Tuesday, December 8, 2020


Welcome today I have an intriguing post for you. If you visit here often you know I don’t have any children, but I know many of you do. So, I thought new-to-me author Melanie Dale’s recent parenting book would be interesting.

Melanie’s book, CALM THE H*CK DOWN: How to Let Go and Lighten Up About Parenting (on sale December 8, 2020; Atria; Trade Paperback Original $17.00; 978-1-9821-1436-7) is infused with quirky humor, profound insight, and accessible advice. CALM THE H*CK DOWN teaches you how to dial back the stress of raising children with the simple premise that we all just need to lighten up a little bit. 

Melanie is an author, speaker, and mother of three children from three different continents. She and her husband live in the Atlanta area. They have successfully kept their kids alive for a combined total of 227,760 hours, give or take. Melanie hosts the podcast Lighten Up with Melanie Dale. She has been engaged to write episodes for Shudder’s Creepshow.

Melanie is a fan of all things creepy, horror, zombies and the undead. In fact, each chapter of CALM THE H*CK DOWN starts with a quote from a horror movie! Melanie says, she thought it was pretty appropriate since parenting is so scary. She has upcoming book signing at FoxTale Book Shoppe today (December 8th).

Melanie recently put together an insightful and hilarious pamphlet to coincide with the times --- advice on “Pandemic Parenting” to help parents keep it together, even when the world feels like it’s falling apart.  

Here are some tips she offers on parenting during a pandemic:  

·       Lower your expectations: “Expectations are not your friend. Figure out what are your non-negotiables for basic living and let everything else loosen up a little. This is the time to simplify.” 

·       Take advantage of precious alone time: “One time we ordered the kids to go wash the cars in the driveway just to give us a brief window of alone time. We ran to our room, where he was all tender caresses and I-love-yous and I yelled, ‘No time!’ as I ripped off my clothes. Foreplay is a luxury we cannot afford in a pandemic.” 

·       Stay informed, but don’t obsess: “Consuming more media didn’t calm me down. In my quest to master pandemic parenting, I realized we need to manage our own fear so it doesn’t leak out onto our kids.” 

·       Keep a sense of humor: “We fight fear with laughter. We’re braver when we’re laughing.” 

·       Find your daily G.R.A.C.E: “I work my way through G.R.A.C.E. every day: Gratitude, Read, Adapt, Create, and Engage... G.R.A.C.E. will get us through. One day at a time.”  

·       Lighten up about behavior: Accept that your kids will misbehave—and tips for discipline and positive reinforcement

·       Lighten up about vacations: Something always goes wrong on family trips—and why you should embrace little disasters

·       Lighten up about marriage: Melanie’s tried-and-true tips for partnering while parenting

Melanie joins us today to answer some questions. Welcome, Melanie.

There are so many parenting books out there, so what made you decide to write this one?


When I was contemplating writing a parenting book and what I could possibly add to the conversation, I realized that the big thing I’ve learned over the years is how to calm down about it all. I speak at moms’ groups all over the country and have met so many moms who were freaking out about parenting and I could totally relate.

I am not a naturally calm person. Some people are just wired that way, and I wish I was, but I’m like a coked-up squirrel. Parenting has thrown a lot at me that I didn’t see coming. That’s true for all parents. From the beginning, I encountered infertility, secondary infertility, high risk pregnancy, and the unpredictable world of adoptions. And after twelve years of assembling my family, we hit a period of time that I call “Labelpalooza” when I found myself sitting across from specialists giving me diagnoses for some of my people.

My road to parenting, and then the actual parenting itself, has ended up looking very different than I thought it would, but somewhere along the way, I learned to parent. Through everything, I’ve learned to calm down about a lot of it. So I’ve written a book for anybody who, like me, needs strategies to calm down and isn’t just naturally gifted in this area. I’ve included all the tips and tricks I’ve learned, with a lot of my favorite funny stories thrown in to help us laugh. You might not be able to laugh at your own situation yet, but please feel free to laugh at mine.

This book really applies to parents with a broad age range of kids. What are some things you’ve learned as your kids have gotten older?


My dad always told me, “If you don’t like the stage your kids are in, wait six months.” It’s true. Kids grow and change so fast and just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they hit a new phase. As my kids have grown, I’ve treated them like boomerangs. You throw a boomerang and it comes right back. So as my kids ask for more freedom, I let them go out a little way, then watch them come back. Then a little farther, then back. Out and back, out and back. If the boomerang doesn’t come back when it’s supposed to or the boomerang takes a side trip, then I bring them closer to home and we work on reestablishing trust.

Start with a little responsibility and work up. Kids ask constantly, “When am I allowed to___?” I try to have conversations rather than hard and fast rules. My three kids are very different so I parent each of differently. Just because one was allowed to do something at one age, doesn’t mean they all are. Affirm their good choices, and if you have a kid who’s really struggling with making good choices, you might have to dig deep. Find something positive to affirm.

Kids are like ketchup bottles. They might take a while to spill what’s on their minds but be patient and give the ketchup a little tap and eventually they’ll open up. Don’t freak out on them and scare the ketchup. Approach them with a sense of humor, ask questions, and scream into a pillow later. I remind myself that I’ve already done middle school and I don’t have to do it again. We are their guides, not their peers. Thank goodness. Honestly, the older my kids get, the more I like them.

You wrote this whole book about how to calm the heck down, and then the pandemic hit. What have you done over the last year to calm down?


Yeah, 2020 has really tested the limits of my ability to calm down, for sure. First, I had to lower my expectations for the year. I couldn’t hold us to some impossible standard as we were figuring out how to do virtual school, missing our friends, and reworking our entire lives. I’ve let go of stellar report cards and a clean kitchen. I’ve tried to embrace what I call “second-best options.” We can’t have our first choices right now, so what’s second best? When our vacation plans fell through this summer, we borrowed a friend’s backyard pool so the kids could still swim. My daughter was in a talent show and we sat on folding chairs outside six feet apart and shivered in the cold to watch her perform. Sure, I’d rather go on vacation and watch my daughter in the fancy theatre with the cushy seats, but hey, second best isn’t bad.

When I start to freak out, I separate what I can and can’t control. I can’t control the choices our government makes, but I can control the choices our family makes. I can’t control when the kids’ sports will start practicing again, but I can control whether or not my kids get exercise. When life feels overwhelming, I challenge myself to do one small thing. Maybe all the big things feel impossible but doing one small thing helps me feel like I’m making a difference, and sometimes the one small thing leads to accomplishing more things. For instance, when the kitchen is destroyed because we’re home all the time eating, and I start to go catatonic looking at the mess, I wash one pan. Just one. I organize one drawer. Sometimes doing one small thing is enough to pop me out of panic mode.

And then one of the main things I try to do is cultivate a home filled with laughter. Laughter makes us brave, so keep a list of things making you laugh, watch funny videos, tell jokes, and try not to take life too seriously, even though everything right now feels very, very serious. Find a way to laugh as often as possible.

You have a daily practice that’s helped you calm down during Covid. Can you share that with us?


Early on, I knew I needed some kind of daily device to make sure I didn’t go full Jack Torrance on everybody. I came up with the acronym G.R.A.C.E., which stands for Gratitude, Read, Adapt, Create, and Engage. I need more grace for the people I’m trapped in my house with, for all the digital learning and working from home and canceled plans. So every day, I force myself to name what I’m grateful for, to read a book (something other than the news or daily Covid numbers), to pay attention to how I’m adapting (or sometimes how I’m struggling to adapt), to create something (whether it’s writing or cooking or, I mean, one week I wallpapered my office with pages from my favorite novel, Dracula), and to engage with someone. And this could be over Zoom, or friends distanced around a firepit, or engaging my community, like helping a neighbor or dropping off supplies at our local center for foster kids. I started posting these “Daily G.R.A.C.E.” lists in my Instastories and it’s been a way to stay sane this year.

Well, you’ve tackled parenting, so now what are you working on next?


Calm the H*ck Down is really for any parent with kids from birth through middle school, and now as I’m parenting the high school years, I’m channeling some of my feelings into writing horror. In fact, I started each chapter in Calm the H*ck Down with quotes from some of my favorite horror movies, because parenting feels so scary. I’ve had the privilege of writing for Shudder’s Creepshow and adapted a Joe Hill story for “A Creepshow Animated Special,” which is streaming now. And while we’ve been treading water this year during the pandemic, I’ve coped by writing a YA horror novel for funsies. As the world’s spun out of control around me, I’ve pulled open my laptop every day and created these teenagers and put them in delightfully precarious situations. It’s very cathartic.

Melanie, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing this insight into your book.

If you’d like to find out more about Melanie, maybe you can join her at one of her upcoming events:

Tuesday, December 29 / 8:00 PM CT

Katy Budget Books
*Virtual Parenting Panel with Katy Budget Boos in Katy, Texas

Thursday, January 14, 2021 / 8:00 PM ET

*Calm the H*ck Down Virtual Happy Hour

*Please visit https://www.unexpected.org/books/calm-the-heck-down/ for further event details.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I think G.R.A.C.E. works for us all, children or not. Do you have any tips you’d like to share on keeping calm during these difficult times?


  1. I have no children either but have always thought it is a very difficult and yes scary job. this sounds like a very much needed book.

  2. I love the idea of not looking for perfection as a parent - not in yourself nor in others. It's a really healthy attitude. And it sounds as though this book has an effective mix of solid advice and wit. Thanks for sharing, Mason.


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