A Letter of Apology From a Fitness Writer to Aspiring Exercisers With Young Kids

As a parent, I now know that I’ve published health stories offering advice that, on most days, is impossible to even attempt to follow.

Dear Parent Who Stumbled Across Some Fitness Story I Once Wrote –

I am sorry. I now know that I’ve published health stories offering advice that, on most days, is impossible for you to even attempt to follow. Having parented through that toddler/preschooler stage during which nobody sleeps, I feel like I have some apologizing and explaining to do.

For instance, I’ve written something like this:

“No time to exercise? Just wake up a half hour earlier.”

I get it now: Wake up half an hour earlier, and your kid will wake up an hour earlier, which means that you’ll still be sedentary and that much more sleep deprived. A+ for effort though…

And this:

“Hop on the treadmill after your kids go to bed.”

I get it now: You’re exhausted. And even if you can somehow summon the energy to drag yourself down to the basement to hop on the ‘mill, it might not even be the best idea. After tucking your children in for the third time, you’ve got about six minutes before the bigger one starts to yell that he has to poop, rousing the littler one from his slumber. Had you ventured all the way down to the basement and “hopped on the treadmill,” you wouldn’t have heard the big guy’s cry for help or the little bro sobbing because his sweet dream was interrupted by shouts about excrement.

Better, my friend, to pass the time on Facebook, Twitter or that time-sucking blog that you keep.

I’ve said this – a lot:

“Eating healthy meals just takes planning.”

I get it now: This only works if you have children who actually go to bed. If not, the hours between 8 and 10 p.m. when you’ve been anticipating chopping vegetables and the like will be spent trying to prevent the big one from waking the little one with screams about poop, water and Daddy – in no particular order.

I suggested this, more than once:

“Eating or drinking to relax just causes more stress. Do a yoga DVD instead.”

I get it now: Somedays, you are spent. Literally. This phrase makes so much more sense now. So give yourself permission to pour yourself a glass of wine and grab some almond M&Ms. Carve out room for those calories by skipping dinner and eating the few bites of whole wheat pancake your kid left on his plate. After all, research shows that the best sort of weight loss/fitness plan is one you can stick to.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended to be amusing and affirming only, and is not to be used or relied on for any health promoting purposes.

Author’s note: Despite that disclaimer, I’m taking all this advice to heart. Especially the thing about the wine and almond M&M’s. 

3 Things We Learned On the First Day of Kindergarten

This morning, we saw our little guy off to kindergarten. He’s the younger of two and there will be no more. So, yeah, it was a big deal—but not in a way that a) we were crying about our grown-up babe, or b) rejoicing over the loads of money we won’t be paying for daycare. Mostly, we were excited about this new start for our eager 5-year-old, who’s been craving to be “big” like his brother.

Also, I learned three things on the first day of kindergarten, this second time around.

#1: Milestone days can be strangely emotional. You might expect a kindergartner on his first day to be shy. Clingy. Irritable. Or in serious go-mode. But you never know how the strong emotions of a big deal will manifest themselves. For instance, you might not expect a high-stakes day to end with an overly affectionate child acting like a cat, repeatedly rubbing his head all over your body as you sit side-by-side in a booth of a busy restaurant.

#2: There are always helpers. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” This quote, from Mr. (Fred) Rogers, is one of my favorites.

As an adult, when I see scary things in the news, it comforts me. This morning, when we asked our second-grader if he would walk his little bro from the bus to his classroom, he turned to his brother and said sweetly, “I would suggest that you find a helper. There are always a bunch of nice people helping in the hall.” We weren’t impressed by his suggestion, hoping he’d prioritize settling in his brother over rushing to hang out with his friends. But it’s true: You will always find people who are helping. And, very often, they’re not just your people.

#3: You can plan all you want… You can ask several times—several different people—how your kindergartener will get from his classroom to his after-school program. You might get several confident answers. There’s a list. There’s a paraeducator. There’s a parade down to the cafe. And, then, at quarter past five, when you show up to pick up your kid, a fellow parent (who’s also the school nurse) reports that your kid somehow ended up on a bus to go home. He was rescued. He was unfazed. And when he finally joined the after-school crew, “some nice girls” offered him a cookie, he tells you. But he said, “no thanks” because he already had a cookie at lunch. And he sat at the red table. And he made a new friend. And he played soccer with Mr. Dylan. And—even though it don’t all go just as you might have planned—“it was a really good day.”

Lucky Charms and Donuts for Breakfast

I’ve accepted that my in-laws consider “spoiling kids” with sugary treats part of their grandparent job description.

“I don’t want any more of my ice cream,” says our little guy, pushing his dish away.

I smile inside, thinking: what a smart, self-regulating young man we’ve got going on here. (This one. His brother, still at Grandma and Papa’s, licks the bowl and then asks for more. Every. Time.)

Then he explains why he isn’t going to finish his Phish Food: He had Lucky Charms—and a donut—for breakfast. My teeth suddenly feel filmy. My mind flashes to snippets of all the peer-reviewed journal articles I’ve read in the last 15 years, the studies suggesting that sugar is rotting our kids’ teeth, their bodies, their brains.

As a kid, I was not allowed to have Lucky Charms for breakfast. Or Sugar Smacks. Or even Honey Nut Cheerios. At the Micco household, the breakfast cereal choices were limited to four options: regular Cheerios, Chex, Rice Krispies, and Kix (Kid Tested, Mother Approved indeed). I’m pretty sure my husband wasn’t offered cereal-candy for breakfast, either. But his mom is a Grandma now (a good, fun, loving one, I should add)—and when her grandkids say they are hungry for breakfast, sometimes Lucky Charms are on the table. And, really, what kid can resist?

Much as it makes my nutrition-degreed self crazy to think of consuming such a product for a proper meal (dessert, offered in an appropriate context, is an entirely different story), I’ve accepted that my in-laws consider “spoiling kids” (their words, not mine) with sugary treats at all hours of the day a bona fide responsibility in their grandparent job description. It’s fine. It’s occasional. It’s all good.

I say this… but at some point I must have projected my knee-jerk discomfort with the sort of diet the boys consume while visiting their grandparents. This is obvious because he delivers this breakfast report in sing-song. The kid is taunting me. The cereal-and-pastry confession is followed with this: “… and Grandma and Papa let us stay up so, so late… like till 9 o’clock.”

I don’t react. I see what’s going on here.

“… past 9 o’clock. Till 10 o’clock.”

I maintain a normal face. A smiley one.

“No, no! Past 10 o’clock. They let us stay up till 11 o’clock!”

He’s searching, waiting for a reaction. Jackpot. Jon and I are both cracking up. But mostly we’re impressed that our five-year-old seems to have developed a pretty solid understanding of time. Which flies far too quickly to be concerned with quarterly sugary cereal splurges.

Food Shopping With Kids – Fantasy Versus Reality

It starts with thinking “
I just need a few things. I’ll take the kids to the local market. It’ll be fun.” This is magical thinking, really. You see…

It starts with thinking that goes something like this: 
I just need a few things. I’ll take the kids to the local market and we’ll grab dinner at the cafe there. It’ll be fun. Efficient. I’ll have two helpers and bribe them with a treat. Plus, I have a list.

On the list: avocados, snap peas, clementines, tomatoes, strawberries, ground turkey, milk, cheese, almond milk, almonds, coffee, mac ‘n cheese, canned peaches, granola bars.

This is magical thinking, really. You see…

On the receipt: Smart Puffs, fifteen bucks’ worth of granola bars (three boxes), Sea Salt Caramel gelato, frozen broccoli, cheese, almond milk, a frozen pizza, a green Camelbak water bottle, a magazine purchased for $5.95 (because its coverline promised less stress), a discount for remembering shopping bags, a $2 donation to the Humane Society.

And here’s how it all might have gone down:

5:58 pm: Arrive at store.

5:58 – 6:02 pm: Children scuffle over who gets to push the cute, kid-sized cart; a decision is made to simply take two. (Everybody wins!)

6:02 – 6:04 pm: Like drunken mad men, two kids steer two mini carts in two different directions—one toward racks of wine; the other into shelves lined with spice-filled glass jars.

6:04 pm: One cart is “returned”— as close as possible to the Do Not Enter [from this way] automatic doors. (Apologies!)

6:05 – 6:09 pm: You run into a friend and make small talk; the kids conspire to collect random items into the cart.

6:10 pm: You allow tantruming Kid #2 to go ahead and carry the green water bottle he is coveting through the store (with no intention of actually purchasing it).

6:11 – 6:15 pm: Bathroom break #1 (chronologically and otherwise).

6:15 – 6:20 pm: Kids select dinner, then precariously balance cafe trays stacked with veggies, rice, sloshing soup and chocolate cupcakes.

6:20 – 6:35 pm: You and Kid #1 eat dinner.

6:35 – 6:50 pm: You and Kid #1 play word games while Kid #2 “finishes his dinner”—more slowly than anyone has ever eaten seven grains of rice before.

6:50 – 6:55 pm: You allow the children to consume treats before any real shopping happens.

6:55 pm – 7:15 pm: Kid #1 consumes his cupcake in less than five minutes. Kid #2 continues to lick, smash and smear chocolate all over his face, the table and the chair for another 15.

7:15 – 7:20 pm: Clean up! While discussing what goes into the compost, the recycling, and the dish bin, you twice fish a metal fork from the trash.

7:20 – 7:30 pm: Bathroom break, #2 (chronologically and otherwise).

7:30 – 7:42 pm: Haphazard hurried shopping. You concede to purchase approximately 40% of items proposed, 99% of which are entirely unnecessary.

7:42 – 7:45 pm: You pay for all items, including the green water bottle you intended to return and two extra boxes of granola bars that mysteriously appeared. A $2 donation is made to the Humane Society after Kid #1 shuffles a bunch of cards with cute cats on them.

In the car: You realize you forgot to buy wine.

Why Dad’s Night Out Gets My Full Support

There are few nights of the week I have more appreciation for than my husband’s weekly “Dad pack” date.

This past spring, my husband Jon decided to quit playing softball—something he’d done every summer since I met him 16 years ago. No, it wasn’t to spend more time with the kids, or me. It wasn’t because his job is so crazy that it keeps him from having hobbies. Very simply, it was this: after many years of losing the final play-off game, only to be named league runner-up yet again, his team won. Season champions—finally. He decided to go out on a high note.

To replace those summer evenings of social time, Jon started “Dad Pack,” which, in essence, is a group of guys—most, but not all, of whom are dads—who get together every Wednesday night to do things normally saved for a weekend. Like boating. Hiking. White-water rafting. Plus drinking.

I’ll admit that, the other week, after a couple days of Jon having to work late, I was annoyed to leave the office early again to pick up our boys at two different locations so Jon could go hike Camel’s Hump. But I respect that he’s made Dad Pack non-negotiable. On this point, I stand by my man, 100 percent. Here’s why:

It makes him happy. Work is stressful. Parenting is stressful. Living with me is stressful. I’m loud. I have high standards—but they’re random. (Read: I’m bossy and messy.) But I appreciate what escaping the realities of being a manager, a parent and a partner—weekly—can do for one’s mental state.

He participates in activities in which I have no interest. Early on in our relationship, Jon and I went beach camping and sea kayaking and desert hiking. We were in that courting stage during which one person (me) pushed comfort-zone limits and the other (Jon) was willing to scale back adventures for the good of the date. Now that, with two kids, we cram leisure activities into borrowed time, he tends to go big—and I tend go home. Or to the yoga studio. Or the thrift store. Dad Pack gives him companions for experiences of which I want no part. For that, I am grateful.

He hangs with awesome dudes. The fact that my man hangs out with other smart, creative men who love their partners and their children and who do good and interesting work in this world can only be a good thing for me and our family. Plus, these guys are all lots of fun, as are their spouses, with whom I’ve become closer, in part thanks to Dad Pack.

It helps boost my ratings (with the kids). Our kids are not Mama’s Boys. In fact, if one were keeping score, it’d show that my husband holds a slight (or not-so-slight) lead in the competition for favorite parent. But when he’s gone, I’m on. And I’m awesome. We talk Pokemon. We play ball. We bake banana bread by request. We go to outdoor concerts. I provide the awesome back rubs. Because I am the only option.

I can do whatever I want. Waste hours on social media. Listen to podcasts while taking approximately four hours to do dishes. Watch a rom com on the comfy couch while eating popcorn in the slobby way that is excruciating for my husband to witness. On Wednesday nights, after the kids are in their rooms (one sleeping, one not), it’s like a girly bachelor pad over here. And it’s awesome.

Girls’ night. I barely even have to ask.

From the Camel's Hump hike mentioned above. Real dad pack, not simulated.
From the Camel’s Hump hike mentioned above. Better than any stock photo.

The 4 Boring Habits I Force Upon My Kids That Make Us More Fun

“Have a Pokemon battle and then a water fight.” That’s what my 5-year-old suggested for our “date” afternoon together. I was thinking lunch, followed by some beach time.

Have a Pokemon battle and then a water fight.  This was my 5-year-old’s suggestion for what we might do on our “date” afternoon together. I was thinking lunch, followed by some beach time. No prob; I’ll pivot. I’m used to doing things in which I have zero percent interest. It’s what we do as parents. As partners. As family, my husband pointed out as he presented me a Burton gift card for our anniversary—my “reward” for investing two winters into learning how to snowboard (a previously terrifying exercise), so that we could ride as a family.

Snowboarding still isn’t how I’d choose to spend all of my Saturdays. But I like it. Plus, playing along with my boys’ interests has made me more adventurous and, arguably, more fun. They participate in “my” things too—begrudgingly. And it’s good for them, and for their future. Let me explain.

We dance. Back in the 80s, when other kids were catching balls and playing water games and doing all the things my boys want to do (and I suck at), I was doing handstands and plies. As I result, I can’t catch—or throw—a ball. But, as another result, I (arguably) have good moves. And I want them to have good moves them, too. Because a guy who can rock a beat is way more attractive than one who can’t. Truth.

We write notes. Thank you notes. Heartfelt ones. With pictures and other creative touches. Because gratitude is good. And learning how to express yourself—and your feelings—helps you become whole. Targeting people with your art is fun. And who doesn’t dig a sensitive soul who showers you with gifts that make you feel special.

We bake. Pizza dough. Cookies. Pies. Making something delicious together requires teamwork and focus. It underscores important math concepts in a totally Common Core kind of way and lets me nerd out with them on chemistry concepts. But perhaps the number-one reason I bake with my boys is this: when they start courting their crushes, it will be a huge differentiator to be the dude from Vermont who rocks a signature apple pie. Because that’s hot.

We go to the library. I’ll be honest: my boys love the children’s librarian at our local branch so much that I get a bit of a break while we’re there. But I take them to the library, too, because I want them to grow to love the things about it that I do: the smell, the bound-up knowledge, the peacefulness of losing yourself in those orderly rows. Also: I want them to appreciate the act of borrowing versus buying—annnnd to grow up to be well-read and interesting. Like that Dos Equis guy.

A Lazy Parent’s Guide to Summer

It’s summer: the days are long but I don’t want spend any of those extra hours chopping or washing stuff. So I have a whole different set of summer rules.

I’ve been buying paper plates. Ready-to-eat vegetables (think: power-washed baby carrots and snap peas). Wipes that allow me to disinfect a counter without having to exercise a single spray. And similar ones—safe for skin—to use on my face. It’s summer: the days are long but I don’t want spend any of those extra hours chopping or washing stuff. So I have a whole different set of rules for summer…

If I invite you for dinner, expect burgers, often purchased pre-pattied from the meat market, just down the street. Corn on the cob might be served on the side—if you’re lucky. More likely, chips and salsa. If you ask what to bring, I’ll tell you a salad. Because I appreciate your chopping. If I make it myself, it’ll be a compilation of pre-washed greens, tiny tomatoes, slivered almonds and olives. If I’m feeling highly motivated, I’ll slice up some scallions. Dessert will be ice cream—or if we’re feeling like setting things on fire, S’Mores.

Don’t be offended by the cat hair on the chairs. (Allergies? We have meds—just ask.) Pay no mind to the piece of pepper on the floor from last night’s dinner; our sweet pup passed away just a few months ago, and we’re still not used to having to pick up after our messy eaters. Kindly excuse the discarded PJs and toothpaste stains in the bathroom. Straightening and using those handy aforementioned disinfecting wipes on various household surfaces have taken a backseat to eating burgers at the beach and listening to bands play while the sun sets. We’re aiming to create happy childhoods here (and have some fun ourselves).

Dress code is: whatever you were wearing before. Bathing suit with cut-off jeans shorts and a sweaty ball cap: perfect. Office-appropriate dress with bare feet because you just rolled in from work: also perfect. Come as you are—just show up fast because summer passes swiftly. I’ll say it again: the days are long, but these months are SHORT, people.

Screw bedtime. Because—you know what?—it’s not happening. Add a full 60 minutes to whatever preconceived notion you had back in May of the hour your kids should drift off to sleep. Or start there and then add another hour. And when you all roll home two hours later than anticipated, needing to figure out what camp the kids are signed up for in the morning and feeling a tad bit sun-drunk, swipe your face with one of those glorious pre-moistened face “towelettes” and congratulate yourself on a day well lived.

It’s summer. But not for long.


(Questionable) parenting tricks that work like that a charm

Over the years, I’ve picked up some really effective parenting tricks, that—as a generous fellow parent—I feel obligated to share with you now.

I’m no parenting expert, as those of you who have witnessed, in public or in private, me whisper-yelling or real-yelling at bickering kids to stop touching each other already know. But over the years, I have picked up some really effective parenting tricks, that—as a generous fellow parent—I feel obligated to share with you now. Here you go:

Connect choices with consequences—REALLY bad ones. Do you ask your child to brush his teeth so many times that you annoy yourself? And then find yourself yelling that if he doesn’t move away from the Pokemon cards, you’re going to toss them all in a place where he’ll never find them (and in a week you won’t be able to either). I do. Almost every morning. Except for that day, when I showed my hesitant-brusher a bunch of photos of meth mouth and told him that this is what could happen if you don’t take care of your teeth.

This brilliant idea was not mine. I remembered reading that it worked for my friend Cristen. She’s an educator, with a Ph.D., and her husband is a medical doctor. So I received this idea as scientifically sound advice. Efficacious too. Worked like a charm.

Trust them with knives and fire*. Recently, I took my then-six-year-old to Trader Joe’s, where he promptly picked out just about every fruit in store. It was sort of a nutritionist’s dream so I bought them all (in additional to several packaged goods containing chocolate, which he also tossed in the cart).

After dinner, while the rest of the fam was lingering at the table, Jules went rummaging in the kitchen. He returned with two fresh apricot halves, pits removed and replaced with raspberries. “Dessert!” he announced, presenting them to us. He’d “carved” them with a butter knife. “It didn’t need a sharp one,” he explained.

Turns out, trust (or negligence in this case) creates thoughtful little chefs. After his second batch of fruit bowls—custom-created with the addition of strawberry slivers for his little brother—he returned to the kitchen, sing-songing over his shoulder: “What a mess I have to clean up now!” Words: we had none.

Introduce sport; welcome friendly competition. It’s no secret that, much like walking your dog will keep him from ravaging your house, exercising your child will keep him from destroying your day and that of everyone around him. But, some months back, I picked up this little trick: If you take your child to do something fun and physical—let’s say swimming—and his stronger-swimming friend just so happens to be there, pushing him to play and scoop and kick harder, your kid is even more good-tired and mellow later (until, just a little later than later, he runs out one door of the restaurant and his brother, the other).

Offer cold hard cash. I know bribing is ill-advised by most parenting experts. And I know—first hand—that it often ends in tit-for-tat stand-offs. But I also know that when it comes time for showers, and no one is budging from the LEGO table, the promise of a quarter drives action. It results in a shower. And then, by way of healthy (or perhaps not-so-healthy) competition, it results in another shower (rewarded with a dime). The boys are on a kick of saving these coins for fun family outings, so call this compensation situation what you well but I’m going to consider it this: a family investment.

What are your parenting tricks—the ones that actually work?

* The author assumes no responsibility for the safety or efficacy of any of these tricks, particularly this one.

A transformative new way to look at life balance

I want my kids to get this: regularly escaping routine is refreshing and invigorating, and showing up to seize whatever time you have with your people is important.

Multiple consecutive days away from my kids isn’t typical for me, but over the last few weeks, I’ve spent three days in Chicago for work, enjoyed two weekend girls’ retreats (one, I hosted; the other was at Wanderlust) and flew to Pennsylvania unexpectedly for a funeral.

All of this time away normally would leave me feeling guilty (particularly because I also work full time) but I’ve returned from my trips inspired and focused. On my commutes, I’ve been consuming books, including Laura Vanderkam’s I Know How She Does It, which generally posits that we can enjoy richer lives at work and at home by thinking of our time in terms of 168 hours a week, versus 24 hours a day. Considering my time in this way (and simply being away) has helped transform my perspective in positive ways. Lately, I am more likely to…

Blow off errands for fun. Typically, I would spend a Sunday afternoon/evening running around to get ready for the work week: grocery shopping, food-prepping, laundry-folding, crazy-making. But after a couple of days away last week, I wanted time with the kids to feel fun. So I suggested that we pack up whatever food we had in the fridge and head to the beach. We waded, collected rocks, had dinner, then played two-on-two volleyball just before sunset. On the way home, we stopped for ice cream. I went to work on Monday feeling more ready for the week than I normally do.

Squeeze special stuff into weekdays. I usually relegate (the making of) chocolate-chip pancakes to weekend mornings. But having been away for a weekend, I suggested them on a Monday—which made me a hero. A happy hero.

Say yes to big things. In her book, Vanderkam points out that “saying yes to big things, like a new job, is sometimes wise. It’s saying yes to too many little things that forces one’s hand.” I just accepted a bigger role at work—exciting!—which made me question saying yes to another big thing: pursuing yoga teacher certification (just to deepen my practice). But after considering the pros/cons of doing the program and the logistics of fitting it in, I realized that yoga makes me a better person, a better partner and a better parent, and there are loads of “little ways” I take time for myself that I can say no to in order to make room for the training.

Simplify. With frequent travel over a short period, I’ve developed efficiencies. I’ve realized that with black pants, a few shirts, a scarf, clean underwear, contact solution, a water bottle and some almonds (perhaps a computer), I’m pretty much good to go for a few days. Now, I spend less time packing—and also less time unpacking and thinking about packing. I’ve started to standardize in other areas, too: having a smoothie and date/nut bar every day for lunch, rotating through simple meals for dinner. Eliminating these less-important decisions about, say, what to pack and what to have for dinner leaves more time for things like drawing or playing ball with the boys.

Plan more adventures. Vanderkam calls for setting up for more adventures, pointing out that these are the stuff that make happy childhood memories. Initiating outdoor excursions, like canoeing or camping—my husband’s got that covered. But our entire family also loves taking road trips, stopping in new cities and towns. During my solo drive to Southern Vermont last week (during which I saw hundreds of cows, two porcupines, a fox and a moose, and in just two-and-a-half hours) it occurred to me that, as a family, we should be exploring more of Vermont. To that end, I’ve start plotting some small-town visits. During my Chicago trip, I decided, at some point, I’d like take to each of my boys on an one-on-one urban adventure. And my time this week with family has underscored the importance of getting more visits on the books.

Because regularly escaping routine is refreshing and invigorating, and showing up to seize whatever time you have with your people is important. And I want my kids to get this.

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How Becoming a Parent Made Me “Better” – In Totally Unexpected Ways

More accepting, more generous, more helpful. To some degree, becoming a mom has had these sorts of effects on me—I think—but it’s also changed me in other ways that I appreciate even more.

More accepting, more generous, more helpful: I’ve heard a lot of parents say that having kids has made them more of something like this.

To some degree, becoming a mom has had these sorts of effects on me—I think—but it’s also changed me in other ways that I appreciate even more. For instance, since becoming a parent…

I do things that terrify me. Every damn day. Yes, it’s scary to let your kids spread their wings and explore independently. To venture out beyond your watch. To witness them participating in activities that involve speeding along on something other than their own two feet, potentially putting themselves into the paths of others who might crash into them. And hurt them—badly.

But just as terrifying for me (a generally terrified person) is participating with my boys in such “unsafe” activities—like snowboarding or riding bikes on the street (!!)—so we can all have fun as a family. Again and again, I drag myself out of my comfort cocoon to surround myself with supportive, fearless friends who push me to be the bravest parent I can be.

I force myself to do things that I suck at. This includes snowboarding (see above, but I’m getting better)—and anything involving balls. I “play soccer” and pitch baseballs—poorly. One kid calls me out on my ineptitude, which offers a teaching opportunity on good sportsmanship; the other applauds my efforts and suggests I become an assistant coach of his T-ball team. I can tell they both appreciate my just getting out there and trying (and suspect they will even more in 20 years). I’ve also learned that “sports” with your kids can be almost as fun as dancing if you don’t take yourself too seriously.

I’m more likely to make the most of every minute. It started when I brought my older son home from the hospital. When he was sleeping, I was making dinner or folding clothes because I had no idea when I’d see my next “free” minute. These days, I’m less likely to procrastinate, say, an exercise session because if I don’t seize the moment, I may not get another chance.

I get creative about squeezing in things I want to do: I’ll run to the ball field and my husband will drive the kids; after the game, he runs home, and I drive back. If I don’t have a noontime meeting on a yoga day, I’ll go to the class knowing I’ll rally myself to work after the boys are in bed because: deadlines. This week when I suddenly found myself meeting-free one afternoon of a Chicago work trip, I snuck over to the art museum and saved my editing for late night. I got it all done and discovered a cool, new (to me) contemporary artist to follow (Frances Stark! – check her out).

I’m (imperfectly) more productive. As my kids have gotten older and I see them losing their sh*t when they “mess up” a drawing or a note, I’ve realized that I need to make a conscious effort to temper my tendencies to do things “perfectly.”

Learning not to overproduce is, in my experience, an important life lesson. “Don’t start over; that ‘mess-up’ looks cool,” I often tell my kids. Repeating that mantra, I’ve begun to absorb the mentality myself. More than ever, I don’t let perfect get in the way of done. We live in an increasingly iterative world. Do your best and let it go. That’s what I’m sayin’—now. Or at least more often.

How have your kids changed you for the better?