10 Things, Parenting

10 Things I Learned in 2015


I was just looking back over the 10 things I learned in 2014, and wondering how to fit 2015 into one list.  Whereas in 2014 I learned things, I feel like 2015 has been about realizing how much I don’t know.

I’m still such a baby human.  If we could live as long as Asgardians maybe then I’d have the time it would take for me to feel comfortable claiming to be an expert at something.  Until then, I don’t know much.

So here are 10 things I learned in 2015…that I may be learning for a long time.

1. If you don’t feel like a grownup you’re probably doing it right.

This year I kept looking side-eyed at my life, wondering how I ended up adulting and why people kept letting me do stuff, like raise kids and fill out forms and say words in public.  I didn’t feel grownuppy enough to handle the big things life was throwing at me.  But then I realized I knew stuff, a whole lot of stuff, and hey world, it’s okay to be confident in the stuff that you know.  So keep on grownupping, wearing the grownuppy clothes, asserting yourself with your Jedi mind tricks, and also ask for Legos and a coloring book for Christmas because let’s don’t get crazy with the rabid adulting.

“It’s bigger on the inside!”

2. Publishing a book is like stripping naked for the whole world and wishing more people would notice.

(I drew tasteful pictures to illustrate this fact here.)  And you’d better love your book, because after you’ve answered questions about it on the radio all day from 6am to 6pm, you might want to light all the copies on fire.

3. Read amidst the chaos.

I love readers so much more than I thought possible.  Having a book in the world means loving readers, wanting the best for them, and being so grateful for anyone who will pay money for words.  I keep meeting moms who tell me they don’t have time to read, because their arms are always full of kids and laundry and they literally cannot pick up a book.  I understand this.  If this is you, stash books in key places and think in paragraphs.  Read a paragraph in a parking lot, read a paragraph while waiting for the microwave to finish the chicken nuggets.  I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 15 minute increments while nursing a tongue-tied newborn.  I’m currently reading Deep & Wide on my phone while sitting in doctors’ office waiting rooms.  I sit in the middle of my kids playing and fighting and needing me and read one more paragraph.  Just one.  It adds up, and maybe you won’t break any speed-reader records in 2016 but maybe by the end you’ll have a few books to show for it.

4. Friendly conversations between individuals heal a world of headlines.

In a time of heated debate and angry tweets, we can be a respite for an aching world.  Keep listening, keep learning, keep asking good questions instead of spewing your answers.

5. Keep your expectations light.

Infertility helped me ditch the expectations for my kids right out of the gate, because by the time I acquired some I was just happy they were around, much less whether they’d get into Harvard or become concert pianists by the age of five.  Just whatever.  This year, as we’ve encountered new challenges, I’ve redefined any expectations still floating around in my head.  Here are the ones I have left:  I expect parenting to be hard.  I expect to love my kids no matter what.  I expect that people who seem to have their lives together will annoy me even more than I thought possible.  If you live in a perfect world, please enjoy the music while your party is reached…it’ll be awhile.

6. Work is a gift.

This year my family has experienced Mommy Leaving on Trips and Mommy on Deadline.  I’ve had times where I shut the door and the kids hear me clacking away on my laptop and there are days when I’m gone completely, leaving on a jet plane and returning with stuffed animals.  I’m teaching my kids that work, and especially work that you love, is a gift.  I love my mommy work of insisting they do their homework and brush their teeth and making everyone gather around the dinner table, and I love my author/speaker work.  Letting my brain get into my writer work makes me a better mom when I come out of it.


7. Dang it, I still love the Church.

I feel like I need to start that with a “dang it,” because like so many of you, I find myself shaking my head at the Church and church people so often these days.  I mean THE Church, not specifically MY church – just…churchy people in general.  We all roll our online eyeballs at each other and we frustrate the heck out of each other, but dang it, I still love the Church.  I cannot walk away from her.  She’s family.  Awhile ago, I found myself snorting like the angry horse from Tangled about whatever ARGHiness I was feeling and wondered if I could just drop it and leave, but I didn’t know where else to go.  Quitting church makes me feel like I’m on a raft in the middle of the ocean with no one in sight.  And so I keep gathering with other people, sharing life with neighbors, taking Communion out of Jell-o shot cups, and praying God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.


8. It’s okay to get help.

We need so much help right now.  This fall, I finally waved a white flag in the air and started making calls and going to appointments and filling out forms and we started developing language for some things that are making life difficult for my precious ones.  Some days I take one kid to an appointment, race home to swap kids with Alex, and head out to another appointment.  All this paperwork and meetings make it feel like we’re adopting another child or dealing with fertility treatment medical forms, but we’re just helping the kids we already have, so yay for the preparation of paperwork boot camp.  Those first tentative phone calls to professionals feel nerve-wracking.  Your brain tries to tell you everyone is fine and you don’t need this.  But it’s okay to need this.  It’s okay to need people and make phone calls and let people help you.

9. Daddy is my favorite.

If you’re married, maybe you can relate to the feeling that you’re just too tired to care.  But as we’ve starting naming the challenges and become more aware of what’s going on with our kids, I keep looking wild-eyed at my husband with this need to connect with the one person who truly gets it and won’t judge me for the incredibly inappropriate humor that is keeping me together.  So we grab coffee on the porch on Saturday mornings and wouldn’t dream of missing Bacon Thursdays, when we head to our favorite breakfast place across from the set of The Walking Dead and stare intensely at those corrugated metal walls, wondering what’s going to happen to Alexandria.

Kids: Who’s your favorite in this family?

Me: Daddy.  Daddy is my favorite.

Kids: (horrified silence)

10. No matter what, laugh.

Every day, even when your world is flying apart and you have zero patience and you ache.  Laugh anyway.  Find a thing.

Okay, so those are my top ten.  What about yours?  What did you learn in 2015?

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  • Mom

    No. 10 was your great-aunt’s favorite…except she would add to that “and put on a costume”!

    • Melanie Dale

      Yes! And a boa.

  • Kimberly Thompson

    Ah yes. Reading is my favorite and daddy is my favorite. In my family. Because in your family that might be weird. Alex is totally cool though. For you. :)

    • Melanie Dale

      Yeah, it’s a good thing Alex and I have each other, because I’m pretty sure no one else would want us, ha!

  • Leah Heffner

    You rock my face off Mel with your adulting logic

    • Melanie Dale

      The highest praise, Leah. Thanks.

  • Christy Jordan

    My favorites…this list and Leah Heffner’s comment…Awesome

    • Melanie Dale

      Leah is the best!

  • Danielle N

    For the past few months I have been overwhelmed by the expectations placed on me by being a mom/waiter/maid/nurse/place any other title moms hold here. I kinda dropped out of the whole Facebook and blogging world. I was tired of the constant comparison I was doing to myself. I even stopped reading you blog…big mistake!! Seriously, I just love you, your words, your sense of humor and everything else in my limited knowledge about you. I just know that if I ever met you we would be awesome friends! Seriously, for the mere fact that you wish to be an Asgardian we could be friends. Thank you for sharing your life with the world. It is a better place because you have done so.

    • Melanie Dale

      Aw, thanks, Danielle, and I can really relate to dropping out of the comparison game. It’s hard when we only see what’s online. I chide myself for spending too much time staring at other people’s lives and wondering why mine isn’t as perfect. Darn it. But so glad that the very internet that drives us crazy can also bring us together. Asgardians for life!

  • Rachel

    I learned that what our family actually needs is a lot less than what I thought – because in providing for our needs, God left a lot of things off the table. I learned that I’m so not good at loving my family out of my own goodness, and that when everything goes pear-shaped, the only chance they have of getting my good side is God’s grace. I’ve learned that I literally can’t answer the question “what do you want” to anyone’s satisfaction – I cannot define what I want in life, what I want for dinner, what I want to do for fun, how I want to spend every precious minute on the all-too-rare dates with my husband… I have learned that I long for authentic, deep connection with people – friends and family and my faith community – but am altogether horrible at everything you have to do to achieve it. I guess I also like being a hermit? And, I already knew this about myself but recently have been reminded that my soul actually needs to be outside in God’s creation, and one goal I have is to make getting out there a bigger priority, along with spending time (“more” time would imply that I now spend “some” which just isn’t true) soaking in God’s word. All in the hopes that my heart won’t feel so…stale. Yeah, that’s a pretty good word for it. I learned that while I have some friends, none of them confide in me, and I haven’t figured out why.

  • Frugal Land

    I love that you don’t feel like a grown up! I feel like a teenager still half of the time and a kid the other half of the time. Just today, I was discussing taking my daughter to swimming lessons and my better half suggested our old high school.

    My response….”I can’t back there! I’ll get in trouble”….LOL

    The mirror on the other hand, tells a different story.





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