A Christmas Memory

As a child, my parents lived life flying by the seat of their pants. My home was fun and spontaneous, but planning was not a strength.
 
This was never more true than with travel plans. My family went snow skiing every year for Christmas. Literally every year of my childhood. Yet, this seemed to catch my parents by surprise every single year.
 
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Photo: my family waiting to hit the slopes. I am in the amazing pink snowsuit. My little brother is inexplicably not in the picture. It was the 90’s, and no one cared about getting the perfect picture for social media.
The year I was about 10 years old, my siblings and I got home from school for Christmas break. My mom decided she should probably start thinking about our travel plans, since Christmas was, you know, five days away. She called to make reservations, and the only available flight was on Christmas Day.
 
My mom did not like the idea of people having to work on a holiday to accommodate people like us. But if we were going to go skiing that year, this was our only option, so she booked the flight. In addition to getting seven people ready for a big vacation and Christmas ready for seven people (which you know is no small feat), my mom took us shopping for Christmas gifts to give the flight crew. If we were going to be those people who flew on Christmas, we could, at least, be thoughtful.
 
Christmas Day comes. We are ready to board our flight. I am a middle child, and part of the gift of that is getting to do the jobs no one else wants to do. Naturally, I was chosen to give the flight attendants their gifts because no one else wanted to.
 
I was a shy kid. Without making eye contact, I passed out the gifts as quickly as I could and took my seat, relieved it was over.
 
The plane took off. We reached cruising altitude, and the flight attendant tapped me on the shoulder. “Miss, I need you to follow me,” she said.
 
This was the 90’s. No one thought this was weird.
 
I followed her all the way up to first class, where she sat me in an empty seat. The crew proceeded to pamper me with food and drinks for the entire flight. They even gave me ice cream. You guys, while my peasant family was enjoying their six peanuts in coach, I was living a life of luxury and eating ice cream!
 
I could not articulate it then, but I can see now how that experience, as well as many others throughout my life, taught me the importance of noticing people.
 
My parents always took notice of overlooked people. For years, my mom and her employees threw a birthday party every single month at a low income school, bringing pizza and gifts for every kid who had a birthday that month. She even included summer birthdays (a nod to those of you who are still in therapy about your summer birthday). When my dad’s clients didn’t have money to buy school clothes for their kids, they would take the families shopping and let them pick out whatever they wanted. They would overtip single moms serving at restaurants. I could tell story after story about how my parents noticed people and cared about them feeling seen. It was an ordinary part of growing up.
 
It doesn’t necessarily take much money to care. A few years ago, I was living in Florida and flying to Missouri to visit my family. We were flying near Halloween, and wanting to instill the same values in my own children, my kids and I made little trick-or-treat bags for the flight crew. Nothing fancy, just a little bit of candy in a cute bag.
 
I gave the last treat to a flight attendant who was a tall, well built man. His eyes well up with tears. He said to me and everyone else around, “I am 40 years old, and this is my first trick-or-treat. I grew up in poverty, and you just didn’t go asking for candy in my neighborhood. I’ve waited my whole life for this, and I finally got it.”
 
Twenty five years later, once again on an airplane, taking the time to notice someone mattered.
 
Christmas is about two weeks away. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But sometimes it’s not.
 
You probably already know that this will be my first Christmas without my dad. Throughout this year, I’ve thought a lot about his life. Having been so fortunate to have a really good dad, my memories are filled with him loving and serving others well. He paid attention to people, especially those who often had been overlooked by others. Since his passing, people have shared the best stories about my dad’s life.
 
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My mom serves as a greeter at her church. This past Easter, a family visited her church for the first time. My mom greeted them, and the man noticed her nametag. He asked if she was any relation to my dad. She told him he was her late husband.
 
Taken aback, this man responded, “You have no idea who I am, and I’ve never actually met your husband. As a kid, I grew up in foster care and lived in a group home as a teenager. Somehow your husband got my address and wrote me letters almost every week.” He went on to share how these letters encouraged him. My dad would write him things like: “You are going to break this cycle. You are going to be a great husband and dad one day. God has a purpose for your life…”
 
While raising five kids and working a demanding job, my dad took the time each week to write a kid. He never even told my mom he did this. Here the kid stood as a grown man with his wife and kids, having broken the cycle in his family. Probably for many reasons, but among them, a man who he didn’t even know taking the time every week to believe in him.
 
Life is really hard sometimes. The holiday season only serves to intensify that for many people.
 
A wonderful gift you can give is to take the time to notice someone who might feel overlooked or who might be having a tough time this year. Be wildly generous with your time, money, talents, listening ear, kind smile, and encouraging words.
Because when you give to someone who could never repay you, you show them the God who came down from heaven and gave us a gift we could never repay.
 
That, my friends, is the true hope of Christmas.
 

Toddlers Gonna Toddler

This is what you need to know about parenting #5.
 
I have exactly three diapers to last until my Amazon delivery comes tomorrow. Three.
 
And I am totally taking that gamble. Because taking a one year old to the store to purchase more is the actual worst.
 
Just last week, I had a lapse in judgement…because my mom and I traveled to a city that has Costco. Because I love Costco more than I hate grocery shopping with a toddler, I decided it was worth the risk.
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If nearly fourteen years of parenting has taught me anything, it’s that nothing with a toddler is worth the risk.
 
Not only did I walk out of Costco with about $500 worth of stuff I didn’t even know I needed, I also walked out with a screaming toddler and a diaper full of poop.
 
Apparently after fourteen years of parenting, I still severely underestimate the amount of diapers necessary in a given situation. It’s my spiritual gift if you can’t tell.
 
As I did the long walk of shame out of what I think is the largest store in the universe, I realized how much I’ve changed in those years.
 
The first time I left a store with a screaming toddler, I cried the whole way out, hugged a stranger who followed me to make sure I was okay (I wasn’t), and spent the rest of the day (maybe the month?) lamenting over how unqualified I was to raise children.
 
This time, I walked out without caring much what anyone thought…occasionally making eye contact with a sympathetic mom who was probably relieved it wasn’t her child and thinking out loud, “Toddlers, am I right?” I changed her diaper, strapped her into her car seat, and didn’t give it a second thought.
 
It turns out that my child’s behavior doesn’t get to disqualify me as a good mom.
 
That is true of toddlers. That is true of teens. And every age in between and beyond.
 
Let me say it again for the cheap seats: Your worth as a mom is not determined by your kids’ behavior.
 
Thank goodness.
 
Because I gotta tell you…my kids can be realllllly awesome. And they can be reallllly terrible.
 
However they decide to act in that particular moment is not necessarily a reflection of you. Sometimes it is, of course. I think it goes without saying how important it is to model strong faith, good character, contributing well to society…and all of the positive attributes of being a decent human.
 
But when babies act like babies and toddlers act like toddlers and teens act like toddlers, their brains are still developing and working out their big feelings in a big (and often embarrassing) way. They’re pushing the limits and pushing your buttons to figure out how to survive in this huge, scary world.
 
But it’s not personal. Not even 1%.
 
You are their softest place to land. And humans inexplicably act the worst around the people they love the most.
 
Following that logic, a tantrum should actually be a huge compliment.
 
I mean, how awesome would it be if our brains computed behaviors in that way?
 
My preteen is yelling that I am the worst person on the planet?? “Why thank you for communicating you are loved enough to express that!”
 
My child irrationally explodes when I tell him to put his plate in the sink? “Wow, you must trust me with those feelings you’ve bottled up all day at school.”
 
My kids fight and fight and fight and fight. “Isn’t it crazy how conflict serves to strengthen relationships? I bet they’ll be good friends one day.”
 
Unfortunately, my brain is the meanest member of my family…and rather than computing the truth, it spits out the narrative that my kids’ behavior is somehow a reflection of what a terrible parent I am.
 
Is the same true for you??
 
Well, I am here to tell you. You’re a good mom. You’re a really, really good mom.
 
You show up everyday. You love well. You mess up but you fix it. You do the absolute best you can do. And give all you can to your family. Times infinity.
 
You’re a good mom.
 
And that doesn’t change just because the tiny people are acting like the imperfect humans that they are.
 
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this. And it probably won’t be the last.
 
Because in a time when moms are working extra hard to give their children their very best but somehow end up feeling completely inadequate most of the time…I will never quit beating the drum that YOU ARE ENOUGH JUST AS YOU ARE. You are a good mom because you are a good mom.
 
And maybe you’ve had a day where you just need to hear that one more time.
 
I certainly know I do. Because as of the completion of this writing, we are down to two diapers. And tomorrow when I have to create a makeshift diaper using a t-shirt and a maxi pad (this isn’t my first rodeo), I will need to hear it again.
 
Because what kind of mom forgets to buy diapers for her precious babe??
 
Oh yeah, a totally good one. Who happens to have such a full plate that things just fall off sometimes. Thank you, brain, for computing that accurately for once.

The Journey To Family Photos

What you see: a precious photo of my family that shows our adoration of its youngest member,  taken in the perfect golden hour by Captivating by Keli

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What you don’t see is the journey it took to get here:

Book a session with a photographer that is both professional and basically a magician.

Wait to share this information with my family until a moment in time when they are well rested, full of sugar, and distracted by their favorite TV show. 

Schedule a hair appointment for myself. (I am realistic enough to know I have no plans to lose my “baby” weight from that youngest member, but at least I can cover my grey hair and grown out roots.)

Even though I have four months to prepare, I wait until two weeks before to decide I should probably start thinking about our outfits.
Which is suuuuuper easy to do with seven people who take their athleisure wear seriously. 

I pick an outfit for myself that says, “When I try extra hard, I can pull together a look,” while simultaneously making sure my chunky arms are well covered. 

Then pick out an outfit for my husband that subtly says, “If you want to remain married to me, you will wear this because it’s the basis for our color scheme.” 

I wait way too late to order clothes for the little people and naively hope that at least one pair of pants from last year fits.

Obsessively check the status of that order everyday to make sure it will arrive in time. (It does, whew!)

Go to my hair appointment. 

Remember that everyone else needs haircuts, too, and rush them to the nearest Super Cuts.  

Tell them I want the cut that looks nice but doesn’t look like I waited until the day before to get it done. 

 

Arrive at picture day. 

My toddler, who is the best sleeper ever, decided to wake up at 4 am and party. 

I am tired, but I am READY. 

I plan out the day, figuring out the timing for everything to come together with the least amount of emotional turmoil. 

My entire day is filled with, “Do we have to? Why do you want pictures so badly? You know what we look like. Can I wear different shoes?”

I break down and cry. That sort of mom guilt cry that is very real but also gets the results I want.

You know the one. I say, “This will literally take one hour of your life. Life, you may remember, that I gave you. As your mother, all I am asking is for you to cooperate for sixty minutes. This is the first family pictures we’ve had in five years, and I want them to be good. Is that too much to ask?”

My son retorts, “Oh good! In five years when we take these again, I will be in college.”

I make a mental note not to think too much about that. 

My daughter assures me, “These pictures don’t have to be perfect, Mom.”

Ummmm…with the amount of money and effort I put into them, YES THEY DO!!
Then I remembered that same daughter lost my lipstick, so I went to Ulta to get a new one. 

They are helpful but make sure to tell me I need some blush on my pale cheeks. (Thanks?)

I rushed home and told everyone it’s time to shower, brush their teeth, and get dressed for the event. 

{Insert more complaining and whining and groaning than seems humanly possible.}

 

My oldest child, who assured me that he tried on his pants last week, informed me that his pants, in fact, do not actually fit. (When will I learn not to trust a child?)

My tween daughter put on her outfit. That looked super cute last week but now is THE UGLIEST THING SHE HAS EVER SEEN. And proceeded to go into an emotional tailspin, screaming empty threats in between the tears and angst. 

My middle son, who likes to go against the flow, willingly got dressed with a happy heart and a smile on his face. Who knew that, while everyone else raged, he would play it cool? 

My youngest son had what I would call a…gigantic tantrum. In which he kept asking me how much I planned to pay him for this photo shoot (spoiler alert: zero dollars). And wailed about how embarrassing it is to wear a collared shirt in a public place. 

My toddler pooped. But otherwise was oblivious to the situation.

 

I squeezed my muffin top into my Spanx and tried not to sweat off my make-up (which included blush…thankyouverymuch, Ulta person). 

Ten minutes before we needed to leave, my husband decided he should probably stop mowing, take a quick shower, and get ready. 

I contemplate whether or not this is grounds for divorce. 

We miraculously leave on time. 

I spend the drive over to the beautiful park threatening my children. Guilt, coercion, manipulation. I unload it all. My husband backs me up, so I decided we can stay married. Good thing, because I’d hate to have to photoshop him out of the pics. 

We arrive at the destination. 

 

Our amazing photographer does the hard work of making my ragamuffin crew look like the Pinterest perfect family I dream we will one day be. 

My children mostly respond well to bribery. (And threats.)

Except the toddler. 

She is cutting a tooth (which explains the 4 am wake up call). She would not eat a snack beforehand. And she has decided to use this opportunity to display the fullness of her toddlerdum. The only person who is allowed to hold her is Dad. And even Baby Shark won’t force a smile. It’s dire. 

 

I haven’t worn boots in, like, three years. So my feet hurt.

My daughter forgot to wear socks, so she has blisters. 

One of my boys keeps asking how much longer he has to wear his itchy outfit. 

I try to make him laugh by playing the John Cena theme song. My older kids die of embarrassment. My son tells me to stop playing it because it was the F-word in it. A nearby six year old says the actual F-word, so I don’t think his parents will much care. 

 

We make it 78 minutes before falling apart. 

 

Everyone is alive and will only need minimal therapy. I am still married. My kids all stripped down their clothes the minute we got in the van. WE DID IT, you guys. We survived family pictures. 

 

Because being a mom is weird, I drove away from the park feeling so grateful for my family. And so happy for this moment in time we captured. These days are crazy and they are far from perfect, but they are so very fun. This is the family I prayed for as a young girl, and I can’t believe how graciously God answered. 

 

When I arrive home to this sneak peek, I high five my past self for hiring a photographer who is both a professional and a magician. Because I can assure you, capturing these smiles while hiding my three chins can only be accomplished by the absolute best. 

 

1 Corinthians 13: Back To School Edition

If I have the perfect chalkboard sign and cutest back to school pictures, but do not have love, I am just another Pinterest mom. 

If I pack a bento box full of vegetables and artisanally crafted sandwiches, but do not have love, I am just a mom with a little too much time on my hands. 

If I buy all the right clothes and the shoes to match, and if I allow my middle schooler to explore all of the terrible trends, but do not have love, I am just a mom who wonders how in the world scrunchies made a comeback. 

If I give all of the best advice and teach my kids all the right things, but do not have love, I am just like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah…” 

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Love is patient, love is kind. It does not demand perfect grades, it does not blame teachers, it is not prouder of the valedictorian than the child with a learning disability. It does not dishonor peers with difficult home lives, it does not live out your unfulfilled dreams through a child, it does not cheat to get ahead, it does not compare to others. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. Where there are Friday night lights, they will throw a final touchdown. Where there are band competitions, they will play their last beat. Where there are report cards, they will never really matter. Where there is calculus, they will never use it again. (Obviously.)  

For we do our best and we hope for greatness, but when the graduation cap is thrown, it will all mostly disappear. 

But these three will remain: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love. 

Follow the way of love. Forever and always.

 

Oh, Ellie.

I am one of those annoying people who was born clean and organized. 

I took two showers a day. One to be presentable for the day ahead. The other at night to wash away the germs of the day. 

I made my bed and cleaned my room every single day. Mostly because I function best in a tidy space. But partly because of the small chance of being involved in a freak accident and my bedroom somehow making the six o’clock news and my last wish being for people to know just how put together I was. 

Then I had five children. 

I still make my bed every day because it’s my way of proving to myself I haven’t totally given up in life. Even though my yoga pant collection would suggest otherwise. 

I thought my first four children broke me. As toddlers, they were run-of-the-mill gross. One painted his room with poop to contest nap time. Another peed in a toy box for funsies. None of them have yet to figure out how to put trash in a trash can. Or how to pick up a towel off of the floor. But their gross is a normal amount of gross. Enough to break me of feeling put together, but not enough to ruin me.    

And then my 5th child was born. 

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I am not sure what’s to blame. Maybe it’s that she endured a geriatric pregnancy (the doctor’s words, not mine). Or the copious amounts of Cheetos she consumed in utero. Perhaps it’s the fact that she was born via c-section and didn’t obtain important life skills that come from passing through the birth canal (that’s an inside joke between me and other moms whose kids “were taken from them” during the Mommy Wars of 2005-2010.)

The point is: my daughter entered the world two months early in a swirl of chaos. And she’s been setting the world on fire ever since. 

This will serve her well when she’s 30. But being the geriatric mother (again, that’s the named medical condition) to a one year old is an experience I was ill-prepared for. 

Just when I thought I had seen it all (which includes, but is not limited to, said child eating a stranger’s french fry off the floor of a dirty Burger King in rural Alabama), it turns out I am a mere novice with much to learn. 

Tonight, I was scrubbing my toilet with a toothbrush covered in Comet (because my life is nothing if not glamorous). I quickly rinsed it in the toilet water and set it down to retrieve more paper towels. 

When I returned a short FOUR SECONDS LATER, my daughter was BRUSHING HER TEETH!!

With the toothbrush that cleaned the toilet that is so gross it requires I wear medical grade latex gloves for the task.

My precious little cherub was brushing her teeth with the same toothbrush that touched unspeakable bodily fluids. 

There is not enough Clorox in the world to wash away the disgust. And not enough cookies in the world to eat my feelings about the situation. 

I should have known this would happen. Because earlier in the day, a stranger complimented me. Sure, the compliment was how succinctly I ordered my kids’ lunches at the Sam’s Club Cafe, but it was a compliment nonetheless. And the universe will not allow a mother to be praised for her efforts without balancing it out with her child doing something totally heinous within 24 hours. It’s science. 

Here I was gloating about how well I order lunch from the place we eat once a week, and my daughter might as well have eaten dinner out of a urinal. 

If I happen to make the six o’clock news anytime soon, make sure to tell them how put together I was. You can omit the part about it being two decades ago. 

 

   

 

The Summer of 2019

Well, guys, we did it. My children got to their first day of school on time. Which is no small miracle considering that we spent the summer living like college students.

My ordinarily normal home became a total frat house, minus the underage drinking.

I only cooked real food when we had friends over. Which was not nearly enough to sustain my family. Fortunately, my seven year old son, who would be just fine to solely exist off of gummy bears, assured me that all food is real food.

And I embraced his logic as if he were writing his PhD dissertation on the matter.

Because a mother should totally trust a child who, like his brothers, has not yet figured out that a toilet is meant to be peed in, not on. Or around. Or on the wall nearby. Or their summertime favorite, from the front porch.

Honestly, I am surprised they even had to pee at all considering the copious amounts of sodium they ingested from living off of Ramen and chips.

You probably think I am kidding. You guys, it got so bad that my one year old learned to sleep in until 9. NINE IN THE MORNING. I’ve never met a toddler who sleeps in, but lucky for me, she adapted well to the frat life.

There was an overabundance of television. And a whole lot of doing nothing.

Summer was fine. We took a few trips. Went to some summer camps. We did have fun. It probably won’t be one my children look back on with great fondness. Unless they one day appreciate the number of Fortnite wins they achieved.

But it was just what my soul needed.

The last three years have been one thing after another after another…we closed our business, moved halfway across the country without a job, away from our dearest friends, spent nearly a month in the NICU when my body decided 43 months of pregnancy was its limit, took a long time to find a job, found out my dad had cancer, lived with that and then his subsequent passing…all while being responsible for the upbringing of five humans who like things like food and clean clothes and an education.

Sound exhausting? Try living it (or don’t. It wasn’t great.)

Earlier this year, around the time when birds started chirping and flowers started blooming, my life actually…dare I say it…calmed down.

After years of trying circumstances, it was time to deal with it all.

As an Enneagram 7, the last thing I wanted to do is face the pain of the recent years. If you know nothing of the enneagram, just know that it is in my nature to avoid pain at all costs. And I don’t mean to brag, but I am really good at it. I have been able to see the good in everything, until there just wasn’t much good to be seen.

I knew that I knew that I had to sit in the pain and grieve some of life’s greatest disappointments.

The way I processed was by doing only what I had to and giving myself time and space. I wasn’t a good friend. I was a subpar mom, at best. I didn’t make a bucket list. We barely went swimming. I think my kids bathed at some point?

And guess what? My kids survived. Thrived, actually. They needed the downtime just as much as I did. Not necessarily to process but to just be kids. The magic of childhood isn’t found in the over scheduled moments Fall is sure to bring…it’s in catching fireflies in June and eating slushies and sumo wrestling your brothers and staying up too late.

The days spent without an alarm or a meal plan or any sort of plan didn’t make for a particularly memorable summer…but it made for a refreshing one. It’s not like I will never be sad again, but I got to a place of gratitude for the sweet memories and for the part life’s hardest moments have played in my story.

I never thought life would hold so much disappointment. Having walked through a lot of it in recent years, I can now see it also holds so much redemption.

(These are vulnerable words for me to write, and I enjoy vulnerability about as much as I enjoy pain.)

As I bring my frat house back from the brink of several health code violations and pick up the pieces of unmet expectations, I think it’s important for you to know there is hope on the other side of what you’re going through.

The very thing that breaks you will be the gift you have to offer the world.

The most disappointing circumstances and life’s greatest heartbreak serve to make you into a person that people need. Deep down, I think we all want to be significant and make our life count. Your life story, with all its beauty and joy and ugly and painful parts, matters. Who you are and the experiences that have shaped you have important purpose.

Personally, I know it’s so much easier to complain and get angry when life is hard. And there is certainly a time for that. But the fiery trials of life are refining you into the most beautiful version of who you are meant to be. It is tempting to believe that trials are ruining you. Quite the opposite is true: the world needs who you become when life doesn’t work out quite the way you had hoped. That person holds so much more kindness, gentleness, and mercy. And I promise people need those more than anything.

I honestly planned to make this a light hearted post about going back to school. I wanted to make you laugh as you battled nerves for the year ahead (and feel better about all of the summer reading you did or did not do). But as I sit in my quiet house with my big kids gone and my toddler napping, thinking back on the summer, I think the better thing is knowing your life is tremendously valuable.

The road paved with broken dreams, unmet expectations, and painful experiences (of course, in the midst of all that is good and awesome) will lead you into your greatest calling in life. And that will leave a legacy far beyond what a completed bucket list or perfect summer tan could ever do.

Your story matters, my friend. And chapters that are particularly hard to write matter all the more ❤️

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The Boom Boom Talk

Pregnancy (like, the entire nine months). Potty training. Taking a one year old to a restaurant. A stomach bug that makes its way through all five children.

There are many parts of parenting I dread. Certainly, lots of moments I do not enjoy.

Of all the difficult things, the one I most loathe is THE TALK. You know the one.

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The word I cannot even utter to my OBGYN, despite being fairly competent at it (see: aforementioned five children).

I don’t even like saying THE WORD to the husband who went in halfsies on those five kids.

So to actually talk to those same children about IT, is quite possibly the most awkward experience of my life.

And now I am making it even more awkward by writing about it on the world wide web for all to read. But, as much as I dread it, I think it’s one of the most important parts of parenting. And because I had children earlier than most of my peers (see: I didn’t know how birth control worked), I get asked on occasion how we approach this subject.

While everyone else is posting their super cute back-to-school pictures, I will interrupt your feed and fumble through my official Facebook Boom Boom Talk.

I cannot remember where I heard this (Moral Revolution, maybe?), but years ago, I heard that kids believe the first person who tells them about sex (**clutches my pearls as I write the word**).

And that’s why it’s important for you to tell them before they learn it on the playground or from a movie. If they hear it from you first, they will base everything else they hear off of your truth…instead of basing everything else off of a wealth of misinformation.

You have to decide what is true about sex and what you want your children to know. Obviously, the physical logistics are universally the same. But the mental, spiritual, emotional implications behind it vary greatly.

This will be different for each family, and I will happily share my personal stance if you want to message me privately.

The point is: if you are the first person to tell your child about sex, they will believe what you tell them. With the obvious caveat that kids become adults who make their own decisions, so they may eventually act in a way you don’t support…but by setting the standard, they have a much better chance of having a healthy sex life as adults.

In order to be the first to tell them, you have to tell them earlier than you want to. It is frustrating (to say the least) that kids are inundated with strong sexual messages so young. But the upside to talking about it early is that it’s way less awkward to talk to kids who are totally clueless. Talking to a teenager with raging hormones is way more embarrassing than talking to a nine year old who has no idea what you’re even saying. Because they aren’t flush with humiliation, you can explain everything. As they grow and develop, it will all make sense in due time.

Starting the conversation early keeps the conversation open. When I give my kids The Talk, I tell them, “If you have any questions, always always always ask Dad or me. Google will show you things you wish you could unsee, and your friends have no idea what they’re talking about.” I am not naive enough to think kids won’t consult those avenues, but I want them to know I am trustworthy and always available for questions they have. From time to time, I will ask if there’s anything they’re curious about. And usually the answer is yes. Don’t make it weird, but having the conversation early and consistently is important.

Your kids don’t think you’re cool enough to know about all the things they’re hearing and learning…because you’re old and married and grossly kiss their dad. So, when the time is appropriate, tell them you know about it all. As much as I dread it, I am very honest as my kids get older. I talk to them about porn and Snapchat and how the Internet and browsing history are forever. If your kids don’t think you know something exists, it’s unlikely they’ll talk to you about it. Let them know that, even though you may drive a 12 passenger van and wear sensible tennis shoes, you were once an 8th grader who desperately wanted to kiss a boy. So you know what they’re going through.

Once you’ve had THE TALK and while you’re continuing the conversation, set your kids up for success. Set restrictions on their phones. Seriously, kids cannot be trusted. Even the best kids have inquiring minds, so as much as it depends on you, restrict their ability to access unlimited content on their devices. And check what they’re up to. I do not believe kids should be allowed any privacy on devices. They aren’t cognitively able to handle that freedom, so help them out!

To wrap up the most mortifying Facebook post I will ever write, please know I do not pretend to have all of the answers. Or even some of the answers. My kids are still fairly young. I have no idea if any of this will work. But it seems to be working so far, and my kids are pretty open with me. Which makes me happy. I am learning as I go, and if you have helpful wisdom to share, I’d love to hear your perspective! And I know others will benefit, as well.

If you’ll excuse me, I will now go hyperventilate in a corner and pretend this Boom Boom Talk never happened.