Stories from an imperfect parent

Oct 10

Five-year-olds really are pretty awesome.

Two weeks ago(ish), Greta comes home with her un-eaten snack. As I pull it out of her backpack, I’m surprised; they have snack time every day. It’s apple season, and she had Honeycrisp apple slices in her bag for her snack.  Sale season for Honeycrisp apples is a thing in our house.

Me: “G, why didn’t you eat your apples?”

G: “Mom! Someone in my class is allergic to apples! I CAN’T take apples for snack.”

Me: “Really?!” I’m surprised, but my college roommate was allergic to melon and we have a friend allergic to watermelon, so maybe apple allergies are a thing too.

::The next day.::

Me: As I pull a baggie of un-eaten grapes out of her backpack, “Greta! What’s this?! You didn’t eat your grapes?”

G: “Mom!” She looks me right in the eye, “Someone is allergic to grapes; no grapes are allowed.”

Me: Eyebrow arches as I have a lightbulb moment. “Does this mean you ate something from your teacher’s emergency snack basket?”

G: Big grin, “Yep!  Goldfish crackers!”

Me:  “What about yesterday?  Did you have Goldfish from the basket?”

G:  “Nope!  I had animal crackers from the basket yesterday,” she is grinning.

Me: “I’m on to you sister,” in my serious mom voice while trying to keep a straight face.  “I don’t think anyone is allergic to grapes. I also don’t think anyone is allergic to apples.” I watch her face fall as I speak, “I do think you really like your teacher’s snack basket.”

Greta is aghast that I caught on.  She is upset that she should eat fruit when there are better options available. Oh, the indignation.

We proceed to have a lengthy conversation about lying and making good choices and doing the right thing and waste and healthy food and the cost of food and starving children and privilege and socioeconomics and all the things.

She still thinks she’s right.

I don’t know what to do. I’ve started putting her goldfish/pretzels/crackers as her snack and putting the fruit in her lunch. She still eats the same stuff, but in a different order. Does this mean she won?

I think I know why her teacher requested supplements to the snack basket. How many of her kindergartners are bringing home soggy snacks packed by well-intentioned parents?

I do think this highlights her confident independence and intelligence.


Maren, at around age five, was on a playdate.  While she’s there, my friend (the mom) calls me.

Me: “Hello?”

Friend: “Hi!  I’m standing here at my kitchen counter and I just offered Maren a cupcake.”

Me:  “Okay.  Cool.”  I’m thinking, why are you calling me and telling me about cupcakes; is Maren in trouble or injured? 

Friend:  In an incredulous tone and a drawn out question, “Maren has asked that I call you to make sure it’s okay with you that she has this cupcake.”

Me: Laughing, “Yes she can have a cupcake.”

Friend: Hands Maren a cupcake with a thumbs up and walks into another room.  “Jen!  What the heck!  I told her it was fine to have a cupcake but she still wanted me to check with you!?!”

Me: Still laughing.  “I know.  It’s Maren.  She’s a rule-follower; I once told her she can’t have treats without permission and she took it very literally.”

Friend:  Laughing.

Me:  Laughing.

Maren’s got a strong sense of self-regulating integrity and thrives with clear boundaries and direction.


When Maren was less than two I handed her a lollipop and showed her how to suck/lick it only.  (Because the whole point of a lollipop for a toddler is twenty-minutes of quiet/peace/tranquility.)  I said to her, “If you bite it, I have to put it in the trash.  Only licking.”  She bit it, and I made her watch me throw it in the trash.  She was upset, but we moved on.  I tried again that same week, and it worked well; from then on, she would sit (in the grocery cart, in the stroller, in her carseat, etc. for twenty-minutes while I re-grouped and/or concentrated on my task at hand.)  I kept lollipops in my “emergency” pouch in my purse for many years.  Maren is now nine and has never bit a lollipop.  She was licking a lollipop the size of a sprinkle last month and I had to tell her to bite it and throw the stick away.  The kid obeys.


I tried the same thing with Greta at the same age.  Greta bit the lollipop.  I threw it away.  She was upset.  Tried again a few weeks later.  Bite.  Trash.  Fit.  Again.  Bite, trash, fit.  I gave up, and Greta never gets lollipops because 1) her teeth may shatter with the force of her bite, and 2) the whole point of a lollipop is that twenty-minutes thing.

Gum works for Greta though; she never swallows it.  It’s not quite as effective as the twenty-minutes you get out of a lollipop, but it has the same general benefit (to me, obviously.)

Boy, I’m sure you all are just scribbling notes at my parenting gems today, ey?!   LOL.  Model parent, I am not.

I love these girls.


  1. Marlayne /

    LOL :-)<3 🙂

  2. They are all so different. One of the miraculously frustrating things about parenting. I love your parenting-oriented posts lately!! And I’m glad I’m not the only one who had watermelon spears come home soggy in a lunch bag yesterday!!
    ~Lori (Nevada stranger-friend)

  3. Diana Gibson /

    …and we love that they are so different yet obviously caring, loving, independent little misses. WTG all of you, doing it well from a parenting view in my book. Blessings

  4. Kim Rourke /

    Totally get it! I just might have been relating to this post from a personal level as I think back about 30 years?. I swear it has something to do with birth order.

  5. Love how each one has different God given strengths! He made them to be a team for life 🙂

  6. Jen with two boys and a girl (and one more coming soon) /

    As an only child I never gave much thought to birth order characteristics, but it’s amazing to me how many of my friends have sensitive, intellectual, rule follower first children and resilient, creative, rule-breaker second children. I always trust my Carter to tell me the truth and do the right thing, just as I always know that when Collin has a sparkle in his eye he might be bending the truth just a little bit (again).

  7. I have boys (no girls) but the difference between them mirrors your experience — the oldest is the rule follower, the second-born is my challenge-kid.
    I’m so glad you enjoy G’s independent personality, because I’ll let in you in on a (not much of a) secret: my second-born is, at 24 years of age, still an independent personality who pushes boundaries. It’s just part of who he is.

  8. LoL
    I love you to bits!!!

  9. Cindy Mitchell /

    Love this, it is so funny how everyone has only 2 kids, and them to be so different in every way … My 2 boys were the same way.. Love your way of teaching Jen..

  10. Kathleen /

    I think you should take the win in the Greta scenario! She’s eating the fruit and not depleting teacher’s snack basket.

    I have seen children in the lunchroom throw out perfectly good food that they just didn’t want though. Maybe with this lesson you’ll avoid that problem!

    Love the lollipop story!