One of my favorite books is S… My Dad Says by Justin Halpern. The comedic author originally developed this idea through his Twitter feed. He began posting about all of the crazy moments and conversations with his father and his tweets went viral. Thus came the development of his book. And in it, Halpern hilariously describes his father’s interactions and often vulgar advice (for example, “Don’t focus on the one guy who hates you. You don’t go to the park and set your picnic down next to the only pile of dog s.”).Overall, it is very endearing and at the root of this quick read, the reader can easily recognize that Halpern deeply admires his father and appreciates the open, honest relationship that they have developed.
So what’s my point? You didn’t come here for a book review. Right? I’m getting to it. Stick with me.
I read this book before I had any children. I was twenty years old, scrolling through Amazon Kindle one sleepless night, when I came across this previously obscure title. It sounded interesting and by the time the morning sun appeared, I had finished it. And since that initial reading, the book’s underlying message has stuck with me (and has even influenced the title of this blog post). Halpern’s relationship with his father is the type of relationship that I have never had with either of my parents and the type of relationship that I now strive to develop with my three year old daughter and soon to be born twin sons.
MayaLisa (Maya * Lisa ; not to be confused with Malaysia the developing country) was born on December 27, 2012 at 5:59pm. At the time, I was a scared 23 year old newlywed without a clue of what I had just gotten myself into, but this day has become one that I will always fondly remember. And her birth (and subsequent life) is listed as one of my greatest accomplishments. She is the stars to my moon, the cool breeze to my warm day, the peanut butter to my strawberry jelly; need I continue? She is my very best friend. And when she grows up, I want her to regard me in the same manner in which Halpern regards his own father. I want to have a relationship that resembles their own (albeit my advice won’t be laced with so many profanities). And because of that desire paired with my own upbringing, I frequently let her Daddy play “bad cop,” and when she is with me LisaBoo gets away with everything short of murder. Literally. What started out as a joke between my husband and I, led me to start jotting down all of the many ways in which Lisa’s upbringing differs from my own. I started compiling a list and from that list I now present to you the TOP 5 moments in MayaLisa’s life when I realized that I have taken to living vicariously through her.
“THE LIST” Stuff My Parents Never Let Me Do
1. Anything and everything is liable to happen in the house. MayaLisa and I play soccer in the kitchen, she rides her tricycle all throughout downstairs (albeit this only happened one time at Christmas when it was too cold to go outside), we finger paint on the couch (it’s washable paint, no big deal), she creates mile long choo choo trains out of her furniture and ours in the middle of the living room, we have picnics in the middle of kitchen when it is time for dinner, and I think I’ll stop there. You know the age old saying, what happens in fight club, stays in fight club. I know my husband will read this, and I can’t divulge all of our secret adventures and play times. Then I’ll be the one in trouble.
2. Smack talk is fun. And if someone looks like a pickle head, apple head, french fry nugget head, then you have to let that person know. This is probably more so a mixture of my fault, her dad’s fault, her aunt’s fault, and her cousins’ fault (a real family effort went into this one). But, it’s all in good fun. Shouldn’t every three year old know how to play the “Dozens?”
3. Stranger Danger? What is that? Under my watchful eye, MayaLisa will encounter anyone and everyone. She will engage in full conversations with them, pet (or run away from) their dogs, tell them a funny joke, or encourage them to teach her to play the guitar at the flea market.
4. MayaLisa has proven that sticks and stones DO NOT break bones. They are actually fun playthings, especially on those days when no one shows up to play at the playground. Oh and they are collectible items too. They are to be taken from the playground, brought into the car,and remain there until the next day when she remembers that she left them there for safekeeping.
5. There IS such thing as dessert before dinner. MayaLisa and I typically enjoy cookies before breakfast….lunch….dinner. It really doesn’t matter the time. I mean when is there a wrong time for cookies (snack cakes, cupcakes, donuts etc)?
Now that I have shared this list and provided you all a snapshot into our lives, before I can let you leave, I have to add this disclaimer. We DO have rules in our household. There is STRUCTURE. And when MayaLisa does not do the right thing, my husband and I work together to discipline her. However, we all strive to develop our own style of parenting. And often that style will greatly differ from the way our parents raised us (unless you were raised by the Cosbys, “pre scandal”). Who wants to look in the mirror at 40 only to realize that their worst nightmares came true?? That they actually winded up becoming a reincarnate of their own mother/father.
I recognize that your child does not come with a “How To Parent” manual; therefore, all parents will make mistakes. No matter how many blogs, Baby Center articles, or unsolicited parenting advice that you receive and/or read, there will be times when you flat out mess up. But in those disastrous moments, we receive our greatest blessings when we are able to humble ourselves and allow our children to see our vulnerabilities. In going forward with the lessons that my parents inadvertently taught me about raising children, coupled with my own experiences as a parent, I am sure that “THE LIST” (Stuff My Parents…) will continue to grow longer. I am also sure that I will make mistakes and have to prevent one or two of the items from reappearing on the list. But I am equally as positive that my daughter and sons will grow to become independent, freespirited, funloving, kindhearted adults who aren’t afraid to take risks and who do not worry about the world’s opinions. And when they are adults they will look back and as Halpern has done, I hope and pray that they will regard Mommy as their very best friend and truest confidant.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post! Please comment below and keep “THE LIST” going. What are your children able to get away with that you weren’t able to get away with as
Additionally, if you would like to keep up with my journey through motherhood or my writing, please follow me on Instagram @whits_words.
Whitney M. Brown