Communicating with your child’s preschool about tough stuff

We have a wonderful little group in the What's Next Workshop, with spots still open. So if you've been on the fence, now's the time to do it. First lesson goes out Sunday, so sign up now or tomorrow.

In the email I sent out last night (if you're not getting it and want to, sign up with that form over in the left sidebar) I asked if people were ok, and got a huge range of responses! Be gentle with ourselves.

The repeated issue (it really is strange how problems seem to come in clumps) I'm seeing for the last couple of weeks is kids acting out at preschool. Hitting, biting, getting into fights with other kids. I think the plans to help kids channel their feelings into more productive behaviors have to be different for kids at different ages, but what I find most striking about the questions I've been getting is how separate home and school seem to be.

It feels to me like a lot of us (myself included) feel like preschool (or elementary school) is just an extension of parenting in public. A place with people who are going to see our kids' behavior (especially around the common values that have taken over the dialogue about childhood, such as sharing and cooperating) and judge us as fit or unfit based on what our kids do. So when our kids do do something they shouldn't, it feels like all of our mistakes are being exposed and we're being judged and found wanting.

It's that feeling of being in the grocery store and suddenly your child starts screaming "I want it NOW!!!" and you want to just sink through the floor as you feel the eyes of everyone in the store on you wondering why you're so horrible.

I'm wondering if it would help all of us (me included) to start thinking of our kids' teachers and caregivers as a resource to help us, instead of people waiting for us to screw up and to think of our kid as the bad one. I was so, so lucky to have had the best preschool teachers in the world for both of my boys. These women had taught together for twenty years and had seen everything, and had a baseline view that kids are good and quirky and parents are good and quirky and trying as hard as we can. So when there were problems, it turned into a big troubleshooting session, in which we shared ideas and insights and decided what we were going to try together.

But it was not my natural instinct to do that. Those wonderful teachers had to train the parents to trust them instead of hiding when our kids did something wrong. And I've been thinking a lot about that as I've been getting questions from parents about how to stop it. The behavior itself is a problem, obviously, but the shame that we as parents feel about it is where the energy goes and gets lost. So not only are we worried, we're worried and exhausted and guilty.

I wish there was a way for us to call a moratorium on feeling guilty. Especially about things our kids do that are normal, if not acceptable. And ask the teachers and caregivers and other parents for kind help instead of needing to feel defensive.


Q&A: Resources for a fat, old pregnant lady?

Maura, who has been reading forever and wrote in a question for a family member a few years ago, sent in that funny question title, and writes:

"I'm writing now with the shockingly happy and incredibly scary news
that, at age 41, I'm pregnant!   Just as I began to find some peace
with the idea of being a spinster aunt in my late 30's, I surprised
myself by finding a good guy.  Nearly four years later, in September of
this year, we got married.  And, shockingly, I now find myself 9 weeks
pregnant!  (Honeymoon conception – not completely shocking since we know
how babies are made, but close to completely shocking since at my age
we didn't really think such a thing would occur without medical

We didn't plan for this to happen, and I know that a
lot of things can go wrong with pregnancies at my age, but I feel
incredibly lucky to even have this chance.  I vascillate between extreme
acceptance (whatever happens, happens, and I am going to enjoy this
blessing/ opportunity/hope even if something goes wrong with the
and abject terror (OMG is this a miscarriage?  OMG
what about genetic anomalies?  OMG what if my depression comes back?
 OMG I feel old and tired, can I keep up with a baby?)
on what feels like an hourly basis.  

I'm wondering if you or your readers could recommend
some blogs or discussion groups or support groups or other sources of
sanity and support for a first time mom at 41.   I would also welcome
suggestions on great sites and support for staying healthy and sane
during pregnancy, especially for fat women (I use it as a neutral
descriptor, not an insult!) and/or women who struggle with depression.
 For my recent wedding, I generally avoided the heavily commercial sites
like "The Knot", and appreciated smaller blogs like A Practical
Wedding, since I don't want to be bombarded with messages about all the
STUFF STUFF STUFF I need to buy during pregnancy, which so many of the
big pregnancy sites seem to be about."

I am completely and utterly out of the loop with websites about pregnancy. So I'm hoping that you all know all about websites that are either focused on older moms or are just friendly to older moms and not all rainbows and kittens and glitter.

Depression during pregnancy I know about. The hormones of the pregnancy can throw you into a pretty serious depression. If you know that, that it's "just" the hormones, it can be easier to deal with, because you can remind yourself that it's like all the other weird changes and it's temporary and you don't have to do anything about it because it's part of the pregnancy.

But women who have depression during pregnancy have a higher rate of PPD, so that's something to watch out for. It doesn't mean you'll get PPD, and we know that the single leading prevention factor for PPD is support, which it sounds like you have. But be watchful and let your husband and friends to know watch for it, too.

Congratulations on your pregnancy! I hope you enjoy it and your labor and delivery are easy!

Who's got resources for Maura?

About Me

I do NOT do reviews, guest posts, sponsored posts, link exchanges, giveaways, or any promotions. Please do not contact me about any of these or send me press releases. I need to keep my email clear for readers and clients.

I’m Magda Pecsenye and I write AskMoxie.

I have an unusual* combination of empathy and analytic skills that lets me help people troubleshoot their issues in ways that are meaningful for them. I specialize in helping people take apart their problems and put them back together in a way that feels good, or just reframe things so they can figure out what to do in a way that honors who they are.

I think parenting is the one thing that brings most of us to our knees. It’s so important and so difficult-yet-simple that there’s no way to ever feel like you’re doing everything The Right Way. But I think most of us ARE doing it right on a minute-by-minute basis when we pay attention to ourselves and our kids and focus on maintaining a good relationship.

Here’s my most famous post, “Free but not cheap,” that summarizes why I think we can all be great parents.

I think you already have everything in you that you need or will ever need to be a great parent. You are the best parent for your child.

I’m referenced in the books Bed Timing by Marc Lewis and Isabel Granic, Stop Reacting, Start Responding by Sharon Silver, and Co-Parenting 101 by Deesha Philyaw and Michael D. Thomas. I’ve been interviewed and mentioned in the New York Times, Globe and Mail, Parenting magazine, Parents magazine, Redbook, and many other mentions, and have appeared on Good Morning America and HLN Prime News.

I do online workshops and one-on-one coaching (by phone or Skype) for people who need unsticking or just someone to walk along with them for a bit. (If that sounds like you, send me an email and we’ll see if we’d be a good fit.)

I also post on 2-5 times a week, and invite your comments. The reader comments are often better than my actual post. has the best regular readers on the entire internet.

I DO NOT review products or do giveaways, or solicit guest posts.

I was a married SAHM, then a married freelance mom, then a divorcing WOHM, then a divorced WOHM, so I think I have a dog in every hunt (they’re all hard in different ways). I also write a blog about co-parenting with my ex-husband, Doug French. Our two boys were born in 2002 and 2005, and the divorce was final in 2008. We lived in NYC for 15 years, but moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2011 and live four blocks from each other. I grew up in Ohio but have also lived in Pennsylvania and in Mexico City, Mexico. I have a degree in Comparative Literature from Bryn Mawr College and an MBA from the University of Michigan. I’m a runner and a knitter, and a truly abysmal housekeeper. My first name is Norwegian (my mom’s side) and my last name is Hungarian (my dad’s side).


I have a thing for Jesus, coffee, soccer, fuzzy socks, feminism, Days of Our Lives,
steno pads, legal pads, felt tip pens (black only), barre class,
artichokes, dark chocolate, cats AND dogs, cost accounting, wordplays in
English and Spanish, Pequod’s pizza, the movies “Groundhog Day” and
“Bring It On,” and old-school hip-hop.

I’m 40, and just hoping not to come in last in my age category.


Email me at askmoxie at gmail dot com

Tweet me at @AskMoxie

Send me fuzzy socks and felt tip pens at

Ask Moxie, 4860 Washtenaw Ave., Ste. I-118, Ann Arbor, MI 48108, USA


* I didn’t know it was an unusual combo. It’s just the way I’ve always been. People tell me it’s strange, though, so I’ve started believing them.


Q&A: Oh, body parts…

Lauren writes:

"My son has just discovered his penis, and loves playing with it all the
time (not at school, thank goodness). We tell him it's okay to
touch/play with his penis in his room, but when he does it in other
areas of the house, we tell him it's private and he should go in his
room if he wants to play with it. Nonetheless, he still likes to pull it
out when he's sitting around the house, watching tv, etc. Any
suggestions for his new found penis obsession? We want to be accepting
and not shaming, but also have him gain a sense of personal boundaries
(I know with two boys you've probably dealt with this before). By the
way, he's three and a half."

This question is just always going to make me laugh. The good news is that he's getting the social convention, as he doesn't play with his penis at school. So he's definitely got the idea that it's something you do in private vs. public.

There are two explanations for why he's doing it at home: 1) He just isn't getting that there are different levels of privacy in your house. So it feels ok to him to whip it out in the living room. 2) He's 3.5 so he's testing boundaries, in that "I'm going to whistle innocently while I pull the dog's tail and hope you don't notice that I did it" way.

My money's on #2, but only because I think age 3.5 is the nadir of human existence. So I'd keep reinforcing the boundary, but stay unattached to his ability to comply, not making a big deal out of it, and in a few months when he swings back into equilibrium I bet he'll "remember" to keep it in his pants except when he's in his room.

Does anyone have any stories of kids not keeping it in their pants that they'd like to entertain us with?


For people who want more than just the Q&A posts, I offer one-on-one coaching for parents (email me at askmoxie at gmail dot com to talk about creating a schedule for you). I also offer online workshops on a rotating basis. All the workshops are about sparking your own intuition to help you create your own clarity in the situation you’re in, using some models and processes from business (wacky, right?). Here’s the current list of wokshops I offer and the upcoming schedule:


Flourish Through Divorce: For people going through a
divorce or split that involves children. Six weeks. Focuses on
understanding and managing feelings while going forward, helping your
children managing their feelings, creating a new kind of family, working
together as productively as possible, custody solutions that are good
for everyone, and maintaining boundaries.

Starts January 13, 2013. 



Managing Elementary School: For parents of children
entering Kindergarten and up. Four weeks. Focuses on the energy change
and logistics of having a child in elementary school, and includes
creating and teaching your child to manage their own routines, dealing
with the wider exposure to other kids and families, talking about
difficult topics, and just managing all the paper, meetings, and stuff
elementary school brings.

Starts April 14, 2013. Registration opens March 29, 2013.


Baby Survive and Thrive: For parents of babies. Six weeks long, with an emphasis on finding out what you need to be able to thrive through this period of intense pressure and maintaining your own boundaries and getting the help and support you need so you can be as present as you can be in the form that’s right for you. This is the “put on your own oxygen mask first” course.

Starts June 2013. Registration opens May 2013.

What’s Next Workshop: For parents of children
toddler age and older who are re-examining who they are and what they
want now that they’re out of that intense toddler tunnel. Five weeks
long, with soul-searching homework and group calls to really confront
who you are now, why that’s fantastic, and what you want next. You’ll
come out of the workshop with a plan for your next few months.

Starts December 2, 2012.


Is there anything you’d like to do a workshop on that you don’t see here? Let me know and I’ll see if there’s enough interest to put a group together.


Q&A: coping with a miscarriage when a sister-in-law is at the same stage of pregnancy

(Please keep adding your online store or small business to the list of places to shop this coming weekend.)

Anon writes:

really enjoy your website – I spent many late nights perusing it while
nursing my son, and now check in regularly for information and advice.

in a really difficult situation right now. My much-loved sister-in-law
and I were thrilled to have due dates with very wanted babies within a
week of each other
in June. However, last week I found out at a routine ultrasound that
the baby's heartbeat had stopped, and now am waiting to miscarry
naturally or to have a D&C. This is a devastating event for my
husband and I, as it is my second miscarriage, and comes on top of my
father's death 1 month ago. I'm just really, really despondent.

top of grieving our loss, I'm finding myself feeling very resentful and
jealous of my sister-in-law, who hasn't done a single thing to deserve
these thoughts. I don't know how to be around her now, or how I will
cope with watching her pregnancy progress. These feelings make me feel
like a
very small, very selfish person, and I know that she would be able to
offer support, but I just can't let her in. I feel like she will grow to
judge and resent me if I continue to shut her and her family out, but I
just don't know how to pretend that everything is OK.

Thank you in advance for any advice you or your readers might be able to give."

Oh, Anon, I'm so sorry for your loss.

And I think you need to be gentle with yourself.

Ask your husband to tell your sister-in-law. She will understand that this second miscarriage on top of your father's death is too much for you right now. She'll sit by silently until you're ready to be around her again, without resenting you for feeling your feelings.

It won't always hurt this much. You will feel joy again. But you don't have to force yourself right now, because right now is too raw.

Readers? Any words of comfort for Anon?




BlackSmallCyberSale for everyone

I've decided to celebrate Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday by running specials on workshops. Here are all my sales on workshops: special bonuses for the What's Next Workshop and coaching, and 20% off workshops coming up in 2013. Everything's listed here and runs until Monday night (Tuesday at 3 am so the West Coasters can play until midnight.)

ALSO, I think we should all be supporting each other and other small businesses and online stores, so if you sell something online, post it in the comments here. Remember the http:// and it should turns your link into a clickable link. Include a little description of what you sell so people get interested in clicking through. And if you wanted to give us a discount that works Friday through Monday that would be great, too, but not necessary.

Who should post a link? Anyone who owns a small business. Whether it's a handcraft online store, brick-and-mortar store with an online storefront, your direct sales link, service business, whatever. Anywhere in the world (but if you can't ship internationally, be sure to note that.) As long as there's an actual human being who runs the business, and you aren't forcing anyone to come in and work at 5 am on Friday, please post here so others can see the cool stuff you have to offer.

Q&A: Deciding to have a baby

Abby writes:

"As a baby-crazy late-thirty-something childless woman, I love your
blog.  My partner and I are talking about starting a family (well, I'm
talking and he isn't running out the room anymore).  His biggest fear (I
think) is that he is supporting his impoverished father and my job
situation is currently unstable (though I have plenty of earning power
if I weren't so damned picky).  I think he is also afraid of the
enormous disruption a child causes.  On the flip side, he is fantastic
with children and has a very strong sense of family.  So he has asked me
to help him figure out what he is signing up for if we abandon
contraception — he doesn't even know what questions to ask.  I'd love
to hear from you and your readers answers to any and all of the

1. How did you decide to take the plunge and start down the road to
children?  What did you do if you weren't both ready at the same time?
Are there any good resources for us to figure out how much the first
few years would cost (ex-child care: either I'll be earning bundles of
money or home with the baby)?  We aren't interested in going overboard
in the baby-industrial complex.  My understanding that with the child
tax credit, all costs other than child care net out to approximately
zero at first, but I could be totally wrong. 
3. Are there any good resources for people contemplating fatherhood of
the committed full-partner variety?  I've seen books on fatherhood
targeted to men who need help getting on board after a fait accompli,
but none for the potential father who wants to do everything "right"
when the time comes but wants to make sure he is prepared for what he is
signing up for. 

My attitude is that one can never be prepared, parenthood is one of
life's great mysteries, and I know the two of us are fully equipped to
handle the challenges life throws at us.  But that doesn't seem to
persuade him!"

This line really pinged my radar: "my job
situation is currently unstable (though I have plenty of earning power
if I weren't so damned picky)." I wonder if your partner isn't extremely concerned that when a baby comes you'll continue being extremely picky and he'll be left holding the entire financial bag for this child. Before you continue trying to convince him to have a baby, YOU need to be straight with yourself that YOU are ready to have a baby. Once you have a child, there is no more room for extremely picky. There isn't even any more room for moderately picky. You do whatever it takes to take care of your child. Whether that means getting up and going to a job you loathe every day, taking a load of warm puke in the eyes at 4 am, sleeping in three-hour chunks for two years–that's parenthood. You may have to do a job that you don't like. So unless you can show that you're absolutely ready (not just willing) to carry your share of the load, I doubt your partner is going to get on board with this.

So, to your specific questions.

I don't know how people get on the same page. It's a risky proposition to force one partner into it, so if you're both not ready I think you'd have to both promise to explore it more and then set a date to reopen discussions. Has anyone been in this situation? How did you resolve it?

I think any resources you find are going to be averaged across the country, which doesn't so much help you since child care costs vary so wildly. (I'm assuming you're in the USA since you mention child tax credits.) If your insurance covers the birth (and you have a normal vaginal or c-section with no complications and no NICU time or that's all covered by insurance), then your expenses are diapers and clothes, and formula if you can't or don't breastfeed fully. And then child care, if you go to work after maternity leave. Those costs vary so wildly–a good full-time nanny in NYC costs $600 a week (and some daycares are more than that), while a lovely home daycare situation in other parts of the country can cost $200 a week. Readers? What does child care cost where you live? And what expenses am I forgetting for a first year? (Assuming the crib, carseat, etc. are sunk costs and they have generous family and friends who give them a baby shower.)

I think the best resources are just hanging out with men who ahve children, who are good dads. Those guys will be honest about how being on call 24/7 is, the affect having a child has on your relationship, what shouldering the financial burden feels like, how pregnancy can be for a man, and all the other aspects. I don't know that there's a book out there that can really do it justice, because there are so many varied experiences that hearing it from one person can give him a skewed view. So have him ask his dad friends what it's really like, and then seek out more men to ask. Read dad blogs. Ask the guy in line at the grocery store with diapers in his cart.

I'd also like to recommend the work of Randi Buckley, who does a course for women about discovering if they really want to have a baby called Maybe Baby, in particular this post, "Afraid of Whom You Might Become in Motherhood." Some of the fears and ideas Randi works with with women might be helpful for your partner, too.

Readers? What's your advice? How can Abby help her partner get a real picture of what it's going to take to have a baby? Were you in a situation like this? How did you resolve it? And how much does childcare cost where you live?