Suck it up, Buttercup



Photo Cred: HAIR, by John Barrett

She was crying as we pulled up to the school and she didn’t want to get out of the car. My daughter was having an “off” morning and I was trying to decide on the best course of action. Is there a worse way for a mom or dad to start the day than with a crying kid who doesn’t want to go to school? I was stuck in the frustrating in-between of wanting to push her out the door so I could get on with my day and wanting to crawl back in bed and snuggle her close, rub her back and shelter her from whatever was making her upset.

“Are you going? What are we doing here?”

“Do you think you can you suck it up and make it through your day? If I’m going to get a call from the nurse in 5 minutes, please just save me the trip back to school and we’ll turn around right now.”

” I know you don’t feel 100%– but you don’t have to feel 100% to make it through the day.” (Hell, I make it through all kinds of days hovering around 35% or so.)

Yeah. These are things I said. But if you’re a parent, I’m pretty sure you’ve said them too.

We circled the Drop-Off loop one more time while she was wiping the tears and checking her mascara in the visor mirror, all the while my heart complexly interwoven with impatience and heartbreak. I knew it was not her best day. I knew she was upset. And I knew she was upset with me, too. She thought I was being hard on her and that was making everything worse.

As we pulled up to the doors, my eyes were watching the clock. I knew in one more minute she’d be late and I’d have to cop a lame excuse note, but the tears were still coming.

Ticking clock. Cars behind me. Buses lined up to move. What do I do? Do I make my normally cheerful little freshman walk into school crying? Do I drive us back home? On any given day, I’ve done both.

Today? I made her get out.

“I love you. Take a deep breath. You can do this. I know it’s not your favorite thing right now. It’s not mine either. But in just a little bit, you’ll be distracted and moving on with your day. Go. So you’re not late. Hop out.”



Many a day I’ve allowed less than sick kids stay home. Many a day I’ve coddled kids who didn’t feel up to doing whatever the day required of them. And the more time goes by, I’m not sure it was the right decision. In the moment, it was the easiest decision, but the easiest decision and the right decision are unfortunately not usually the same thing.

When you’re trying to raise up kids into strong-minded and responsible adults, it becomes more clear on the daily that you’re not doing them any favors when you allow them to lie down under the weight of their little world. It’s not reality. It’s not how life works. And it’s a mentality that won’t serve them well– or at all– in the Grown Up world.

A friend recently introduced me to the famous acronym, MTXE, coined and embraced by former Wichita State head coach Gene Smithson during his tenure from 1978-86, which stands for “Mental Toughness Extra Effort,” a mindset that helped the Shockers compile a 155-81 record with two Missouri Valley Conference titles and a trip to the Elite Eight over a span of eight years. I’ve started using it with my kids and there are days I want to write it on my own hand as a reminder.


I think of my own life experiences, of things that have required Mental Toughness and Extra Effort in my own life (widowed at 26 with 2 small children, a tough marriage, a tough divorce, an accident resulting in a few broken bones and surgeries, to name a few);  Of the endless days I’ve lived through compartmentalizing personal pain, anxiety or fear so that I could fulfill obligations and responsibilities and be a dependable mother, employee, daughter, friend. I want to know I’m raising my kids with the mental toughness and fortitude that difficult life- or even just DAILY life- experiences require; That there is a way to be both aware of your feelings and in control enough of them as well, so you can face the day regardless.

I’ll be thinking of my daughter all day, aware that she’s struggling. And if the school calls and I need to pick her up, of course that’s okay. But I still won’t be sorry I made her get out of the car. And someday, even if it’s not today, neither will she.



“I was still learning.”


My girls and I were chatting recently and reminiscing about all kinds of different things. As one topic and memory led to another, I started to have Big Mom Feelings for both of them and began to tell them how much I like them and how proud I am to be their mom.

But as the conversation wore on, we all started to laugh as we recalled the littlest one in her much younger days. She was…How shall we put it? A handful. More fiery than the older two. A biter, if you must know. Much more physical and strong-willed than I was used to. Years ago, my then 5 year-old nephew once referred to her as a “rough woman.” We have many funny stories about things she said and did. And she knows this was true of herself and also laughs about it now.

But during this recent conversation, she looked up at  her older sister and I with a shy smile and said these very profound words:

“I was still learning.” 


Oh baby girl. Oh of course you were.

How I love those words. How moved I was by her very gentle and compassionate perception of her former self. And though I didn’t make a huge deal out of it in the moment, because I’m pretty sure I may have been met with eye rolls and slightly blank stares (Mom is FEELING again)… That little sentence won’t leave me alone.

The rearview mirror of life can be pretty unforgiving. And age doesn’t even really matter. Most of us have no shortage of regrets. Words we wish we had said or never said. Choices that hurt other people or hurt ourselves. Broken relationships. Missed opportunities. And just the general crap of life. Bleh.

2014 is coming to a close and I’m already beginning to take stock of how it all went down. But now I’m resolving to take a page from my daughter and remind myself ever so tenderly, “I was still learning.” And I am still learning. Everyday. All the time. Maya Angelou once reminded us “When you know better, you do better”, and now my daughter has reminded me of this as well.

Be gentle with yourself and each other, dear readers. We’re all still learning.