How to build a better PB&J at a time.

I was making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches earlier.

I'm pretty slow at them. Because a work of art can't be rushed, obviously.

I take great care to make sure the jelly and peanut butter go all the way to the edges. I don't taper at the edge either. There's equal PB&J thickness across the sandwich from center to all four sides of the crust.

I do this for my daughter, because it's what I'd want someone to do for me.

When I was a kid, I can only remember PB&Js with the peanut butter and jelly stopping before they reached the crust's edge.

I mean, I get it. There's more of a chance of the insides squishing out if there isn't a perimeter of dry bread.


To add insult to injury, the adults demanded that I eat the crust -- that dry, plain crust.

I would vary my response from all-out crust revolt to inventing creative ways to dispose of the crust to avoid eating it.

And I vowed, at 7 years old, to never torture my own children thus.

How often is our parenting dictated by avoiding the approaches we didn't like in our own childhoods?

And how much of the rest of our parenting is based on copying what seemed to work from our childhoods?

When I read the comment sections on posts about limiting screen time, there are countless "I watched TV my whole childhood, and I turned out fine" comments.

This essentially boils down to "What was good enough for me is good enough for my kids."

It's easy to get stuck in this kind of thinking.

But...isn't the goal of parenting to do better by our kids?

Isn't, indeed, the nature of evolution to improve each generation so that humanity grows and refines?

It is certainly my goal.

My parents did the best they could with what they had.

I have access to more tools, more support and resources, more knowledge, etc. than they did.

So it's reasonable to expect that my best might improve upon theirs.

But I do not think doing my best means taking the script from my childhood and making edits, scratching out a few lines, and adding others.

I think it means starting with a blank, clean sheet of paper and choosing -- consciously and carefully -- what my approach is going to be.

One that isn't a reaction to what I had or didn't have.

One that isn't constrained by the limited view of my culture or generation (this is possible by learning about the approaches of other cultures and generations - respond CULTURE to this email if you want a list of phenomenal books that will broaden your perspective).

One that is based on a rather magic blend of feelings and beliefs plus facts and science.

We'll never be perfect at this. We can't erase our childhood or let go of the big feelings we associate with certain events or approaches.

But we can spend diligent time unpacking that basket of experiences (and the beliefs they led to) and inspecting them.

We can hold each one up to the light and look it over.

Does this one fit with my family?

Will this approach likely lead to the traits and values I hope to instill in my kids?

Is this worldview going to prepare my child for the rapidly evolving, unpredictable world he/she will navigate as an adult?

We can intentionally construct our parenting (and I mean construct with play-doh not concrete, because the one thing we know is that life with kids has to be malleable).

We can let go of fixed mindset phrases like "I did XYZ, and I turned out fine." and we can envision and pursue a world in which our children turn out better than fine.

BTW, I recently did a taste-test and I can confirm, from the adult perspective, that peanut butter and jelly (or honey, cause I know some of you are itching to hit respond and school me on my sandwich choices!) all the way to the edges is by far superior. That reaction to my childhood is staying.

Jenna Lee "I wonder what Gordon Ramsay would say about PB&Js" Dillon

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