Introducing: The Box

We have a problem with clutter.

Late winter (you know, last week), it hit a new high. (Or was it a new low?) Boots, balled-up socks, sweaters, toys, coats, shoes—just follow the trail and it was likely to lead you to one of several little people around here.

Not much can be done about the twenty-two month old right now. He’s simply at That Stage. But the girls? At five and almost-eight, they are both capable of picking up after themselves.

I was sick of reminding them. But I didn’t want to turn clutter into a huge disciplinary issue. They didn’t need me following them around doling out punishments every time they took off their socks and let them on the living room floor.

They had to be internally motivated to put their possessions away, not externally prodded by me all the time. And whatever I did to motivate them, it had to be self-sustaining.

At first, I thought maybe I would put up a chart, with stickers for clutter-free days.

But I hate charts. (There. I said it.)

Charts are great and wonderful—for mothers who remember them.

Around here, the first week of a chart is exhilarating. Everybody is excited about the new program and the neat stickers. And then, one day, we forget to put up stickers until after the girls are in bed. Or one girl remembers and the other doesn’t. Or one girl always takes the pink stickers and there’s only green ones left and I don’t want green, I want pink, but she has them all. The gloss wears off. We fall behind in keeping track and everyone stops caring.

I am too absent-minded to be trusted with charts. I stand with one foot in the real world and one foot in the world that exists inside my head. This divided attention means many details of living can completely evade me or slip through my distracted fingers.

I’ve tried to improve. I buy vitamins that are supposed to help me concentrate and remember, but (you can see where this is going, can’t you?) I forget to take them. I keep an erratic planner. I make lists. I married a man who never forgets.

None of this has helped me much. I’m a chronic thinker and daydreamer. Vitamins and husbands aren’t going to change that.

A chart for clutter? Let’s pretend that I try it and I wouldn’t forget. So what if someone lets one sock on the floor? Would that completely erase the daily sticker? I could just hear the fuss that would make. They are children, not pre-programmed robots. Besides, we all live here, and if I look around, I can see a few of my possessions here and there.

While I was kicking this problem back and forth, I stopped beside an empty cardboard box that had been used to haul groceries home from the local discount store. I looked at it, and my chart idea vanished into the ether.

I’d like to introduce you to The Box.


It’s my new best friend.

It takes care of the clutter for me.

Here’s what I told the girls: “You know how you have a problem with letting your things all over the house, like shoes and backpacks and dolly clothes?”

[Insert sheepish nods here.]

“Do you see this box?”

They did.

“Whenever I find things on the floor that shouldn’t be on the floor, I will pick them up and put them in The Box. If you want to redeem them, you will need to do a job for me. One job for every item in the box.”

“What’s redeem mean, Mom?”

“It means if you want to wear your school shoes again, you’ll need to do a job for me.” I looked at the other girl. “It means if you want to play with your dolly again, you’ll need to do a job for me. Whatever is in The Box, you can’t have it back until you work to get it.”

The best part of this program is that I don’t have to remember anything. I still pick up things that shouldn’t be on the floor, but now I just toss them into The Box. However, the girls are finding it much easier to put their possessions away immediately rather than doing jobs before redeeming their stuff to put it away. If something of theirs is in The Box, they don’t complain about the job they have to do, because they know they could have prevented the job from happening.

The Box creates internal motivation. No more nagging from me. All I do is march toward the coat on the floor, and suddenly there’s a girl diving for the coat and whisking it into the closet.

We might even graduate to a smaller box, since this one is over-qualified.

And with all this putting away clutter and redeeming clutter, the house hasn’t looked so good in a long time.

Well. Not entirely. There is still the twenty-two month old, and he’s messier than both his sisters combined.

Maybe we should put him in The Box.

And redeem him with kisses.

When Love Is Not Enough

A year ago today, we sat by Tarica’s bed at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, waiting for the MRI results. We did not know what was wrong with her, and we prayed for strength to face the verdict.

Today, another set of parents sit by the bedside of another little girl in another hospital. Shianna had a severe seizure last night and was airlifted because she was unresponsive. I don’t want to think about the terror her parents felt. And her story strikes closely home: She is my cousin’s daughter.

After I heard the news, I put my head down on the table and cried one big gulping sob. But no more. Tears would not help. I sat up, wiped my eyes, and reached for the words.

This one is for Shianna, for all the little ones who fight battles bigger than they are, battles that break our hearts.

* * *

When they were small and sad, I held them until they smiled. When they fell in those first toddling steps, I scooped them up and kissed away the hurt.

Our world was little and safe and predictable. I doctored scrapes and colds, and I made oatmeal and promises, and we all lived as happily as if Ever After was now. I loved my children so strong it felt as if nothing could touch us.

But reality pricked holes into my cocoon of safety. There was the burn on Jenica’s face, scars she still wears. There was Tarica’s colic, and there was Micah’s repeated bronchiolitus/asthma attacks during his first year. There was the challenge of helping our daughters negotiate broadening social worlds and the difficulties found outside our sheltering walls.

My children faced problems I could not fix. I was helpless to counteract their pain, and it hurt. I wanted nothing more than to preserve our safe little world.

And then came—not a pinprick, but a slash, a tear, a gash through my world. Epilepsy took away my safety net, and I fell and fell and fell.

I could not love her enough to protect her, to heal her, to make promises, and it was a slash, a tear, a gash through my heart.

I think all mothers face this sooner or later. Some lose that safe cocoon on the day they find the unmistakable stamp of Down’s syndrome on their precious newborn’s face. Some lose their safety net in weeks spent in the NICU or in the wreckage of an accident or in the irrevocable words of a medical diagnosis. Social rejection. Academic failure. Marital conflict. Brutal words.

My love is not enough to keep my children safe.

What does a mother do when love is not enough?

She cries. She worries. She fears. She hugs them until they squirm in protest.

She alone is the mother of these children. No one else has loved them as she has, and who else feels this pain so deeply?

But if she is to be comforted, she also prays, because who else but God can comfort?

Lord, be for my children what I cannot.

And love—His love—is enough to bring us safely home.

* * *

P.S. I talked with Shianna’s aunt this morning, and it sounds like she is doing better. They suspect it was a febrile seizure.

No matter the diagnosis, it will be a long time before her parents forget the terror. I pray they will know God’s peace and comfort in the coming days.

Is Being a Good Mom Good Enough?

The alarm clock glowed midnight when I crawled into bed after being up for some time with a needy child. I burrowed into the covers, seeking comfort, seeking sleep.

My husband rolled over. “Thanks for being a good mom,” he said, his voice foggy with sleep.

His words startled me. He who sleeps through nearly everything awoke to say this? I huffed—in laughter, in surprise, I’m not sure which. “In what way do you mean?” Why do I question every compliment?

“You take care of him.” He sounded exasperated, as if it should have been obvious. In the startled silence that followed, his breathing deepened and slowed.

I blinked at the ceiling, remembering my manners too late. “Thank you,” I said to his oblivious form.

Tired as I was, sleep should have come quickly, but I lay awake, cradling his words to my heart: Thanks for being a good mom.

Life had been topsy-turvy lately. At times, the demands of motherhood overwhelmed me, made me doubt my ability to handle it with grace and patience. Could I do it? Hardly. I failed so often.

Every day, I worried I wasn’t doing enough for my family. I felt guilty when I couldn’t keep after my responsibilities. I lay awake on nights such as these, weary to the bone, and remembered all the times I should have spoken more gently, acted more kindly, smiled more frequently.

But he thought I was a good mom.

Is it enough to be a good mom? And while I was thinking about it, what does a good mom do? Lying in the dark, I held up that last question and scrutinized it.

It wasn’t hard to answer.

  • A good mom follows God and obeys His commands.
  • A good mom respects her husband and seeks to please him.
  • A good mom loves her children and takes care of them.

Christian mothers are required to shoulder these three responsibilities regardless of who they are and where they live. Beyond these three, I could name many other duties and expectations, but they were cultural demands placed upon me because I’m an American Mennonite housewife, not because I’m a mother. These expectations are activities such as housecleaning every spring and fall; canning pickles, jams, and five types of tomato sauces; gardening; baking bread; and keeping every closet, drawer, and cupboard organized. Yes, it would be nice to do all these things, to be efficient and self-sufficient, to be always caught up and kept after—but if I do these things, I am being a good seamstress, gardener, organizer, baker, and housewife. None of these activities mean I’m being a good mom, no matter what my Mennonite culture might otherwise say.

Not that there’s anything wrong with these activities. Many good moms are—for example—excellent gardeners and bakers. But my success as a mother is not dependent upon my ability to raise magnificent vegetables or decorate elaborate birthday cakes. I do not have to excel at everything to be a good mom.

Being a good mom is not complicated, but I tend to make it so. I obsess over the many details of living and play internal comparison games with other mothers’ accomplishments and grow discouraged with my inadequacies. I need to stop it.

You know what my problem is? I don’t want to be a good mom. I want to be a perfect mom. I want to do it right and do it all and do it so that others are impressed with my ability to train my children and keep my house. I want perfection. Being good isn’t good enough.

No wonder I get discouraged.

My pursuit of perfect motherhood is not only impossible, but it is also rooted in pride and must be yanked from my heart. In its place, I need to plant the seeds of humility, service, and contentment.

When I climb into bed each night, I need to ask myself: Did I follow God today? Did I respect my husband? Did I love my children? If I can say yes to these questions, then my day was a success.

I will have been a good mom, and that is good enough.

Boys Will Be Men

Did you know yogurt makes great finger paint on windows?

Did you know it’s great fun to let gulps of water dribble down your chin?

Did you know family is just another word for audience?

Did you know it’s vastly entertaining to make a girl scream?

Did you know it’s impossible to feel at home until farm animals are scattered all over the living room floor?

Did you know chairs are actually made for climbing? And hair for pulling? And toys for throwing?

I didn’t know all this, not in a way that counts, until him.


You know, the one who moves so fast he’s usually the blur on the photo.

Mothers have been observing their sons since Eve pushed Cain into the world, but it feels as fresh to me as if my son were the world’s firstborn.

He amazes me. He is hardwired to become a man, but I get to nurture him in these days when he isn’t afraid to cry and hasn’t yet mastered the art of disappearing behind a hunting magazine.

I am the softness that teaches him to protect, the tenderness that helps him to be strong.

The way I treat his father illustrates to him what a man can expect from a woman.

He loves me, needs me, but when he hangs out with his daddy, they are card-carrying members of The Guy Club—and I can only stand on my tiptoes and peer in the window. Until the play gets too rough. Then I go find something else to do to prevent my tender female sensibilities from interfering.

I intuitively understand my daughters (most of the time), but my son? I admit he’s something of a mystery. A fascinating, adorable, lovable one, to be sure, but there’s that elusive tang of maleness in him that is quite beyond me.

James Thurber said it best: “Boys are perhaps beyond the range of anybody’s sure understanding, at least when they are between the ages of eighteen months and ninety years.”

How does he know this stuff, this guy stuff? He throws stuff, he climbs stuff, he demolishes stuff. He’s not yet two, but he has the birthright of a man.

My little man.

Excuse me while I go give him another kiss. I’m stockpiling them on his dimpled cheeks for the inevitable day when he says “Mom! Yuck!”

* * *

Since I have you here, I’d like to ask you a question I’ve been wondering for a long time. I have heard talk about the specialness of a father-daughter or mother-son relationship. Is it just talk, or is it true?

Is a mother’s relationship with a son different from the one she shares with a daughter? If so, how?

And like all relationships, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to go about it. What are some pitfalls to avoid? For instance, how do you nurture your son without smothering him?

Even if you have more ideals than experience, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

On Loving Birds and God

A bird feeder hangs outside our dining room window.


Nearby trees provide shelter, and a small stream with shallow pools for drinking and bathing is only a sunflower seed’s toss away. With the feeder added to this natural haven, our little corner of the neighborhood attracts crowds of songbirds.

We spend many meals discussing the visitors to our feeder. “Look,” shouts Tarica around a mouthful of chicken. “There’s a titmouse.”

The girls recognize most of the birds dining on the other side of the window: cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, sparrows, wrens, and finches. A new bird at the feeder sends one of us running for the bird book, and we pore over its pages, making guesses and debating characteristics until the bird is identified. “That’s an Eastern Towhee,” my husband says. “Look at its red eyes.” And the children fog the windows looking, standing on tiptoes peering, talking in loud whispers.

Downy Woodpecker


Last spring, an Eastern Phoebe pair built a nest on top of our outdoor floodlight, a few feet away from the feeder. Each morning at breakfast, the girls watched Mr. and Mrs. Phoebe fly back and forth, their beaks clamped around insects, food for their hungry babies. “Mom,” said Jenica, “I thought you said those birds are flycatchers. Why do you call them phoebes?”

“They are phoebes, but they are also known as flycatchers.”

She frowned. “How can they have two names?”

“They have two names just like you do. They are phoebes belonging to the flycatcher family, and you are a Jenica belonging to the Leinbach family.”

Her laughter warmed my heart.

At lunchtime on a summer day, Jenica announced, “I hear a cardinal.”

We stopped eating and cocked our heads. A bright “birdie, birdie, birdie, cheer, cheer, cheer” floated in through the screened door.

“I see it, girls,” I said. “Up on the telephone wire.”

They abandoned the table to crowd the window space and watch the scarlet singer serenade us.

Our children love birds as much as we do.

* * *

Sometimes, as a mother, I worry. I worry we will fail to teach our children to love God as they should.

I was worrying about it again today, wondering what we can do, wondering if there are any secrets to teaching children to love God. I was worrying about it—until I realized:

We will teach them to love God the same way we taught them to love birds.

The Best Way to Combat Discouragement

It’s been a tough week.

(I wonder how many blog posts start this way. Such an original opening line.)

Micah was at the doctor on Tuesday for one thing, and on Thursday, he was sick with another. He wanted to be held every waking minute. So I rocked him and tried not to think about the messy house and the company coming for the weekend and the food I needed to make and the packing and sewing I need to get done before February and when the next seizure would happen…and…and…and….

I felt like I was drowning.

A child’s illness, even a brief one, eats at my composure and my well-being. It is, I told a friend recently, the worst part of parenting. And it’s not just that I hate cleaning up puke; it’s that I’m not allowed to bow out of the cleanup simply because I hate it. It’s not just that worry weighs me down; it’s the fact that all my worry isn’t going to do a lick of good.

It’s the helplessness I hate the most. I am this child’s mother, the one who can fix everything—but I can’t fix this.

Perhaps I could manage better if life would stop while I tended the suffering, but no, people still get hungry, clothes still get dirty, and the house still disintegrates around me. Life stops for no one but death. When we are caught in the gray wilderness between life and death, we feel the tug and weight of both worlds—the tug of life’s responsibilities and the weight of death’s suffering. We pay homage to both, and we pay the price of divided loyalties.

Or rather, I do. Perhaps others can traverse this wilderness better than I.

Yesterday, I slogged through the Dismal swamp, crawled through the crags of Discouragement, and got lost somewhere on the south-east slopes of Self-pity. By the time I went to bed, I was completely unreasonable and totally overwhelmed.

To be honest, I don’t feel much better this morning.

But I am now fully aware that this discouragement is the result of the deceiver’s lies: You can’t do this. It is too much. God doesn’t really love you. You are going under—where is your Jesus now?

Lies, lies, lies, every one of them, and yet I listened while I rocked and rocked and rocked.

I have no tidy rebuttal to those lies. I am powerless to confront the wicked one alone.

But I still have a voice, and I lift it: Lord, save me, lest I perish.

I will not close with a neat summary of the lessons I’m learning in this, because I’m still stumbling over the lines. I will let His Words speak, to me, to you, to all those wandering among the crags of Discouragement. We may have miles to go in this wilderness, but we have Someone Who will never abandon us.

I pledge, today, to think on these words:

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. (Joshua 1:9)

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1a)

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrew 4:16)

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

Please do not offer me pity; I’ve offered far too much to myself already. What I would love—and need—to hear is your favorite Bible verse to combat discouragement. Even if it’s already been shared, I still want to hear it.

Let’s speak encouragement to each other. There’s little enough of it in this broken world.

Canning with Stevia–and a Mis-snake

The snake pushed me over the edge.

Before the snake appeared, I was already teetering on the edge—the edge of what? I wasn’t sure, but recent events had conspired against me. I felt overwhelmed and emotionally fragile, which is probably why that snake made me laugh—a shrill, hysterical laugh—as I clutched my weapon.

It all began two days earlier—no, the week before, actually, when Micah, my three-month-old son, came down with bronchiolitus. In August. That was the same week Jenica started first grade at Lighthouse Christian School, a thirty-minute drive from our house. Maybe other mothers can adjust tidily to the school schedule, and maybe other first graders can fit into their new world seamlessly, but not us. It was exciting, and it was terrible.

But I had peaches to pick up at Valley View Fruit Farm, ordered in a pre-school, pre-bronchiolitus fervor, and as I heaved the fragrant baskets into our garage, I considered my ways and found them unwise. What was I thinking, to order so many? Now I had to can them—I picked up a peach and tested its firmness—soon.

So, two days before the snake, I assembled canning supplies and peaches in my small kitchen. I consulted Home Joys on how much stevia to use in the syrup. “2 tsp. per gallon,” I wrote on a scrap of paper as Tarica, my preschooler, leaned on me, coughing. She was underfoot every day without her big sister to entertain her.

I started peeling peaches. Micah cried, hungry, wheezy. Tarica complained, bored, wheezy. The day stretched, endless, napless for this mother.

I hustled the children off to bed after lunch and tackled the peaches with desperate vigor. But before long, Tarica’s spasmodic coughing turned into violent retching, followed by a howl. I leaped for the stairs. Tarica sat in her bed, vomit covering her, the bed, the pillow. I abandoned the peaches for laundry duty and childcare.

Perhaps it was sometime in there, between the demands of a sick daughter and a nursing baby, that I made my mistake. Not that I noticed my miscalculation—oh, no, not at all. I forged relentlessly on with my canning. Late that evening, I pulled the last of fifty quarts out of the canner and collapsed into bed, ignoring the horrific mess of my kitchen. I would deal with it tomorrow.

In the morning light, my kitchen still looked like an unslayable dragon, but my heart was light. I had done it, all by myself, despite illness and a baby, despite weariness, and only two jars had not sealed. This lightness remained with me until that evening, when I pulled one of the unsealed jars out of the fridge for our supper. As I placed it on the table and sat down, Jenica asked, “Are those the peaches you put in my lunch today? Because they were way, way too sweet.”

We joined hands as a family and bowed our heads for prayer—but I forgot to pray. I was transfixed by Jenica’s words, and suddenly, I knew. I knew the irrevocable truth about my hard-earned peaches.

Prayer finished, I clasped my head in my freed hands and moaned. My family looked at me, alarmed. “I made a terrible mistake,” I said. “I put too much sweetener in the peaches yesterday.”

“How much is too much?” my husband asked.

“I was supposed to use two teaspoons of stevia per gallon. I just realized I used two teaspoons per quart. Four times too much. I can’t believe this.”

* * *

I still couldn’t believe it the following morning. The peaches were nearly inedible, with a strong stevia aftertaste. What was I going to do—can unsweetened peaches and serve them with the sweet ones? More canning? It was unthinkable, but throwing fifty quarts of peaches away was equally unthinkable.

I felt sick and distracted over my mistake, which is probably why I didn’t notice the snake until I was halfway across the living room, about the same time it noticed me. We froze, the snake and I, heads up, unblinking, eyeing each other across the five feet of space between us.

A harmless black snake, I thought, oh, so carefully rational under my surging adrenalin. A dangerous human, the snake thought and turned to flee. I followed it, unsure of what to do but determined to track it. The only thing worse than seeing a snake is knowing there’s one around here somewhere. To my horror, the snake sought refuge in the sacred ground of my kitchen.

As I watched the snake disappear beneath my refrigerator, I fought the urge to laugh hysterically. I raced for my broom and nearly hyperventilated when my foot rolled over a long black snake on the laundry floor. It flopped and I yelled, only to sag against the wall. Just the iron cord, Stephanie. Breathe. Breathe.

Heart racing, I established guard a safe distance from the fridge, broom held at the ready. I couldn’t just walk away and let the snake wander all over the house. Once, the snake slipped its head out of its cave, but seeing me, it retreated. The laughter bubbled up from the wild place inside me. It was all so strangely funny, the snake and I caught in this ridiculous standoff.

I waited. And waited. No snake. Micah cried. “Okay, snake, you win,” I said and yielded my culinary territory to the reptile. “I’m not coming back until you’re good and gone.”

But I was forced to give way to necessity: We have to eat. I never saw the snake again, although I think it of now and again, especially when Micah crawls over and pats my ankle while I’m washing dishes.

As for the peaches, well, I have about 40-odd jars of super-sweet ones out in the garage. They might still be around when Micah is old enough to go snake hunting.

Divided Attention: What It Means to Be the Sibling

“Tarica gets all the stuff,” she said, eyes intent behind her glasses. “All the medicines and attention.”

I put my hands on Jenica’s shoulders, and she slid her arms around my waist, head tipping back to hold my gaze, brown locked on brown. “Are you jealous?” I asked.

“Yes, and I’m humble enough to admit that I am.”

Perhaps I shouldn’t have laughed. Such words from a seven-year-old. She laughed too, sheepishly, and I hugged her tight. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I don’t know what to do about it.”

She went upstairs to bed, and I stood rooted in the kitchen, thinking of her words. Her jealousy didn’t surprise me. It was born of a child’s need for security: Mom, do you care about me? Am I important to you?

I shouldn’t have to say it, but let me state for the record that we love all our children equally. We have no favorites.

But life is asking us to love our children differently and in unequal portions of time. We have Jenica, the self-confessed jealous one. We have five-year-old Tarica, the daughter whose epilepsy flares up in uncontrolled seizures. We have nineteen-month-old Micah, who daily increaseth more and more unto naughtiness.

Right now, Tarica is seizing multiple times a day. She is the one we most worry about and talk about and pray about. Her siblings—they get the leftovers.

Jenica senses it. Perhaps Micah does, too.

“I love you,” I tell all our children, but Tarica is the one I mention at church as a prayer request. Tarica is the one whom people ask about, the one whose story is told. Tarica is the one with appointments and medications and hospital stays and . . . and . . . attention.

For children, attention equals love. This is why Jenica thinks I love Tarica more than I love her.

We aren’t given extra hours in our days just because we have a child who needs more care. We have the same 24/7 everyone else does. What is a mother supposed to do?

Should I try to compensate for our focus on Tarica? Maybe I should take Jenica to the library—just the two of us—where we can revel in our shared love of reading. Perhaps I should take her on a walk up the mountain behind our house so we can talk uninterrupted. Maybe I should read more stories to Micah and rock him more often and get down on the floor with him and his red barn. They deserve to know I love them enough to spend special time with them.

On the other hand, I want my children to understand that life isn’t fair. It’s not fair that Tarica has to live with seizures; it’s not fair that Jenica and Micah lose some of the attention that might otherwise be theirs. This is life, and sometimes it hurts. Better to learn it now than later—or never. If I try too hard to compensate, they lose opportunities to practice compassion and to sacrifice for the sake of another, opportunities they will also face as grown-up followers of Jesus. Why not teach some of these lessons now?

Or is that too much to expect of our children?

I wish I had time enough for my children to get equal portions. I will try. I will take Jenica on that walk. I will read another story to Micah. I will look into their brown, brown eyes and tell them over and over that I love them all the way up to the moon and all the way back.

I try. But when Tarica crashes to the floor, I put Micah down to kneel by her, stroking her cheek as she seizes, blocking Micah with the other arm so he doesn’t pounce on her. When the seizure is over, I carry Tarica to the recliner. She slumps in my lap, weak and exhausted, and Micah weeps on my knee, abandoned, and Jenica says, “Come out and see what I did in the garage,” and I say, “I can’t right now—I’m holding Tarica.”

But in my heart, I’m holding them all.

The Truth About a Helpful Toddler

This is a bonus post, written to prove to you (and to me) that I will not be consumed by seizures. Epilepsy is part of my life, but it will not be my life, by the grace of God.

* * *

When my firstborn was 18 months old, she would help me in simple ways: throwing trash away, picking up toys, filling the washer with dirty clothes, and emptying the dryer into the laundry basket.

I was sure it was A Sign.

Her willingness to help was A Sign that I was a good and faithful and consistent mother. She would grow up to be cheerfully helpful because of the encouragement I was giving her. None of this complaining and whining about work, no, indeedy.

My third child is now nearly 18 months old, and he also likes to throw trash away and load the washer.


But I know the truth this time. He hasn’t yet figured out that he is working.

Once he has, it doesn’t matter how good and faithful and consistent I am: There will be whining.

Seven Inventions Every Parent Needs

Parenting is not for sissies. Even on my bravest days, I feel inadequate for the job. So much to do, so little of me to go around.

It’s time for technology to step up and give parents a break. I’m not asking for a robot to cook breakfast and fold laundry. My needs are much simpler.

How about seven small inventions to make my job easier?

  1. Crayons that color only in coloring books
  2. Toilet paper that doesn’t unroll until legitimately needed
  3. Cereal boxes that don’t tip over
  4. Faucets that recognize fingerprints and turn on or off as programmed
  5. Toilet lids that lower and lock when anyone untrained trots into sight
  6. Diapers that never leak
  7. Toys that climb back in the toy box after being abandoned for ten minutes

Yes, he’s seventeen months old.

How’d you guess?