Category Archives: parenting

The Million Dollar Mistake

“The Million Dollar Fuck-Up” is probably a better title.

Spoiler alert: This story doesn’t have a very happy ending.

The weather in northern New Jersey has officially shifted from fall to winter. Chilly mornings and sunny afternoons have given way to bitter cold, cloudy, and windy days with occasional snow flurries. In other words, it’s time to wear pants.

At bedtime last night, I told my sensory sensitive seven-year-old son who hates nothing more than wearing pants that he would have to wear them to school in the morning.

“Will you pay me six thousand dollars?” His blue eyes sparkled with mischief.

I loved games. “Yes!”

“Will you pay me a million dollars?”

“Of course! I’ll write you a check!”

I didn’t anticipate how easily he would get dressed (in pants!) the next morning. I also didn’t anticipate that he would believe the printable check for kids I found on the Internet was real.


Like, really real. Like, he couldn’t wait to brag to his friends. Like, he thought we’d go to the bank after school, deposit the check (“like Mommy does”), and receive a million dollars in cold hard cash (like Mommy does?!). Like, for real.

It seemed like such a good idea the night before. That morning, not so much. When I confessed that the check was fake, my son was heartbroken. He was Lloyd Dobbler in “Say Anything” when Diane broke up with him and gave him a pen.

I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.

I gave my son a fake check. I gave him a fucking pen.

Needless to say, things got worse before they got NOT BETTER AT ALL. I apologized for inadvertently hurting his feelings and tricking him. Tears squirted from his eyes, he threatened to take the pants off, and he wouldn’t budge from the staircase. Our surprisingly easy morning turned into a shit show, complete with a stand-off, irrational negotiations, and some miserable but necessary tough love.

Outside, the wind whipped. I was desperate. “If you keep your pants on, I’ll take you to the toy store after school.”

“I’m wearing shorts and you’re taking me to the toy store because you lied to me!” Ouch.

This grueling back and forth went on for a long while. In the end, he kept his pants on, but we were late for school and he refused to hold my hand on the walk from the car to the main office, which was his way of giving me a pen (and stabbing me in the heart with it and twisting it in both directions).

Did he need to wear appropriate clothing for the weather? Yes. Did I inadvertently lie and hurt his feelings? Also yes. Did I take him to the toy store after school? You betcha. Guilt is expensive, and for the record, I paid with cash, not a check.

The lessons in this cautionary tale require bullet points.

  • Kids are literal thinkers. Don’t forget this important nugget. Ever.
  • Don’t write checks you can’t afford.
  • Never break someone’s heart and then give them a pen.
  • Don’t judge parents. We’re all doing our best, especially on Monday mornings.

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Filed under guilt, motherhood, parenting, school, sensory processing disorder

The Stupid Jar


My seven-year-old son has a Bravery Jar. Each time he does something courageous or new, he puts a fuzzy ball inside a mason jar. Once it’s filled, he gets a reward.

I’m a big supporter of mason jar parenting. I’ve found it to be an effective tool for almost any parenting dilemma.

Is your kid misbehaving? Make a Good Choices Jar.

Are you starving for quality mealtime conversation? Make a Question Jar.

Are your kids being lazy around the house? Make a Chores Jar.

Does your family need a healthy dose of optimism? Make a Happiness Jar.

A few years back, when it seemed like the only three words my boys said were “I want that,” I made a Gratitude Jar. Every time I caught them in the act of doing something kind or gracious, they put a fuzzy ball in the jar.

Last fall, when my older son struggled at his new school, I made him a Happy Jar. Every time he found a silver lining during the day – a fun game in PE class, a birthday celebration, or extra recess – he put a fuzzy ball in the jar.

My younger son isn’t afraid to pour himself a bowl of cookies for breakfast (independence has a downside), but he is afraid to go upstairs in the house if I’m downstairs and vice versa. I’ve learned this is a common fear for kids, especially for one who spent the first six years of his life living in a one-story ranch home. Still, it’s frustrating and often times inconvenient to stop what I’m doing to chaperone him up or down the stairs a hundred times a day. Thus, the Bravery Jar.

Sometimes it helps, sometimes not so much. Nevertheless, it’s always illuminating. Case in point:

Kid: Can you walk me upstairs?

Me: I just sat down to eat. You need to be brave.

Kid: I was brave when I came down the stairs by myself. *pauses conversation to put fuzzy ball in Bravery Jar*

Me: You need to be brave again. I’ll come up in a few minutes to check on you. Plus, your brother is upstairs and the lights are on.

Kid: No.

Me: You can do it.

Kid: I can’t.

Me: You can.

Kid: I can’t!

Me: You can.

Kid: How about I do this brave thing instead. *runs across kitchen, leaps in the air, lands on knees and elbows on hardwood floor, curls up into fetal position, moans*

Me: …

Kid: Was that brave?

Me: No, that was stupid.

Kid: Can we make a Stupid Jar?

See, you can fix almost any parenting dilemma with a mason jar.

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