So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

Years ago, I knocked on my neighbor’s door to collect my four-year-old daughter from a playdate. My neighbor and stay-at-home-mom comrade in arms opened the door, kept me on the doormat, and said, “Hi. It’s so funny, how your daughter won’t share. It’s just so funny, how she won’t give my daughter a turn with her own toys, in her own house.”

That was our last trip across the street for playdates or anything else. My neighbor showed me her passive-aggressive and after I hastily extracted my kid, I showed her my backside as I walked away, never to return. There were just too many other houses in the ‘hood where passive-aggressive wasn’t the color of the wallpaper. Houses that were more empathetic and less off-putting.

I’m sure my daughter didn’t share well that day. My kids are capable of bad behavior and poor choices, and they were especially so as littles. I’m not an, “Oh, my kids would never do that,” kind of mom. I’m a full-fledged, card-carrying member of the, “Yep, my kids can be royal pains sometimes,” club. And I didn’t take issue with my neighbor wanting to alert me to how my daughter had behaved. I relish a good teaching moment, the same way I do a sunburn, but after an initial flash of, “Really, another one?” I dig in and deal with it. I educate and instruct in hopes of keeping the offense from being committed again.

I did take issue with the manner in which she told me, though. I was sure my neighbor didn’t think my daughter commandeering her daughter’s hula hoop and dress-up box was funny. She told me she did, no less than three times before I was able to flee from her doorstep, but not with a smile on her face, or love in her heart or any empathy or commiseration. She wasn’t spreading mirth. She was spreading aggression, the passive kind, but aggression all the same.

What she was really saying to me was, “Neither my daughter nor I enjoyed our time with your daughter today.” OK. Fair enough. I wasn’t going to argue my kid’s behavior or my neighbor’s perception of it. But I did contest the way she chose to talk to me about her concerns. I wish she had spoken to me in a way that conveyed she knew there was still so much good in my daughter, even though she wouldn’t let go of her daughter’s Breyer horse that day.

That memory came up for me recently when I was pondering a question that’s been popping up in my friend circles with frequency lately. If my kid messes up, hurts someone, behaves badly on social media, causes a problem for themselves or someone else in any way, shape or form—would I want to know about it? Would I want a friend to tell me about it if they found out before I did? My quick and easy answer is a resounding yes because my husband and I are trying to raise good people here, folks.

Mistakes are inevitable but they are also teachable moments. And though kids often learn well and best from the natural consequences of their mistakes alone, I still want to know about their missteps so I can do my job. Which is to set some expectations, lead by example, and guide my children through life towards some end goals. For us, and in short, those goals are love and kindness and safety for themselves and those they interact with. And I can’t do my job well if I’m unaware there’s a circumstance in which I need to rise up in worthiness of my pay grade.

There is a qualifier though. If you become aware that my kid has caused a genuine problem for themselves or someone else, please don’t come at me with the fact that my kid has erred; come to me with that knowledge instead. The difference is not at all subtle. It’s the equivalent of steely eyes, pursed lips and a finger pointed in my face vs. a head tilt and a hand rested on my shoulder. By all means, come to me with concern and care. The light is always green for that. But don’t come at me with indignation and self-righteousness. You’ll run right through a red light if you do and you’ll cause a big wreck.

It stings when our kids make mistakes because as their parents, we tend to take on that mistake, too. We can feel like it was our misstep somehow, like we messed up as well. Our kids’ blunders often hit us right in our parenting guts. When we know our kids know better and they still make bad choices anyway, it can mimic a failure of our own. Working through these inevitable periods of trial and error and living and learning are sensitive and tender times fraught will all kinds of yuck. And the last thing we need is anyone piling on with holier-than-thou judgment, haughtiness or mean-spiritedness.

If you have love in your heart, if you care for our kids and their well-being, please show us by coming to us if you have knowledge of their indiscretions. If you don’t lead with love and you choose to come at us instead, we’ll recognize it instantly and you might indeed risk our friendship. Because it does take a village, we know this already, but we need that village to be full of lovely people who mean well and people who want the best for one and for all to help us raise our kids up in the way we would have them go. Not a village full of the sanctimonious and the smug. Please don’t live there.

Jodie Utter

Jodie Utter is a freelance writer & creator of the blog, Utter Imperfection. She calls the Pacific Northwest home and shares it with her husband and two children. As an awkward dancer who’s tired of making dinner and can’t stay awake past nine, she flings her life wide open and tells her stories to connect pain to pain and struggle to struggle in hopes others will feel less alone inside their own stories and more at home in their hearts, minds, and relationships. You can connect with her on her blog, Utter Imperfection and on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.

Don’t Let Anyone Rush You, Mama

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother with two kids at home relaxing

From the moment our children are born, other people make it challenging to stay in the present moment—they start asking questions that look forward instead of at the now we are in. Can you believe how big she’s getting, where did your newborn go? Oh my goodness, he’ll be walking any day now! Are you thinking about preschool? What will you do when they’re both in school? What will you do when your baby goes to college? While these questions may come with good intentions, they’re not helpful at all. We moms need to be allowed to be fully in...

Keep Reading

Dear Child, God Sees All of You—And So Do I

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Mom and young son painting together

Math has always come easily to him. Even from the beginning stages when we counted wooden blocks on the living room floor, the numbers just came to him. “How many blocks are there?” I asked him, pointing to the scattered row of blocks. I expected him to count them. He was only three or four years old. “Six,” he answered promptly. “Yes . . . but how did you know that?” I asked hesitantly. He had not taken the time necessary to have counted them. “Three and three are six,” he replied. And on it went. The math came easily,...

Keep Reading

Kids Crave Your Time, Not Fancy Things

In: Kids, Motherhood
Dad and daughter with basketball smiling

I have four kids, and like most parents, I’m doing my best to give them a happy childhood, but we’re not really an activity family. Don’t get me wrong, we love a good day trip to the local water park or a night out at the movies, but with several different ages and a tight budget, activities or outings are rare for us. Sometimes I end up feeling bad about it, like our kids are missing out, but then I take a deep breath and realize that some of the best moments come from the simplest of things. Lucky for...

Keep Reading

Dear Kindergarten Graduate—Wherever Life Takes You, I’ll Always Be Your Safe Place To Land

In: Kids, Motherhood

I cried on your first day of kindergarten. Did you know that? I held it together through the getting ready and the goodbyes—but once I had waved one last time and was pulling out of the parking lot, the lump in my throat poured out as hot tears down my cheeks.  How could you be starting kindergarten? You, my precious firstborn baby. We had some growing pains as we adjusted to a new routine. The school days were so long. I spent my days missing you and you spent yours missing me. We were apart from each other more than...

Keep Reading

The Secret to Slowing Down Time Is to Notice the Moments You’re Living In

In: Kids, Motherhood

Dear current self, You’ve heard a lot of mothers admonish you to slow down and enjoy every moment with your children. They’ve warned you with phrases like “before you know it,”  “in the blink of an eye,” and other cliché’s that haven’t really hit you, but they will. Soon, they will. I am writing you now because I’ve seen you trying to wrap your mind around the how-to—as if holding time in your hand is a skill anyone has successfully mastered. I’ll save you the suspense. It can’t be done. It is inevitable. Your kids are going to grow up....

Keep Reading

You Don’t Have to Celebrate a Holiday Just Because It’s On the Calendar

In: Kids, Living

I switched on the computer, adjusted my chair, then quickly swiveled back around again toward my husband, “Are you sure? You don’t mind?” “Me?” he made a swift waving motion as if swatting a fly. “Psht. Yeah, I’m fine with it. You?” He lifted his head and locked our eyes a little more securely, “Are you sure?” “Yes,” I said firmly, without hesitation. “OK, good,” my man turned back to his phone, “Love you.” “Good,” I confirmed. A rush of relief swept through me as muscles I didn’t even know were tense suddenly relaxed. A bubbling surge of energy had...

Keep Reading

I’m Raising Wild Boys

In: Kids, Motherhood
Young boy and toddler smiling at each other, color photo

Yesterday my boys (two and eight) were playing outside in our cul-de-sac—running, yelling, tackling each other . . . all the normal stuff. One of the neighbor moms was out as well, looking on as her son joined the fray.  “I need to send him over to your house for a week or two,” she joked, “so he can get more in touch with his boyness.”  “No, you don’t want to do that. My boys are wild things,” I quickly replied. And I wasn’t joking. My sons are rough, tough, primal beings.  Moments before this conversation, my oldest was ramming...

Keep Reading

A Big Move Brings Big Emotions For Little Kids—Here’s How to Help Them Cope

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood

It doesn’t matter how outgoing or funny or charismatic your kids might be, the possibility of uprooting their little lives and relocating to a new city is terrifying for any parent. Add a global pandemic into the mix, and it’s an idea that feels almost insurmountable.  But when my husband got a job offer we couldn’t refuse, we packed up the car and drove our two kids (eight and four) west from Pennsylvania to the great state of Arizona. The decision weighed heavily on me, and I wasn’t prepared for the avalanche of mom guilt that followed. But as I’ve...

Keep Reading

My Kids May Never Be Professional Athletes, But They’ll Be Strong, Confident Adults Because of Youth Sports

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tween boy playing hockey, color photo

I have pivoted 180 degrees over the last few years on one major bone of contention in our household of four, which includes two sporty kids who love ice hockey and baseball: the rationale behind our, in my opinion, excessive expenditure of resources on our sons’ youth sports careers, and whether this makes any sense.  Neither of them is NHL or MLB bound. Or at least the chances, statistically, are extremely minuscule. And yet, we have directed an inordinate amount of our life savings as well as our precious time to not only club sports, but also private lessons, to...

Keep Reading

Food Allergies Won’t Stop Her—How My Daughter Is Teaching Me to Be Brave

In: Kids, Motherhood

Dear daughter, I know sometimes you wonder if you’ll ever do normal things without me hovering over you. Double and triple-checking your snack labels and drilling you about whether your allergy meds are packed and ready. It’s a lot for you to carry, physically and emotionally. But you’re so strong, sweet girl. Flexible, too. You can do this because you were built for it. And someday, someday, you’ll see it: that this story is yours because you carry it with grace. You don’t complain much, and when you do, you follow it up with a wise comment, saying this sort...

Keep Reading

 5 Secrets to Connect with Your Kids


Proven techniques to build REAL connections