Weird Parenting Wins
Hillary Frank, author and host of the award-winning parenting podcast The Longest Shortest Time, takes us on a journey to the wonderful world of weird parenting. You won’t find any of these tips in a traditional parenting book. Instead, Hillary says, weird parenting is real advice from real parents born out of moments of sheer desperation. “One of my favorites is a game called ‘What’s on My Butt?’ You lie down face-down on the couch or on the floor, and then you tell them to get some random object and place it on your butt. And then you have to guess what the thing is and the longer it takes you to guess, the longer you get to lie down.”
You can follow Hillary Frank on Twitter @hillaryfrank and on Instagram @thisishillaryfrank.
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Interested in learning more about Hillary? Check out the links below:
- Check out Hillary’s book, Weird Parenting Wins: https://www.hillaryfrank.com/weird-parenting-wins
- Listen to Hillary’s award-winning podcast, The Longest Shortest Time: https://longestshortesttime.com/about
- Keep up with all of Hillary’s work on her website: https://www.hillaryfrank.com/
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Hillary Frank 00:06
Hi, I’m Hilary Frank, and you’re listening to GOOD KIDS. I’m the creator of the podcast THE LONGEST SHORTEST TIME. And today I’m going to talk about Weird Parenting Wins.
So, about 10 years ago, I gave birth to my daughter, Sasha. And it was a really rough birth and recovery. And I had this injury that prevented me from being able to get up and walk around. And that meant I wasn’t able to be the kind of mom I wanted to be. I couldn’t like feed my baby the way I wanted to, I couldn’t change her diaper, I couldn’t bathe her. And I felt really inadequate. And I was turning to books, to, you know, try to figure out how to do it, right. And the books, basically all made me feel like I was doing it wrong. And not only like, was I doing it wrong, but I had already screwed it up.
Four months after my daughter was born, we moved to a completely new town where I knew nobody. And I felt like I couldn’t get honest answers out of people about what early parenthood was really like for them. People were pretending like it was kind of easy. And I didn’t want to believe that that was true that like I was an outlier. So I had been working in radio for 10 years at that point. And I knew that if you stick a microphone in somebody’s face, you are more likely to get like a deep answer from them.
And so I started this podcast, THE LONGEST SHORTEST TIME. Where I started, you know, talking to strangers about their struggles and Parenthood. And it made me feel less alone, which was my first goal. And then it had this like, unintended goal of making other people feel less alone. And that made me feel really good, too. And then, you know, as I got to know, people in the community, I started asking them if they had similar experiences to me with parenting books, where they felt like, you know, like they felt like failures, because the techniques in the books weren’t working for them. And people there was like, a big, resounding yes. And it turned out that the things that did work for people were like really weird strategies that you would never find in a book. And I started collecting these strategies that people sent me and eventually turned them into a book called Weird Parenting Wins.
I consider weird parenting to be really anything that you wouldn’t expect to hear from a quote unquote, “parenting expert”. There are strategies that are born out of sheer desperation, out of trial and error, like real stuff that parents discover, just based on who their kids are and who they are, and just what is working in the moment. And some of these techniques that people are using just blew my mind, and I use some of them myself. One of my favorites is a game that a mom made up called “what’s on my butt”. And the way you play is, like when you need a little bit of a timeout, you need some downtime from your kid, but your kid really wants to play. You lie down, face down on the couch or on the floor, and then you tell them to get some random object and place it on your butt. And then you have to guess what the thing is, and the longer it takes you to guess the longer you get to lie down.
There’s a whole category of winds that that people use for either letting off steam or like holding in your anger when you feel like that’s the thing you need to do. So sometimes you just need to let it all out. And that’s when the family screen comes in handy. And you all kind of get together if you feel like you can hold hands you hold hands, and then you just like look at the sky and scream your head off. If your whole family is kind of at each other’s throats and not getting along, you can throw an unbirthday party for everybody. So you make an unbirthday cake you make, unbirthday decorations, and you celebrate each other make each other cards. And then one of my favorites is this one. When you feel like you’re gonna yell at your kid, but you have like, you have the wherewithal to stop yourself. And so you go grab some duct tape, put it over your mouth, and then draw on a smile with a sharpie, which then makes your kid laugh and then makes you laugh. And it kind of is a like a game changer in mood.
So ever since the pandemic started, I really actively turned toward weird parenting as a way to help get through, like being cooped up with my family all the time, and to help my daughter get through it, too. So early on, we were doing things like we started playing, “what’s that smell” to pass the time. So you know, we would hold objects, blindfold each other, and then hold objects under each other’s noses and have to guess what the thing was. I remember my husband thought that a sliced lemon was mayonnaise, it’s weird. Another thing that’s been hard during the pandemic is getting my daughter to groom herself, like, you know, what’s the point. And so we started watching Queer Eye. And she was so into Queer Eye, that somehow I discovered that I could use it to get her to take care of herself. So I’d be like, well, what would Tan say about your clothes. But it’s just even it’s like, to get her to wear clean clothes, you know, it’s like not even about styling. And then her hair was getting out of control. It’s really long. And it was getting naughty, and I just wanted to trim it. And she really didn’t want me to and I was like, come on, Jonathan would want you to get a haircut. And she was like, you’re right.
She’s recently decided that she doesn’t want to go outside. She used to love going outside and running around. And I don’t know, she just wants to be inside. And that is unacceptable to me. Like she needs to get exercise. And so I realized I had to trick her into going outside. And the way I did it was I remembered back before the pandemic, she used to like to walk around with her eyes closed, or like pull her hat over her eyes when we were walking to the bus stop. And it drove me crazy, because the sidewalks are really bumpy here. And she would always trip and she would hurt herself. And she has like bruises and scratches all over her legs. And I would just say like, “come on, you gotta just open your eyes, we just have to walk three blocks, just please do this.” And because I needed to trick her to get outside, once the pandemic started, I was like, Alright, she’s gonna win on this one, she’s gonna get to walk around with her eyes closed outside. And so we created this game where I can lead her around with her eyes closed. And then we switch and she leaves me around with my eyes closed. And it’s terrifying. Because we cross the streets and stuff. But you know, it works. And she gets excited to go for a walk.
So, I’ve found some wins that also help with when you have parents working at home and your kid isn’t completely occupied. And I find that it’s really good to find things for them to do, that won’t simply get them out of your hair. But we’ll get them out of your hair and then give you something to connect about later on in the day. So that it really is motivated by wanting to have a connection with them. So one thing that I’ve had my daughter do is spy on her father. This is a technique I actually started using when we would go to like grown up parties, and she would come with me. And there wouldn’t really be other kids around or back in the days when we used to go to restaurants I would do this to keep her occupied but it has been working at home so she spies on my husband and I give her a little notepad and a pen. And I tell her to take really detailed notes. Like everything, what is he doing? How is he sitting? What is he saying? that’s especially important. What is he saying to the other person on the video call but be very quiet so that he doesn’t notice you’re there you have to be a good spy. So she takes her notes and then later on, we kind of conspire and I say like, “show me, show me the notebook. What did you find out?”
It’s gotten to the point where Sasha is so accustomed to having me look for weird stuff to have us do. And I guess she knows about the book, but she just knows that when we do weird stuff, it makes me happy, and it makes her happy. And so she’s kind of started inventing her own things. So like, she’ll come up with these ideas to pass the time. Like, she came up with a game that she called side effects, where we invent a name of a medicine, and then you list the side effects. So like, one of them was fee Linnaean. For when you just rather be a cat. side effects include napping all day pooping in boxes, and the sudden desire to eat birds.
I think parenting is really one of the hardest things a person can do. You literally have another person’s life in your hands. And it’s so high stakes. And I think that’s why there’s so much judging this among parents, and also why there are so many books that act like they can tell you how to do it with authority. And I think it’s exhausting no matter what. But when you can add some playfulness and some absurdity into the mix. I think it just injects some unexpected fun into what is a really arduous, difficult, never ending task. And so it’s been working for me. I also find it exhausting to always feel like I have to be creative. But now that my daughter is 10 I really do feel like she’s almost starting to weird parent me like it’s like weird kid wins. She’s flipped it so that she knows when I’m like, “I can’t think of anything right now”. She’s like, that’s when she pulls out, you know, the side effects game and it’s like, “Mom, I’ve come up with something. Let’s play it.” And she knows I’m gonna say yes.
Right now I’m working on a new project about Middle School. You can find out more about it and contribute some ideas to it at HilaryFrank.com Thank you for listening to GOOD KIDS.
GOOD KIDS is a Lemonada Media Original. Supervising Producer is Kryssy Pease. Associate Producer is Alex McOwen and Kegan Zema is our engineer. The show is executive produced by Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. The music is by Dan Molad with additional music courtesy of APM music. Check us out on social at @LemonadaMedia, recommend us to a friend and rate and review us wherever you listen to podcasts. If you want to submit a show idea, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next week, stay good.