forced resolutions

There’s nothing like having your mother casually force a New Year’s resolution on you to inspire and motivate personal betterment.

My folks came for a visit last month. It was awesome, we loved having them here and they got a front row seat to Exactly What Goes On Behind That Curtain.

Due to the bad weather and my father’s old hip (he got a new one yesterday, yay!) we spent the majority of their visit hanging out around the house. This left very little room for excuses like, “Oh, you know how kids hate to travel!” and “She only screams in the car,” or my personal favorite, “I don’t know, they always eat it at home.”

The saddest part of this story is my great effort. While they were here I was very careful to yell less loudly. I tried to only grab June by the hair when no one was watching, and I swear I followed through with all my threats, excluding the “I’ll take your birthday away,” since I’d already sent out the invitations. What do you do?

A few days after my parents returned home I called my mother. It had been a particularly rough couple of days (probably due to the post-parent blues), I was feeling like a lousy failure in just about every area imaginable, and all I wanted was my mama to tell me something nice like, “You’ve got great teeth,” or “Honey, don’t feel bad, your feet are skinny.” That kind of thing.

But before I even had the chance to tell her how dumpy the world was looking she opened up with this one, “Well, I’ve ordered you four parenting books.”

Four. Parenting. Books. Not one, not two, not even three. Four. FOOUURR. This number translated into “You suck as a parent, here are some books that might save your children hundreds of dollars in future therapy appointments.” I almost had to hang up the phone right then and there.

It’s not that I didn’t want or need them (this is called stating the obvious), it’s that, well, I’m prideful. I’d like to think I can figure all this kid crap out myself. That soap in the mouth will cure Junie of her trash talking sassy face, or putting Harrison in time-out will make him think about Jesus after I yell at him.

My mother and I had a good talk about this three days later because it took me that long to swallow my pride. She told me something that changed my perspective entirely. When my older siblings were in high school someone gave her a parenting book. And you know what? It changed her life. It was the best gift anyone ever gave her.

I was really glad she told me that, it softened the blow last week when my first two books came in the mail. Let’s just say title’s like, “How to Stop Screaming” and “How to Behave So Your Toddler Will Too” didn’t sound like they were geared so much toward naughty four-year-olds.

Oh well, I’m still her kid and I have the feeling she’ll be telling me how to behave until she’s ninety-nine. If only I get that lucky.



  1. I had a similar experience to your Mom. I paid some psychologist guy thousands of dollars for this completely quack treatment, but I didn’t really mind it because he taught me the greatest lesson I ever learned about parenting. He told me don’t say no unless you mean no. If you’re too tired or distracted to follow-through, just ignore it. But when you say no, you have to back it up 100% no matter what. Just that one piece of advice turned our whole parenting experience around. My son is compliant about 90% of the time (the best you can expect from any kid) because he knows I will come down on him like a ton of bricks every.single.time he disobeys me. It’s weird, but it just clicked for us and taking ownership of my authority was the best thing I ever did. I wish I could write it across the sky for every parent to know. Good luck with your books.

  2. Kristen Harmon says:

    Dear Annie,

    I know I leave you random notes on this blog and that we’ve never met- but today I just sure have to say I love you! Thank you for being so real and sharing these moments to which we all sure can relate! Much Love! You make me smile and breathe knowing we share this mortal experience (one of my favorite poems is “Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man…” Your article often makes me feel that. Thanks!


  3. Did it remind you of those trips to the orthodontist when you were trapped in the car and she would say “I need to talk to you about something…”?

  4. Share the names of the books with the rest of us, so we can get them too!

  5. Was one of the books called “Parenting for Dummies?”

  6. My dear husband has been buying me those books for years!! I even read one or two of them…..a long time ago.

  7. I don’t think anyone’s parenting would withstand more than a few days’ scrutiny. Good for you for being humble, though.

  8. Oh my goodness. I’m so glad that your mom told you that, too. I wish it had been the first thing she said when you called her a few days before. Man. Good for you for moving on and being humble. And good for you for reading them all and becoming THE MOST AMAZING MOTHER IN THE WORLD this year. Because that’s what’s going to happen.

    And I was so glad when I spent 2 1/2 weeks in California recently that it was just Spencer (23 months) with me. And that he was mostly pre-tantrum stage. I would have had a hard time being a decent parent with jet lag and ALWAYS had an audience. I also had lots of opportunity to observe my siblings’ families while staying with them and it did me a lot of good.

  9. You’re so good. When my parents come, I just let the kids mother themselves and I cook good food. At least I can do that without shouting (as long as everyone stays out of my kitchen).

  10. Darlene Petersen says:

    I am always so grateful for your stories and exceptional writing skills! I love that you always have a touch of satire and that you are still the real, authentic, Annie, I met in Pilates class years ago! Thank you for bringing back that little upward arch on the bottom of my are such a treasure!

    • annie valentine says:

      Darlene, you would be happy to know that thanks to YouTube pilates I can’t get off the couch right now. Why don’t you put some of your classes up??

  11. I wish that each kid came with a bunch of different manuals that were special made for each one. It would make my life as a mom so much easier. Although I’m pretty horrid at finishing books that don’t have to do with something post apocalyptic these days.

  12. Oh Annie! This is so hilarious in a not so hilarious way. Thanks for your honesty. You are refreshing!

  13. just found your blog from Utah paper. lived for 20 years in Germany with a growing family and relate so much of your experiences. The pictures bring back memories. Might suggest the smaller kindermarts near the border for a memorable Christmas experience. Try a third world country in Asia or africa for a real other side of the world experience. too much shared culture in Germany.

  14. The first thing I thought was how good a relationship you must have with your mom if she feels she can offer unsolicited advice and still have your love. I hope I have that relationship with my daughters!

  15. Oh, Annie, this one hit too close to home. My 86-year old Grandma came to visit the week after Thanksgiving- my 1st week of my 500-calorie diet… not the best week. I should also add that my grandmother’s youngest child is 62. Sixty-two… but anyway, I got a lecture about all I was doing wrong, and then my Christmas gift from her? A huge canvas print of “Family Rules” ya, I got the hint. It’s going in the Hallway by the laundry room where nobody goes. Unless it accidentally gets put in the GoodWill box.
    And my mother-n-law? For the past 10 years, we got every single new diet book that came out. From a skinny woman who’s NEVER been on a diet. (At least your mother has been in your shoes- raising children similar to yours?) Until we finally got our butts in gear and lost weight by ourselves… then we got a book about marriage.
    Lesson: Some people will always find something to “fix” about you. Oh, and you can resell books on ebay and amazon.
    (But if there are any good ones on parenting, let me know -I think I can take it easier from you:))

    • if the books don’t jive with ya and if you’re having trouble with ebay & amazon, there’s always, and — AND don’t forget, RE-GIFTING!!!! (hehehehe…. you can always take a sharpie to the covers and chicly add ‘grand’ in front of the word ‘parent’ or ‘parenting’ on any of those covers & wrap ’em for holiday gifts.) ::wink, wink::

  16. heeheeheehee…. i’m thinking i need to borrow those books when you’re done with them. cause i’m pretty sure this current cold/flu/pre-pneumonia yuck i still haven’t been able to shake, that has robbed me of my voice, is God’s way of teaching me to stop yelling. so… be a dear and share some of your favorite pointers along the way, won’t ya? no lie. perhaps THAT is why God won’t trust me with anymore. just sayin’. 😀
    also keep in mind, by the time she received the one book’s epiphany, perhaps your mom wishes SHE’D received FOUR books instead of just the one. so perhaps this is her way of being sure you’re not denied every opportunity she wishes she’d had. so, don’t take it to heart. take it as a sweet gesture & sign that she still adores you and values your sanity for you. ::hugs::

  17. Oh my gosh Annie…this really had me laughing Out Loud. It totally rang some bells for me.
    I used to buy parenting books for myself.
    My daughter and I often have the discussion of HOW TO GET KIDS TO BEHAVE.
    She was telling me over Christmas when she and her husband took the girls bowling and they were being totaly little shits (oops)
    She drug them into the bathroom and pleaded with them….she pleaded with them “GIRLS, I really need you to REPRESNT”
    makes me laugh still.
    and YES mom’s never stop mothering………

  18. Kendra Nelson says:

    That’s what’s so great about Grandma, you always know where you stand with her! I love you so much and totally miss you, call anytime you want, I would love to talk! Ken

  19. Kendra Nelson says:

    I totally forgot to tell you, when I was home for Christmas Baumie brought the “Gift of the Magi” article that was published to Mom and Dad’s for me to read. It was wonderful, of course, but I thought it was so cute that Baumie was so excited about it. She told me she reads you every time and your articles are her favorites! Thougt you’d like to know…

  20. Annie – YES, please post the names of the books your mom reccommends! We do not judge here! Plus, you can link them on your page & earn a bit ‘o cash for shoes when we, your faithful readers, then buy those books thru your links! Win-win for you!!