Five Parenting Lessons I’ve Learned from “Law & Order”

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I love the television show “Law & Order.” Every version. Every season. Every episode. I watched it continuously through both of my (never-ending) pregnancies to the point where I swear my newborn thinks the opening credit music is a lullaby.

People (ahem, my mom and the hubby) get on my case, a lot, for watching too much “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (SVU). I don’t see the big deal. Not only am I boning up on my “Law & Order” legal degree for free (I can object with the best of them), but I also think I’ve learned a lot about parenting from that show.

1. Trust No One
This might seem really paranoid but when it comes to your kids, is there ever such a think as being too paranoid? No, I think not. My mother-in-law can be watching them, or even my own mother, and I leave detailed notes, instructions, directions – everything they need to navigate the insane world of twin toddlers and an infant. I also have monitors in both of the kids’ room that I can watch from my cellphone.

Yes, I know, they managed to raise kids on their own without any major snafus, but these are my kids, my life, my everything. This one time on “SVU”, Detective Elliot Stabler’s daughter got arrested on a DUI while his wife was supposed to be watching her. HIS OWN WIFE. Seriously. Trust no one.

2. Go With Your Gut
When you’re a mother, you have a lot of feelings. Some are hormones, some are from exhaustion but some are from your gut. That feeling you get deep down where you just know something is up. When we left the city for the suburban life, we had to part with our much beloved nanny. It was heartbreaking for the kids, but even more so for me. I had to pick someone else I could (kinda) trust with my children (see above if you are confused where I stand on that.)

On paper this one girl seemed amazing – former nursery school teacher. In person, she was great, too. She even laughed at my jokes and shared her French fries. But when she met my kids…that was another story. She seemed completely intimidated by my 18-month old twins, who happen to be incredibly awesome, objectively speaking. I couldn’t eat; I couldn’t sleep and I just knew she wasn’t right for us. My husband tried to talk me out of it, but I had to fire her, before she even started. By her reaction, I have a feeling she was thinking the same thing – completely in over her head. But I followed my gut and now we have a nanny that my kids and I absolutely adore.

3. It’s OK to Cry
Some people say to never let your kids see you cry, but I don’t subscribe to that policy. On “SVU”, Detective Olivia Benson is the queen of crying. She’s gotten better over the years, but people really open up when they see her emotions. Would this also work with my kids? Definitely worth a try.

Just this week, I felt awful. Sick to the point where sitting up was an issue. It also happened that our nanny called in sick so I was on fulltime mommy duty with the twins and our 7-month old. By mid-afternoon, I was at my wit’s end. I started to cry. One of the twins came up to me, put his head on my lap and said, “I love you, mommy.” Not that I felt better after that, but I think in their own way, the boys were a little better behaved the rest of the day.

4. Having a Partner is a Must
You must have a partner. I don’t care whether your partner is a wife, husband, best friend, great aunt or whatever, but having someone on your side is a definite. You need someone to have your back when the kids get a “no” from you and look elsewhere. Plus, how else can you threaten them? I often use the “wait until your father gets home” line when I can’t get them to listen to me. And of course, you need someone to listen to and understand those funny, hilarious, infuriating stories you just have to share. Sometimes Social Media just isn’t enough.

“SVU” is all about different partnerships, Olivia and Elliot, Munch and Tutuola, Olivia and Amaro, but the one thing that is constant is that they always stick together. They have each other’s back against everyone else. In my case, this means solidarity against the three little people who now outnumber my husband and me.

5. Interrogate Wisely
This is more from the Order part of “Law & Order.” Think Executive District Attorney Jack McCoy. Keep it short and sweet when asking a question. Plus, it’s often better to already know the answer.

If I want a yes or no answer from the boys, I make sure they know that. No story, please, just yes or no. Did you hit your brother, yes or no? I don’t need the backstory. It’s a great attorney’s trick – stick to the meat and avoid the rest (sob story, emotions, etc). My boys are still young (not even three) and one of them is already a champion at this. Unfortunately, the other one is a fabulous snitch so their stories don’t always line up. Can’t win them all. Case dismissed!

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