For most of my life, March was my least favorite month of the year. It is this long in-between between winter and spring where most time is spent longing for either.

All that changed eight years ago when I became a mom on March 19, 2014. March soon skyrocketed from the worst month of the year to my favorite!

All I wanted was to become a mom, but it didn’t take long to realize, I had no idea how to BE a mom. Zoey was born in the evening, and by the time we got settled in our room, and her two sets of grandparents had cycled through, it was the middle of the night. I had a hungry baby and had no idea what to do. I remember taking my postpartum self out into the hallway to find a nurse, but it was dark, and I didn’t want to wake/bother (uhh…in retrospect, I’m going to guess the night nurses weren’t sleeping), so I went back to my room, tried and failed, and my sweet little five-pound baby slept through the night.

That’s great, right? I’d been a parent for less than 12 hours, and my baby slept through the night! Good on me!


It was just the first example of probably a lifetime of having no idea what to do as a parent and thinking a choice I made was the right one but could have been detrimental to my child.

There is no age-by-age playbook on being a good parent and providing these tiny humans what they need to grow and thrive.

And while we don’t provide a Partnership Parent Playbook on all the ways to make sure our kids are safe and healthy so they thrive in life, we do offer some tremendous sessions on how to talk to your kids about things like underage drinking and substance use.

Before I had Zoey (or her little sister Penny), I never considered how young kids would benefit from conversations on substance use.

When Zoey was four, I had my first chance to talk to her about substance use. One afternoon, I gave her a pack of fruit snacks, and she told me she had to take her pills.

My internal dialogue went something like this…

I’m sorry, what!? Your pills? Your PILLS!? You’re four!??? What do I do?? What do I do??? ::panic sets in::

Fortunately, my external dialogue was slightly more composed:

Honey, what do you mean, your pills? Why would you say that?

…ohhhh, you see Mimi take her pills (prescribed pills that many sexagenarians are taking), and you want to be like her? (Phew…I can do this)

…Babe, those pills that you see Mimi take, a doctor told her that she should take them to help her body feel better.

It’s ok when a doctor tells you to take them, but it can be very dangerous to take pills if a doctor didn’t say it was ok. They could make you very sick!

It’s important to put healthy things in your body like fruits and vegetables, and you should never take something from someone if you’re unsure what it is.

Zoey: Ok, Mommy. Can I have some more fruit snacks?

Flash forward to present day:

“Mom, what’s fentanyl? Why did I hear you say that the amount of fentanyl on the tip of a pencil could kill a 180-pound man?”

Oh, the joys of working from home.

Me: fentanyl is a type of drug. It’s really dangerous, and a small amount can make someone really sick or kill them. What do you know about drugs, Zo?

Zoey: drugs are bad for you. Smoking is so gross!

Great! My work is done here.

Except we all know it’s not; there is no finish line for parenting.

These were small, casual moments that became opportunities because I felt like I could take them on and knew what to say/do as nerve-wracking as they may have been.

Being present and trying to lead in these tough conversations is 90% of the battle. I think back to that first night in the hospital.. I was present, I tried, and Zoey was ok, but we both probably could have been better if I knew what I was doing to feed her that first night!

We all struggle. None of us really know what we’re doing without that parental instruction manual on raising healthy, thoughtful, and well-balanced kids.

The good news is that we’re all in it together!

The even better news is that as parents and caring adults, we can benefit from understanding the best practices on preventing substance use, vaping, cannabis use, and more with the sessions, The Partnership offers.

I know I’m far from perfect as a parent, but I do breathe a sigh of relief knowing I can tackle – in some small way – some of the challenging issues our kids are facing by talking it out.

Happy 8th Birthday, Sweet Zo! Thank you for making me a mom and challenging me to have tough conversations on a regular basis.

Kelly Juleson Mongillo