Author Archives: agsawan

The Truth About Siblings

The Truth About Siblings.
Published on November 2, 2016

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Ah, siblings, the tormentors of the soul and the reality slappers of life. Siblings don’t care about boosting their sister’s fragile self-esteem or protecting their brother from the sure sting of football team failure and they certainly don’t give a rat’s patooty about navigating the hormonal minefield that is adolescence. Oh no, siblings just wade right on into the middle of that muddled mess saying all of those life truths that we parents gingerly sidestep. Things such as:

Yeah, it was totally your fault your team lost. You suck.

Why do you look like that? Is that on purpose?

The way you breathe…it’s super annoying.

I can’t tell if that haircut is hysterical or just plain awful. I say don’t leave the house for a month, at least.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s not the outfit that is making your butt look huge. Maybe it’s time to cool it on all those Frappuccinos.

I just read your “journal” and God, was it boring! Seriously, get a life already. Oh, and stop being so pathetic, that cool guy is never going to ask you out.

Yes, that science teacher totally hates your guts.

You. Can’t. Sing. You. Will. Never. Be. A. Famous. Singer.

Is that a pimple or a tumor on your forehead? That thing belongs in the Guinness Book of World Records! Where is my phone? I need to Snapchat that now.

Why are you wasting your time reading all that Shakespeare crap? Haven’t you ever heard of Spark Notes?

Hahahaha! How embarrassing! Of course everyone saw you! And believe me, tomorrow at school, they are ALL going to be talking about it.

If you EVER touch my stuff again, I will post that picture of your ginormous tumor- zit online.

Yes, siblings are the humble makers and bull-crap cutters, but along with all of their never-ending tactless observations they also occasionally throw out these two gems:

“What did he (she) say to you? I’ll kill him!”


“OMG, Mom and Dad are soooo weird!”

And it is these last two truths that are really the most important because they confirm that even though it doesn’t look it or sound like it, your siblings actually do have your best interests at heart and like it or not, you are bonded together forever by your weird, weird parents.

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we’re all in this together.





DSCN8960Beware the Fun-suckers – they are everywhere.

Halloween is coming. For Godsakes, have a little fun!
My Halloween post on Bluntmoms.

I was helping out at my daughter’s school for Halloween desperately trying to figure out how to best arrange apple slices and Craisins into some sort of “fun” Halloweenie snack. I looked up from my futile endeavor and saw all the excitement on the kids faces as they got ready for the school parade, so I leaned over to the mom next to me, who was busy pouring spring water into tiny Dixie cups and said, “I love Halloween. Don’t you?”

She grimaced. “No, I hate it. Candy and costumes? What a stupid, useless holiday.”


Stupid, useless holiday?

Seriously? Halloween is like the best holiday ever! You throw a pumpkin on the porch, finally have a chance to wear that witch’s hat that your kids gave you for Mother’s Day (Wait, am I the only one that got that for a gift?) and throw sweets at giggling children. That’s it. There’s no pressure, it’s just about having fun.

Pure stupid, useless fun.

Unless you are a Fun-Sucker.

One of my very first experiences with Fun-Suckers was at the kindergarten open house. After the teacher spoke ad nauseam about the educational “curriculum” (apparently kindergarten is not just about making friends, eating glues sticks and learning to wipe your own butt anymore) she asked if anyone had any questions. Someone near me cleared her throat.

“I was thinking,” Fun-sucker said, “That perhaps we could celebrate birthdays in the classroom this year with carrot sticks and hummus or perhaps mini-bagels and cream cheese. You know, to promote healthy eating habits.”

My quick thinking spouse placed his hand across my mouth and dragged me from the classroom.

I am all for healthy eating. I know there is an obesity crisis in this country and so yes, let’s add more recess and get rid of french fries and ice cream in the cafeteria, but com’on, carrot sticks on your birthday when you are six? That just sucks, at any age.

Now, all you allergy kids, don’t worry, I’ll happily bring in a special treat for you, and gluten free children, I got you covered too, but we have to do something about these grown up Fun-Suckers before they drain away everything that is sweet and fun and stupid and “useless” about childhood!

Later that day, after the Halloween Craisin-Apple-Water “party” (and BTW Craisins, apple slices and water only make a party if you are in prison) I ran into a friend whose child is in a different classroom. I mentioned that I saw her son at the Halloween parade and a huge smile spread across her face. She looked furtively about before whispering to me, “Jason was afraid that they were only going to have water and fruit at the party, but he actually came home with FROSTING on his face! Can you believe it! Frosting! Someone must have snuck in some cupcakes. He loved it!”

So, here’s a little news flash for all you Fun-suckers out there: kids like frosting. They might need water and Craisins, but they also need frosting… and you know what else, all us adults could probably use a little more frosting on our faces.

Now excuse me, I have to go find that felon that snuck in the cupcakes and become best friends with her.



Here is a new article that I wrote for Scary Mommy.  People seem to have a lot of opinions about bullying, many saying we should just teach our kids to fight back and while I agree with the premise of this and tell my kids to stand up for themselves, bullying is not alway that easy to identify. I think the bully who beats kids up on the playground is less likely to occur these days while it is the sneaky meanness of social media and the painfulness of being rejected by peers that most kids contend with today.

Just some stuff to think about as parents. Anti-Bullying Programs Are Not Enough


One Saturday afternoon I finally managed to wrangle my middle school boy into the barbershop for a much-needed haircut. As he sat there chatting away with barber, clumps of his unruly hair falling everywhere, I picked up the local paper and started to read. There were the usual stories: sports achievements, town budget issues, wedding announcements, etc. Then a small story caught my eye. Two girls in a nearby town had held a bake sale to raise money for a family of a young teenage boy who had died “at home.” The story never said how the boy had died, the family did not want to be interviewed, but the girls who held the fundraiser told the reporter they had felt badly because the boy had been bullied at school, teased for being overweight and for the clothes he wore, among other things. It didn’t take much to put the tragic pieces of the puzzle together. I looked up and reading my horrified expression, the barber nodded and over my child’s head mouthed the words, “Suicide. So sad.”

I looked at my child and I thought, “What if….What if that happened to him? What if he was being bullied? What if he was so desperate and lost? Would I know?”

My stomach flopped.

And then I looked at him again, and thought, “What if…What if he was the bully? What if he was the mean one? Would I know?

My stomach flopped again.

I did not know the boy who died but I do know what it is like to be lost in the mess of puberty, unable to see the future that is right down the road. If only this boy had held on, made it through the chaos of adolescence maybe he would have been okay, blossoming into a young adult, succeeding in college. Maybe he would have gotten married, had children and settled down in a small town. Maybe he would have become a teacher, or a doctor, or a barber…. Maybe…but he didn’t survive; he was too afraid and lonely and young. He didn’t know that things might get better if only…

We were all there once, adolescence, struggling to make it through the day. Worried about how big our boobs were or weren’t, worried about the zits on our face, the clothes that we wore. Do I smell? Will anyone sit with me at lunch? Will anyone ask me to the dance? We have all been there and instead of pulling together as a group and seeing our strength in numbers, we separated, divided by unseen walls of status: the victims, the invisibles, the druggies, the jocks, the populars.

Ask yourself, right now. What group were you in? Would you want your child to be in this group? Did you give up anything to be in that group? Your pride, your individuality, your voice? Maybe you sacrificed your best friend. They were not cool enough so you threw them aside, hoping to move up the ladder of popularity or just trying to protect yourself from being rejected,

Or maybe you were the one who was left behind. Feeling small and alone you decide to become invisible, pretend it didn’t hurt. Now, you are determined that your child does not suffer the same fate. You will do anything to make sure that he is captain of the football team or she is head cheerleader. You guide them towards certain friends, the “right” group to associate with, side stepping those who are “different.”

Are you thinking right now, my kid wouldn’t do that! They would never pick on someone or leave someone out! Why not? Why would they be any different from any of us? Did you ever snicker at the chubby girl in gym class or the boy with the acne? Perhaps you didn’t participate but instead stood by silently, watching. Did you ever step outside of your group to offer an outsider a seat at the lunch table? Were you willing to stand up for a friend even if it meant you might be turned on next? Bullying is not just physical harm or rude insults; one of the most potent forms of bullying is exclusion. Being alone, forced out, made to watch from the sidelines


Do you think it is different now; children no longer bully one another because of all of those anti-bullying programs? Wrong. The only difference between then and now is technology. Technology, which makes the insults quicker and easier to throw around. So don’t be fooled by the kid who says, “There is no bullying in my school. We have a program for that.” The anti-bullying programs are wonderful and necessary, but it cannot end there. The conversations must continue at home. We must teach our children to accept, to stand up, to challenge. Teach them when they are young not to exclude others on the playground, to give everyone a chance, to invite all the kids to the birthday party, to open up their circle of friends. It is natural to develop a group of friends over time, but maybe, if they just reach out to the child that is sitting by himself, the one whose pants are a bit too short or the one they don’t really know very well, they can help that one person to feel included and give them a reason to hang on, to look just down the road.





I come from a large family: two parents, twelve kids, that’s right, twelve. 12. I am speechless myself at this and ask myself on a daily (hourly) basis; how did my parents do it? I now have five children of my own and watching them interact on daily basis I am fascinated by how much they influence one another, whether they realize it or not. Siblings get to say things to one another that no one else can, and they drive each other crazy in a way that no one else can, but in the end, they have each other’s back.
Why is this? Because they both understand their crazy parents in a way no one else can and they know that the slightly raised voice that mom has and the eyebrow lift that dad gives, speaks volumes that only siblings can understand. (Double click below to go to the site!)

Which is the Better Family, One Kid or Several?

Hey Mom, can you buy me a case of beer?


Here is my latest article that was featured on BluntMoms this week. This is certainly a hot topic amongst my peers. We all think when our little ones are cute-as-a-button five or six year olds that we are going to answer this question with a loud no, but as your little cutie grows and morphs into a teenager, life becomes, well, complicated….

I was at a party the other night when one of the parents got a text from her seventeen-year-old son. Could he have friends over? Yes, she said. Can the friends sleep over? Sure, she said. Would she mind stopping on the way home and picking them up a case of beer? Wait, what?

When I was a teenager I NEVER would have been brave enough, or stupid enough, to ask my parents to buy me a case of beer because the response would have been, “What the hell is wrong with you?” followed by a quick slap upside the head. Oh no, back in the good old days of the 1980’s we didn’t ask our parents for help with breaking the law, we just did it. We stole liquor from their cabinet, ran deep into the woods and drank ourselves silly. Then, fueled by alcohol and the thrill of getting away with something absolutely forbidden, we would laugh, smoke, and generally make fools of ourselves before stumbling home, sneaking upstairs and passing out in our beds.

Once in while someone’s mom would still be up watching a late night episode of Cheers only to see the front door creak open and her son stumble in, or a missing bottle of Scotch would be found carefully hidden under a pile of Madonna albums in a daughter’s bedroom. And once in awhile bad things would happen, and everyone would shake their heads and mutter “too bad” before going back to the unspoken arrangement between teenagers and adults of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Apparently the rules are different in the 21st century. In this age of now over involved, helicopter-parenting, teenagers are not only telling their parents when they are drinking but they are even asking them to buy them the liquor! This new arrangement has set up a quandary for all of us parents who grew up under the old “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule.

What do we do?

Do we say, ok, yes we will buy you beer because we don’t agree with the stupid legal age of 21 anyways?

Do we allow them to drink because in a year or two year they are all going to college where there will be lots of drinking, so they might as well do it at home first because somehow this “teaches” them how to drink responsibly?

Do we say, well, if they are going to just go into the woods and get drunk and god-forbid perhaps drive home, we might as well let them drink in our basement where at least we can supervise them and keep them safe. Don’t worry we will collect all the keys and make sure no one leaves. Ok, that sounds like a half reasonable plan, so… then what, do we do we call all the other the parents first and ask their permission? Or do we just assume it’s ok for someone else’s underage child to have alcohol?

Do we set a limit: three, four beers per child? Or do we watch as someone’s child does shots of tequila, drinks him/herself into oblivion, throws up and passes out on our couch? Do we call 911? Do we sit down in the middle of the group and teach them all of the old drinking games we use to play? Or do we leave them downstairs alone to figure it out, while we go upstairs for a mature glass of Cabernet? By saying yes, do we actually think we have some sort of control over their actions? That bad things won’t happen? That kids won’t make foolish choices when drinking?

Before my friend responded to this last text, we sat and had a long conversation about all of these questions and at some point we found ourselves laughing and and shaking our heads saying, “What the hell is wrong with kids these days? Why can’t they just leave us out of it? Why can’t they just steal, sneak and lie like we did! It sure would be a lot easier, wouldn’t it?

Finally she gave her son her answer and said her goodbye to me, and I was left wondering… what would I do?

About the author: Anne Sawan is a psychologist, writer and mother to five wonderfully aggravating children. Her work has been published on Brain-Child, Scary Mommy, Adoptive Families and BluntMoms. She also has several picture books on MeeGenuis and a new book book, What Can Your Grandmother Do? Is scheduled to come out this year through Clavis Publishing. You can find out more on her website.

Every Story Needs A Beginning.

Published on
By Anne Sawan

There are some stories in life that we tell our children over and over. Favorite books, old fairy tales. Books that hold messages and lessons we want to pass on. Stories that have meaning, that matter to us.

I was driving in the car with my seven-year-old daughter. It was a warm summer night, just the two of us, a wide-open evening full of possibilities and fireflies. After camp she usually likes to tell me stories about her day, about the arts and crafts they created, the games they played, but this day she was quiet and I thought she must be tired from a long day. She certainly looked like she had been busy: her hair a mess, her sneakers scuffed, her knees dirty.

It was just the two of us that evening, my other children scattered about at various friend’s houses to swim and eat hamburgers. I asked her what she wanted to do with our free time together.

“Can we go to the mall and get some sushi and Legos?”

I smiled.

It was always the same answer.

As we meandered down the road I glanced in the rear view mirror. She was staring out the window, a serious look on her face, her lips moving slightly as she muttered something quietly to herself.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said, her eyes looking away, her finger tracing a path against the glass.

There was a beat of silence and then, “Mom, I know someone else who

is adopted.”


“Yes, he is at camp.”

I nodded, “How do you know he is adopted?”

“I heard him tell someone.”

“Oh. Did you tell him you were adopted too?”


We drove along. Each lost in our own thoughts for a few moments. I wondered why she had brought it up, about this other camper. Having no real inkling about what to say next, but knowing there was something there, hidden in her words, I casually asked, “If someone at camp were to ask you what that other camper meant by adoption, what would you say?”

My daughter shrugged, her finger still smudging an imaginary track against the window. “I guess I would say, it means someone had you but they had to get rid of you, so your mom and dad got you.”

Get rid of you?

I pulled into the mall parking lot, my heart thumping.

My daughter.

My beautiful, sassy, silly, sweet, wonderful daughter thought someone just… got rid of her?

I turned around. “Honey,” I said. “Your birth mother didn’t just get rid of you, she loved you.”

My daughter stared at me, her brown eyes growing wide, her hand falling away from the window.

“She did?”

My mind swirled.

Hadn’t I told her?

Hadn’t I told her, her adoption story a million times?

Hadn’t I told her something like this:

You didn’t grow in my tummy, you grew in your birthmother’s tummy, but she couldn’t keep you, I am not sure why. But your dad and I wanted you soooo much so we flew far across the deep ocean and over the tall mountains, picked you up, wrapped you in a soft pink blanket, flew back across the big ocean and over the mountains where everyone was waiting for you and we had a big party full of love and kisses and cake!



Did I say, “I’m not sure why, but she she loved you very much”

Did I say, “I’m not sure why, but she loved you very much and it must have been very difficult for her to say goodbye.”

I must have.

I did.

Didn’t I?

My child’s beginning is unknown. I don’t know the reasons why her birth mother couldn’t keep her and I realized that in telling her I try to breeze quickly by that part, the beginning. It just seems tricky and messy and fraught with such hard questions and deep sadness that I hurry through, telling my daughter instead a story of a kisses and cake and a soft pink blanket that enveloped her with love; shielding her from sorrow.

I so want that story to be enough. For our love to be enough…but it can’t be, because it’s not her story.

When we open a book, we don’t just jump into the middle. We need to have an understanding of where the story begins, and my daughter’s beginning, although difficult, is just as important as any other; a beginning that doesn’t start with my love, but with the extraordinary love of another person. A love that while complicated shouldn’t just be casually rushed over. A love that deserves to be talked about slowly and carefully and with respect. A love like a cherished old book on the shelf, that can be revisited over and over again.

So I took a deep breath and slowly, slowly I spoke,

“Sweetie, I don’t know why your birth mom couldn’t keep you but I do know that she didn’t just get rid of you. Maybe she was too young to have a baby, or maybe she didn’t know how to be a mom yet but she loved you very, very much; and she did the hardest and bravest thing a mom could ever do and found you a place where she knew you would always be safe and where she knew there would be a family that would love you as much as she did.”

My daughter stared, her brown eyes meeting mine.


“Yes, really. She loved you and you know what else? You are full of extra love because you have love from your birth mom and love from all of us.”

A broad smile settled on her lips.

The story was shifting, the words were changing, slightly perhaps, but it was enough… for now.

“Can we go get some sushi and Legos now?”

“Of course.”

Anne Sawan is a mom of five, a psychologist and an author, having books published with MeeGenuis, as well as having articles published on Adoption Today, Adoptive Families, Brain Child, Scary Mommy and BluntMoms. She won The International Picture Book contest held by Inclusive Works and Clavis Publishing in 2014 and her book, What Can Your Grandmother Do? is scheduled to come out sometime this year.

The Dreaded School Summer Reading List

A version of this piece was published in Brain Child last year. Ten To Twenty Parenting has republished it on their blog. Some things change over time…my feelings towards this summer assignment has not.