Shop the fall 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.

Every Time I Blinked, They Grew—and It Was So Beautiful

In: Kids, Motherhood
Boys kissing mother black and white photo

I thought we were prepared, but we weren’t. Not even close. Not in the tiniest, least little bit. When we hugged our precious, oldest boy and left him to start college just a few hours away, we didn’t know what was coming. The waves of emotion, of loss, of pride, of accomplishment. They say not to blink because your kids will grow up. But despite how much we may not want to, it’s involuntary. We have to blink. They don’t talk about this part. No one tells you what to do when you open your eyes again. RELATED: I Blinked and...

Keep Reading

I Love it When You Smile at Me

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little girl in wheel chair with classmates, color photo

I gained a bit of insight today. We were walking past the checkout at the store this afternoon when we came upon a mom and her children, waiting in the checkout line.   RELATED: A Simple Invitation Means the World To a Special Needs Parent My daughter Chloe rolled by them in her wheelchair. I watched, as I often do, as the children noticed her. One girl about Chloe’s age smiled at her as we walked by. As soon as we had passed them, Chloe turned to me and said . . . “She’s the first person to smile at me!”  Let me say I...

Keep Reading

It’s Okay to Say No to the Promposal

In: Kids, Teen
Boy holding pink sign saying "Prom with me?"

Promposals are cute.  But, even for the sweetest questions, it’s okay if the answer is not yes. I have more boys than girls at my house so the whole meet the boy asking your girl out with a gun posts don’t sit well with me. Boys and girls have an equally hard time negotiating friendships and relationships in high school, and I care equally for both. A young man spent some time, told his friends, made a cute sign, and planned to ask my daughter to a dance. A friend of my daughters mentioned he might ask (and even made...

Keep Reading

I Wipe the Slides

In: Kids, Motherhood
boy on slide

I want you to have the most fun possible at your tiny playground stars program, so I wipe the slides. I don’t want you to have a meltdown if your clothes get wet while I’m gone, so I wipe the slides. I want to have three precious hours of only managing your little sister, so I wipe the slides. RELATED: I’d Rather Serve My Kids Than Have Them be “Self-Sufficient” I don’t want you to feel embarrassed by a big reaction to wet clothes when I’m not there to help you, so I wipe the slides. I want you to...

Keep Reading

One Day You’ll Outgrow Being My Little Boy—But Not Today

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mother and two sons back-to-school picture, color photo

One day you will come home after your first day of a new school year and not wish to share a single thing. Not today. Today, you got into the car and talked non-stop about every second of your day. I was delighted!  One day you will not have countless first-day forms for me to sign and return the next day. Not today. I signed my name at least four times. I was happy to grant permission for you to play sports, learn algebra, and do whatever else I gave my permission for.  One day you will not allow me...

Keep Reading

The Sports Mom Shows Up For Her Kids, No Matter What

In: Kids, Motherhood
Youth baseball game

We’re nearing the end of club baseball/softball season, and the burnout is real. The time away from home, burning through gas to get somewhere for two hours with half your house packed only to pack back up and turn around and drive to the next two-hour destination is insane. I don’t even like the sport right now. There . . . I said it. I’m so sick of softball fields and wind-blown dirt in my face. I’ve seen so many balls thrown in the last two months that my eyes hurt. But I still show up. I love to see...

Keep Reading

Having Babies and Toddlers Is Exhausting—but So, So Sweet

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Family of four with baby and toddler on bed

I took the girls to one of our favorite coffee shops last week and all around me were parents of babies and toddlers. Their little ones ran about in the grassy area out back, toddling up and down the lawn, when it suddenly hit me with perfect clarity—the sun has nearly set on this season for me. It was a realization marked by internal tension, a mourning of the loss of one season contrasted by the joyful anticipation at the arrival of the next. It came out of nowhere and hit me like a tidal wave. Having five kids in...

Keep Reading

3 Common Phrases to Avoid Saying to Your Kids (and What To Say Instead)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother sitting with young boy on couch

Learning to love yourself is hard work. I did not grow up loving myself. Instead, I always felt inadequate, and I felt the need to change myself to prove my worth.  I want more for my kids. I want my kids to know their inherent value and worth. I want to empower my kids to love and accept themselves.  My self-love journey, aided by the expertise of a counselor, has helped me realize there are some narratives from my childhood I needed to unlearn. I had to accept my emotions as helpful and not something to be pushed down. I...

Keep Reading

They Love Each Other (and Sometimes They Don’t)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toddler girl lying with big brother, color photo

When I was pregnant with his baby sister, Forest kissed my belly and talked about all the wonderful things he would do with this little girl he already loved so much. His plans changed, however, after she was born, and the thing he wanted to do the most with her was place her gently in the trash can. Some mornings he would kiss her softly, other mornings he would walk into the room where I’d be nursing her and say, “Her doesn’t look precious to ME.” Two and a half years later, Forest’s feelings toward Grace remain about the same....

Keep Reading

As a Mother, I Matter Too

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter in living room

“What’s more important than me, Mammy?” my daughter asked. I looked at her, and she was looking at me. Her question wasn’t harsh or accusatory, it was curious. She was curious. We were in the kitchen, I was at the table working, and she asked me to help her find something. I told her I was finishing up some important work and then I would play with her. This is when she asked me what was more important than her. I bit my tongue to stop the words that wanted to rush out of my mouth. I wanted to proclaim...

Keep Reading