One of the challenges/joys of having more than one kid is that unless you give birth to genetically identical clones you have to/get to have a multitude of parenting experiences based on your child’s unique special snowflake attributes. For instance, Riley was a decent sleeper right off the bat, while Dylan woke me up every night on the reg until he was in preschool. Riley was super sensitive and anxious, Dylan barreled through his early years like an urgent-care-prone bull in a china shop. Riley hated things with cheese, Dylan lived exclusively on things with cheese.

Now that the boys are older, they have plenty of the same interests — basketball, YouTube videos, Nerf weaponry, saying REKT BRO as often as possible — but they could not be more different when it comes to school. Math, at least the elementary school variety, seems to come naturally to Riley. Dylan, on the other hand, is mostly baffled by the entire concept, particularly the current third grade focus on fractions, which I can identify with on a deep and personal level (“Mixed numbers”? “Improper”? Look, all I can remember about fractions is that Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Hobbes said numerator means “number eighter” in Latin). Dylan has excellent spelling skills, while Riley, frustratingly, doesn’t even get words in the phonetic ballpark. Riley is competitive to a fault and tends to get sloppy with his work in order to be the first done, Dylan is dreamy and scattered and I suspect he spends half his class time with the Charlie Brown wah-wah-wah voice going in the background while he cranes his neck to see whatever’s happening outside the window.

Throughout the past eleven years, I feel like whenever I have gotten some sort of handle on how to best support/handle one kid, the other is murmuring into my ear Liam-Neeson-style: “What I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.”

I was listening to The Moth podcast yesterday and there was this amazing story from John Turturro, in which he describes — well, lots of things, including some heartbreaking revelations about his family, but also wandering through NYC during the blackout of 2003. He finishes with this:

We imagine that we live in the light. We imagine we know what’s gonna happen. We imagine we can control everything. You know, I’m gonna do this, and I’m gonna do that. And the reality is, truthfully, that almost all of us are just stumbling along in the dark.

Parenting is just one big stumble, and the hope you don’t cause too much damage when you fall. I have always been suspicious of those who claim to have figured out the best path, because come on. You’re out here with me, in the dark.


19 Responses to “Forever winging it”

  1. Katherine on April 13th, 2017 9:17 am

    I needed to read this today. Thank you.

  2. MA in MI on April 13th, 2017 9:20 am

    OH, LINDA! It’s so good that you are back. I love the way you write, and this, THIS is classic Linda: Liam-Neeson-style: “What I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.” Anytime I bray like a donkey I think of you, because you taught me that that’s what I’m doing. =) Welcome back, my dear. I’m right beside you on that ODAAT thing, if you ever want to commiserate. <3 <3 <3

  3. elizabeth_k on April 13th, 2017 9:35 am

    Stumbling in the dark indeed — not just with parenting, but with our own lives. Thanks for sharing your flashlight.

  4. mallory on April 13th, 2017 10:07 am

    I listened to the same Moth story; it was incredible and spot-on to some family troubles I’m having.

    I also love your post. Being a parent certainly provides constant opportunities to learn and grow.

  5. jennbb33 on April 13th, 2017 10:22 am

    They don’t come with manuals, and sometimes I’m glad because that’s what makes them individuals. Other times it’s maddening. I tell new parents that, for everything they get frustrated with, take a breath. It’s the first time for the kid, and for them. They can’t screw it up too badly.
    And if you think having 2 kids of the same gender is confusing, try having one of each. I am face-palming, or face-bricking, as I have evolved to, on the regular.
    Glad I’m not alone. I feel pretty alone much of the time.

  6. Jen on April 13th, 2017 10:27 am

    Thank you for this. I’m learning so much about my kids as they grow. I have so many more questions than when they were younger. I just hope I’m doing at least some of this right.

  7. Julie on April 13th, 2017 11:03 am


    That is all.

  8. Angela on April 13th, 2017 11:07 am

    I needed this SO MUCH today. I have twins… identical twins at that, but they are still so different and I am constantly convinced I am screwing them up equally. Thank you for this reminder.

  9. LP on April 13th, 2017 11:13 am

    <3 Reminds me of a similar Ram Dass (sp?) quote (roughly paraphrased, I'm sure) "We're all just walking each other home."

    Live for your posts.

  10. Alison on April 13th, 2017 1:57 pm

    That Liam Neeson paragraph killed me. So funny.

    Mom to three boys here. A little hard to tell with the baby, but the older two are SO different in every way. It’s astonishing really. And there seems to be so little overlap in whatever best parenting practices apply to each. It really is flailing in the dark. Over and over and over.

  11. Cari on April 13th, 2017 2:56 pm

    This. All of this.
    Thank you, as always, for your writing. If we have to be in the dark, I’m glad we’re all here together.

  12. Jeannie on April 13th, 2017 4:59 pm

    ** hand up **

    Yep, me too, on the stumbling my way along and just hoping I don’t mess them up too much. Thanks. 😊

  13. Niki on April 13th, 2017 7:43 pm

    I love this.

    My boys are 20 and almost 22 and I felt like this post daily. You’re right- we’re all just stumbling along doing what we hope is best.

    You’re doing great with those kids FYI. ❤️

  14. Nancy on April 13th, 2017 9:14 pm

    This is the kind of post where I need fb style like and love buttons. This and your insight into classroom volunteering and understanding the diversity of student needs. As a mom of two disparate girls and a special educator you have explained it all in beautiful prose.

  15. anne nahm on April 14th, 2017 8:28 am

    Love it

  16. Mary Clare on April 14th, 2017 8:38 am

    Linda, Thanks for offering a point of commiseration for those of us just as baffled as you! That you care enough to try to figure this stuff out means you’re a good mom. I have one daughter is very much like me (scary, to see one’s good and bad personality traits held right up to the mirror. At least I get where she is coming from when we talk) and the other is very much like her dad (we have less in common in our approaches to situations, so I don’t always understand her). Yesterday was school conferences and I loved hearing their teachers’ take. They’re both good kids – so different but awesome.

  17. Lisa on April 14th, 2017 5:29 pm

    You really need to write more often. It will be good for you and good for us :)

  18. Katie on April 14th, 2017 8:15 pm

    Totally true. Our kids are older than yours but definitely opposite ends of the spectrum like yours. And yes, we are all just stumbling along, hoping we’re doing the best we can and causing as little damage as possible. Just love them and support them as best you can. Be there for them and let them know you love them for who they are.

  19. Kristi on April 17th, 2017 8:42 am


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