How to Raise a Happy Teen

Possible? Plausible? Urban legend?

Actually no. Listen all you parents of young girls, you don’t have to stress. I have the secret to success and since I have been asked, many times to share it, I thought, what better way than my daughter’s sixteenth birthday week.

First off, throw out the schedules, unless you want your child a stressed out ball of anxiety, screeching monkey, and peeling the wall paper. Micro-managing is not the answer. Forget it. I think the most routine we had was Barney singing on TV and bath time. Those were pretty reliable. I can’t even remember if I made her brush her teeth much less have a bed time. It was by nine (or ten).

She slept with me as an infant until after breastfeeding. Then, I laid down with her as a toddler until she fell asleep. Eventually I just gave her my bed – problem solved. A three-year old in a double bed with no worries of her falling out of it. Heck, the twin wasn’t so bad (heh). If I had only known what it took for her to fall asleep on her own, I would have given her that big old bed moons ago.

She had a room with her very own bathroom by age ten along with a cell phone. Yes, a real one. She grew up on McDonald’s chicken nuggets and fries except for the occasional dinner I would cook, ground beef in a bowl or Kids Cuisine. Yeah, McD’s was much better. Let’s not forget mom’s breakfast either. Cinnamon toast, hold the toast, just pass the butter and sugar. She had candy and soda when she wanted and never gorged on it. Never thought it was a big deal. Never obsessed about it (unlike me).

Right now, that girl has EASTER candy from last year on her dresser. IN PLAIN SIGHT. Never opened. Yeah, it’s gross but my point is, she used to have to hide candy from ME. She could care less about it while I hunted it down. She eats it when she wants to, no big deal.

She dressed herself from age two on. I didn’t care if it matched. I don’t think anyone else did either but she had a scary eye for colors and shoes even at age two. Of course, she did change clothes – a lot. Luckily, I like doing laundry.

I took her EVERYWHERE to EVERYTHING from a week old up. Plane rides, car rides, shopping, showers, funerals, weddings, movies, sporting events, work, and many, many kid things too. We sang. We danced. I never missed a Barney beat. Mary Kate & Ashley? The Olsen twins – AFTER Full House – they rocked. We had every VCR episode on tape. I’m not kidding. Every. One.

In our house, if you heard Sponge Bob come on the Cartoon Network, you were to immediately drop what you were doing. Run, not walk, to the living room and BELT the theme song at the top of your lungs.
SPONGE BOB SQUARE PANTS! SPONGE BOB SQUARE PANTS!
SPOOOOOONGE BOOOOOOB! SQUAAAAARE PAAAANTS!

I guess I could have put her in time out if she didn’t, but I don’t think she ever had time out. Nor was she spanked (maybe once?). I think she has been grounded twice (her entire life that is).

She had bad grades in elementary, 2nd grade, but then again she was diagnosed with ADHD. She had been through a big move from one city to another, from one school to another. It’s no wonder. Poor kid.

Maybe you think this is a recipe for a “bad” kid. I mean…I didn’t follow all the rules, right? Spoiled, entitled, does what she wants with no consequences. I’m too much of friend not a mom. Is she really sneaking out to party?

Busted! New Year’s Eve boozing it up!

Well, no. Actually she likes hanging out with me. I have no idea why.

Maybe it’s how I roll….

I have never held anything back from Sydney. She knows my mistakes. BIG ONES. She knows my failures. EVEN BIGGER. I was never anything but honest to her. I’m not perfect. I’m just mom. No one ever said I had to be. If I do admit to any regret, it’s from not enjoying her baby years more. I was too worried about being a mom, not sure when that changed. Maybe after my 1000th and one one MILLIONTH and one mom failure.

One thing is for sure, she never doubted I loved her. The only thing I stood firm on was NO DRUGS. I promised to shave her head if she ever tried them (still would Sydney! Bald as an egg). The only horror I put her through (besides ex #2) was riding the Jurassic Park Adventure at Universal Studios. She cried in line. Hey, we came all the way to Orlando, she was RIDING IT! She STILL denies enjoying it. Of course the picture tells a different story, it was pretty pitiful with her and her cousin hunkered down under the bar, faces twisted in horror frozen in a scream. My bad. That really was an awesome ride, those dinosaurs looked soooo real.

So hear me out. Stop stressing. Be honest. Don’t say, DO. Laugh, at everything. Sing, off-key. Dance, radically. Live, so your inside child never dies. RELAX. Have faith. Enjoy every moment before it’s gone.

Just be careful who is watching. You may influence a new generation.

Hey Sydney….

Thanks for being so incredibly amazing. You really did it on your own (didn’t you?). I feel like I was along for the ride (except when you drive, please let me out at that point). You never cease to amaze me with your funny humor, easy-going stride, and your slice of pure cool awesomeness. I am so grateful you are my daughter.

My mom swears I didn’t get the experience of raising a “real” kid. Whatever you are, I hope you always stay the same – glowing with your inner brightness and child-like spirit – I hope you stay a happy teenage girl forever.

Sensationally Stunningly Six

My oldest future stepdaughter Molly turned six Monday. I can’t help but remember when I first met her and how much she has grown and changed in the two short years.

She was incredibly shy the first time I saw her. She didn’t say a word but would peek at me in wonder, as I happily chanted along with the Diego episode that was on TV. If I glanced her way, she would duck her head hiding a giggle, but I saw that. Yes I did.

The second time I met her, she ran up to me and said point blank, “I’m not shy anymore!”

She wasn’t kidding either. She was my pal after that and I don’t think she has ever stopped talking, stopped acting, stopped engaging. Did I mention the talking? The only interruptions have not been from inattention, but competition since her little sister found her voice too.

One of my best memories was when she found out I was marrying her Daddy. I think she knew what happened before I did. She enacted the entire wedding procession immediately after he stood from bended knee using Sydney for people props. Later when I asked her if she wanted to be my flower girl she turned me down flat. What?

Me: You don’t want be my flower girl?

Molly: No

Me: (I couldn’t believe it) But Molly don’t you want to be in the wedding?

Molly: Nuh-huh.

Me:(totally stumped) Well, how come Molly?

Molly: Because! I don’t want to miss it!

Ha, so cute. She thought if she was IN the wedding she would miss all the happenings going on. Since Sydney told her the flower girl has the best view in the house she has now accepted the position. Yay!

So, I’m-not-shy-anymore-Molly, happy, happy birthday. Giving you a birthday hug made my day. You are precious to me. More precious because God brought you into my life not by birth, but by love, and that is so incredibly special , to be chosen by him for such a rare gift. I hold it deep in my heart. I treasure it and I treasure you.


Just a bit after I met her. Molly age four.


She had my camera for a day. I have a folder of pics from it. I love her view of life at four (who knew how many views of feet there are). I recommend you give it a try with a little one. See their day through a third lens – simply freeing.


Molly a few weeks ago at the park. From age four to kindergarten. I am so proud of you and your parents. They have done such a great job raising you to be so incredibly smart and caring.


One of my favorite photographs of her. She was playing with friends and doing what I love best……
Living, Loving, Laughing

To you Miss Molly and to many, many more.