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In her column, Tanika Davis often poses questions about something related to her children, running a household or parenting in general, and readers are quick to respond with smart advice and encouragement.
In her column, Tanika Davis often poses questions about something related to her children, running a household or parenting in general, and readers are quick to respond with smart advice and encouragement. (Courtesy Tanika Davis)

It occurred to me the other day that I use this column like a giant fortune cookie.

Very often I’ll wonder about something related to my children, running a household or parenting in general, pose a question or two on these pages and “crack the cookie” to reveal advice, encouragement and predictions from kind readers who email me later.

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Some cookies prove sager than others, but I almost always enjoy reading what other parents (and many grandparents) have to impart.

But fortune cookies are one-sided. The reader takes all the wisdom, tosses the slip in the recycling bin (if the reader cares at all about saving the Earth that is) and moseys on. The discarded cookie never gets to know if the lo mein eater/fortune reader heeded its sapient advice.

Well, new year, new me! It’s 2020 and I’m going to start off the year by showing my gratitude for all the wonderful people who write me every month. I try to respond to most, though I fail at that practice quite a bit (see any column I’ve ever written about being over-extended, absent-minded and exhausted). I think I should make a point here in this space to close some loops and say some thank-yous.

For example, after a column about how hard I found it during the week to feed my children healthful, home-cooked meals and maintain my sanity too, one kind reader sent me a detailed breakdown of how she turned a Sunday chicken dinner into three meals — and she even attached her own (now grown) children’s favorite recipes for turkey enchiladas and chicken taquitos. Thank you, Pat!

After reading my column about being over-extended and exhausted (No, not that one. Not that one either. [Perhaps I should find another topic to write about.] This one.), a woman sent this helpful tip: If you could ask those women who can “do it all,” I think you would find household help behind the scenes. Ask any of your neighbors or relatives who have household help for the name and phone number of their help.

Guess what I did this week? Got estimates from two housecleaners! When one angel said the words, “We start with a deep clean,” I think I fell in love. Thanks, Irene!

I got countless thoughtful notes about my swim team dilemma and earnestly considered them all. But it was Barbara’s probing question — Ask yourself this: If his avocation were stamp-collecting, or drawing, or Dungeons and Dragons — something that had absolutely no scholarship potential associated with it — would you be insisting that he take it to the next level? — that really stuck with me.

Ultimately, we decided not to push our son to join a team, at least not yet. (Also, I’m tired and don’t need one other thing to do!) Very much appreciated, Barbara!

A reader named Raphael worried about my health and well-being after yet another column about being over-extended. He told me to “unclench those fists and release as much responsibility and commitment as is necessary for you to reestablish your main objective as a human being ... happiness. You’ll have much more to add to life, and more importantly, you’ll be around much longer to enjoy it.”

This weekend, I followed Raphael’s advice, said no to a 9 p.m.-on-a-Sunday conference call, and ignored the guilty feelings that came with it. It was tough, but I did it. Raphael, thanks for giving me that hour back!

One beautiful reader, after my most recent Christmas column, emailed a photo of her own family’s spindly, drooping “Charlie Brown” tree — just to show me that we are all doing our best to make it work. That picture made me laugh out loud — and feel instantly better. Lori: Thank you so much!

People have encouraged me to get my children more involved in the upkeep of the house (they now each “own” a bathroom that they need to clean every Saturday, thank you!); and given heartfelt advice about whether to break the news to the boys about Santa or extend the magic a little while longer (we’re waiting another year to tell them what’s what).

Over the years, I’ve gotten truly excellent advice and the sweetest, most supportive words from so many readers. I’m a better parent because of it.

And a special shout-out to Paula, whose words I hold on to whenever I want to slip quietly out the kitchen door, assume a fake identity and open a used bookstore in Martinique:

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“Just wanted to let you know that there is a great light at the end of the funhouse tunnel that is raising children, so keep up the good parenting work and you will be rewarded with responsible, functioning young adults AND a life too!”

God bless you, Paula!

And thanks to all the rest of you kind souls too. God bless you, every one.

Tanika Davis is a former Baltimore Sun reporter who works in communications at Constellation. She and her husband have twin 9-year-old sons, a 7-year-old daughter, a perpetually messy house and rapidly appearing gray hairs. She also needs a nap. She can be reached at tanikawhite@gmail.com. Her column appears monthly.

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