Why Grocery Shopping Should Be The New Homework


I sent my 9-year old into the grocery store with $14 and a mission: get things for your lunch that you will actually eat!

After weeks of lovingly packing The Perfect Lunch—only to have it come home untouched—I. Was. Done. I expressed my feelings in very calm MomSpeak as I deposited his uneaten lunch contents into the garbage.

Translation: Yelled over the kitchen counter while not-so-gently tossing his lunchbox into the sink.

Reflecting on our lunch debacle, I decided he could be part of the solution. With a quick lesson on tax per dollar (and rounding up to be on the safe side), we set off to the local market, where he got out of the car and disappeared through the sliding doors, to fend for himself among the aisles of food.

I sat in the parking lot with a punchy 3-year old, unfit for public errands of any sort, feeling pretty good about not having to actually leave the car. After 27 rounds of “Wheels on the Bus,” my son emerged, head held high and with a noticeable spring in his step.

Seriously, he was beaming.

Clutched in his arms (guess he didn’t want to splurge on a bag) was a loaf of sourdough bread, a package of sliced Swiss cheese (Kosher and gluten-free??) and a jar of pickles. Not three things I would not have chosen for him, had I been the one doing the choosing.

As we headed home, I learned that he was SUPER nervous. He had to ask where the bread was because he couldn’t find it. He wasn’t sure he had enough money even though he kept track in his head. Everything hung in the balance until…checkout…whew – he even got change back!

Our outing was not a deliberate “teachable moment.” It was an act of desperation, motivated by a selfish need to avoid public places of any kind with my hungry preschooler, during the witching hours of evening – where we’re sure to cause a scene in front of someone we know.

Regardless, it turned out to be a milestone for both of us.

He learned more than how to add up money and buy gluten-free sandwich items:

He learned he could be nervous, but still follow through.

He learned how to ask for help when he needed it. (Shout out to the guy in aisle six who told my son where to locate the bread!)

He learned he could survive without me, even when scared and unsure.

Will he actually pull over and ask for directions one day? I guess with the advent of GPS, we’ll never truly know, but asking for help in the grocery store is encouraging.

Our excursion to the market taught me some things too:

He’s ready for more responsibility and independence.

He is more capable than I have allowed him to be.

After sitting with these warm fuzzy feelings for all of 30 seconds, I promptly panicked and thought of all the everyday tasks he doesn’t know how to do. Because mommy guilt.

He has so much to learn that has nothing to do with school.

News and social media are flooded with content about the emerging pushback on homework; by parents and teachers. We have similar goals: producing well-rounded kids who can function without us.

Without homework, the concern is that kids will fall behind, miss opportunities for learning, and be unable to survive the rigor awaiting them in junior high and high school. With the bulk of their days spent at school, followed by more hours doing homework – how will kids be prepared to survive the responsibilities that await them in real life?

The skills and values I want to instill in my son before he has to fend for himself in the Real World, can’t be found in spelling lists or worksheets.

In an idyllic nutshell, here’s my (No) Homework List for my child:

Add Value to Your Community – Volunteer at a local retirement home, animal shelter, or library. Have a lemonade stand. Meet your neighbors. Be kind. Think of circumstances beyond your own that you’d like to impact or change.

Do it.

Participate in Family – Help at home. Set the table, feed the pets, take out the garbage, play with your little brother and read him stories.

Ask, “How can I help?”

Exercise Independence – Do things that give you a sense of accomplishment. Practice deciding. Get in your head and reflect. Choose your clothes. Make a snack. Ask questions and handle issues on your own when you can.

I will give you space and trust to do this.

Play – With friends, siblings, the dog, by yourself. Just Play. Do sports, learn instruments, listen to music, dance, sing, collect baseball cards. Go outside. Climb, jump, challenge your body. Play board games, paint, build, invent, cut out, take apart, glue.

Get messy.

Read – Books are your friend; they can take you anywhere. Remember this when you think you have nowhere to go, or need a change of scenery.

Learn Every Day – Have an open mind. Ask questions. Listen. Observe. Notice. Think. Try new things. Look up words you don’t know. Find answers to questions you have.

Be curious.

In its simplest form, my list is lofty and loaded. And, like my child who grows and changes daily, so will my list.

To my son’s teachers: while you prepare him to meet academic challenges and opportunities, I will be doing my best to ready him for the world he faces outside the classroom.

Thank you for being intentional about my child’s homework load so that I may attempt to weave in my own lessons – in between – or maybe as part of, the 54 other to-dos that make up a day.

Meanwhile, I can be found singing “Wheels on the Bus,” with my preschooler, from my car window in the parking lot – while my 9-year old does the grocery shopping.

This post appeared on HuffPost and Scary Mommy

A Time Capsule Of Us


The other night I woke in a panic, with that unmistakable feeling I’d forgotten something. My eyes darted around the dark, taking stock of familiar surroundings, while my mind raced to retrieve what it was that sent me reeling.

Then I remembered. You. The one who made me a mom, my first baby. You are going to be in 5th grade. Not today, or even next month, but next year. If this year’s any indication, it’ll be here in the blink of an eye.

We’d just visited Open House, admiring the fruits of your 4th-grade year, which you eagerly showed your dad, brother, and me; proudly touring us around your classroom. For some reason, this year, the one on the heels of the 5th year you’ll spend as an elementary school-er, caught me off guard.

While you showed off your hand-drawn map of California and glazed, clay Grizzly Bear, I realized we’re standing smack-dab in the middle of your childhood. You are over halfway to “adult” and equidistant between training wheels and a driver’s license.

I thought there was more time, to do more together, that I always meant to do.

Like, read you more books. I didn’t know the clock was counting down minutes to the exact one (somewhere between Where the Red Fern Grows and A Wrinkle In Time) when you declared yourself too old to be read to. No hard feelings, but could I pleeeaase just let you read…alone?!

Tonight underscored what I already knew—you’re a big kid. I felt nostalgic for our time used up, and regretful for the time I’d wasted making you “hold on a second” until seconds piled into months and years that I’ve spent doing a bunch of who-knows-what, instead of what I meant to do with you.

I sat in the dark, wanting to climb the stairs to your room, crawl into your bed, and wrap my arms around your now-up-to-my-chin body (obviously I didn’t because you love sleep and um…boundaries!) Instead, I fed my Judgy-Inadequate-Mom-Demons moments of us— the good stuff—to keep them quiet; and prevent me from nosediving into the deep end of the mommy-guilt pool I’d been circling.

I did impossible math in my head, adding up milestones and memories until they equaled 10 years old; validation I had actually poured into you as much as I had left out.

I saw you, tiny and pink, wrapped in blue, polka-dot muslin, asleep in my arms while we rocked in the worn, sage-green chair that is now in your brother’s room, but was then brand new, our safe haven for discovering nursing and the pitch-black stillness of 3AM together; when we were just beginning.

I saw your first, wobbly, barefoot, pudgy-toed steps toward me, in our old house with warm bamboo floors and sunlight streaming in, making your new-tooth smile look like a washed-out home movie.

I saw your boppity-bouncy toddler gait evolve into steady, even strides running alongside me through busy streets to catch trains that took us to museums, swimming lessons, and afternoon tea in rainstorms, where we discussed dragons and pirates, and you wondered all your what-ifs to me out loud.

I saw the first time I broke us, by yelling louder than I meant to; but then how we were fixed with hugs, and apologies, and Candyland.

I saw euphoria overtake your small body as the singsongy arrival of the ice cream truck sent you darting out the door, knowing I’d follow. Sitting in the sun, on the curb, creamy drips falling from sticks, we soaked in the sweet laziness of summertime, and made our own schedule — before school, homework, and baseball practice.

I saw us planting our first garden. To your delight, we actually grew a watermelon, which you named Jr., and checked on daily until you pronounced “him” full grown and planned a party in his honor, including balloons and cake, because you were a kid who believed in everything (even garden fruit) with your whole self.

I saw us at the cafe we’ve frequented since you were a tiny lump, and I, an exhausted new mom in search of caffeine and signs of adult existence. Look at us now; me with a cappuccino and you across from me with tea (instead of strapped into a stroller with a sippy-cup). We discussed your science project and the political climate in our country—because you’re big now. We played hangman and tic-tac-toe, and ordered chocolate crepes with whipped cream—because you are little, too.

I saw us passing through time, until at last, we caught up and I found what I needed.


You’re not the extension of me you once were, needing me always, my hand to hold, my arms to hug, my lap to snuggle into for bedtime stories.

But you still need me, and I still see us, even if we’re changing.

Like when we watched “Toy Story 3” “for your brother” but he lost interest somewhere around the opening credits. You stayed, sinking into me on the couch, while we laughed at Buzz Lightyear’s “Spanish Mode” and exchanged knowing glances when Andy gave away his childhood toys.

You do actually let me read to you…sometimes…if you’re tired, and the plot is darker than you’d care to read alone; though you’d never admit it.

And while we’re both reading, or writing, it’s not long before I look up and realize you’ve quietly settled nearby; reassurance I’m still a moon in your orbit.

We’ve outgrown this side of childhood. But thanks to insomnia and mommy-guilt, I’ve gathered up memories for safe keeping, and made a time capsule of us. You may be over halfway to adult, but we’re just beginning to discover who you’re becoming as you grow up, as we grow up together, like we’ve been doing all this time.

This post was featured on HuffPost and Red Tricycle.