Double Jeopardy Applies Even When You’re 7

Double Jeopardy Applies Even When You’re 7

Double Jeopardy Applies Even When You're 7

Me: Remember, you can say anything to your doctor. You won’t get in trouble. This is like a free pass for saying stuff.

Riley: Stupid stupid stupid. Can I put up my middle finger? Like Beyonce?

Me: Um, no. Not like that. I mean, you can say whatever but I meant that she’s going to ask you questions and I want you to be honest. And whatever you tell her, I won’t like make a big deal out of or whatever.

Riley: Okay but you said I could say whatever I want. So. STUPID. STUPID. STUPID.

Me: Fine. But will you answer her questions?

Riley: Yes.

Doctor comes in…

Doctor: Hi Riley! You’ve grown up so much! How’s your summer?

Riley: Good.

Doctor: Are you going to camp?

Riley: Yes.

Doctor: What do you do there?

Riley: I don’t know.

Off to a great start! But the pediatrician was ready. She reworded her question to add today. And Riley answered. And cooperated for the whole visit. She didn’t tell her anything that would change the world and overall, it was a pretty boring visit. But that’s fine with me.

Sometimes this kid tells me all the things. Especially when she’s watching a YouTube kids video about Barbie making cupcakes and I’m trying to make dinner. She’s always all in for that.

And sometimes? It’s all I don’t know. And yes, no, no, no. Even when the question wasn’t some kind of multiple choice. A long time ago, we started sharing one happy thing, one sad thing at dinner. It has helped. A lot. But at 7? She doesn’t want to talk over dinner. She wants to tell us stuff or ask to play Barbie UNO while we eat (the answer is always yes), or getting real serious about (phonetic) Bananagrams. Dinner isn’t the time for big deep vulnerable conversations. We do still share a Happy/Sad Thing, but these days I try to move around when I ask for it. Sometimes in the morning. Sometimes when I’m tucking her in. Sometimes on the train ride to camp. Sometimes when we’re hanging on the couch together or biking or walking somewhere. By moving it around, I seem to hear the most about how the boys were being too rough or one of the girls felt left out and how she swam so hard and was frustrated that they didn’t have enough free time.

Double Jeopardy Applies Even When You're 7

But in this house, there’s still one rule about talking: Double Jeopardy. You saw that movie? Okay it was a little different than what applies to a first grader, but around here, you can never ever get in trouble at home for anything you got in trouble for at school. It’s our favorite. Because of our rule, she tells me when she’s corrected for talking too much. She tells me when the kids got in trouble on the bus for not listening and lost swimming time. She tells me that she wasn’t listening either, but then started listening after the warning so she didn’t lose swimming.

By knowing she won’t get in trouble with me, it shows her that I trust the other people taking care of her. I trust her other parent, her camp counselors, her teachers. And yes, I do occasionally check in with them about some of the things she tells me (hello camp counselors playing Pokemon Go on a field trip), but she isn’t in trouble for any of it. She learns that making mistakes is part of building your story and I’m teaching her to tell it. She learns that getting in trouble doesn’t affect how you are loved and cared for. She knows that kids are learning, and adults are too. We’re all figuring it out as we go and it’s way better when we keep talking. Even when it’s hard and annoying and omg stop asking me questions.

I thought this would all get harder as she grows up, but so far, we’ve worked hard on building a foundation of communication that has actually made it easier. For now, it’s about who wasn’t listening, but eventually it will be about who was swearing, and then who was drinking or talking about hurting themselves or someone else. We can’t do that without this. We can’t be ready for the big kid hard stuff if we don’t start early with the little kid hard stuff. And oh boy is it sometimes hard. Age 7 is no joke. But we’re here for it always. For the happy things and the sad things. For the everything in between. For mixing it up and listening and laughing and doing the work of growing together. I’m all in for that. Always.

This post is sponsored by I am working with them as a #TalkEarly blogger this year to help them “Empower parents to be confident about their own decisions regarding alcohol, model healthy, balanced behaviors, and create a foundation for starting conversations with their kids from an early age.” Let’s all do that. Because that totally rules.

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Yes, I Drink Alcohol and Yes, I Sometimes Drink In Front Of My Kid

Yes, I Drink Alcohol and Yes, I Sometimes Drink In Front Of My Kid

“Do you think parents should drink in front of their kids?”

“No. No way. Definitely not.”

“Really? Why not?”

“Because the kids and little tiny babies might not know what it is and they will get it and drink beer.”

“Oh, yeah, that would be super bad. But I drink in front of you. Is that okay?”

“Yeah, that’s obviously fine since you drank beer like 1,467 times in front of me.”

“Right. Not all at once, but yes. Why is that different?”

“Because I know what it is.”

“Yeah, that’s super important. You know not to drink it and you know what alcohol would do to your body and why it’s bad for you because of how old you are. Is it okay for parents to drink in front of their kids if the kids know what it is?”

“Yeah, it’s fine if the kids know it’s beer or something.”

“What happens if grown ups or parents drink too much of it in front of their kids?”

“I would tell them to stop!”

“Yeah, you could, but I don’t think that’s really your responsibility. I think it’s the grown ups responsibility to take care of their own body and make sure they’re always being safe, especially around kids.”

“Yeah, I think so too.” 

Yes, I drink in front of my kid and yes, it's okay

I drink in front of my kid. At the beach or on the porch after work or I have a beer while we play basketball in the driveway or at dinner in a restaurant or at home. She sometimes yells at me to put it down if we’re playing and it’s my turn to catch the ball, though less frequently than she tells me to put down my phone, but that’s another post for another time. I have a personal two drink rule when she’s around. Or less. Mostly less. But always? I tell her what I’m doing. I mention that I’m getting a beer, or I tell her that there’s tequila in my drink and that a small amount of tequila is the same alcohol as a full beer. I let her smell it, but never let her drink it. She has never asked for a sip, anyway, because she’s the Rule Police.

“I’m never going to drink when I get older.”

“I don’t think that’s true. It’s okay if you want to drink when you get older, you know.”

“Don’t say that! My body! My rules!”

“That’s totally true and I definitely want you to follow your own rules for your own body. But I also want to be sure that you understand that alcohol isn’t bad on it’s own. It’s the way people can use it that can be bad. You can drink alcohol and be super responsible about it and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

I’m not sure she heard me beyond, “That’s totally true…” but that’s fine. I keep talking.

I love what Dr. Alvord says about drinking being an adult behavior, like driving. Because I know that my own kid tends to see it in terms of good vs. bad, and in our conversations, I’ll be working on getting away from that a bit. I guess that’s why we talk early and talk often.


What do you think? Do you drink in front of your kids? Have you ever talked to them about it? What do they think?


This post is sponsored by I am working with them as a #TalkEarly blogger this year to help them “Empower parents to be confident about their own decisions regarding alcohol, model healthy, balanced behaviors, and create a foundation for starting conversations with their kids from an early age.” Let’s all do that. Because that totally rules.

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Talking To My Cis Kid About The Trans Bathroom Issue

Talking To My Cis Kid About The Trans Bathroom Issue

We talk about bathrooms a lot. We celebrate when we find a family bathroom. We cringe at the binary. We talk about North Carolina and Massachusetts. We talk about being kind and that some people aren’t. She tells me she wants family bathrooms at her school. She tells me she doesn’t want to line up as boys and girls. She gets mad at gendered language about toys at McDonalds. She tells me it doesn’t make any sense. Because to her? It doesn’t make any sense.

My Kid Is a Cis Ally for Trans Bathroom Rights

Me: People keep talking about bathrooms and gender do you know what the problem is?

Riley: Some bathrooms only have girl and boy signs on them and some have family bathrooms. The problem is that not all of the bathrooms are family bathrooms.

Me: Why is that a problem?

Riley: Because it makes neutral people feel bad because they might not know which bathroom to go in.

Me: And what about trans people and cis people who don’t quite look like a clear boy or girl?

Riley: Apa, that’s not how you spell cis.

Me: Yes it is.

Riley: No it’s not, why is it underlined then?

Me: Because my computer doesn’t think it’s a word. But it is a word. What happens if someone who identifies as a girl, and is cis, but looks gender non-conforming goes in the girls’ bathroom?

Riley: I would just ignore it because I don’t care who goes in which bathroom. I do care that some places do not have family bathrooms. Our teacher asked what we wanted to change about our school and I said I want our school to have family bathrooms.

Me: That’s a good idea. The best thing about all gender bathrooms is that they’re for everyone. I like things that are for everyone. Do you think that a person who looks different will be made fun of when they go in the bathroom?

Riley: Well, I wouldn’t make fun of them, but other people I think would.

Me: Why?

Riley: Because some people think that what people look like is what they are, except you can pick how ever you want to be.

Me: What would you do if someone came into the bathroom with you who looked super different than what you expected?

Riley: I would say, “Hi I’m Riley, this is a bathroom and this is where we go to the bathroom. What’s your name?” And they would say their name.

Me: So you would just be super nice?

Riley: Yes.

Me: Are you ever allowed to tell someone they don’t belong in a certain bathroom?

Riley: No.

Me: What if one of your friends tells someone they don’t belong in a bathroom because of what they look like?

Riley: I would say, “Stop teasing them because it doesn’t matter what bathroom you go in and what you look like.”

I recently realized that I had never had any kind of explicit talk with my own kid about bathrooms. She knows that trans kids are welcome, but what if she thinks their gender presentation isn’t right? I realized that talking to her about trans people and gender wasn’t enough. Yes she knows the difference between cis and trans. She knows about the binary and the patriarchy and internalized misogyny. But does she have expectations of what people should look like when they show up in the bathroom with her? What if she does? What if the person doesn’t meet those expectations? Sometimes you have to get real specific.Because I don’t want it to be my kid who makes someone else feel awful. Now or ever. I don’t want it to be one of her friends either. I hear so much that kids are assholes, but that has never been my experience. Kids are smart and kind and they can do this. They can support one another. They can welcome one another. They can change the world, thankfully, because we adults are doing a terrible job at it lately.

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She Doesn’t Call Me Mommy Anymore: On Nonbinary Trans Parenting and Mother’s Day

She Doesn’t Call Me Mommy Anymore: On Nonbinary Trans Parenting and Mother’s Day

Apa and Riley

It wasn’t supposed to be like this—me, drinking coffee, her sitting too close all elbows and knees and bones and limbs. She had plans. Her plans included me taking her to a toy store, but that was mostly because she didn’t understand the holiday and when you’re 7, all holidays and special days and every day should end up at a toy store. I redirected that plan with a short list of examples of how people sometimes celebrate the occasion. I started with “maybe breakfast in bed…” and she stopped me short to make a list of the foods she would deliver to me. In bed. Ginger ale, tortilla chips, Life cereal, and coffee. Of course. She even asked to be dropped off an hour early, since holidays put us on the holiday custody schedule not our regular every other weekend situation. She was all in. That was Thursday.

By Sunday morning, she arrived hungry (because too early) and with a strong desire to both ask me for things: snacks! cereal! orange juice! and the need to smash all limbs into my soft body on the couch requiring that I stay in one place. You know, the standard be in all places at once parenting skill we all somehow manage. While drinking hot coffee without spilling or burning anyone though the child is on you/next to you/on you, of course. Thankfully, The Girlfriend took over breakfast duty. We had bagels and skipped the tortilla chips and ginger ale.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this—celebrating this holiday that isn’t mine, but is because of that whole birth thing and the not-a-dad thing. The holiday that feels wrong but fine, changed, reclaimed. She calls me Apa full time now. Mommy is a tiny voice distant memory, one that comes up quickly at playgrounds and around little kindergarteners calling out. Mommy! Mommy! Not mine, this time. Not me, anymore. Maybe she was growing out of it anyway. Maybe it’s a single parenting thing. Maybe it’s because “mommy is a girl word” and “mommy isn’t your gender” and calling me Casey didn’t quite feel right, though she tried for a bit.

It wasn’t really supposed to be like this, but maybe just because I didn’t know it could be like this. I didn’t know I could parent like this with equal parts learning and doing. I didn’t know I’d question my own every move, doubting my ability to keep loving like this, to keep showing up like this, holding love and loss in the same hand like this.

I didn’t know I could parent as myself and didn’t have to try to fit into some kind of role that was set up before me, some kind of not me, some kind of failure I wasn’t required to even try for. I didn’t know that kids see parents for who they are, not for who they’re trying and failing to be anyway.

“I don’t have two moms,” she says now with pride, “I have a Mama and an Apa. They’re my parents. I have two houses, too.”

I didn’t know our first custody schedule Mother’s Day would turn into Apa’s Day and she’d fall asleep moments after saying, “I love you, Apa.” I didn’t know we could do this. I didn’t know it could be like this. Even if it wasn’t supposed to. Even without breakfast in bed and anything or everything going according to some kind of plan. I’m not so great with plans anyway.

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More About Why Than What

More About Why Than What

More About Why Than What: 25 Years Later

“Can you tell me a story about when you were a kid? A good one. With a lot of detail.”

She’s been asking about who I was as a kid a lot lately. Maybe because every time she falls, I tell her a story of some time that I fell, or my brother broke his elbow, or my dad fell off his bike. She’s growing and falling a lot lately. She’s also cartwheeling through the house, because it just snowed in April. COOL THANKS WINTERSPRING.

“What do you think a 12-year-old thinks about being responsible?”

“I think sometimes they need to be responsible and they choose to be responsible and sometimes they choose not to be. Sometimes it’s opposite because when they need to be responsible they might not be and when they don’t need to be, they might be responsible.”

“How could a 12-year-old be responsible?”

“By doing all their hard homework.”

“What do you think a 12-year-old thinks about drinking alcohol?”

“I think they think they can’t drink it in school. I don’t think they want to drink it yet.”

“What do you think I was like as a kid? Do you think I followed rules? Do you think I was a good listener in school?”

“I think you did follow rules. I think you were a kind of good listener in school. I think you drew beautiful pictures and did very well with your work.”

“Do you think I wanted to be a parent?”

“Yeah. Did you?”

“Yes. I did. I always wanted to be a parent. What do you think you’re going to be like when you’re 12?”

“I think I’m going to be a great listener and kind of scared of college.”

“Do you think you’ll be responsible when you’re 12?”

“Yeah! I’m going to follow the rules.”

25 years ago, I was 12. I followed the rules, but pushed limits hard. I don’t know if I pushed and asked all the questions because that’s what happens when you start to grow up and become who you are ]or if getting settled in a new (Catholic) school (as a non-practicing Protestant) had anything or everything to do with it. Because as a 6th grader, I spent a lot of time asking questions and saved my introspection for future parent blogging.

At 12, right and wrong was blurry and complicated and friends were mean and I was mean and I was learning French and memorizing how to pray the rosary and had to dress up as a saint at school one day. We went to mass and learned about confession and why wasn’t anyone asking any questions? We went to camp for a week and I fell off the top bunk and landed on my head and threw up and they asked me what my name was. I remember thinking, “It’s so weird to have someone ask your name when they already know you.” My future parent blogging introspection possibly began with that first concussion. 

Soon after, I fell hard into the Jesus hole where everything was clear and right was right and wrong was wrong and being responsible was just following a set of rules and teaching anyone who would listen (or you know, wouldn’t). When I came out and was kicked out of the church, their right didn’t feel so right anymore.

I knew I’d be a parent, but not like this. I didn’t know that one of the first things I’d teach my kid is, “Your body, your rules!” when she started dressing herself at age 2 and decides what new foods to taste at dinner. Then “Different families, different rules!” became the standard for “it’s not fair that (insert friend’s name here) has (insert screen time/clothes/toys/vacations/piles of ponies here).” I didn’t know that our rules would be more about why than what. That good vs. bad doesn’t really work. That there’s stuff like context and perspective and experience that bring us right back where we started. That it’s all a bit blurry and complicated, just like when I was 12. That it’s a lot more about why are we doing this? and what does it all mean? I didn’t know that when I mentioned tonight that I’m almost out of beer, my 6-year-old would remind me from the other room that drinking a lot of beer isn’t good for anyone, that all bodies have alcohol limits, not just kids who can’t have any because they’re small.

Because 25 years later, I’m a parent who doesn’t always wait for my kid to ask the hard questions. I start conversations. I ask her what she thinks. And thankfully, I’m a much better listener than I was at 12. I know that stories matter. She knows that too. Because hearing my stories and knowing where I’ve been gives her a lot of the why of who I am and the why of how she’s parented. Because responsibility starts with me quite literally as a parent. And she really likes hearing about the time I crashed my bike into a mailbox.

This post is sponsored by I am working with them as a #TalkEarly blogger this year to help them “Empower parents to be confident about their own decisions regarding alcohol, model healthy, balanced behaviors, and create a foundation for starting conversations with their kids from an early age.” Let’s all do that. Because that totally rules.

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Besties “I have a new best friend!”

“You do?”


“Who is it?”


“Good one.”

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Shared Custody Is Awful, Shared Custody Is Fine

Shared Custody Is Awful, Shared Custody Is Fine

begin again

I try not to think a whole lot about living with shared custody. Because when I do, I break open. How can a person not be with their kid for 50% of the time? How can I possibly do this? And yet, I do. And if I really think about it, parents with 100% custody co-parenting in the same house and marriage really aren’t with their kids all the time either. They go out with friends at night or unapologetically want to. The kids go to school and childcare. The parent goes to the store alone, or the kid goes to gymnastics with the other parent. Before two houses, we had a schedule of pick ups and drop offs, and I was with my kid in the afternoons, but often not in the mornings. Now when she’s here, I get both. I get to take her to gymnastics every other week. I get to take her to friend’s birthday parties every other weekend, just the same as I would if we switched off. Just like now, but we didn’t have a shared calendar, a pile of guilt, and all this goodness I just miss my kid heartbreak.

Maybe I should spend more time thinking about all of this. Maybe I’d realize it’s okay. I don’t know, though. I don’t know that I’ll ever thing it’s okay. Because I can’t help but feel like it’s just wrong to be away from my kid. Or really to have her away from me, since she’s at her other parent’s house.

Over a year into it, it’s not getting any easier. Shared custody doesn’t really get easier, but it does get more manageable. I’m getting better at taking time for myself when she’s not here. I’m getting better at managing the stuff going back and forth and the little kid attitude that goes back and forth with it. Being six is hard. Living in two houses is hard.

I’m better about telling her what the day will look like and what will be expected. I’m better about talking and asking questions. I’m better at not trying to fix it. Even when it’s hard. Even when you’re six and you want your parents to get back together, but they won’t. Even when your other parent lets you do (fill in the blank here, mostly jumping on the bed) at their house and you aren’t allowed to at this house.

Begin again.

I’m getting better at keeping the house chaos to a minimum and making sure her room is clean before she comes back (because she trashes it every time she’s here). We get to start over every two days. It doesn’t matter that we argued too much last time she was here. It doesn’t matter that last time I gave her loads of attention, but this time I have a deadline and we’re both on screens more than I want. We get to start over. Every time.

Begin again.

We are flexible, but scheduled. Organized, but chaotic. Well loved, but hurting. There’s space here for all of that. We talk, we listen, we’re okay. Even when we don’t really want to think too much about it all. Even when we just do it and mess it up and start over and mess it up again.

Begin again.

Even with half time custody, I am a full time parent. I communicate via text when my kid is away from me. I ask annoying questions in the car, at dinner, and at bedtime. We talk about easy things, we talk about hard things. Even when I don’t want to dig in to thinking too much about the hard stuff, I still show up. I still keep talking with my kid. She knows she can talk to me. Even when she’s scared. Even when she’s embarrassed. The way we talk now probably won’t work next year, but that’s okay. We’re getting really good at starting over.

In working with as a #TalkEarly blogger again this year, I’m more aware of the importance of making space for hard conversations and hard feelings and teaching my child the skills to cope with it all. I’ve been careful to set an example, knowing she’s watching me more than she ever has before, because kids don’t know how to navigate big transitions, we have to show them. Sometimes, I lose my patience. Sometimes, I raise my voice. But always, she is loved and safe and cared for. Always, we begin again.


This post is sponsored by I am working with them as a #TalkEarly blogger this year to help them “Empower parents to be confident about their own decisions regarding alcohol, model healthy, balanced behaviors, and create a foundation for starting conversations with their kids from an early age.” Let’s all do that. Because that totally rules.

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Do What Works Until It Doesn’t, Then Do Something Else

Do What Works Until It Doesn’t, Then Do Something Else

Do What Works Until It Doesn't, Then Do Something Else
Age six seems to be the age when it all falls apart. We’ve been here before, in glimpses. When she first learned how to stand up in her crib and the bedtime routine had to change. When she started dressing herself but had to change three times before school so mornings had to change. When she decided she’s part mermaid and refused to walk but instead slithers across the floor with both legs squeezed into one leg of her pajama pants… That started last week. It’s always been something. Bedtime or dinner or something. But this time? It’s everything.

She stays up late reading. She sleeps late in the morning. She doesn’t stop playing to eat breakfast. She refuses baths. She demands baths. She isn’t hungry. She’s so hungry. She refuses a jacket. She requires kitty mittens.

I have no idea.

It’s like juggling but there are no balls and no air and I have no idea. Last night included screaming at me, “I am furious! And you know who made me furious? Someone named Casey!” because I turned off her light at 9:30pm. By 9:45, we were discussing nonviolent communication. By 10:00, I lead her in a guided meditation and she fell asleep.

I have no idea.

So I do what works until it doesn’t work anymore. Then I do something else.

These days? By tomorrow, it will all be different. Parenting is just trying to keep up, mostly failing, and starting again anyway. In the process, there’s so much of the good stuff. Just don’t ask me how I’m doing it right now. Because parenting age six has no idea.

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