The best parenting advice I've read in a long time. Someone will always criticize you.

Like most parents, I didn't know what I was doing when I first became a mom — because I'd never done it before.

I was 27 when our first child joined our family through adoption. He was 10 months old. 

My son and me shortly after his adoption. That look on my face can probably best be described as "clueless but hopeful." All photos of my kids and me belong to me.


I'd read everything I could get my hands on — books, articles, blog posts, and a whole lot more — in the year leading up to his adoption. So I had some solid book knowledge. But real life experience? Nah. 

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Sure, I babysat as a teenager, and I was a really good parent before I actually became one. However, as most parents know, parenting is very much a learn-as-you-go gig. We use the abstract knowledge we arm ourselves with and apply it the best we can while trying to keep our heads above water. 

My husband and I made some mistakes, and we did some things brilliantly.

We faced a lot of challenges — both the regular ones that all new parents encounter and some more complex ones because our son spent 10 months in an orphanage before we became his parents. But we felt pretty good about our family, and we gained confidence as parents. 

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We thought: "Hey, we like this parenting thing. And we're decent at it. We're not the worst. Let's do it again!" 

So less than a year and a half later, I became a second-time mom when we adopted our daughter, Molley.

My daughter and me on her first birthday, about four months after she joined our family.

She was eight months old — and just as amazing as our son. After she was with us for about six months and we'd overcome some serious health challenges, her personality began to develop, and I quickly realized something: 

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I had no idea what I was doing.  

Seriously, no idea.

All of that parenting experience I'd gained with my son did. not. apply. to. this. child.

 She was a different person with a totally different personality, and those magical "skills" I'd allowed myself to think I'd developed were basically useless.

She was spirited and clever, kind and thoughtful, inquisitive and skeptical, opinionated and insistent. 

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And did I mention spirited? 

After the first time she threw herself down on the ground in public and proceeded to scream bloody murder — probably when she was around 15 months old — because she wasn't interested in whatever I'd suggested, I called my mom. 

Not my child. But it totally could have been.

"What's happening?" I asked. "Mattix never did this. What even is going on here?! The world is ending. Send help STAT!" 

As moms often do, she imparted upon me some words of wisdom: Kids aren't carbon copies of each other. And sometimes, we have to do everything differently ... even when what we did before worked. 

So that's what I did. 

I parented her the way I felt would work best, adjusting as we went.

I did most things differently than I had with Mattix, all in response to her needs. It just so happens that parenting Molley in public was a bit more of a spectacle, as she was a lot more vocal and physical about her displeasure, which she seemed to experience often.

I didn't allow us to interrupt other people's dining or shopping experiences. But on the sidewalk, at the park, in the parking lot, at the super-noisy pizzeria where we could barely even hear ourselves talk because it was so loud ... we did our thing. If she hurled her sippy cup or dropped her stuffed animal and then promptly hit the deck to really drive home the point about how annoyed she was with me, we waited there until she got up herself, picked up her stuff, and walked on her own.

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Sometimes that took five minutes. Sometimes it took 45. It turns out that we're well-matched in the stubbornness department, and I truly felt that what we were doing was best. 

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Parenting her at home was quite different, too, but nobody was around to judge that. 

I'd noticed things about Molley that were different. She was incredibly verbal by 12 months old — she had hundreds of words and spoke in sentences. By 18 months old, she'd go to her room when she was mad and stay there for hours, waiting me out, declining my offers to join the rest of us. 

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I was certainly learning as I went, but I knew one thing for sure: I couldn't parent her like a typical child. Because she wasn't a typical child. And that meant people, especially strangers, had lots of opinions. 

I learned a few things very quickly: First, a lot of people want you to know exactly what they think of your parenting skills and style.

The second thing I learned is that there's no consistency to others' opinions. One person would walk by us, doing our thing on the sidewalk during a meltdown, and tell me what a wonderful, patient mother I was and how my daughter was going to grow into a respectful, good person because of what I was doing. 

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Five minutes later, another person would encounter us in the exact same situation and loudly comment about what a terrible mother I was and remark upon me being "the reason kids are so awful these days." 

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It happened all the time. The fact that we obviously look so different from each other probably made us stand out a bit more, but I think this is something all parents of spirited children encounter. People would even take photos of us with their smartphones. Now that I think about it, I wonder how many "shame on this parent" Facebook posts we were featured in. 

It didn't take me long to tune out the negative, focus on my children and myself, and put my energy into being the best parent I could be, the opinions of strangers notwithstanding.

Still, it's not fun to constantly hear you suck because you're not doing something the way someone else thinks you should. 

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Parenting is fantastic — it's the best part of life I've ever undertaken — and it's a lot of work. As rewarding as it is, it can be physically tiring (OMG my kids didn't sleep when they were babies), and it can be emotionally draining. 

My kids and me, shortly after our daughter joined our family. Ohhh, the look of sweet naiveté on my face...

Most of us are doing the best we can. We're reaching out and asking for help and advice when we want or need it. We're reading everything we can. We're adjusting our techniques and reactions when they're not working. In the interest of keeping it real, some of us will admit we're crying on the floor of our bedroom closet on occasion. 

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All of that is because we care. We love our kids. We want to be good parents for them. 

You know the thing about "good parents?" There's not just one type.

That's why I absolutely loved a recent post by mom and author Bunmi Laditan. She's the comedic genius behind Honest Toddler on Twitter. (If you have young kids and you find humor to be a coping mechanism for the hard stuff parenting throws at you, do yourself a favor and follow her.) She also keeps us laughing, nodding our heads, and even crying a little with her Facebook posts. 

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But this one in particular is something every parent should read: 

She writes: 

"If you work, you're missing your kid's childhood. If you stay home, you're wasting your education and not giving them an example of a strong, independent woman. If you're a strict disciplinarian, your children will be stunted emotionally with damaged spirits. If you practice gentle parenting, you're raising a future serial killer. 

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If you homeschool, your child will never be able to succeed in society and will live in your basement playing World of Warcraft and and attend furry conventions forever. If they go to private school, they'll be elitist snobs. If they go to public school, good luck because they'll be on heroin before 7th grade and are probably pregnant right now. 

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If you have only one child, they're going to be lonely and when you die, they'll have no one. If you have two of the same sex, how sad for you- surely you'll try for the opposite gender? If you have three or more, you're contributing to the collapse of the environment, imminent extinction of all protected species and overpopulation with your freakishly large family. 

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If you're raising a vegan, you're annoying and your child's bones are surely brittle as hell. If your kids eat meat, you're a ruthless murderer and don't you know sausage causes cancer? If your kids can't have sugar, you're denying them a proper childhood. If your kids can have sugar, you're setting them up for a life of obesity and a snack cake addiction. 

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If you breastfed, it was either for too long or not long enough and please do it under a tarp in a pitch black room because nobody wants to see your sex breasts. If you didn't breastfeed, your child will never know true love, good health, or a real mother's love. 

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The moral of the story is, when it comes to parenting, there is always someone who'll think you're doing it all wrong so unless they're paying your bills, just do you."

After hearing the highest of praises and the lowest of insults when my daughter was younger, that's the mental space I had to get myself to.

I kept on keeping on, and you know what? It's going great. We got through our rough period that lasted about three years — until Molley was around 5 — and landed in a really positive place. We have an amazing relationship, and she continues to be a remarkable human being. 

She even got me over my hatred of selfies!

Molley is 7.5 now and the past few years of parenting her have been an incredible experience — fun, humbling, interesting, and, of course, hard sometimes. We recently learned after some extensive testing that she's "gifted." 

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Her 7.5-year-old brain has the logical reasoning and comprehension abilities of a child 10 years old, and her vocabulary is many grade levels above that of a typical second-grader. It all kind of makes sense now — all of those hard times we had — and I'm so glad I didn't let the opinions of others dictate what I did or didn't do. 

Being silly at lunch one day.

Did I make mistakes? Of course I did. Any parent who says otherwise is being dishonest. But I made choices that I felt were best for my child, and in the end, they were generally good ones. Had those strangers who wanted to make me feel like the worst mother ever been successful, maybe we wouldn't be in such a good place now. I'm certain we'll encounter bumps and challenges in the future because that's what happens with parenting and kids. But I know we can handle whatever comes up. 

What Laditan wrote is a variation of what many parents have said and believed since, well, the beginning of time.

Yes, it takes a village. And no, we shouldn't parent in a silo. We benefit greatly from the help of friends and family and sometimes even complete strangers. But when it comes down to it, there's a wide space between "best parent ever" and "worst parent on the planet" — and as long as we're trying hard and landing somewhere slightly to the left of the middle, we're probably doing just fine. 

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So unless we see actual abuse, we should probably just keep our mouths shut or maybe offer a few encouraging words or a small sign of solidarity to the other parents in the trenches. 'Cause it's very likely that they're doing their best, too.  

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

I'll never forget the exhilaration I felt as I headed into the city on July 3, 2018. My pink hair was styled. I wore it up in a high ponytail, though I left two tendrils down. Two tendrils which framed my face. My makeup was done. I wore shadow on my eyes and blush on my cheeks, blush which gave me color. Which brought my pale complexion to life. And my confidence grew each time my heels clacked against the concrete.

My confidence grew with each and every step.

Why? Because I was a strong woman. A city woman. A woman headed to interview for her dream job.

I nailed the interview. Before I boarded the bus back home, I had an offer letter in my inbox. I was a news writer, with a salary and benefits, but a strange thing happened 13 months later. I quit said job in an instant. On a whim. I walked down Fifth Avenue and never looked back. And while there were a few reasons why I quit that warm, summer day: I was a new(ish) mom. A second-time mom, and I missed my children. Spending an hour with them each day just wasn't enough. My daughter was struggling in school. She needed oversight. Guidance. She needed my help. And my commute was rough. I couldn't cover the exorbitant cost of childcare. The real reason I quit was because my mental health was failing.


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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

I'll never forget the exhilaration I felt as I headed into the city on July 3, 2018. My pink hair was styled. I wore it up in a high ponytail, though I left two tendrils down. Two tendrils which framed my face. My makeup was done. I wore shadow on my eyes and blush on my cheeks, blush which gave me color. Which brought my pale complexion to life. And my confidence grew each time my heels clacked against the concrete.

My confidence grew with each and every step.

Why? Because I was a strong woman. A city woman. A woman headed to interview for her dream job.

I nailed the interview. Before I boarded the bus back home, I had an offer letter in my inbox. I was a news writer, with a salary and benefits, but a strange thing happened 13 months later. I quit said job in an instant. On a whim. I walked down Fifth Avenue and never looked back. And while there were a few reasons why I quit that warm, summer day: I was a new(ish) mom. A second-time mom, and I missed my children. Spending an hour with them each day just wasn't enough. My daughter was struggling in school. She needed oversight. Guidance. She needed my help. And my commute was rough. I couldn't cover the exorbitant cost of childcare. The real reason I quit was because my mental health was failing.


Keep Reading Show less
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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."