Melanie Dale teaches parents how to 'Calm the H*ck Down' in new book
- New book comes out Wednesday
Author Melanie Dale has been hosting podcasts with thought leaders, many of them fellow moms, to tell us all to lighten up. And she's about to launch her latest book, "Calm the H*ck Down: How to Let Go and Lighten Up About Parenting" ( Atria Books, $17).
It's an interesting topic during this most serious year. "2020's been something," she says.
Like most moms, she's trying to figure it all out. She has three kids in three different schools in Georgia, and sometimes they are doing school virtually and sometimes it's a hybrid of in school and at home. "You need a Ph.D. to figure it out right now," she says.
What she'll take away from this year: Lower your expectations.
Things you thought were going to happen (remember when we were all so enthusiastic about 2020 in January?) are not going to happen.
"I separate what I can and what I can't control," she says. "I can't control whether or not my kids are getting to do their various sports, but I can control whether they are getting exercise."
Dale, 43, and her husband, Alex, have three kids: Ana, 16, Elliott, 13, and Evie, 11. Elliott came to them first as the child they had after a struggle with infertility, which Dale wrote about in her previous book, "InfreakinFertility: How to Survive When Getting Pregnant Gets Hard," when he was born prematurely. Ana came to them at age 9 from Latvia. Evie came from Ethiopia as a toddler.
Dale isn't by nature a calm person. "I'm a yeller," she says, and it's something that has rubbed off on the entire family. "We're a loud family. It's not rage-filled, but everyone came loud."
For this pandemic, she's trying to not be that yeller or on edge.
She's taken on a mantra using the acronym GRACE — gratitude, read, adapt, create and engage. It's all the things she tries to do every day: asking herself every day what she's grateful for; reading something every day instead of just scrolling through the internet; taking stock of how she is adapting every day; making sure she's creating something each day (currently it's a young adult horror novel she's writing, because after all, halfway through this pandemic she felt like she could murder someone, but writing a horror story is a much healthier outlet, she says); and engaging in relationships and in the community in ways that are possible right now.
"That acronym has helped me tremendously to still do things I need to do to be healthy," she says.
She has to take breaks and give kids breaks, such as making sure they go outside each day and take a hot bath "to wash the day off," which of course is hard to do. "Inevitably, someone knocks on the door."
Dale worried that "Calm the H*ck Down," which was written before the pandemic, would feel out of place now, but it does hold up. Each chapter offers a list of different strategies to remain calm in different situations. Those lists include "10 Ways to Stay Calmish," "20 Ideas for Getting Your Monsters to Behave," "10 Things To Do Instead of Yelling" and "10 Ways to Defuse a Teen Bomb (Proceed With Caution)."
She's also created an online addendum to the book: "Pandemic Parenting: How to Calm Down When the World Is Messed Up." You can get it on her website, melaniedale.com, with proof of purchase.
"Calm the H*ck Down" is filled with comedy about Dale's own life raising three very different kids, and the ways she's learned to calm down.
A big thing for her is laughter.
"I try to cultivate a home filled with laughter," she says. "Laughter makes us brave as we have a lot to be fearful for, and the spirit of lightness has helped us get through as well."
She keeps a laughter list of funny things that have happened or that make her laugh for those times when she cannot think of anything to laugh about.
Those might include the time her daughter Evie announced at an assembly where Dale was talking about being an author that "Mommy pulls down her pants and pees in the yard." "It's all lies!" Dale says, yet Evie announced it to the entire fourth and fifth grades.
"Parenting is embarrassing," Dale says, but the beauty of having teenagers is that it's payback time. She might just sing along to "Bohemian Rhapsody" while driving car pool, because she can.
Her other secret is therapy. Her kids have therapists for both physical and mental health, and she has her own therapists. "It's a big part of our family," she says. "There's a lot of the book that I've learned from years of therapy."
The book doesn't come from nowhere. She did her research on the tips and asked people around the country to be her beta testers with the tips.
Dale's book isn't like the type of social media posts where it's a picture of the ideal family, everyone succeeding, no one fighting or yelling, no one struggling ever.
"When I decided to write a parenting book, I decided to put it all out there," she says.
She thinks about the moms coming after her and what she wishes she had known. It's designed for parents of middle schoolers and younger, but now that she has a firmer foot into high school, she thinks she could write about the high school years now, too.
"Most of us are freaking out about parenting in some capacity," she says. "We're all just trying to figure out how to calm down about it."