TIME advice

15 Books for Recent Graduates

  • The Real Simple Guide to Real Life by the Editors of Real Simple

    real-simple-guide-cover
    Oxmoor House

    From salary negotiations to apartment decorating, the first year out of college is filled with a lot of new experiences. With this book, your grad can tackle any hurdle that comes up in the home or the office, with timeless-yet-practical advice from the editors of Real Simple. After reading a few pages, you might want this on your shelf, too.

    To buy: $19, barnesandnoble.com.

  • What Do I Do If…? by Eric Grzymkowski

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    Adams Media

    From an attack by killer bees to a clogged toilet to a forgotten anniversary, this tiny book offers solutions for any disaster your grad might encounter when finally out on his or her own. Each sticky situation is marked by how likely it is to happen, how easy it is to prevent, and whether or not you need to respond quickly.

    To buy: $11, amazon.com.

  • The Road to Character by David Brooks

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    Random House

    New York Times columnist David Brooks uses this book to distinguish “resume virtues”—skills that might look good to an employer—from “eulogy virtues”—morals and values that help us grow and form relationships. He encourages everyone to focus on the latter, and uses anecdotes, interviews, and psychology to give readers the tools to develop a more “moral character.”

    To buy: $17.50, amazon.com.

  • Way More Than Luck

    way-more-than-luck-cover
    Chronicle Books

    This book has 14 transcribed commencement speeches that encourage recent grads to be creative, be brave, and make their marks on the world. Speakers include Nora Ephron, Ira Glass, Tom Wolfe, and David Foster Wallace, and the book also illustrates the most inspirational quotes from each address.

    To buy: $15, amazon.com.

  • Do Over by Jon Acuff

    do-over-cover
    Portfolio

    First-time employees need the right tools and resources to make the most of their desk jobs. Do Over goes over four inevitable transitions: a career ceiling (when you feel stuck), a career bump (maybe you lose your job), a career jump (a possible promotion), and a career opportunity (usually unexpected and scary). This practical advice will help grads take advantage of all four transitions, and succeed in any field.

    To buy: $16, amazon.com.

  • The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

    the-opposite-of-loneliness-cover
    Scribner

    The eponymous posthumous essay that spurred this collection circulated quickly amongst college graduates in 2012 because it hit a nerve—everyone was looking for a way to stay connected to their friends when they went off alone in the world after leaving school. Keegan’s work—both essay and fiction—is a must-read for all young writers.

    To buy: $10, amazon.com.

  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler

    yes-please-cover
    Dey Street Books

    Poehler’s funny, honest memoir is filled with nuggets of advice all grads can use, with chapters organized into three sections: “Say Whatever You Want,” “Do Whatever You Like,” and “Be Whoever You Are.” While the move from college can seem intimidating, Poehler’s words remind everyone that the most important thing to do in life is to have fun.

    To buy: $10, amazon.com.

  • Edmund Unravels by Andrew Kolb

    edmund-unravels-cover
    Nancy Paulsen Books

    Consider this children’s book to be 2015’s version of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Edmund, an adorable ball of yarn, sets off to explore the world. He meets interesting people and visits exciting places, but ultimately, finds that he can’t head out into the world alone without a little support from his family.

    To buy: $13, amazon.com.

  • Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling

    very-good-lives-cover
    Little, Brown and Company

    Rowling’s famous Harvard commencement address has been transcribed into a pocket-sized book of wisdom and inspiration that all graduates will want on their shelves. Rowling encourages all graduates to be creative and embrace failure in order to find post-graduate success.

    To buy: $12, amazon.com.

  • Lean In for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg

    lean-in-for-graduates-cover
    Knopf

    Sandberg’s Lean In offered valuable advice for women who had spent years feeling frustrated in the workplace, but this graduation edition is targeted at young women who have yet to begin. Her guide equips them with the tools necessary to negotiate, participate, and lead in whatever job they land.

    To buy: $19, amazon.com.

  • The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, Ph.D.

    the-defining-decade-cover
    Twelve

    This book explores the 20-something years with personal stories from the author’s clients, and scientific data to explain how the body and mind works during this crucial developmental period. For any millennial who feels overwhelmed or misunderstood, Jay’s analysis of young adult issues and advice for achieving success—both professionally and personally—will reassure and motivate.

    To buy: $9, amazon.com.

  • Getting There by Gillian Zoe Segal

    Getting-There-A-Book-of-Mentors-by-Gillian-Zoe-Segal-Published-by-Abrams-Image-©-2015-Gillian-Zoe-Segal
    Harry N. Abrams

    Thirty industry influencers discuss essential career advice for young people about to enter the workforce. Most importantly, they focus on obstacles they faced at work, because those often were essential to their success. Mentors include businessman and politician Michael Bloomberg, trainer Jillian Michaels, and artist Jeff Koons.

    To buy: $19, amazon.com.

  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

    Tiny_Beautiful_Things_book_cover
    Vintage

    Strayed’s weekly “Dear Sugar” column in The Rumpus is now in book form, with one of her most compassionate, thoughtful columns—titled “Tiny Beautiful Things”—leading the collection. Through a combination of her own experiences and honest advice, this book is filled with one-liners (“Be brave enough to break your own heart”) that all graduates will adopt as mantras.

    To buy: $11, amazon.com.

  • A Curious Mind by Charles Fishman and Brian Grazer

    a-curious-mind-cover
    Simon & Schuster

    Academy Award-winning producer Brian Grazer has talked to a host of accomplished people—from writers to actors to CEOs—to find out how creativity drives their work. These “curiosity conversations” helped him develop concrete advice for improving your professional and personal life.

    To buy: $16, amazon.com.

  • Headstrong by Rachel Swaby

    headstrong-cover
    Broadway Books

    Women’s contributions to science and research are often overlooked, so Swaby profiles the achievements of 52 influential and innovative women who have proven that the sciences aren’t just for men. If you know a young woman looking to break into this male-heavy field, they’ll appreciate this book of innovators.

    To buy: $19, amazon.com.

    This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

    More from Real Simple:

TIME Maryland

Maryland ‘Free Range’ Parents Cleared of All Charges in a Neglect Case

Danielle Meitiv, Rafi Meitiv, Dvora Meitiv
Jose Luis Magana — AP Danielle Meitiv walks home with her children Rafi, 10, left and Dvora, 6, right, after picking them up at the school bus stop in Silver Spring Md., on June 12, 2015.

This is one of two child neglect cases for the couple

(SILVER SPRING, Md.) — A Maryland couple who advocate “free range” parenting say they’ve been cleared in the second of two neglect cases that began when their children were spotted walking alone.

Danielle Meitiv told The Washington Post on Sunday that she and her husband learned of the decision in a Child Protective Services letter June 13. Officials haven’t commented but recently clarified their policy, noting that the state shouldn’t investigate unless kids are harmed or face substantial risk of harm.

The parents first came under scrutiny for allowing their 10- and 6-year-old children to walk home in a Washington suburb in December. In April, the children were held for hours after they were spotted walking from a park.

Meitiv says it’s a relief that the couple has been cleared in both cases.

TIME Parenting

How to Help Your Kid Make Friends This Summer

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Getty Images

Different ages require different approaches

Summer’s a time to make new friends – at camp, at the pool, on vacation.

And making good friends has big benefits, according to Fred Frankel, founder and former director of the Parenting and Children’s Friendship Program at UCLA, and author of Friends Forever: How Parents Can Help Their Kids Make and Keep Good Friends.

According to Frankel, “friends are unique in children’s lives, because [the relationship] is a choice. It’s a mutual choice. And it enhances self-esteem.” In fact, according to Frankel, friendship improves kids’ self esteem even more than self-esteem training. It also protects kids from bullying.

But making friends isn’t always easy, especially for boys, who Frankel says are three times more likely to struggle with forming friendships than girls, perhaps because boys tend to be more competitive, and less likely to help each other in social situations.

The good news?

Parents can help kids lay the foundation for good friendships in elementary school, Frankel says, simply by setting them up on play dates, and then paying attention: both to the other children, and their own. What parents learn by listening in can help them nurture their own kids’ social skills, and encourage friendships with other healthy kids. Frankel also suggests parents start conversations with kids about the social situation at school. “Instead of asking what did you learn,” he says, try “Who did you play with? What did you do?”

By middle school, kids start to cluster into groups. And some earlier friendships may change or fade away. That can be painful, Frankel says, but it’s important to let them go. And not to get too focused on being part of the ‘right’ group. “Wanting to join the popular group is a big mistake,” Frankel says. “They’re not necessarily nice kids, just dominant kids.” So if kids get too concerned with being part of a particular crowd, says Frankel, parents should help them to refocus on building individual relationships, which is where real friendships are formed.

High school kids connect with each other based on shared interests, which “give them something to talk about,” Frankel says. The important thing, according to Frankel, is to “develop the interest first.” If a kid tries to get into a group that is interested in something she doesn’t really like, she “won’t have anything to share,” says Frankel. Parents can help, not by encouraging kids to make friends, but by encouraging kids to develop interests. Once kids find something they really love to do, Frankel says, the friendships will form naturally.

TIME Family

4 New Parenting Tips That Will Make Your Kids Awesome

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Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Parenting tips are everywhere but most have zero legitimate research behind them. So what does science have to say? And how can you remember what’s important so you actually use it?

Remember to WACC your kids.

No, I’m not saying to hit your kids. “WACC” is a good acronym to help you keep in mind 4 things that come up in the research again and again:

  • Work on yourself
  • Autonomy
  • Communicate
  • Community

These four things can make a big difference in whether you end up saving college money or bail money.

Let’s break down the how and why on these parenting tips so that your kids end up healthy, smart and happy.

Sign up here for TIME’s weekly roundup of the best parenting stories from anywhere.

 

1) Work On Yourself

This is what many of the parenting books ignore — and it may be the most important.

Want happy kids? Then make sure you’re keeping yourself joyful. Happy parents make for happy kids and parental depression causes child behavior problems.

Via Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents:

Extensive research has established a substantial link between mothers who feel depressed and “negative outcomes” in their children, such as acting out and other behavior problems. Parental depression actually seems to cause behavioral problems in kids; it also makes our parenting less effective.

And this is not merely due to genetics.

Via Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents:

…although the study did find that happy parents are statistically more likely to have happy children, it couldn’t find any genetic component.

So other than feeling good about you own life, what’s key here? That ol’ work-life balance.

In fact, what’s the #1 thing kids wish for when it comes to parents? They wish you were less tired and stressed.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

In a survey of a thousand families, Ellen Galinsky, the head of the Families and Work Institute and the author of Mind in the Making, asked children, “If you were granted one wish about your parents, what would it be?” Most parents predicted their kids would say spending more time with them. They were wrong. The kids’ number one wish was that their parents were less tired and less stressed.

Your stress isn’t just your stress — it’s their stress too. When you’re stressed out it hurts your children’s intelligence and immune systems.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

…Studies have shown that parental stress weakens children’s brains, depletes their immune systems, and increases their risk of obesity, mental illness, diabetes, allergies, even tooth decay.

Yup, you are a role model. So the first step to taking good care of your kids is taking care of you.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families:

Studies of young adults find that more than seven out of ten regularly measure themselves against their parents in terms of either their career or relationship status. – Glasman 2002

(For more on the research-backed ways to raise happy kids, click here.)

Okay, so you’re taking good care of yourself. What else do many of the parenting tips miss?

 

2) Autonomy

Tiger moms and helicopter parents: your children thrive when they have some room to be individuals.

Kids do better when they make plans themselves or at least have a say.

You should even allow them to pick their own punishments. It creates greater motivation to obey the rules.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

Scientists at the University of California and elsewhere found that kids who plan their own time, set weekly goals, and evaluate their own work build up their prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain that help them exert greater cognitive control over their lives. These so-called executive skills aid children with self-discipline, avoiding distractions, and weighing the pros and cons of their choices. By picking their own punishments, children become more internally driven to avoid them. By choosing their own rewards, children become more intrinsically motivated to achieve them. Let your kids take a greater role in raising themselves.

Which kids say they like going to school? The ones who get to pick which extracurricular activities they’re involved in.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families:

Children who regularly participate in structured extracurricular activities (including clubs and sports teams) of their own choosing are 24 percent more likely to report that they like going to school. – Gilman 2001

You don’t have to overschedule kids or be involved in every moment of their lives. Unstructured play has huge positive effects on children.

Via Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents:

Researchers believe that this dramatic drop in unstructured playtime is in part responsible for slowing kids cognitive and emotional development… In addition to helping kids learn to self-regulate, child-led, unstructured play (with or without adults) promoted intellectual, physical, social, and emotional well-being. Unstructured play helps children learn how to work in groups, to share, negotiate, resolve conflicts, regulate their emotions and behavior, and speak up for themselves.

(For more scientific tips on how to make your kids smarter, click here.)

So everybody always talks about communicating with kids… but what’s that actually mean?

 

3) Communication

You know much real conversation happens at family dinner? 10 minutes.

I interviewed Bruce Feiler, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Secrets of Happy Families and he said the research shows most of the talk at the dinner table is “Take your elbows off the table” and “Please pass the ketchup.”

So what’s the best way to make use of those 10 minutes? Here’s Bruce:

So number one, the first big thing to be aware of is that parents do two-thirds of the talking in that ten minutes. And that’s a problem. So your first goal should be to flip that and let the kids do more of the talking. So that would be issue number one. Number two, I would say a great thing to do in that ten minutes is to try to teach your kid a new word every day. There’s a tremendous amount of evidence out there that one of the biggest determinants of success in school has to do with the size of vocabulary.

And I asked Bruce what he would recommend if he could only give one piece of advice.

He said: “Set aside time to talk about what it means to be a part of your family.”

Ask yourself: “What are your family values?” In business-speak: Develop a mission statement for your family.

Here’s Bruce:

Initiate a conversation about what it means to be a part of your family. Sit down with them and say “Okay, these are our ten central values. This is the family we want to be. We want to be a family that doesn’t fight all the time.” or “We want to be a family that goes camping or sailing” or whatever it might be.

Research shows whether a kid knows their family history was the number one predictor of a child’s emotional well-being. Here’s Bruce:

…researchers at Emory did this study that showed that the kids who know more about their family history had a greater belief that they could control their world and a higher degree of self-confidence. It was the number one predictor of a child’s emotional well-being.

Not having family dinner together? You might want to start. It has huge benefits.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

A recent wave of research shows that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit suicide, and develop eating disorders. Additional research found that children who enjoy family meals have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets, and higher self-esteem. The most comprehensive survey done on this topic, a University of Michigan report that examined how American children spent their time between 1981 and 1997, discovered that the amount of time children spent eating meals at home was the single biggest predictor of better academic achievement and fewer behavioral problems.Mealtime was more influential than time spent in school, studying, attending religious services, or playing sports.

Doesn’t work for your family’s schedule? It doesn’t have to be dinner. And it doesn’t have to be every night.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

Many of the benefits of family mealtime can be enjoyed without sitting down together every night. Even the folks at Columbia University’s center on addiction, the ones responsible for a lot of the research on family dinner, say having joint meals as infrequently as once a week makes a difference.

I know what some of you are thinking: isn’t all that talking going to mean more fighting? Yes. And that’s a good thing.

Moderate conflict with teens produces better adjustment than none.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

University of Rochester’s Dr. Judith Smetana, a leader in the study of teen disclosure, confirms that, over the long term, “moderate conflict with parents [during adolescence] is associated with better adjustment than either no-conflict or frequent conflict.”

When I interviewed Po Bronson, author of the bestseller NurtureShock, he said more arguing means less lying:

In families where there is less lying to the parents, there is more arguing. Arguing is the opposite of lying. Arguing is the way the kid decides not to lie. “I could lie to my parents and just do it. Or I can tell the truth and argue it out.” Those are the choices the teen has.

And what’s a quick trick for getting your kid to be honest? Po has an answer.

Say: “I’m about to ask you a question. But before I do that, will you promise to tell the truth?”

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

In Talwar’s peeking game, sometimes the researcher pauses the game with, “I’m about to ask you a question. But before I do that, will you promise to tell the truth?” (Yes, the child answers.) “Okay, did you peek at the toy when I was out of the room?” This promise cuts down lying by 25%.

(For more on how to have a happy family, click here.)

Final tip. What else do you need to do? Well, really, it has nothing to do with you…

 

4) Community

Tons of research shows religious families are happier. Why is that?

Further study has shown it’s the friends that a religious community provides. A community of ten supportive friends makes families happier.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

The most comprehensive study ever done on this topic, in 2010, gives some clues about why this might be. After examining studies of more than three thousand adults, Chaeyoon Lin and Robert Putnam found that what religion you practice or however close you feel to God makes no difference in your overall life satisfaction. What matters is the number of friends you have in your religious community. Ten is the magic number; if you have that many, you’ll be happier. Religious people, in other words, are happier because they feel connected to a community of like-minded people.

What influences your kids more than you do? Their peer group.

We usually only talk about peer pressure when it’s a negative but research shows more often than not, it’s actually a positive. Here’s what Po had to say:

The same kids who were very vulnerable to peer pressure turn out to have great grades, do well in high school, and go to college. As they get older in life they have great relationships with their best friends, their partners, and their parents. It turns out that thing that makes a kid in seventh grade very attuned to the thoughts and feelings of others around them is what makes them feel peer pressure. It turned out that peer pressure was dragging kids toward risk behaviors but it is also dragging them to do well at school, to care what their teachers thought, to care what their parents thought, to care what the school thought, and to care what society thinks. These kids that are invulnerable to peer pressure turn out to have low GPAs. Their motivation to study just wasn’t strong enough. It was entirely based upon themselves because they didn’t care what society thought.

And your kids need more family in their lives than just their parents and siblings.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families:

Studies of boys and girls find that the presence of a trusted nonparental adult increases feelings of support and life satisfaction by more than 30 percent. – Colarossi 2001

If you had to make sure one family member was consistently there for the young ones, who should it be?

Grandmom. Scores of studies show the incredible benefits that grandmom brings, like teaching kids to cooperate and to be compassionate.

Children who spend time with their grandparents are more social, do better in school and show more concern for others.

Via The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More:

Countless studies have shown the extraordinary benefits grandmothers have on contemporary families. A meta-analysis of sixty-six studies completed in 1992 found that mothers who have more support from grandmothers have less stress and more well-adjusted children… So what are these grandmothers actually doing? They’re teaching children core social skills like how to cooperate, how to be compassionate, how to be considerate. Researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah interviewed 408 adolescents about their relationship with their grandparents. When grandparents are involved, the study found, the children are more social, more involved in school, and more likely to show concern for others.

(For more of the latest research on good parenting skills, click here.)

Time to round all this up and add in that last ingredient that makes your kids love you back.

 

Sum Up

Remember to WACC your kids:

  • Work on yourself: Increasing your own happiness and reducing your stress have big effects on your kids.
  • Autonomy: Want them to be successful adults? Make sure they have a say in what they do — starting now.
  • Communicate: Family meals make a big difference. Tell them their family history. More arguing means less lying.
  • Community: Their peers have more influence they you do. Make sure Grandmom is around if you want compassionate children.

One last thing you need to keep in mind if you want a close relationship with the kiddos:

Love. Don’t just be guider, protector and enforcer. Kids are nearly 50% more likely to feel close to those who show them affection.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families:

People are 47 percent more likely to feel close to a family member who frequently expresses affection than to a family member who rarely expresses affection. – Walther-Lee 1999

They’re the next generation. They have the potential to be better than we are, so give them every chance. As Dr. Seuss said:

“Adults are obsolete children.”

Join over 190,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

Paul Walker’s Daughter Posts Sweet Father’s Day Tribute

The actor was killed in a 2013 car crash

Paul Walker’s daughter Meadow posted a sweet tribute to her late father on Instagram for Father’s Day.

The 16-year-old Meadow uploaded a baby picture of herself with her father, captioned: “Happy Father’s Day.” Since her father’s death in late 2013, Meadow has shared several old pictures of the Fast & Furious star on her Instagram.

For more celebrity Father’s Day tributes, head here.

happy Father's Day

A photo posted by Meadow Walker (@meadowwalker) on

This article originally appeared on EW.com

TIME Family

Martini Stones, a Time-Locked Cigarette Case and Other Vintage Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Father feeding daughter sitting in high chair
H. Armstrong Roberts—Retrofile/Getty Images Father feeding baby, circa 1960s

TIME thought the items from 1963 offered "a touching composite picture of the National Daddy"

Father’s Day dates back to 1910, just a few years after Mother’s Day came into being, and in 1963 TIME noted that the holiday was also following its precursor on the road to commercialism. But rather than bemoan the materialism, the magazine used it as a window into the state of fatherhood in the United States.

Father‘s Day, which is beginning to edge into equal, if less throat-lumping, status with Mother’s Day, came and passed last week in a blaze of angled advertising,” TIME noted. “The things the stores picked out for special Father‘s Day promotion (after the usual collection of ties, bathrobes and gold-plated putters) added up to a touching composite picture of the National Daddy.”

So what exactly did these gifts tell us? For one thing, dad needed some help:

Up at last and out of doors, he is a dear, incompetent bumbler, forever picking a spot in a high wind for a game of cards (the solution: a magnetized playing board and card deck for $10). He is equally inept at the barbecue, getting mixed up about the orders for broiled steaks—for which he needs a $4 branding iron to remind him which should be rare, medium and well done. Making the martinis is also a struggle: to solve the how-much-vermouth problem there are Martini Stones ($3), to be soaked in vermouth, then dropped into each glass so that all Dad has to do is ice the gin and pour it in.

Other takeaways were that dad had no will power (“a cigarette case with a time lock that will open only at preset intervals”), was young at heart (“an I Am an Executive pencil box”) and needed help making decisions (“a swiveled silver dollar mounted on a paperweight, for mature heads-or-tails judgment”).

It’s enough to make you think twice before getting your father some inadvertently meaningful tchotchke. At least there’s always room for another necktie.

Read the full story, here in the TIME Vault: Bringing Up Father

TIME Parenting

There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Mother

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Getty Images

So how about we stop striving to be one?

There’s this mom at the pre-school where my son goes who, I used to think, was the perfect mother.

She’s one of the few stay-at-home-moms who shows up at school every day wearing something other than a uniform of yoga pants, a t-shirt and comfy shoes. She’s always well groomed and not wearing remnants of her children’s breakfast or runny noses all over her shirt. She volunteers in the classroom multiple times a week and spends the moments before school starts gently reading to her child. When there’s a bake sale, her brownies look mouthwateringly delicious, unlike my tray which gets avoided like the plague. Nothing seems to faze her, and from the moment I spotted her, an imaginary halo seemed to dance atop her head.

Last spring, one of the other school moms generously held a book launch party at her home for me. I read a chapter from my book out loud and held a Q&A, followed by some snacks and chatting. I gratefully smiled at the people I knew and got introduced to some faces I recognized from drop-off and pick-up but had never met. It was a wonderful evening and I was grateful to be surrounded by so many real life Scary Mommies. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, I saw her — The Perfect Mother — coming towards me. What on earth was she doing here, I wondered. Like she could relate to anything I wrote, little Mrs. I Do Everything Right.

“I have to tell you how much I loved your book,” she greeted me with. “I could have written almost every word myself. It was so me.”

Huh? Say what?!

What on earth in my book could she relate to? She was the one I referenced when talking about the foreign perfection I’d never in my life hope to achieve. She was the one who looked like a million bucks all the time and who always seemed to handle everything that came at her with grace. While everything I did was merely good enough, everything she touched was perfect with a capital P. Had she picked up the wrong book? What author had she mistaken me with?

Unfortunately, those were not thoughts in my head. Unable to contain my shock and awe, that’s exactly how I responded to her, sounding certifiably insane, since we’d never officially met and she had no idea she’d made such an impression on me. She burst out laughing.

“Me? Perfect?” She laughed until she snorted – LOUDLY – the imaginary halo slowly tumbling off of her head.

She went on to explain that the only reason she showered in the morning was to wake herself up, because without that jolt of cold water at 7AM, she’d never peel herself out of bed. She wears Spanx under her jeans and steers clear of yoga pants because the cellulite on her thighs shows through them so clearly that she can’t stomach it. She reads to her kid in the morning because she’s too spent at the end of the day to do it and he falls asleep watching a DVD most nights. And those brownies I’ve drooled over? Her mother makes them because she can’t cook to save her life.

Hello, nice to meet you, my new favorite person on earth! I think I love you.

Sadly, her son went off to kindergarten last fall, so I stopped seeing her in the lobby and at school events, but I think of her often, this not so perfect mom. Every time I make a snap judgment or feel inferior to some other mother I bear witness to, I envision that halo falling down and the sound of her unglamorously snorting echoes in my head. That interaction was one of the single greatest parenting lessons I’ve learned.

Turns out there is no perfect mother. Really; there’s not. So how about we stop striving to be one, and instead settle for something much more realistic?

Being ourselves.

This article originally appeared on Scary Mommy.

More from Scary Mommy:

TIME Family

Watch These Kids Give Their Dads Ridiculous Father’s Day Makeovers

What could possibly go wrong?

To celebrate Father’s Day, Birchbox Man (the monthly subscription service for beauty and grooming products) gathered five brave fathers. Their young sons then groomed and styled them. The result? Some really, really ridiculous makeovers.

“We put a bunch of kids in a room with their dads and a ton of grooming products and let them have at it,” Birchbox writes on Facebook. “As you can imagine, things got messy.”

Read next: 5 Hero Dads Worth Celebrating This Father’s Day

TIME Family

5 Hero Dads Worth Celebrating This Father’s Day

These dads have saved their children from fires, kidnappers and other dangers

All dads deserve a big hug on Father’s Day, but some have really gone above and beyond the call of duty in the past year. From the dad who rescued his young daughter from a burning building to the dad who donated part of his liver to save his son’s life, these fathers deserve a big round of applause for heroic deeds that protected their children.

  • The dad who gave his son a liver transplant

    Brittany Munn, who lives in upstate New York, knew her son was sick from the time he was born, but doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong at first. They eventually discovered Caleb had the rare and serious biliary atresia, and said he needed a liver transplant if he was to survive past the age of 2.

    Luckily, his father was a perfect match. As soon as Brian Munn found out he could donate part of his liver to make his son healthy, he jumped at the opportunity. Father and son now have matching scars from their March 2015 surgeries, and Caleb will continue to require treatment. But for now, he is much healthier, and his dad is glad he could do what was needed to help.

    “Once I [knew] that he was OK, and he was on the other side of the surgery,” Brian Munn told WBNG Binghamton, “I knew that it was all worth it.”

  • The dad who saved his daughter from a kidnapper

    Aaron Edson could have been named negotiator of the year for saving his daughter from an apparent kidnapper. Edson and his wife Stephanie awoke in the middle of the night in their home near Salt Lake City in November 2014 to discover their 5-year-old daughter missing from her bed. Edson, panicked, soon found her outside in the arms of a stranger who had broken into the house. When he asked the man what he was doing with the little girl, the burglar replied that he was in danger and wouldn’t be harmed if he had a child with him.

    “I said, ‘Really, I want to help you but she has got to stay,’” Edson told Good Morning America. “I just walked up to him and held out my arm and he just handed her over peacefully and calmly, and no one’s voice ever got raised.”

    In the end, all was well for little Lainey, and the would-be kidnapper was arrested.


    ABC US News | World News

  • The dad whose first aid training saved his own son

    When Ray Adams got CPR training, he didn’t expect to have to use it the same day—and on his own son. Shortly after receiving the CPR training, the youth football coach was watching his 11-year-old son RayShawn play in a scrimmage in Hartford, Conn. in August 2014, when RayShawn was knocked over and seemed to be struggling to breathe. Adams started performing chest compressions and blowing into his son’s mouth, until RayShawn gasped in air and began breathing again.

    Adams now says he hopes all coaches get the same training to be able to step in when tragedy strikes.

  • The dad who saved his baby from a burning building

    Throwing your baby out the window may not sound like a heroic act, but in the case of Liam Crocket, it was exactly that.

    When his home in East Kilbride, Scotland caught fire in November 2014, Crocket acted fast. “The floor began to cave in so I grabbed Lilly, put a blanket over her and held her tight to my chest,” he told the Daily Record. “I knew we had to go out the window. Luckily, there were people outside so I flung Lilly down into someone’s arms. Once she was safe, I jumped.”

    Mother Sarah MacKenzie was away from the house when the fire broke out, and was very grateful for Crocket’s heroic rescue of their 1-year-old.

    “It was his quick thinking that saved our baby’s life,” she told the Daily Record.

  • The dad who fought a bear to save his son

    Greg Alexander awoke while camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in early June to the sound of his teenage son’s screams. A bear had attacked the 16-year-old, Gabriel, in his sleep, and Alexander saw the bear “dragging him across the ground by his head,” according to the Citizen-Times. Worried that he might already be too late to save his son, Alexander jumped on the bear’s back, hit it in the face and threw rocks at it until it finally let go and went away.

    The two had to hike several miles to safety, and though Gabriel’s scalp and facial injuries were serious, he is expected to make a full recovery—all thanks to his dad’s bravery in the face of a beast.

TIME Parenting

What Parents Can Learn From Inside Out

disney, pixar, inside out, amy poehler, mindy kaling, lewis black, movies
Pixar/Disney Amy Poehler stars as the personification of Joy, left, with Phyllis Smith starring as the voice of Sadness.

It's the anti-helicopter parenting movie

All parents want their kids to be happy. I mean, obviously. But for most of history in most of the world that has meant keeping them from hunger and death and physical bodily harm. What happens when those threats aren’t quite so looming? Pixar’s new movie is an examination of our modern obsession with keeping our kids in a permanent state of delight. It could be the ultimate anti helicopter-parenting movie.

Of course, like all Pixar movies, it’s also about eccentric characters going on an unlikely adventure. In this case, our heroines are exploring the inner workings of that undiscover’d country, the brain. And those heroines are Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler, this generation’s go-to embodiment of spunk and optimism) and Sadness (voiced, with wonderful melancholy, by The Office’s Phyllis Smith).

Joy is a type-A workaholic, running around manically to make sure the little factory that is the brain of Riley, a Minnesotan girl who has recently moved to San Francisco, is always fully stocked with upbeat feelings. She tries to keep her co-workers, Anger, Fear and Disgust in line. But most of all she wants to sideline Sadness. Sadness’s chubby little blue hands are not allowed to touch any of the childhood memories that roll like marbles into Riley’s brain.

Especially precious are the more brightly gleaming marbles that represent the core memories. When one of those arrives in the processing room and it’s blue, not chatreuse, meaning it’s sad, not happy, Joy takes extreme steps to prevent it from finding its permanent place in the brain. And ultimately, that puts Riley at risk.

The parallels with modern parenthood are hard to miss here. Feeding and protecting kids from existential threats is no longer the absorbing task it once was, but the instinct to raise happy kids doesn’t go away. So parents try to stave off any potential source of distress—a failure, a loss, a heartache—by flooding the zone of childhood with delight.

For a start, this is exhausting—anyone with less energy than Amy Poehler would just lose her mind—and secondly, it’s counterproductive. Without sadness or failure, kids can’t build resilience. The little islands of security that Joy has built in Riley’s brain, with very little input from Fear, Anger, Disgust or most of all Sadness, prove to be quite fragile and not very colorful.

In his book on building resilience in kids, Grit, Paul Tough quotes the principal of a prestigious U.S. school: “The idea of building grit and building self-control is that you get that through failure. And in most highly academic environments in the United States, no one fails anything.” Spoiler alert: Joy comes to understand that sadness has its place too, that it’s a useful and necessary emotion.

Inside Out doesn’t just gently and comically suggest that perhaps we are making our kid’s lives unhappier by trying to make them happy, it offers an alternative: Riley’s actual parents. Her dad has moved to San Francisco for a startup and is obviously under a bit of stress. Her mom is distracted by the stress of finding a missing truck with all their belongings. (Some Pixar peeps clearly have their issues with moving companies.) But they’re there for Riley. They ask if she wants them to take her to her new school; she doesn’t, so she goes alone. They find a new hockey league for her, but don’t make her join. They make a fool of themselves to support her, when that seems appropriate.

They don’t notice her unhappiness, and she makes a few ill-conceived decisions, but, of course—spoiler alert again!—she realizes her error. Pixar has always made movies for adults cleverly disguised as movies for kids, and and Inside Out is no exception. It simplifies certain concepts in brain science, but it illustrates others in a way that almost anyone could grasp —the dream studio is a particularly inspired sequence—and that may make it simpler for grownups and kids to realize why they’re feeling as they do. As Tough says, “Any time you need to use the term hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal in order to make your point, you’ve got trouble.”

One note of warning. Some people have labeled the movie PMCIFOTC. (Parents May Cry In Front Of Their Children.) Adults should be accompanied by an understanding minor.

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