Parenthood: If something can happen, chances are it will

By Lisa Sugarman

There are certain crazy, seemingly impossible things that happen to us every day—stuff that, even if we tried really hard to make them up, we couldn’t. And throw some kids into the mix and you’ve just elevated the list of outrageous things that can happen to a whole new level.

Take last night. My sixteen-year-old daughter asked if we could go for ice cream. A totally appropriate request for a steamy Thursday night in July, right? What could possibly go wrong? Yeah, well…murphys+law

So, of course, being the stellar mom that I am, we went. And for the first eleven seconds that we were in the ice cream shop, everything was peachy. It was at second twelve that the wheels came off the bus.

A muffled, Oh, God, was all I heard as I was just about to order. Which was quickly followed by, That did not just happen to me. So right away I know that whatever just happened three inches behind me was not good. Not words you want to hear out of your kid at nine-fifteen at night when all you want to do is peacefully lick on your soft serve and go home to bed.

Now, as a parent of a teenage daughter I won’t lie, I was heavily inclined to just keep facing forward and pretend she wasn’t my kid. But genetics are strong little things. Needless to say, I turned. And what I found was almost too ridiculous to believe.

There she was, standing against the counter, hunched over, and staring down into the three-quarter-inch space between the counter and the ice cream freezer (you know, the giant-size kind that holds like twelve containers of ice cream and weighs around two thousand pounds). Wanna guess what somehow magically slid out of her hand and fell directly, perfectly, almost comically down that little black hole? Yep. Her brand spankin’ new iPhone. Oh yeah. Gone. Gonzo. Bye-bye. Ciao.FullSizeRender

Also wanna know what can make every ounce of color and fluid drain out of a sixteen-year-old-girl’s face faster than anything else? Watch them watch their entire digital world slide into the abyss.

I mean, if you had been there seeing the size of this teeny, tiny little crevice, you would’ve just started laugh-crying, which is more or less what I did, after the initial shock wore off. It was literally, physically impossible that that phone fit into that space without a carefully orchestrated move on her part. But the fact is, it was an accident. A complete fluke. A one in a million. And even though Libby knew I knew that, the vein in her forehead still started bulging.

Of course, she immediately assumed she was S-O-L and her phone was gone for good. Typical kid move. And although I tried to assure her that we had options, she wasn’t hearing me. She had blocked all forms of rational thought. But as far as I was concerned, all we needed to do was move the seven-ton freezer back far enough to reach an arm down and grab it. Which would’ve been potentially doable if the owner was there and if there were more than two people working and if they weren’t closing soon.

Fortunately for her, I’m a problem-solver. And I’m a frugal mom who was not about to lose a crazy-expensive smartphone to some oversized, antiquated freezer unit. Not on my watch. This was going to involve some creative thinking, resourcefulness, and expert hand-eye coordination. Totally my wheelhouse.

So in my head, I was formulating a plan. A plan that was either going to fail miserably or elevate me to an urban legend in my tiny little town. (And I’ve always wanted to be a legend, so…)

But I needed to be systematic about The Plan. I needed to ditch the kid, whose bulging head vein and bloodshot eyes were acting as a distraction, and go get the right tool for the job. That tool being a long steel rod of some kind with a perfectly placed little hook-thingy on the end. And it just so happened we had that exact thing back at the house. It was the tool we use once a year to crank our ski carrier up to the ceiling in the garage, of course. It was just the thing and I knew it would work. (I was doing a lot of positive visualization to avoid getting too pissed at the situation.)IMG_0525

Fifteen minutes later, I walked back into the ice cream shop with my steel rod, a fireplace poker, and my putter over my shoulder. (I needed options just in case.) Ninety seconds after that I had done the impossible. I had fished out her phone—fully intact and buzzing with two hundred new Snapchat notifications. BOOM! Who’s the urban legend now, baby!?

So here’s the takeaway… Life is actually one, long comedy. It really is most of the time. Ridiculous situations are everywhere and we just need to expect that stupid, seemingly impossible things are going to happen every day. We just need to do our best to laugh them off, wherever they come from, and learn to deal. And may I suggest keeping a four-foot-long metal rod in the trunk just in case.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on and at select Whole Foods Market stores.



There Should be a Road Test for Parenting

By Lisa Sugarman

When you think sage you probably think philosopher or thinker—guys like Confucius or Mencius or Descartes.

You’re probably not thinking Keanu Reeves right out of the gate. And I don’t blame you. He’s not exactly your sagely, wise-man type. Surfer-guy or Internet vigilante, sure. Guru, no.

But I tend to look for and appreciate wisdom from more unconventional places. Probably because I feel like the more abstract the wisdom the more profound and meaningful it’s likely to be. And in Ron Howard’s 1989 comedy Parenthood I found some of the deepest and most poignant thinking on parenthood I’ve ever heard. I also found my Confucius. And I call him Keanu.

Dying to know what he said?

Patience, grasshopper.

People mystify me. They really do. And I’m sure I mystify my share of people too, in my own quirky way. But since I’m the one typing we’re talking about everyone else but me.

I’m especially confused by so many of the people who call themselves parents but really act nothing whatsoever like actual parents.

It’s a lot like people in business who manage other people. You’ve got your good managers, the ones who are flexible, supportive, approachable, and legitimately hard working. And then you’ve got your slackers, the ones who push papers around their desk all day and always seem like they’re moving down the hall with a purpose but are actually purposeless.

See where I’m going here?

I’m all for diversity, especially in parenting styles. In fact, I celebrate it. The more unique we are the better. We need uniqueness, desperately. I’m not into a cookie-cutter-type world or cookie-cutter-type parenting. Never have been. But, and this is a big but, there are things that I think should just naturally have some commonalities no matter what. Oh, I don’t know, things like: supervision, presence, interaction, spending time with your kids and actually nurturing them. These sound reasonable, right? So why do I look around and not see enough of that? I mean, I see it, but sparsely. And that’s not good.

Since I spend most of my time being a parent or being around them, I tend to be hyper aware of how differently we all do the job. And let me tell you, all parents are definitely not created equal.

Here’s a perfect example: we’re on a family cruise and every night we watched parents dropping their cockeyed, hysterical eight-year-old kids off at daycare at 11 o’clock at night asking how late they could pick them up. (It’s 2:30 am, in case you were curious.) This is, of course, so they can go to the bar, get trashed, and then gamble away all their spending money.

It’s stuff like that that I just can’t shake.

I thought the basic idea behind having kids was to raise them. Raise them however you want, I really don’t care. Just actually raise them. Having them just isn’t enough. That doesn’t count. (Well, of course it counts, just not for the purpose of what I’m trying to say.) It’s not supposed to be easy. Actively bringing kids up is another job altogether. But isn’t that the point?

You’ve heard of labor of love, right?

A wise Keanu once said that you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car, even to catch a fish… but they’ll let any !#&^$@%$*%@$ be a parent.

Just look around¬—you can’t deny it.

To this day, over 20 years after he said that line, I’ve never heard anything more insightful or perceptive about parenting.

It’s just plain disturbing that almost any idiot with decent a sperm or egg count can be a parent with no written exam or road test required. You have to be 14 to work. You have to be 16 to drive. Eighteen to vote. Twenty-one to drink. But there’s no test or form or course you need to take to be a parent. Is it me, or does it seem a little bass ackwards?

We have to be screened and tested for every major modern right and privilege, yet any schmuck can have a kid. This, considering that the act of parenting is the oldest and most sacred right in the book. It’s just a damn shame that there are so many people out there who don’t get that having children is a privilege, not a right.

So here’s what I’m suggesting: There should be a road test for parenting. Not sure how, exactly, to get that one done but you get what I’m saying. And I’m definitely open to suggestions. Maybe it can be a partnership between the RMV and DSS. Who knows? I wish I had a bona fide plan but I don’t. All I can do is put the idea out there and hope that someone bites.

Alright, fine, it’s not going to happen. I know that. But maybe the simple idea will make the crummy parents out there think better of being so crummy.

Maybe they’ll even watch Parenthood and learn that when we screw up our screwupedness proves that we care.

And that’s worth something, isn’t it?

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at OR read her blog at