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Alpha Mom Lesson Learned

Dear Cal: Advice To My Teenage Daughter (Part 2)

By Elizabeth Jayne Liu

This is the second installment in my new series “Dear Cal: Advice To My Teenage Daughter.” Click here to read the series introduction with advice on age and frenemies.


Alpha Mom Lesson LearnedI have a lot of bad habits. I am aware they exist. From time to time, I even think about correcting them, but I have two things working against me when I am compelled to change.

First, self-improvement involves a lot of hard work. I’m not really a fan of anything that can be described as “hard” or “work.” And second, as a parent, I try to lead by example. Not the good kind of example, but the bad kind. Allowing a child to witness the consequences of poor life choices is far more effective than just talking about the “right way” to live versus the “wrong way.” In our home, we refer to it as Education In Action.

My daughter, Cal, is pretty lucky. I’m committed to the Education in Action plan. One day, she will be able to look back and think, “Wow, my childhood was filled with a lot of excitement and magical learning opportunities.” A few recent Education in Action moments:

ALWAYS CARRY THE BASICS (cash, ID, stick of gum)

I carry very little cash with me. And by “little,” I mean none. Strangely, I always seem to have my punch card from our local smoothie shop handy. I’m not about to purchase a four dollar semi-nutritional beverage without getting credit for it. Also, free always tastes better. That 11th smoothie seems to hit the spot a little harder.

Recently, Cal and I were in an incident involving a parking garage. I had no cash and as much as I rifled through the coin tray and jammed my hands in every nook and cranny in the car, there was no way the pennies, gum wrappers, and a broken lapel pin were going to equal the five dollars I needed to exit. The parking attendant pointed to an ATM machine in the lobby before shrugging his shoulders and informing me that it was broken.

The nearest bank was several blocks away. On any other day, I would have claimed we were going on a short walking adventure, but it was raining and of course I did not have an umbrella.

I did what I thought was best: I called my husband, Harv, in the middle of a workday asking for five dollars. No explanation, just cross streets.

While we waited for Harv to arrive, I used those fifteen minutes to talk about the importance of ALWAYS carrying the basics: cash, an ID, and a stick of gum. All essential and all flat, making them easy to transport in any bag, wallet, or if need be, tucked into any sock.

“Why gum, Mommy?”

“Because bad breath is never okay.”


I am a very motivated starter. Unfortunately, my interest usually peters out very quickly.

Our basement is a tribute to all of my life’s hobbies and ambitions gone astray. I don’t get rid of anything because there is a small chance I may rekindle my passion for speed skating after Cal leaves for college. My page-a-day calendar from 2004 still displays the page from January 18.

I still have a hard time deciphering between the commitments that require follow-through and those that are not worth the energy, but I know this much is true: It is essential to read important documents, emails, and letters to the very end.

My reading attention span is short. If an email is longer than six sentences, my mind begins to drift. On several occasions, I have looked at multi-page waivers or other potentially life-altering documents and convinced myself that the really important things are on the first page and every page that follows requires a cursory skim.

On the scale of misguided thoughts, this ranks high.

In elementary school, Cal’s teacher emailed the class regarding an end of the year party and asked each family to send a treat for the celebration. Had I read all the way to the end of the message the first time, which stated at the end in BOLD that none of the goodies should contain nut products due to food sensitivities in a handful of students, I would not have made peanut butter cupcakes. From scratch.

Luckily, I happened to read the email a second time, and all the way through, right before going to bed. I made another batch of non-nut product cupcakes. From scratch. Until midnight.

I suppose I got my just des(s)erts.

About the Author

Elizabeth Jayne Liu

Elizabeth started her blog, Flourish in Progress, on her thirtieth birthday to chronicle a yearlong shopping ban. Surprisingly, she s...

Elizabeth started her blog, Flourish in Progress, on her thirtieth birthday to chronicle a yearlong shopping ban. Surprisingly, she survived, and now records a series of weekly challenges called Monday Dares. She fails a lot.

Elizabeth writes candidly about her former addictions, love of four-letter words, and her affinity for all things rap. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, whom she married after dating for just eighteen days, her 13-year-old daughter, and her complete collection of Yo! MTV Raps Trading Cards.

Connect with Elizabeth on The Huffington Post, Facebook, and Instagram (@flourishinprogress).

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Hold up. You are telling me that you baked . . . twice? And none of the children suffered any ill effects? Nice!

You are such a good momma to make all those mistakes in order to tutor your daughter on the what NOT to dos. Bravo.


Carrying the basics, That’s why bras are so helpful. . .


As the mom of a peanut allergy havin’ kid- thank you for making different cupcakes. Seriously. It’s annoying and a hassle, but that kind of extra effort from other parents of non peanut allergy havin’ kids is mega appreciated.
That aside, the parking garage lesson- while painful- will probably stick with her forever. I forget sometimes its good for them to see us mess up and have to deal with the consequences.

Bill Dameron

There’s a gem right here that needs to be stiched up in big bold needlepoint letters and mounted in every home. “Bad Breath Is Never OK!”
Cal is going to thank you one day and when she does? She’ll have the sweetest smelling breath…

Sean K.
Sean K.

The wonderful thing about the articles you post, is that children aren’t the only ones who can benefit from them.

You really are an inspiration.


I love this because i am the same way and I think my daughter will learn from it too (no she will not because I am exactly like my mother..she never learned, I will never learn and my daughter will most likely follow suit…but at least we make life interesting)


My son is not even one year old but I think about the same things as you do. And I do not have a T-shirt saying “Love Thy Work if Sweat is Involved” either. Specifically, I wonder how I am going to show an example of healthy eating when I am the pickiest person on Earth and I feel no shame eating 3-4 slices of pie. Did I only admit 3-4 slices….?