That Time I Won Parenting

Forget #parentingfails, in this month's letter from the editor, Parents' Liz Vaccariello celebrates a heartwarming win—and invites you to share yours, too!

Liz Vaccariello in Green Dress Won at Parenting Liz Vaccariello
It was the summer Sophia started lessons, and we sat together on our piano bench as her stick-straight little fingers played out and back from middle C. She grinned up at me. I kept my mouth shut about hand position and let my girl play. I was determined to spare Sophia the anxiety that had plagued my long and complicated relationship with the instrument. Then she missed a note.

Her shoulders tensed and my heart caught. She scrunched her nose, started again. “This is hard, Mommy!” she wailed. With every mistake, I watched strain replace joy. “It’s okay, baby. Take a deep breath.” A meltdown was imminent, and all the patience in the world wasn’t going to stop it. I rested my hand on her back and, as the words “let’s try again tomorrow” were about to come out of my mouth, I realized with utter clarity how I could help.

I knew two things for certain. One, practicing sucks. Two, embracing the suck is the only way to learn, grow, get stronger. Somehow, in that split second, I saw her future brain struggling to get math, her future legs aching after a track meet, her future heart hurting over a breakup. In every case the discomfort would strengthen her. 

“Hey, I have an idea,” I said. “From here on out, every time you feel frustrated we’re going to hop up off this bench and do a silly dance. Like this.” And I took her hands and broke out into a hipswinging, arms-flailing shuffle. Sophia squealed and hopped along. Breathless and smiling, we sat down and started again. We had found our thing.

Piano notes? Anyone could teach her those. The tools to push through the bad to get to the good? Only I could teach that.

You read my story, now send yours...

My tiny piano triumph reminded me that it’s important to laugh when we fumble. But just as critical is that we celebrate when we soar. In that spirit, I want to hear your parenting highs, big or small.

The time you were tested and rose to the occasion. That day you finally grew up—or gave up—all in the name of love for your kid. Resist the urge to write about times your children made you proud. Those stories fill our Facebook feeds. Remember the moments you were the parent you wanted to be.

Write your story, “That Time I Won Parenting,” in 300 words or less (not easy—mine’s 300 on the dot!) for a chance to win $1,000. Check out the official rules here and submit your entry to parentmoment@parents.com. Look for our favorite entries in the December issue of Parents!

I invite you to e-mail me at liz@parents.com. You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter.