Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

The best parenting advice comes from within


Published:

Every year my dad comes up from South Carolina for Super Bowl weekend to celebrate his Feb. 4 birthday. The past two years, my oldest son has come home from college to visit and, together with a few friends, we all enjoy an evening of pro football, Crock-Pot chili and birthday cake.

This year while preparing the chili, I suggested to my husband that we watch some old home videos before the game. Everyone gathered around to relive the "Snowpocalypse" of 2000, when my sons were only 2½ and 1 year old — and not much taller than the snow on the ground. I recalled the layout of our first home during a video of my younger son’s first birthday party as I watched my older son throw inflated balloons into the air. Neighbors we don’t get to see much anymore laughed in the background while the birthday boy stuffed a slice of Blue’s Clue’s cake into his mouth. We watched our daughter take her first steps in the fall of 2002 and delighted in a warm spring day in 2004 when all three kids spent hours running through a sprinkler in the front yard.

Those years were filled with a liveliness I yearn for now that my children are 19, 18 and 15. I miss the chaotic parties, bedtime stories and building blocks scattered across the living room floor. I often recall the Thursday morning playgroups we attended, and the many therapeutic conversations I had with my mom friends about the struggles — and triumphs — of raising children.

As the last tape ended, a feeling of satisfaction washed over me. I realized all of those years of heeding my mom instincts had paid off. My kids have turned out to be kind, empathetic, hard-working and humble — everything my husband and I hoped for and more. And the best feeling of all was the realization that we didn’t need to read the latest parenting books or blogs, or follow “expert” advice to know how to raise our children. We just followed our hearts and intuition.

As you navigate the various challenges of parenting, I offer these revelations — NOT as advice, but as confirmation of my confidence in you as a parent. Don’t let anyone tell you they know better than you do about what’s best for your child. YOU are your child’s No. 1 expert.
 

Savor the Chaos

When you’re in the midst of raising children, it’s easy to get caught up in familiar routines and lose sight of the special memories being created. There are going to be days when you can’t keep life in order. Toys will cover the floor. Meals won’t be healthy. Neighbors might hear you scream into your pillow. Stop and savor the chaos. Before you know it, your toddler’s cheeky smile will be replaced with an adolescent smirk. Don’t wish those crazy days away. You only get to experience them once.


Take ‘Expert Advice’ With a Few Grains of Salt

Throughout our parenting years, my husband and I listened and reluctantly fielded advice about:

  • How many kids we should have. 
  • How far apart in years they should be spaced. 
  • When they should achieve each milestone. 
  • How we would know they were “ready” for preschool or kindergarten. 
  • Blah blah blah. You get the idea.

Some people feel that just because they’ve given birth, they’re entitled to consulting you on how to make every decision possible related to raising your child. My favorite “expert” — parents whose oldest child is younger than my youngest. Um… I've got this. Thanks, but no thanks.


Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

Throughout the nearly 20 years my husband and I have spent raising three kids, we’ve interacted with teachers, doctors, book authors, coaches and other professionals who try to wow you with a philosophy or mission designed to improve your child. Unfortunately, these professionals aren’t always able to follow through with their promises. This happens for various reasons — impossible expectations, bias, hypocrisy or just plain ignorance, to name a few. An ideology can be crafted to sound bulletproof until that bullet pierces your child’s self-confidence and trust in what your family bought into. When this happens, stop drinking the Kool-Aid and walk away — quickly.


Laugh Off Labels

If my husband and I believed the labels that have been slapped onto our kids by various “experts,” we would be the proud parents of stereotypical teens. If you’ve instilled confidence, love and trust in your children, they should be capable of making reasonable decisions about the way they act, dress, talk and behave as they grow and mature — instead of basing their decisions on stereotypes and perceived peer expectations. This is where instincts and intuition should be your guide — and theirs.

 


Remember: One Size Does Not Fit All

I have three children with three very distinct personalities. My oldest is cautious and contemplative. He loves puns and complex thinking. My second oldest sometimes reacts impulsively to things that excite him but is very tenacious and never starts something he can’t finish. My youngest is competitive, sensitive and reflective. She values loyalty and trust.

As your children grow and become more independent, their true nature will emerge and you’ll realize the motivational and disciplinary tactics that worked for one, may not work for another. Sadly, many schools, government institutions, sports programs and youth organizations don’t consider this very important reality and make broad-based decisions about expected behaviors, so the responsibility falls on you to nourish what “makes your child tick” outside of those arenas.


Trust Yourself

Parenting is not easy. My husband and I doubted our parenting skills and decisions on numerous occasions. We aren't perfect and neither are our children. But at the end of each day, they hug our necks and tell us they love us. They continue to make us proud, showing their love and respect for us in their own way.

We are grateful that we trusted our instincts and intuition over the past almost-20 years to see them grow into the uniquely wonderful human beings they have become, and we know the same will happen for you if you follow your heart and intuition. Remember: You are the only expert your child needs.

 
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February 2017

Join park staff in collecting data for the 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. We will look and listen for birds in a variety of habitats, and keep track of how many individuals of each species...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Families celebrate Purim with bagels, fruit and Hamantaschen. Kids enjoy Purim-related activities,  music and more. Costumes encouraged.

Cost: $8/family, member; $12/family, nonmember

Where:
Raleigh-Cary Jewish Community Center
12804 Norwood Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27613
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Sponsor: Raleigh-Cary Jewish Community Center
Telephone: 919-676-6170
Contact Name: Jill Lokitz
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Learn how to creatively attach air plants to scrap wood. Combine reuse and living art and learn about how to care for air plants. All materials are provided, including plants. Register online....

Cost: $25

Where:
The Scrap Exchange
2050 Chapel Hill Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: The Scrap Exchange
Telephone: 919-213-1278
Contact Name: Anna Graves
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Join a park naturalist on a one-mile hike around Yates Mill Pond and help to identify and count the birds that we see along the way. Learn how to identify backyard birds by sight, sound and other...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Enjoy the tale of a young mermaid with the dulcet voice who risks it all for love in a daring deal with a vengeful sea witch. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $30-$89

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Carolina Ballet
Telephone: 919-719-0900
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Discover birds along the trails and pond. All ages. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Join park staff in collecting data for the 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. We will look and listen for birds in a variety of habitats, and keep track of how many individuals of each species...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Learn about the bald eagle and hike to the fishing pier to view eagles soaring high. All ages. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

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Ages 3-5 enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Enjoy games, crafts and hikes. Take a picnic lunch. All ages. Dress for outdoor fun. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Spend the afternoon learning all about birds. Go on a bird behavior scavenger hunt, play a migration game, and learn how to identify common species on the lake and at the feeder. Make suet. Ages...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Toddlers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Mr. Panda is making a surprise. What is it? The animals must wait and see. But waiting is boring. Mr. Panda shows that good things come to those who wait. Read the story about patience.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Babies enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Website »

More information

Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Toddlers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Babies enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Website »

More information

The library's Teen Leadership Corps hosts an opportunity for kids of all ages to come build something special with Lego and Duplo bricks, and play games to improve reading and math skills.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Website »

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Listen to a story in English and Spanish and meet  animals.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Website »

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Parent and child enjoy a craft, activity and guided walk along the greenway. Ages 2-6.  Register online. Choose course #199100.

Cost: $3

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Center
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Preschoolers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Website »

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Moms meet other moms for support and friendship. Drop-in program.

Cost: Free

Where:
Grow, The Family Boutique
2885 Jones Franklin Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Telephone: 919-803-3521
Contact Name: Heather Dickens
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Help park staff with citizen science projects. Take a water bottle and wear sturdy shoes. Ages 8-10 with adult; 11 years and older adult optional. Meet at the Cypress Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Website »

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Chase away the winter blues with a hike through the winter garden. After the walk, warm up inside with a book and winter craft. Meet at the visitor center. Ages 3-12. Register online.

Cost: $5/child

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University
4415 Beryl Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
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Join others for an easy paced hike around the greenway. Ages 3 and younger; older siblings, strollers and leashed pets welcome. Register online. Choose course #199059.

Cost: Free

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Center
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

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A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
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Learn about wolves, coyotes and foxes. Take a hike to look for tracks and signs. Make casts of canid feet to take home. Ages 9-13. Register online. Choose course #199997.

Cost: $5/child

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
11408 Raven Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-996-6764
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Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

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Kids can drive their futures at the fourth annual Marbles Future Me Kids Career Fair, which introduces children to real-life architects, bakers, dentists, engineers, news reporters,...

Cost: $5 ages 1 and older

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Ages 3-5 enjoy play-based activities in English and Spanish to prepare for kindergarten.

Cost: Free

Where:
Athens Drive Community Library
1420 Athens Dr.
Raleigh, NC
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Website »

More information

Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Families enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate the magic of storytelling on Disney Reads Day. Read popular Disney stories and take part in fun activities to inspire your imagination. Enjoy giveaways, including stickers, bookmarks and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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Celebrate Mardi Gras with a walking parade, children's activities and contests. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Wake Forest
S. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Join park staff and search the park for snowflakes and ice crystals. Explore the unique shapes of snowflakes and view ice crystals under microscopes, then construct your own paper snowflake or ice...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Kids learn to code in a free workshop. Register online. Sign up for a summer camp during the event and save $100.

Cost: Free

Where:
theCoderSchool
201 Davis Grove Circle
Cary, NC  27519
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Take a magical journey through China's divine culture. Classical dance, music and storytelling highlight this live show.

Cost: $70-$150

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC
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Website »

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Delivered is a community workshop centered on educating, empowering and encouraging women to plan and achieve their most optimal birth plan. The workshop will introduce attendees to the benefits of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Davis Family Chiropractic
7901 Strickland Rd.
Ste 104
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Davis Family Chiropractic
Telephone: 919-615-2257
Contact Name: Dr. Alisha Davis
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Raleigh Little Theatre's troupe performs the story of Cher Ami, a pigeon who saved American soldiers during World War 1 by carrying a message for help. Ages 5 and older.

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Enjoy a fast-paced and accessible introduction to many influential black Americans who have shaped the nation over the last 150 years. Grades pre-K-5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Chapel Hill Public Library
100 Library Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a magical journey through China's divine culture. Classical dance, music and storytelling highlight this live show. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $70-$150

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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