When this blog began a pretty big chunk of it was about my family. Mommy bloggers were a thing at the time. Are they still a thing? We might call them influencers now.
The name of this blog is a play on the mom saying … because I say so.
Do you know this phrase?
The kid asks to do something. The mom says no a million times. Then the kid says, WHY? And the mom says… roars…shrieks, BECAUSE I SAY SO!
I was both of those things – a mom, a step-mom and a blogger. However, right around the time that strangers began to read the blog I took most of the content about my young kids off the site.
Two reasons. Most of the photos of my kids had very little clothes on. They were little and we live in Florida where it’s very hot. And well because they were kids and while they were too young to care this was my blog not theirs. Their life is their story.
When they are ready they can share their stories. It felt weird. A little creepy actually. So I pulled a lot of that down. There are still vacation updates and the stories of their kid triathlons.
Now, years later I find myself with a desire and an intention to share some stories from my family and offer my support to others as a parent and a step-parent.
Parenting is a crazy thing.
For many adults it’s the job we’ll do for the longest time. Yet, there is no official training. There are no certificates and you certainly don’t have to prove that you know how to do it before we give each other the chance.
I was a step-parent before I was a parent.
There was, I think, about a 5 year gap between meeting my then boyfriends – now husband’s children and becoming a mom to a human.
I will go ahead and state the obvious which is that being a step-parent can be very different than being a parent.
Step-parents have even fewer resources than parents in my experience.
I wrote a while back about some of the best parenting advice I got when my daughter was a newborn. I’ve also gotten my share of truly bad advice from people who meant well and also people who called themselves experts.
There’s not really such a thing as a parenting expert.
At least, I don’t think so. I could be wrong. My parenting experience is all on the job training.
There are people who call themselves early childhood development experts. I think you can even get a degree in that. I don’t have one of those. Early childhood experts can be helpful and also in my experience they can sometimes give bad advice.
That’s the rub. Am I right?
As parents we deeply crave to feel and know that we are doing things correctly so we look for advisors and yet some of the advisors are truly crappy.
For example, one of my step-kids was told by a teacher that they were behind in reading ability. As adults we listened to that expert and dug in and pressured this young person to work harder and do more. At the end of the year we realized that was really happening was that that kid’s best friend had moved away. The kid was having trouble making new friends.
We realized this when the next year the kid switched campuses and flourished socially and academically too. Unfortunately her confidence was rattled for years. When I look back at that I wish I could give that teacher a piece of my mind.
Another example was that when my daughter was in kindergarten her school wanted me to put her in speech therapy (which the school kindly provided for extra fees). They gave me a very hard push that I was harming my child by not committing to this therapy. I got a public verbal lecture from a kindergarten teacher who was a decade younger than me and had no children of her own that she knew better than me – the mom.
I literally had to sign a release that I was turning this down. What the school didn’t know (because they didn’t ask) is that we have a speech therapist in the family. Somebody who’s quite good actually. That family member advised me that speech therapy for a kid with 4 missing front teeth was not going to be helpful. I think that the school was just trying to make more money. We didn’t attend that school the following year. Just fyi.
And then later when I got a call from a guidance counselor who thought my kid was suicidal, she had spoken to him and it looked like he was crying he denied it… it was allergies. Two days before I had informed the school nurse if my kid looks like he has pink eye it’s the oak trees. That one is hard to actually believe and yet it’s a factual story.
My point is … it’s good to be careful and cautious when it comes to any kind of expert.
And yet – sometimes experts are massively helpful.
My first parenting experts probably came in the form of books.
As a step-parent I definitely deferred expertise to the bioparents but in addition I read books.
When my step-daughter was a teen I read Raising Ophelia and when my step son was young I read Raising Cain about the different challenges that boy kids have in school. Each of those books held clues that helped me navigate the relationship with my then teenage step-kids. I later had the chance to see Michael Thompson present at my children’s school and his wisdom is truly helpful to me.
When my daughter was a baby I also had a ton of books from Dr. Sears and a whole variety of experts. That was a little different. I felt like I had a very small foreign alien in my house and I was looking for specific answers. What to do for x and y right now.
I eventually got signed up in lots of mom groups and had my exposure to plenty of other experts and advisors.
Some parenting advice comes from people who don’t have kids. They are giving you advice from what they learned in school perhaps experiments in labs and the problem with this is that … my family doesn’t actually live in a lab. Sometimes the advice is not on point.
Early on in my parenting journey I learned to ask people who were giving advice how old were their children. If they said they had none I took their advice with a hefty dose of …okay maybe.
When you get a morsel of good advice. Oh it’s soooo helpful.
One day at a moms and tots thing there was a speaker. I honestly remember her being called the Magical Mrs. M. That cannot be correct but that’s how I remember it. My kid was a toddler and toddlers can be really tough.
The Magical Mrs. M. gave us a tip which was to give our toddlers choices. Where the adult liked both the results. So that the toddler got the power of choice and feeling independent and we the adult got the result we wanted.
I scoffed. Sounded like nonsense. If it was that easy – everybody would already know.
But later that night trying to get my kid into bed I was desperate and so I said do you want to go to bed after one book or two. (We actually always read at least 2 so I was okay with either selection). I’ll be darned if my stubborn toddler didn’t fall right in line. She thought about it. She said two. And off we went to bed.
I was pleasantly surprised and I used that tool with wild abandon and success for several years. I can report that my kids did eventually figure it out and began to suggest that they wanted an option not presented.
Peer Parenting Support
When my kids were young I also had a few acquaintances who became mommy bloggers. They gave out lots of suggestions and tips about what they were currently going through. I didn’t choose that path and I have a very specific reason although I admit I only recently got clear on how to verbalize my desire to not do this.
Finding people who are sharing in your experience is super powerful. Those are peers. The information and support they give us is invaluable. What to do when you have a blow out diaper that’s a perfect question for a peer. I could not have made it through as far as I have through my parenting journey without peers.
Seriously, when my kid had reflux a friend walked me through that and it was super helpful.
I truly believe that it’s not the best idea to coach or guide people on a topic that you are currently experiencing. I think it’s better where possible to choose people as coaches and supporters who have been through what you are going through and are on the other end of the experience.
I had this natural instinct with my running and triathlon coaching that while I was training for my own events there was a conflict to also coaching athletes. When I was in coach training for life coaching my mentors repeatedly advised that you want to have your issues resolved before you coach people on those topics.
Anyway, that’s my feeling.
Why bring this up now?
Because actually, I am ready to share some things that I’ve learned along my parenting journey so far. Why, because I think I can be very helpful to parents who are in the thick of it.
A big part of this will be me sharing stories of my imperfect parenting. Parenting is hard. Step-Parenting is hard. Adulting is hard. Part of the hard is that there is a heavy socialized expectation of doing it right. The expectation of being the perfect parent the perfect spouse the perfect everything.
I’m not perfect.
I’m very imperfect.
I’m massively imperfect.
I wear my imperfection like a badge of honor.
I have not once been nominated for mother-of-the-year. Not even by myself.
And my step-kids and my kids and I are all moving through life.
I am living proof that we can make it through with our imperfections.
For years I have called myself a self-proclaimed expert in blended families. It’s not a real title. I made it up. Yet, it’s true I’ve got a lot of lived experience with that situation.
So – I’m not perfect. At the same time … I’m not in crisis either. Do you know the word crisis. That’s the other side of the parenting expert world. People who have lost everything – or are currently experiencing extreme stress and and hardship. Illness, tragedy, disaster. I’m not that either.
I do consider myself trauma informed…or perhaps aware. I have had some training I look for the line and I think I know my lane.
There was trauma in my early childhood. I have a parent who has a diagnosed personality disorder. I lived that. I have never talked much about that here. It’s a big part of my early life. It’s probably part of why I did 7 Ironman races. I have a step-child that struggles with a mental heath diagnosis and we experienced some very crisis filled years.
When you are in crisis that’s when psychiatrists, therapists and social workers are heaven sent. I am none of those. Not a doctor. Not a psychiatrist, not a social worker.
There’s some room here in the middle here for the rest of us.
Not perfect parents — not hot mess expresses just folks trying to work our way through some very hard stuff of parenting and adulting with no instruction book.
This is a message that I kind of feel like shouting from the rooftops. Yes it’s hard. In fact, sometimes adulting is very hard. But most of us make it through and it’s nice to have some help along the way.
This is my way of saying that while for 10 years this blog has been 99.9% running and triathlon and .1 percent amy’s family…it’s going to shift a bit. I considered rebranding with a new name but it turns out that I like the name Amy Says So. Also every combination of my name that I could think of was already taken.
I’m not an expert.
I’m not a guru.
I’m a coach.
Please don’t think I’m going to show up with a bunch of here’s how you get the perfect family photo on Christmas morning … because that’s not my gig. On the other hand if you want me to share why I don’t even try to take a photo on Christmas mornings … I can do that.
In fact, that’s what you can probably expect to start. Some essays – humorous stories that have been bubbling up in my head for a few years about my adventures as me.
I’m not sure.
I think it’s partly because I’m about to have one kid go off to college and another kiddo is getting married. I have these stories in my head all these years and they are good. Sometimes they have been snippets on my Facebook profile. They should be shared. Maybe that’s the reason. I think they will make people smile, feel less alone and perhaps even give some hope.
That’s the plan.
Are you ready? Let’s do it. 🙂