• Fri, Apr 25 - 3:00 pm ET

Are You There, Moms? It’s Me, Idiot Let’s Brag–What Makes You A Good Parent?

mom adviceAre You There, Moms? It’s Me, Idiot is an ongoing series dedicated to helping one very well-intentioned and dumb future-parent learn about the world of childrearing. Click here to see past columns.

From the looks of it, being a parent seems like one giant shit show designed to make you feel like a failure at all possible moments. Also, it’s wonderful and fulfilling and the best thing you’ll ever do. But you’re definitely screwing everything up and ruining your kid forever.

In the few moments that you’re not making a huge mess of your kids’ lives, you might occasionally get something right. In fact, you might even have moments where you feel really incredible and like you’re really nailing this whole parenting thing. Maybe it’s when you watch your kid stand up for his little brother, says David Bowie is her favorite musician at age seven, or when your kid says something unprecedentedly hilarious about poop. I don’t know. There’s lots of ways to succeed in life.

We’ve had a few doozies these last few weeks, from circumcision to being judge-y to relationships with our own parents. I thought it might be a welcome change to focus on the positive for a bit, because even if you feel like you’re just constantly putting out fires, you’re probably actually doing a pretty fantastic job.

So tell me when you feel like you’re at your best as a parent. What aspect of parenting do you feel confident about? Is there something you do for your kids that makes you feel like you’re doing at least some things right and that you’re a good parent after all?

Photo: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

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  • Kay_Sue

    My sense of humor. It lets me keep it real and laugh at myself (and my kids), and in the heat of the moment, or when things are really frustrating, it’s a helpful tool. It gives me that moment to step back, relieve the tension and then figure out how to handle it. I’d be lost without it.

    • itpainsme2say

      I think thats one of the most valuable things you can teach your child. Ive had to use the trick of stepping back and having a laugh while taking care of my mother because if i didn’t things would definitely be more stressful than they are. There isn’t always time or enough reason for a pity party so its best to find the funny and move on.

    • Butt Trophy Recipient

      Kay, I wish you would take this more seriously and stop making jokes about everything.

    • Lackadaisical

      Yes, it must be tricky for you, captain sensible, to put up with our silliness and lack of reverence for the sacred calling that is parenting.

    • Kay_Sue

      I’m trying to follow your example, BTR, but I keep falling woefully short.

  • Megan Zander

    When I make them laugh. Those loud, I’m going to puke if you don’t stop baby giggles get me every time and make me feel like Supermom. Also when they eat things that I bake.

    • Kay_Sue

      The “things that I bake” is no joke, man. Since I started learning to cook, any meal that both boys clean their plates on really does stroke my ego a bit.

      Okay, maybe more than a bit.

    • Megan Zander

      Right? And it’s horrible of me, but I don’t care as much about what my husband wants me to bake, I made banana blueberry oatmeal muffins yesterday that he said weren’t sweet enough, but the boys devoured this morning. Guess what I’m making next week.

    • Megan Zander

      Also, yes to the ego. Whenever they eat all of something I start getting delusions of grandeur and I’m all ” I should write a cookbook”.

    • raeronola

      I’m hoping this gets better when he’s older and can eat more stuff, because right now he roundly prefers the baby food in a pouch to the delicious carrots and brown rice mush I made.

  • raeronola

    The fact that contrary to my very nature, I don’t obsess about everything. (I’m generally an anxious person.) I let him crawl around on the floor and eat the occasional leaf. I don’t freak out when someone offers him something I don’t want him to eat. I don’t lose my mind when he gets sick. It’s weird but I am able to be extremely level headed about him. Completely the opposite of how I am about everything else.

    Also, I have maintained my identity as a person. I still write, read lots of Harry Potter, freak out over sci-fi movies, go to plays and eat ridiculous meals with my friends.

    I talk to him like a (small) adult, rather than using insipid baby language.

    I haven’t murdered his (paternal) grandmother.

    • Ursi

      I love parents who talk to children like adults, seriously, it makes me so happy.

    • Megan Zander

      Before we had kids our neighbors had a little girl who was talking really well really young and I noticed that her parents always talked to her like an adult ( minus the swearing obv). Don’t know if that’s why she’s such a good talker, but now I’m trying it with my own kids. Figure it can’t hurt and I look like less of an idiot in public.

    • itpainsme2say

      Fun Fact I Learned From Bones: Studies show that children do develop recognizable speech faster if you talk to them as you wish them to talk to you, clearly. Or at least thats what I think she said on the episode with the baby in the tree.

    • Megan Zander

      Good enough for me!

    • EmmaFromÉire

      Bones is the BEST. No seriously, the science on the show is so good, they have such a high standard (glaring at you, CSI)

    • itpainsme2say

      Ya I totally agree and I can’t even tell you how many other facts from the show I have found a use for in my life (thats probably weird right?) but I basically don’t trust anything CSI dishes out since Grissom left and took his informative explanations with him. To bad Bones prob won’t survive to another season.

    • lijepa1979

      One thing I always did in addition to that was to sing scales to my kids. I went all through the alphabet while I would be feeding them and always looked directly at them while doing it. I really think it helped.

    • Alicia Kiner

      I always hated “baby talk” but I fell into the referring to myself as Mommy. I’m trying very hard to break myself of it, because it annoys even me.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Yeah we did that (I mean, occasionally baby talk just has to be done), but our kids were early talkers and whatnot. And the one who’s in school is in accelerated classes. Although now they won’t shut up…..so….maybe not….

    • raeronola

      Me too, it’s something my mother did to us and as a result we all talked early, but more importantly she was able to reason with us a lot younger than some kids. The way my MiL talks to the baby is one of the only things that actually ruffles my feathers. It’s all “OO WIDDLE BOO and OO U SO DEWISHOUS IMA EAT U UP.” It makes me nuts, but I just let it slide because she means well and I’m pretty sure it all evens out.

    • noelle 02

      If he is your first kid and you avoid obsessing, my hat’s off to you! I didn’t get there til kid #3.

  • Kendra

    I LOVE BRAGGING!!! Not really….well, maybe a little. ;) I would say what makes me a good parent is that I’m always trying to do my best. Doesn’t always work out, but I always mean well. I think about how I was raised and how my husband was raised, and what we should do differently. I don’t know where they came from, but I also have incredible motherly skills. I never thought being a mom would be a thing I enjoyed, but I was so wrong. My husband told me last night that it amazes him how good of a mother I am. For this, I will agree to keep him awhile longer…

    • noelle 02

      Smart man!

  • Valerie

    I tend to be a cheerful, light-hearted person in general- I think this is my very best attribute as a mom. I am known to sing in the car, to host family dance competitions on a random Tuesday, to do goofy voices when I read books, to “play school” and be the student answering every question with a fart sound…I try very hard to remember what it was like when I was a kid and the things I would have loved for my parents to do and I just do it. Kids love to laugh so I make that a cornerstone of my parenting.

  • http://www.thislemonyogurt.com/ Amanda

    A few months ago, my kindergartener came home from school and told me about an incident that had happened at snacktime. Apparently she went to go sit a table with some of the boys. She was then informed (not entirely clear by whom, kindergarten level information sharing being what it is) that that was the “boys’ table” and that she should go sit at the “girls’ table.”

    I asked her what she said in return, and she looked right at me and said, “I brang the TRUTH, Mama. They said girls can only sit at the girl table and boys only at the boys table, but I told them that there is no such thing as boys’ table and girls’ table, and everyone can sit where they WANT to. And that’s the TRUTH.”

    One of my proudest moments in parenting thus far, got to admit.

    • http://www.thislemonyogurt.com/ Amanda

      Now we just need to work on grammar…

    • whiteroses

      Bullhockey. I’m glad she “brang the truth”, grammar or no! You go girl!!!

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    • Hibbie

      Testify!

    • noelle 02

      Love it!

  • Jen

    I play with my kids. Like, on the floor/wielding light sabers/making My Little Ponies talk kind if play. I feel so much guilt now that I have a newborn (#3) b/c I can’t play as much as I want with the big kids and they are feeling it. Because I am a badass playmate.

  • val97

    I have 2 respectful, funny, well-mannered boys (and one is a teen!). Maybe they were just born with good temperaments, but I’ll take the credit anyway.

    • noelle 02

      I say moms get the credit for the good, dads get the bad. Seems fair to me. My husband may feel differently!

  • whiteroses

    I never thought I’d be able to have kids. I have never, for a single second, taken my boy for granted. I am able to see him not just for who he is but who he’ll be.

    I take myself a lot less seriously now versus before he was born. It’s hard to be serious all the time when you’re faced with bodily fluids.

  • LiteBrite

    Both my husband and I have dry, slightly sarcastic senses of humor, and a good sense of the absurd. Sometimes you just gotta laugh because if you don’t you’ll cry, and I can see that mindset being transferred to our son and his outlook on life.

    Also, and this is going to sound super cheesy, but we truly love our son and are committed to his well being. I know a lot of people are thinking “Well duh dingus, that’s what you’re supposed to do as a parent,” but I think our love and commitment to him is very obvious and helps him thrive.

    Oh, and we’re easily able to adapt our parenting styles to fit different scenarios. For example, when he was younger I was more “AP oriented”; now that’s he’s nearing 7, I’m more “free range.” We’re more helicoptering about his sleep and his schoolwork, but when we’re at a park? Eh. Let him roam and play.

    Those are three things, so I guess I’m just awesome x 3. #triplehumblebrag

  • Emily Wight

    I make moist, delicious muffins full of hidden vegetables and whole grains. I take Toddler for steamed milk and cookies and for adventures, just the two of us. More than half the time I remember to brush his teeth before he goes to bed. Toddler is gentle with animals. If he likes something, he likes to share it. He hasn’t exclaimed “Jesus Fucking Christ” in front of my mother-in-law. He throws his garbage in the can.

    • candyvines

      Care to share the recipe? Your muffins sound fantastic!

  • Ptownsteveschick

    I taught my daughter meditation to help herself calm down during tantrums. Deep breath in, ohm out, calm down. Explain your emotions. #thankstherapy

    • Hibbie

      This is one of my proudest accomplishments, too. I can’t believe how well it works! (Of course, now he turns it back around and says, “Chill out, Mama. Just breathe!”) I hope this doesn’t count as a Mommyjacking….

    • Ptownsteveschick

      My daughter just turned it around on me for the first time ever. I was trying to get her in trouble for something and she was like “Mom, I need to talk to you, you need to calm down” ARG lol

  • lucie uk

    Well my son is 17 and still alive :D in all seriousness at his age I can look back on plenty I did right. One of my proudest was when they had a new kid in year 6, who had been badly bullied at previous school and had school phobia – he had been out for a year. My son befriended him, called for him every morning to walk to school (tiny english village), then supported him when they had a week long school camp. His Dad told me that Con had brought George back. That was my proud. They are still best mates. As an almost adult I know I got some shit right as my lad has part time job while studying, pretty much supports his own expenses, excluding paying my rent and stuff – and I am working on that :D

    • Lackadaisical

      Your son sounds awesome. My eldest is in year six right now, both dreading and looking forward to secondary school, and his cousin has just started at secondary at the other side of the country and neither are the cool, socially confident kind of lads and both suffer from bullying. I can really see the huge difference a friend like your son can make, I wish there could be more kids like your lad out there. My son is lucky to have a couple of mates who look out for him, accept him and just generally make him feel worthwhile although they aren’t in his class this year and one of them goes to one of the other local primary schools. It isn’t so much about having someone who can protect you from the bullies but having someone who makes you feel that you are not alone and that the bullies are wrong about whatever they say to try and convince you that you are worthless. Having someone like your son there to make a kid feel wanted and supported makes a huge difference because even if the bullying has stopped and you have changed schools you can still carry the poisonous rubbish that they told you to destroy your confidence and keep you in your place. Thank you for raising a wonderful kid.

  • Jessica

    My two year old daughter is very picky, stays up late, sleeps in late, isn’t potty trained, & doesn’t keep to a rigid schedule. But I can make her laugh like crazy. She is affectionate & recognizes the feelings of others. She is also very polite & friendly. We get lots of compliments on how smart & well behaved she is in public. All those moments make me feel like I’m doing something right.

    • Butt Trophy Recipient

      Is she a math wiz already?

    • Jessica

      :( not yet. We’re working on counting & so far she’s stuck on, “2,7,9!”

    • Butt Trophy Recipient

      It’s alright, one day, her Korean will wake up LOL

      (I’m so racist…)

    • Valerie

      I’ll save my scolding. Just know I’m thinking it.

    • noelle 02

      Sounds like a great kid!

  • Amanda

    I think I’m a great parent because I know that my kids are that special. Don’t misunderstand me, I love my sweet little girls like crazy and I would happily lay down my life for them, but I also know that they are pretty regular kids. They are about as cute as any other children. They are typically smart. And even though I am a musician by trade, I am well aware they are not budding Mozarts. And I treat them as such. I love them simply because they are, and because they are mine, not because of any special trait they have, they have nothing to prove to me. Knowing this keeps so many things in perspective for me. It helps in the way I relate to other parents, and I really feel it helps my daughters feel secure.

    • Emil

      I think this is sooo sweet, (although I think you meant aren’t not are in 1st sentence). I’ve met a lot of people that think that they need to be superior in some way in order to have value as a human being. I want my kids to know they have inherent worth that is not dependent on some extraordinary trait or accomplishment.

    • Amanda

      Ah! thank you! Fixed. :)

    • Harriet Meadow

      I was just thinking about this today. I don’t think my baby is the cutest, smartest, sweetest, most advanced, or most “special” baby in the world. I do think he’s the BEST baby in the world FOR ME, but I have perspective on where he stands in comparison to other babies. =)

  • Coby

    I feel really confident in the way I’ve connected with my daughter about feelings, interactions and emotions, stuff that I didn’t really have when i was growing up. She’s pretty in-tune with both my husband and me and will ask us if we’re OK or if we’re happy. And if she sees one of her daycare classmates upset, she’s typically the first one to go up to them and give them a hug.

  • Hibbie

    My daughter is very secure in the knowledge that she is loved. Going through her bedtime ritual is when I feel the most confident about my abilities as a parent. I always make sure she falls asleep feeling safe, secure, and cared for. “You love me as much as all the fields on the sun, Mama.” That’s all I need to hear to know that I’m getting it right!

  • Rachel Sea

    When I was a teenager and parenting my cousin I was at a desperate loss over discipline, and spent way too much time begging and bribing him to be good, but I read everything anyone had to say on the subject for ages, and now I’m a discipline rockstar. Some of my friends’ kids are kind of out of control, but they never pull shit with me, because they know I’m never unfair and always follow through.

  • Ana

    This morning I got my nearly-two year old on the waitlist for a really nice daycare. It’s over $100 more a week than the one she goes to now and that’s going to be tough to swallow, but I know she is going to learn so much and I am super excited to be doing the best I can for her education.

  • momjones

    My children are adults, 34, 32 and 27. I can honestly say that one of the worst moments of parenting in our lives has made my husband and me better and very proud parents. Our son, who was accepted into three medical schools, told us on the night that he was supposed to sign all the admittance papers for the school he had chosen, that he couldn’t do it; he wanted to pursue his career in music instead. We both said things that you think you will never say to your child. We were heartbroken, and even now I think about how worried (knowing our reaction) and terrified our son was. He told his father, who had already said that he wished he had never bought him the instrument in the first place, that he loved him because of that – he had given him something which made him happy. Now,we will proudly tell anyone that all that really matters is that our children are emotionally well and physically healthy, because the other alternative IS the worst thing that can happen.
    Since then, his band has toured the U.S. extensively, appeared throughout Europe four times, and performed in Bonnaroo, the Ann Arbor Folk Festival, and Lollapalooza. He’s also doing the two things we told him he had to do: pay back his loans and get medical insurance (thanks, Obama).

    • noelle 02

      I love your attitude because I can imagine how hard a day that must have been.

    • EmmaFromÉire

      That’s fantastic to hear the band is doing so well! Any chance you’d share who they are, so we can all support him?

      I understand where you were coming from, medical school to musician is a big leap, and there’s so much uncertainty there :/

    • momjones

      The name of the band is Frontier Ruckus. They actually were in Ireland a few years ago in the Kilkenny Rhythm and Roots Festival, and last year I was able to travel to Dublin to see them perform on St. Patrick’s Day.

  • Alicia Kiner

    I love that I’m there for them whenever they want me to be, and even when they don’t. My daughter has a field trip next week, and I’m signed up as a chaperon, as long as I don’t have a migraine. I take them to the playground whenever the weather is nice, we do projects together. We do stuff “together.” I have things that I enjoy, and they do their own things. But we are in it together and they know it. And they know that chances are pretty good that if they want to do something, I’ll say yes, unless I have a pretty good reason for saying no. And that reason isn’t going to be something like because I said so, or because I don’t feel like it. I might say not today because I have a migraine. But I won’t say no flat out just to say no. We laugh, we argue, we get stupid silly. But we’re in it together. And I wouldn’t trade a second of it

  • jane

    My 9 year old daughter chooses the Dropkick Murphys over Justin Bieber. My 6 year old son will still kiss me in public.

  • noelle 02

    I try not to brag and love an opportunity to do so without feeling guilty! For the record, I do know that many, many kids in school are very successful and have incredible parents who are doing the best thing for their family, but I homeschool and, on bad days, feel I am wasting my Master’s in Education by teaching my kids and earning nothing. Then I see my eleven year old flying through pre-Algebra or my nearly nine year old devouring books or hear my four year old use vocabulary words most kids wouldn’t know until years later and I remember why I am doing this. Last year, getting the Iowa Basics tests back and seeing both my older kids scored in the 90% and above in nearly everything and my oldest with a composite score of 98% was one joyous day that I felt so proud. I taught them to read. I taught them math. I taught map skills and vocabulary and science and social studies. I have never been so proud, of myself and my kids, as I was at that moment.

  • C.J.

    For the most part my kids are pretty good but there are a few things that I am especially proud of them for. They rarely fight and are really supportive of each other. The oldest has always been the kid that stands up to bullies for the kids that can’t do it themselves. Now the little one is doing that too. Had a grandma come up to me at school recently and tell me how much my daughter has helped her granddaughter at school. She has some medical issues and kids were picking on her.

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    To be honest I’m a shit parent at the moment, but apart from that, I am happy that the kids are so accepting of everyone from all walks of life.

    • noelle 02

      If you are aware that your parenting is not up to par right now, I personally believe that indicates that you are a great parent going through a bad season right now. I understand–I have had many and look back and see my kids have grown and matured during each season that I was unable to be fully present as other fires took priority. I hope your season ends soon!

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    At the moment, I’m feeling like a major failure as a parent.
    I’ve fucked things up and now I don’t know how to fix them.

    My one consolation is that the kids seem to be doing ok.

    • noelle 02

      There are many days that all of us (the honest, non-sanctimommies anyway) feel like a failure. My husband tells me that if I care enough about doing a good job as a mom to feel like a failure when things aren’t going according to plan, that means by definition that I am a good mom because I always want more for my kids. We don’t get rulebooks and just have to do the best that we can. I hope this season of your life ends soon and you find a pathway to where you want to be.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      Thank you so much, that really lifted me.
      I’ve been in a very dark place the last few weeks and had been considering a drastic move but this and of course, seeing the kids, convinced me not to.

    • noelle 02

      I’ll be lifting you up. I’ve been there and I’m sorry. Sometimes it’s hard to see a way through but it is always there. Good luck with your kids.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      Thank you, you’ve helped me calm down.

      Something so small as a comment back can make all the difference, as it did for me, so thank you. x

  • Wendy

    I put jokes in their lunch boxes. It’s actually a little harder than you’d think coming up w/ jokes each age level will find funny and be able to understand. Sometimes they share them w/ their friends and sometimes they don’t but, regardless, it’s a little “funny” from mom in the middle of the day.

  • Jezebeelzebub

    the other day I overheard (read:eavesdropped on) a conversation my daughter was having on the phone with her friend. (10- year- olds on the phone are hilarious, btw.) apparently there was a problem between the besties because my girl befriended the New Girl, and the Bestie was super butthurt about it- Bestie told my girl that she couldn’t be friends with Bestie if she was also friends with New Girl. So my girl tries to be all reasonable with bestie, and Bestie ain’t having it. My girl finally tells Bestie “You need to quit trippin’, and you need to quit telling me what to do because you aren’t the boss of me and I do what I want. If you want to sit with me and [New Girl] tomorrow, you can- but I’m gonna need you to stop being a dick about everything.” That is verbatim, folks. My girl didn’t cave to pressure- because we do what we want! She was kind, she was fair, she was sensitive to Bestie’s feelings, but she stood her ground and refused to be cowed… and I was so fucking proud, you guys. It wasn’t even a big deal to her. She didn’t think this was a Moment or anything. It was, though- I think. My girl felt the squeeze of peer pressure and immediately said FUCK YO COUCH, PEER PRESSURE. FUCK YO COUCH!

    I love it. I hope this means that when she’s being bad, it will because SHE is being bad on her own and not because she got pushed into someone else’s badness.

    • EmmaFromÉire

      See for a grown ass woman that’s a hilarious conversation, but i’d imagine it’s about a million times better coming from a ten year old!

    • Jezebeelzebub

      I nearly came unglued. I had a total silent laughing fit.

  • neighbor57

    My kids are still alive. They are 6 & 10, and I have depression and insomnia. So the fact that we are all still alive is amazing!