This reading group guide for Because I Said So includes a Q&A with author Dawn Meehan. We hope these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.A Conversation with Dawn MeehanYou say that the wild success of your eBay auctions was “God’s way of telling [you] to share [your] stories,” to use your talents to “encourage parents everywhere.” How do you think your life would bedifferent right now if you had not started blogging?
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Well, for one thing, my kids wouldn’t ask, “Are you going to blog about this?” every time they made a mess or got into something. And I’d have a lot more time on my hands. But I’d be missing out on the interaction with my readers (predominantly moms who are experiencing the same trials and tribulations that I am). You write about how your kids have been the best teachers when it comes to parenting. What do you think is the most important thing they’ve taught you about parenting? What has been the most surprising lesson?
The most important thing my kids have taught me is that a parent needs a sense of humor. Parents need to able to laugh at the little things. I’ve learned all sorts of surprising lessons! I’ve learned that blue Popsicles turn kids’ poop neon green, that Barbies don’t flush well, and that it’s not a good idea to put yogurt in the lawnmower’s gas tank.You say that there are a lot of parenting skills that aren’t covered in books. What were you most unprepared for with your first baby?
I think the lack of sleep hit me the hardest. There’s just no way to fully prepare yourself for that.How were things different with each child?
I have definitely become more relaxed more with each addition to my family. With experience comes a certain level of comfort. While I freaked out when my first child got a cold or hurt himself or was resistant to potty training, I knew that these things were not the end of the world with my subsequent children.Do you think you became a better parent as you went along?
Absolutely. I joke that my first couple of kids were my experimental
kids. Then I got good at this whole parenting thing. Of
course, by the time the sixth one came around, I think I just got
tired and worn out, which would explain why I don’t care if she
eats nothing but M&Ms and ketchup for a week.
I’ve learned to really enjoy my time with my kids because it
flies by so quickly. And I’ve learned to not sweat the small stuff.
When kids color on the walls, give their little sisters a haircut, or
break a window playing ball, it’s not a big deal. It’s small potatoes
in the whole scheme of things. Life is so much more pleasant
when you don’t dwell on those little things and instead find a
balance in teaching children to be responsible adults while still
letting them be kids.As your children get older, is there anything you wish you had done differently? Do you think having regrets comes with being a parent?
I remember briefly wishing I hadn’t taught my toddler how to
walk because walking is highly overrated; it opens whole new
worlds of mischief for kids. Honestly, this isn’t something I dwell
on. You can’t turn back time and change anything, so why worry
about what you might have done differently? I think even mistakes
have their place. You learn from them and you move on.
Somehow the things you might wish you’d done a little differently have a way of turning out just fine in the end.It seems like some of the best coping mechanisms you’ve found for dealing with the everyday struggles of being a single mom (and parenting in general!) are your close friendships and your sense of humor. How have these both helped you along the way? Why is a good sense of humor so important?
You have a choice at how you view your circumstances. You can be mad and bitter and think, Why did this happen to me? Or you can look at it in a positive light. You can find the humor (and there’s always humor to be found!) and laugh at the funny parts while maintaining the belief that God will take care of you and that this too shall pass (and it always does).
And my friends are invaluable! When I start to get overwhelmed, they’re there to pick me up and remind me that I’m loved. Whether they share some inspiring scripture with me, offer to pick up my kids from school, listen to me whine for a bit, or offer to take me out for the other kind of wine, they’re the best! We put a lot of pressure on our kids today to be star athletes, play an instrument, do volunteer work, go to church, get good grades, and spend time with their family and friends. Do you think kids are overprogrammed? Have you ever considered cutting back some of the afterschool activities?
I think a lot of kids are overwhelmed with activities. Because my finances are limited and I have six kids and haven’t developed a cloning device yet, my children are limited to one activity each. They get to participate in activities they like, yet they still have time to play and just be kids.We also put a lot of pressure on moms today to do it all! How do you deal with this pressure? Do you feel like you have enough time to take care of yourself and be the kind of mom that you want to be?
I definitely don’t feel like I can do it all and I admit that taking care of myself is last on my list. But unlike a lot of moms, I’m okay with that. I really don’t feel like I’m losing out. I feel like my kids are my priority right now. That’s why I had them. If I wanted to have tons of time to care for myself, I wouldn’t have had children. In a way, caring for them is caring for myself because it makes me feel good to nurture my children. The day will come (and sooner than I’d like, I’m sure) where I’ll have so much time for myself, I won’t know what to do with it all!You mention how your mom created special family traditions for you and your sister, such as shopping for Easter outfits or decorating the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. What family traditions do you want to create for your kids? What new traditions have you started with your family since you’ve been a single mom?
I’ve created all sorts of fun traditions! Traditions like Mom Doesn’t Feel Like Cooking so We’re Having Frozen Pizza Fridays, Late to School Mondays, and Everybody Pitches in to Get the House Clean Saturdays so Mom Doesn’t Throw a Fit Because She Has to Do It Herself have become regular occurrences in my house.
A few years ago I bought a journal, and every Christmas we pass it around to all the family members so they can record their thoughts about the day: what they’re thankful for, who celebrated Christmas with us, a favorite present they gave or received, what we had for dinner, what the weather was like, and so forth. We enjoy looking back through all the entries each year. We’ve also started the tradition of going around the table at dinner so each person can take a turn talking about the best and worst things that happened during their day. We’ve started spending more time together as a family (not that we didn’t before), but now that I’m a single mom and their father isn’t in the picture, I feel it’s even more important to connect as a family and be there for each other.Might not other parents read about some of your family’s antics and react negatively to your parenting style?
Nah. I just tell myself that clearly other parents react negatively
because they’re just jealous of my stellar parenting skills; after all,
I’m always right and they’re wrong. Seriously, I don’t do things to
impress other people and don’t care much what they think. There
isn’t one correct way to parent; you do what works for your family.
Just because your way is different from someone else’s doesn’t
make it wrong. Being a mom of so many kids has taught me that
children are all different and what works for one may not work
for another. You just can’t judge how other parents raise their
children because you’re not in their shoes.Do you personally feel like you’ve been a successful parent?
Define successful.What’s up next for you and your family?
We’re starting a brand-new adventure! We’re moving from Chicago to Orlando this summer. From what I understand, we’ll be experiencing heat and humidity, bugs the size of Buicks, and hurricanes. We’re looking forward to it!