10/13/2014 06:16 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

DWI: My Parenting Philosophy

As a veteran mom of five -- no, I'm not retiring yet! -- the moniker of my long-standing parenting philosophy is: DWI. No, it doesn't stand for driving while intoxicated. Rather, it stands for: DEAL WITH IT. Sound callous? It's not easy to sustain such a blasphemous practice in the Golden Age of Neurotic Parenting, but I assure you that it stems from profound love and a parent's desire to teach her kids to thrive no matter what the future holds. Let me elaborate.


In our house the love and affection overflows, as does the encouragement toward self-reliance, self-confidence, self-discipline and decisiveness. But don't look up because there ain't no helicopter hovering above. Here, kids are taught the life skills they'll need to forge ahead with self-assurance, courage, and the resilience to handle the unavoidable bumps in the road.

So that when shit does happen, they can DWI.

Probably like your own, my brood spends most of their time filing complaints about one another. And, on the extraordinarily rare occasion that the grievances fall outside the predictable scope of a sibling's careless impaling elbow, sucker punch or hording of communal property, someone does get hurt.

When that's the case, a well-stocked first aid kit sits prominently in all its glory in the dead center of the pantry, waiting in earnest to be put to good use. I've taught each one of my children how to clean out a skinned knee, submerge a sprained ankle in warm water with Epsom salt, and nurse a sore throat.

They all know how to apply insect repellent, hematoma pomades, sun block, and douse antiseptic spray on an open abrasion. They've been taught how to ice a bruise, bump, and call for help when a sibling (they must always travel in pairs) has fallen off the bike, skateboard, scooter or Ripstick, and is face down eating dirt in the neighbor's lawn.

They receive continuous CEUs (Continuing Education Credits) in DWI.

When we embark on road trips, inevitably the kids wind up with limbs intertwined, fighting over limited space and resources and distractions that provide temporary relief from Florida's painfully monotonous landscape.

Set your stopwatch (what do you think you have a tablet for?), take turns, and DWI.

Every time, without fail, when we dine out in a restaurant, someone orders the wrong dish. And then spends the entire meal miserably eyeballing a sibling's entrée.

Kiss ass, beg for a few bites, swap out something you have that they want, or promise to clean the litter box next time it's your brother's turn. In other words, figure out how to schmooze to get what you want, and DWI.

There's always a victim tallying how many ice cream cones everyone ate per month to make sure it's even-Steven. There's always someone keeping track of who got the last waffle before we ran out. Heck, there's even a kid scorekeeping who received the lion's share of Mami and Papi's affection that day.

But it all boils down to this: at home and in life in general, someone will always feel Cheated. Overlooked. Neglected. Discriminated against. Victimized. Irrelevant. It's all just so very disempowering, so I work hard to teach my posse to grow some hard skin. Look inside -- not outside -- for validation and self-worth. You can handle much more than you realize, and we're always here to support you.

Most importantly, pull together and keep each others' backs. Because at the end of the day, your siblings are the first ones you'll be turning to when Mami and Papi are no longer around.