others get to keep them. I know it’s not f**r that some business deals fall through and we suddenly can’t make our mortgage payment this month while others have more than enough. I know it’s not f**r that the store was out of raw oats so now I have to think outside the box for Wednesday morning’s breakfast.

So much about life is not f**r. So many times I want to stomp and complain and throw out those same words my kids overuse. Because it’s not f**r that my air conditioner broke and we had to try to sleep through four days of 1,000-degree heat. It’s not f**r that my kids don’t listen to what I’m saying 99.7 percent of the time because they have better things on their minds. It’s not f**r that last night, when I had just slipped into dreamland, one of them came knocking on my door to say he couldn’t sleep, and then it took me three hours to get back to sleep so I’m more exhausted than normal today.

In a child’s life, f**r means get-what-I-want. Everything they want to be f**r—a game, the ability to make epic paper airplanes, a treatment—is strictly for their own benefit. They want a f**r game, because they want to win. They want a f**r ability, because it means they wouldn’t have to ask Mama’s help and their paper airplane would actually fly. They want f**r treatment, because they’re afraid they’re missing out on something special.

We’re born with this complex. We all know adults who still have trouble accepting its reality in their lives. That, to me, means it’s good for our kids to practice surviving “unf**r,” because they get to learn, in the process, that life doesn’t end because something doesn’t go exactly the way they planned or even hoped.

That’s what develops grit.

So, today, when the 8-year-old plops on the couch and says, “I want to watch a movie,” and I answer in the negative, and he says, “It’s not f**r. My friends get to watch TV all day,” and it’s the sixtieth time I’ve heard those blasted words in an hour, I send them all outside to jump out their frustration on the trampoline. And when the last one gets out the door, I turn the lock. No one’s coming back inside until dinner.

Life isn’t f**r, after all.

This is an excerpt from Parenthood: Has Anyone Seen My Sanity?, the first book in the Crash Test Parents humor series. It pre-releases Feb. 24. To be notified of its release, visit the Crash Test Parents Reader Library page, where you’ll also get access to some all-new, never-before-published humor essays in two hilarious Crash Test Parents guides.

Dear Concerned Reader: As Far as I Know My Vag Doesn’t Drag the Floor and Other Business Matters

Dear Concerned Reader: As Far as I Know My Vag Doesn’t Drag the Floor and Other Business Matters

Photo by Helen Montoya Henrichs.

I have a large family. Six children. In a world where people are choosing to have fewer children (or none at all), this can seem weird and crazy and, for some, unacceptable.

These people always come out to play when I mention anywhere in an essay or piece of writing that six kids live in my house.

I get it. Six kids is a lot. Many people can’t imagine having that many, let alone choosing to have that many. It seems like a crazy, why-would-anyone-want-to-do-THAT kind of thing.

Their concerns range from whether these kids are all from the same dad (yes) all the way down to what my uterus looks like. So, since I don’t plan to stop writing about my large family, I thought it would be fun to have a page of FAQs and FCs (Frequent Comments) where I could just send them to save time. Because I’m considerate like that and wouldn’t want anyone to die wondering.

“You do know how they are conceived and (that) there are methods of preventing said conception, correct.”
-I’m Real Original

Dear I’m Real Original: This is certainly the mystery of the century. And, to be honest, I really have no idea. You know how people joke about that woman whose husband just looks at her and she’s pregnant? It’s not a joke. It’s me.

Please tell me how this happens. I really don’t want any more of these…things…wrecking my home. So let’s go get a cup of coffee and you can tell me the whole conception story. The more details, the better.

“I’d like to sit down with her and ask her exactly what she thinks she’s giving society by having six kids. These people are so selfish it makes me sick.”
-I Have No Kids

Dear I Have No Kids: Huh. That’s weird. I didn’t think I owed society anything.
(Also: My boys are awesome. I could care less what you think.)

“I think you have enough kids.”
-The Child Police

Dear The Child Police: I’m glad you noticed. Thanks for not being afraid to tell me, because now I can finally stop. Because I truly do care what you think, even if I don’t care what I Have No Kids thinks. You are the police, after all.

“I prefer a dog. I’ve always wondered why someone would bring another awful human into the world.”
-I Hate Everyone

Dear I Hate Everyone: I want to be offended by your words, but I just feel sad. I wish I could find you and let you know how important you are to the world. My guess is you didn’t have anyone to tell you that as a kid. Growing up in a world like that stinks. But not everyone is an awful human (I’m not. My husband’s not. My boys aren’t, either.). I hope you find some not-awful humans soon.

“Children can be taught to take care of their things. A quiet home may be impossible, but it can be a controlled noisy.”
“Do some parenting and much of that nonsense will stop.”
“Manners and chores are taught, not everyone who has boys has a torn up home.”
– Perfect Parent

There you are Perfect Parent! I’m so glad you could come around. I know you’re super busy raising your perfect kids. Can you do us all a favor and start a parenting class for the rest of us dopes? We could learn so much from you. Just tell us where to sign up and I’ll try to make sure I can’t find a pen anywhere.

“It just sounds like they run free, without any constraints. If something were to happen to the mother, who would want to care for them?”
-I Don’t Get Humor

Dear I Don’t Get Humor: Your name says it all. We’re speaking a completely different language.

“Take a step back and figure out routines to control their acting out behaviors.”
-I Know Everything

Dear I Know Everything: That sounds way too hard. I’d rather just let them run wild and terrorize the world while I lie on the couch and dream about my life before children.

“Why on earth do parents saddle their kids with ridiculous names?”
“What a bunch of bizarre names you’ve selected for your boys, lady.”
-Names Are My Business

Dear Names Are My Business: I didn’t realize I was in violation of the “Acceptable Names According to Society” list. Next opportunity I have, I’ll march on down to the courthouse and change their names to something that might be easier for you to stomach.

Or maybe I’ll just take a shower. Because it’s been a while, and opportunities are opportunities.

Shower or courthouse? Shower or courthouse? Shower or courthouse?

Aw, dang. Shower won.

Welp. Guess you’ll have to get used to those ridiculously bizarre names.

“What were you drinking when you named them?”
-I Know Names

Dear I Know Names: That would be peppermint Schnapps, straight from the bottle. Because, you know, they allow that at the hospital during a woman’s childbirth recovery period. By the time the birth certificate official came around I couldn’t feel my tongue anymore. You know what happens next.

Let that be a lesson, people. Don’t drink while naming children.

“If they are anything like the Duggars…”
“Is she related to the Duggars or just another dimwit breeding for the heck of it?”
“Trying to be like the Duggars or something?”
-I Can’t Count

Dear I Can’t Count: I know, I know. Six is so close to 19. Scarily close. Turn around, and I might have more children than the Duggars tomorrow.

Truth be told, we’re trying to be like another famous family. Just call us the Weasleys.

“What I learned from six boys: have a vasectomy.”
“Should’ve had an abortion at some point.”
-No Tact

Dear No Tact: What an educated, insightful answer. I’m so glad you could contribute something valuable to this discussion.

“Maybe booze has something to do with you guys getting pregnant so many times?”
-Stay Away From Alcohol

Dear Stay Away From Alcohol: I don’t really remember. All I know is every day I had to buy a new bottle of red wine from the corner store because the old one just kept mysteriously disappearing.

“She should have told her husband to put that thing away after birth #3.”

Dear Sexpert: I did. Didn’t work. Mostly because I look dang good in yoga pants and an unwashed-hair ponytail.

“She is discusting.” (stet)
-The Educated One

Dear The Educated One: Sorry, I don’t take insults from people who can’t spell. Maybe that’s snobbish. But I’m just being honest. Come back to visit once you learn how to spell the word “disgusting.”

“They sound like the worst parents ever.”
-I Share Opinions

Dear I Share Opinions: We are the worst parents ever. Just ask any of our kids when they have immediate lights out for getting out of bed for the third time and someone’s not dying (which constitutes an emergency). Just ask them when they get an extra chore for getting down from the table without being excused. Just ask them when they aren’t allowed to watch the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie like all their friends do because the content is too mature.

“No wonder there’s not a husband in the picture. She’s ugly.”
-Fugly and Fffffpppsmart

Dear Fugly and Fffffpppsmart: I know it’s really hard to understand, but there is this thing that happens when someone takes a picture. It’s called Standing Behind the Camera. You see, someone has to stand behind the camera in order for a picture to be taken (unless you set an auto-picture, which I have no idea how to do. Technology’s not my strong point. Having babies is.). Husband was behind the camera.

Please don’t let your brain explode with this amazing revelation.

“I know your hands are full, but you chose to have a large family, and it is time for you both to step up and be responsible. Do them a huge favor and try to have them become gentlemen. Make them pick up their own clothes instead of leaving them all over the floor. The world will thank you.”
-Concerned Non-parent

Dear Concerned Non-parent: Well, this just dashes all my parent-hopes. I guess I thought my boys would leave their clothes on the floor forever, or at least until they found a wife to pick up after them. I definitely didn’t plan on teaching them to find the hamper or clean up their own messes or do their own laundry. Mostly because I LOVE BEING A MAID.

(Said no mother ever.)

“Her uterus must be dragging the floor just like her vag.”
-Crude Dude

Dear Crude Dude: Kind of you to be concerned. As far as I know, I haven’t tripped over either yet, so I think I’m doing okay.

“Women like this keep popping out kids to try and remain relevant because they have no skills or talent. Get an education, lady…they will teach you how to keep ur legs closed.”
-School Fixes Everything

Dear School Fixes Everything: I must be dumber than I thought. What does “ur” mean? I’ve never come across that word in my study of the English language.

Oh, wait. Study? I’ve never done that. It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that I did not graduate valedictorian of my high school class, and I didn’t get a full ride to a university of my choice, and I most definitely didn’t graduate four years later with a 4.0 GPA and a degree in print journalism and English. Because, you know, women like that don’t have trouble keeping their legs closed. They know where babies come from, and they make sure they don’t have six of them.

I’m sure it also wouldn’t surprise you to know that I’ve never, ever, in all my life, won a writing award or been recognized for any of my work, because, of course, I have zero talents.

Now I feel sad that I didn’t do more with my life. Guess I’ll go open that new bottle of red wine and have another baby.

Thanks for commenting! If you have any personal issues with any of my answers, please email

See you next time I write an article about my big family!

This is an excerpt from Parenthood: Has Anyone Seen My Sanity?, the first book in the Crash Test Parents humor series. It pre-releases Feb. 24. To be notified of its release, visit the Crash Test Parents Reader Library page, where you’ll also get access to some all-new, never-before-published humor essays in two hilarious Crash Test Parents guides.