Advice on Raising Me

I received a message this week from a new reader. She wrote:

My daughter shares the same name as you. Beth Woolsey! What are the chances? I thought for sure my Beth was the only Beth Woolsey in the world.

And I thought, “Finally! A namesake!” After my brother and his wife named their first daughter after their mothers, I figured their sisters’ names were shoe-ins for the next kids. Katie Beth? COME ON. Isn’t that the sweetest? But no. They thought their boys should have more masculine names. Whatever.

Now, though? The world has rewarded my patience with another Beth Woolsey. Thank you, world. Sometimes you’re a real jerk, but every once in while you do something outrageous and rad. Like the platypus. And bacon. 

Then I thought, “Oh, mama… raising a Beth Woolsey, huh? Good luck.” So I wrote her this letter. To be helpful.


Dear Mother of Beth Woolsey,

You have a Beth Woolsey! CONGRATULATIONS!

Now, I know that just because we share the same name doesn’t mean we’re the same person or anything. But, just in case, I’d like to offer you some unsolicited advice. Little tips. Insights, perhaps. Things you might want to know.

Based on my experience, I’m certain your daughter is delightful, witty, friendly, compassionate, and a joy to everyone around her. She may also be given to teeny, tiny bouts of rage and a penchant for being kinda mouthy, but let’s ignore that for now.

Here are 5 Quick Tips for Raising a Beth Woolsey:

1. The missing tubs of frosting are under her bed next to the wall with the Holly Hobby wallpaper. You have to reach around the leg of the bed frame to find them, but there is a lot of chocolate back there, so it’ll be worth your while. Bring graham crackers. She’s out.

2. She will learn to wear underwear with dresses but not before the infamous Flip-up Friday incident of her 3rd grade year. It’s not your fault. You tried.

3. She’s only going to sneak liquor from you once. Buying only Scotch and crappy wine in a box? Good strategy. Seriously brilliant. She’ll think she hates drinking for years.

4. Try not to stress out too much about all the lying. Yes, it’ll get out of hand in the 5th grade but by the time she’s 19 she’ll stop all on her own.

5. And finally, when she’s 8 and she buys your Mother’s Day gift with her only $2 bill? The special one she loves and has been saving? And then you secretly buy it back for her? That one’s going to stick with her her whole life, mama; it’s the little acts of kindness that usually do.

Beth Woolseys can be a handful, I know. But you can do this. You can. And she’ll be incredibly grateful you did.

Wishing you all the best,
Beth Woolsey

P.S. Woolsey is technically my married name. If any of you out there are raising a Beth McDonough, take cover.

P.P.S. I feel bad about ratting her out in #1. How about we forget I said anything and let her keep the frosting?


DadsasterAnd, P.P.P.S, I’m on the latest Dadsaster podcast this week, weighing in toward the end about whether or not dads deserve the bumbling idiot stereotype. (SPOILER: nope.) Listen in, and — free tip — DO NOT MISS THE BEAR STORY AT THE END. It’s worth it just to hear the bro-worship in the telling; I dare you not to smile. Dadsaster: a podcast by dads, for dads. You can read more about Dadsaster (and about my kids pooping in my front yard) here.


So. Think back on your childhood.
What top piece of advice would you give to someone raising you?
(I might be a little too giddy as I look forward to your self-disclosure.
I showed you mine…)


“Old Letters and a Quill” image credit to Simon Howden via

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25 responses to “Advice on Raising Me”

  1. My SIL is a Katie Beth! No Katherine Elizabeth, just Katie Beth. But she prefers Kate.

    Also, so glad to hear I wasn’t the only one who stashed chocolate in my room…

  2. If raising a Lisa, I would recommend investing in some ear plugs. Actually, it might be a good idea to buy shares in a company that makes ear plugs. This kid is going to talk ALL THE TIME!!! Don’t worry, you’ll eventually learn to tune her out when necessary.

    P.S. I think I may recommend this for people raising Lillith’s too.

  3. For someone raising an Ashley:
    -We are very strong and independent, but don’t let that fool you. Our responsibility does not make up for any lack of guidance, structure, or parental input. Just because we can set our on bedtime when we are in the second grade doesn’t mean we should have to.

    -We are quick learners, but we can’t learn everything on our own. We still need you to teach us how to be, well, all that we can be…But most of all we need you to support us and show up to our recitals, concerts, and graduations. That stuff means a lot more to us then you realize.

    -We think that being mischievousness is hilarious, so watch out! We will open our Christmas presents early, find where they are hidden, and totally ruin every single surprise. So you have to be more clever then we are.

    -We will be just like you, so please be conscious of the behavior you are modeling to us.

    -We are more sensitive then you realize, be kind to us.

    -Though we seem tough, we are very fragile and need, more then anything, for you to protect us from the monsters under the bed, the dad who gets angry, and the brothers we do drugs. We will resent you every time we are hiding in our room for fear of what it is on the other side of the door.

  4. I have already run across a couple Heather Spinney’s but they were already raised, and had far surpassed me in academic achievements. You should ask their mothers about that.
    When she is thirteen and has so little guile that she openly confesses to liking a certain boy right in front of him (and his friends), comfort her but know that, although painful, her honesty with her feelings will be more of a strength than a weakness…most of the time.
    When she is around the same age and sneaks into your nightstand to steal one double dip chocolate from Ganong’s in New Brunswick every week, and you find a bag that is empty except for the three chicken bones (that nobody likes) six months later, just pretend you never found it and don’t make it a shame-y family joke. Also, she will go through all your stuff. ALL of it.
    If in that same, awful year, she stops talking to you so much except for the violent mood swings, ask her right out if she is thinking of harming herself. She is. It’s always a good idea to ask. Heather Spinney’s are difficult at 13.
    At 16 when she starts going to a youth group at church, let her even if you aren’t that into it. It’s a little weird that she’s so into it, but it will change her for the better and those kids are a really good influence. She will be nearly impossible about her faith in the beginning, while she sorts it all out.
    She is going to weep with joy and wonder when she becomes a mom – and she will be so thankful for everything you did.

  5. Fabulous! I love the hidden frosting. Oh, and I too was a “dress flipper.” Just ask my mother about the ummmmm……INCIDENT at the Christmas Even pageant at the Immanuel Lutheran Church. Yup, never gonna live that one down.

  6. If I were going to give advise to somebody raising an Alison Campion, I’d say “your kids is going to be weird. She’ll never be prom queen or student body president or even remotely popular because most other kids won’t get her. But that’s ok, because she’ll be happy anyway.”

  7. Since my 14 month old son is already showing signs of being a mini-me even though he is a Sawyer and not a Courtney I will probably be needing to take my own advice.

    1. Independence is a good thing. Just remember to set the alarm at night so you know when your toddler decides to take an early morning stroll. Be thankful for the confidence that comes with this independence.

    2. Stubbornness can also be a good thing, when used for good not evil. Your child/teen will not be easily persuaded by others. However, getting this child to do things that are your idea is like pulling teeth.

    3. Stop trying to kill the sarcasm. Instead encourage the funny/witty sarcasm, and the “can I kill myself now” sarcasm will eventually fade away. See #2.

  8. My advice might be too terribly sad, I have to be satisfied that my small people are raised in a mostly different approach. (the ways that are the same are when I screw it up the worst)

  9. Oh my goodness! I just found your blog through your Huffington Post article– and I am so glad I did. You crack me up! Sounds like you were quite the Beth Woosley as a kid! Very impressive frosting-hiding strategies. Nice work.

    As I am also a mommy who is learning to “embrace the crazy” I’m excited to follow your blog!


    Mary Evelyn

  10. Raising a Megan Carmel will be by all means be a challenge, because she is…opinionated…(in a good way,) she will always do the thing the thing no one else wants to, so don’t stop her, be her cheerleader, she is determined and is insistent on doing whatever she sets her mind to, but whatever that thing is, it never has to meet a perfectionists standards just her own, she is a teeny bit defiant on the outside but on the inside feels all rules were meant to be broken, she will eventually tell you she never really wants to have kids and in the next four years she will have 4 all under 4, then just when you think all unpredictability is gone she will have even one more beautiful baby making five…and still think she may want yet another! Of all the things you must know about a Megan Carmel is that she is unpredictable you just never know what she will come up with next. Oh yeah and if she ever gets extremely mad…buy her some Dove chocolates, those happy little sayings inside the wrapper always make her feel better when she eats chocolate that she knows she shouldn’t!!!

  11. Oh my, a Natalie Nicole is indeed a complex being, and even moreso if she happens to be born a Gemini.

    A few simple rules for raising a well-rounded Natalie:

    1) Tell her that her drawings and doodles are masterpieces and buy her endless art supplies. She will have better self-confidence and not change her major from art to social work three years into college.

    2) Be proud of her and love her no matter what……and be ready for the challenge that her first love will present you.

    3) Birthdays are important and must be celebrated on the actual day. Make sure you do something special when she turns 30, she will need a great memory to hold onto.

    4) Listen when she speaks, and especially when she asks for help, she won’t do it often, but when she does, her words will have purpose and her need will be great.

    5) She will be strong and stand in the gap for those who cannot stand for themselves. You named her, and whether you realized it or not, that middle name means “Victory of the People”. Do not underestimate her intelligence, her knowledge of her field, or the lengths that she will go to do what feels right in her heart.

  12. I haven’t seen anyone in the current generation raising a Dawn either. But, in case someone is, here is my advice:

    You named her Dawn, expecting her to brighten your days. Dawn is supposed to bring the sunshine, right? Well, she will wear her emotions for the world to see. Most of her tears come from her lack of self-confidence. The tears will always be a part of her, but she will also learn to laugh easily and by the time she is in her mid-teens, you will have lived through the worst of it, and she will be the sunshiny person you were hoping for!

    Oh, and don’t “hide” candy bars in the freezer. She will find them. But, it’s your fault that she loves chocolate in the first place….

  13. Well I do seem to be running into more Aliesha’s out there (with the same spelling) then I ever thought I would, let me just say, don’t try and hide the tub of Mint truffle hot chocolate. It does not matter where it is hidden, if you have any check weekly to make sure there is still the same amount there. I would use a ruler. And if she happens to be a red head (like I am raising, my mother’s curse on me) I’m sorry, watch out for drama and extra fiery stubbornness. Being bossy also seems to be a theme, so good luck there.

  14. I’ve noticed that no one seems to be raising a Judy, but just in case…you would need to know that she will always have a very good reason for doing something “one more time” after you say to stop. And therefore, she never really deserves the punishment that may follow.

  15. When I was 3, learning all the sounds the animals on our ranch made, I was unconvinced that rabbits didn’t make a noise. Didn’t seem right. So I stuffed all the baby rabbits in the water dispenser. Baby bunnies scream.

    Little Bethany P’ s are scientifically minded. Do not leave them alone with baby bunnies.

  16. Gotta lol at your #3 & 4…. Quitting by the time you are 19, all by yourself? That’s another lie, right?

    As for my advice…hmmm, not sure what to suggest…. I guess, remind me sometimes that I’m supposed to be a kid, and no spend so much time as a little monarch? Also, that love works a lot better than shouting.

    • But how will we learn to rule the world if we don’t train from when we’re young, Terri? (Yeah. I might identify with the monarch comment.)

      Truth: I lied with gusto ’til about 19. Now when I lie it’s more like, “Yes, sweetheart; I can’t wait to go to outdoor school with you and spend several nights in a small room with 10 other 5th graders.” 😉

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