This book will resonate with any adult who is trying to reach and/or understand a preteen, teen or young adult.  It will highlight some truths you might not know, which could help protect your loved ones.

FREE: First Two Chapters Below

Chapter 1


     April 2008


The loud sirens and flashing lights whipped by my window, disturbing my peace and quiet. We rarely got ambulances with sirens blaring in our area. One of the many things I liked about our home was that we lived in a quiet, peaceful suburb where our newspaper’s most exciting events to report were the newest wildlife sightings, causing the bi-weekly publishing to be pleasantly dull.

As the jarring sound faded into the distance, I realized that someone’s life in our peaceful neighbourhood had changed, maybe forever. Thank goodness my only experience with an ambulance was when a ping-pong table snapped back together before I could pull my hand out of the way.  I learned to do most things around the house with only one extremity as the other was stitched and bandaged. Thankfully, after many months of physical therapy, I could move my fingers and was finally able to blow dry my hair myself, so the change in my life was temporary.  For many who have had an ambulance take them to the hospital, their entire existence was altered or stopped in the blink of an eye. 

I craned my head over the chair, trying to peek beyond the trees to determine which home it was that this tragic event must’ve happened. That was when I noticed that the sky had turned grey on that end of the street. The clouds started moving swiftly, like marching ants trying to repair their stepped-on colony hill. It was ominous and preparing us that a nasty storm was brewing.

I wanted to forget that the world had hardships and gloomy weather by pretending it didn’t exist and go back to my assumption that bad things didn’t happen here in my little corner of the world. I snuggled back into my favourite seat, legs curled up underneath me, and sipped my morning coffee.

I should’ve known the weather was changing even without seeing that threatening sky, as my thermally challenged body quickly detects whenever there’s a damp chill in the air. Throwing a blanket around my legs and feet, I returned to reading and successfully forgot about the evil that might be lurking in my neighbourhood. 

Intuition summoned me to look up from my book as Kate walked by. Something was different about her, but I couldn’t quite grasp what it was. She stood at the top of the stairs, hesitated, turned around, and smiled weakly. “Good morning, Mom.” She knew that was the expected greeting before she headed downstairs.

“Good morning, baby girl,” I responded in kind. Was it instinct? Why did I imagine that something wasn’t right? Was it something about how she barely held eye contact, or was it her appearance? I paused while thinking of the right way to describe my apprehension. Was it her demeanour that caused me uneasiness? Something in the back of my brain was gnawing away at me, and warning bells were going off. She’d been preoccupied for a while now, and I wondered if she was going through another one of her teenage mood swings. She was only seventeen, and I had mistakenly figured that the teenage moodiness would be slowing down a bit more by now.

After several minutes without being able to clear the fog in my brain, I decided it must just be my imagination. After all, Kate had been acting hormonal, on and off, for the last few years. Thinking back to an article I had read, they said the brain doesn’t fully develop until they are at least twenty-five. That means we have a long way to go. Life would be much easier if we all communicated on the same level. Understandably, that was why kids need us to watch out for them until they’re adults and move out.

I picked up my book to resume where I left off, but after reading and re-reading the same line repeatedly, I realized I couldn’t concentrate. The furnace came on, causing the pages of my discarded book to flutter while lying open on my lap. I allowed my brain to continue reminiscing about the last five years. Life had been tenuous in our house, for sure. Because Kate and I were always at odds about something, or more correctly, about everything, I was always apprehensive about when the next blow-up would happen. There wasn’t a day that went by when she couldn’t help herself, and she’d huff, puff, or snarl at me for something I did or said. Often, it was when I was at her to finish a chore or do her homework. Her dislike for me was most evident when I asked about her life or friends. She never wanted me to “butt in.”

She’d learned to give me the briefest answers and then change the subject. I’d often let it ride, but there were times when I just couldn’t, as I knew there was a nugget of important information I needed to dig out. That usually sent her to her room, muttering under her breath, although sometimes she couldn’t resist, and she’d screamed at me instead. Only once did she say she hated me, but her hate was evident more times than she ever verbalized. But I didn’t give up when I needed to know something, which caused tension in our house most days. In short, she didn’t want to be parented by me, insinuating that it was an intrusion into her personal life.

I sighed as I desperately tried to remember a good time. Shaking my head, I gave up because it was impossible to think beyond the hurt. One thing was for sure, whatever was going on with Kate would undoubtedly lead us to more tense days ahead. I rationalized that I couldn’t do anything about it, so I picked up my book, continued reading, and tried to relax.

A couple of hours later, she returned to grab something from the fridge. Even though I’d been able to get back into my book, my ‘mama spidey senses’ insisted I check on her again. Feeling lost as to what could be the issue or even if there was one,  I smiled and decided to come out and ask, “You okay, Kate?”

“Sure, Mom” was her passing comment, but then she hesitated and added for good measure as she understood I was concerned: “All is good.”

Where was her regular snippy tone? Was this some new game to appease me so I wouldn’t ask more questions, or was it possible she was maturing? Kate was developing into quite a beautiful young woman and getting taller, so maybe she was growing out of the teenage attitude. But if it was just maturity, why was there such a profound look of sadness in her eyes that overwhelmed me when I observed her? She’d had some tough patches during her teen years. She got fired from a few jobs, didn’t do well in school, and recently lost closeness to some of her friends. Unlikely, those issues would cause this kind of deep-seated, uncharacteristic sadness in her.

Kate always had a strong personality. Even at two, she’d decided she didn’t want to go to bed, which led to a screaming session every night for almost two years. Not one to give in to a child, I sat on the top step outside her door and cried out of pure frustration, praying she’d stop screeching. I couldn’t imagine what caused her to feel it was necessary to put on such a daily show. What turmoil was going on in her head to be this anxious come bedtime, or was she just being stubborn? I’d go in occasionally to ensure she was not hurt or in danger of breaking anything and try to calm her down, but usually to no avail.

Years later, due to other issues with her behaviour, I’d decided out of sheer defeat that maybe I should read a parenting book to see what I was doing wrong. That didn’t help. When Kate got older, we went to a counsellor for a few sessions until she refused to talk. I even tried asking one of the staff at the school for advice in the hope that her experience with children would bring forth some wisdom I could try. All she said was that all children would behave in any way that would give them attention. Her final suggestion was to “start giving her more attention for the good things she’s doing and ignore the bad.”

We struggled with that suggestion and modified it slightly by giving Kate more superficial consequences for bad behaviour. We worked hard to find ways to provide her with simple tasks so that we could compliment and praise her when and if she accomplished them. It was an arduously slow process, but we’d made some headway.

Snuggling deeper into my chair, I realized that I’d only been reflecting on the parts of Kate’s personality that I found difficult. She also had many unique talents and the biggest heart, especially for animals and the world’s underdogs. Loyalty was her biggest strength,  and that quality would protect everyone she loved. I knew she’d be a very tenacious woman, but I could see that getting her to adulthood wouldn’t be easy.

                              Chapter 2

     May 2008


The rain clouds were rolling in, and the thunder was rumbling in the distance. As I stood at the window, I knew the storm would be here soon, and it felt menacing. Springtime is usually refreshing and rejuvenating as new growth arises from the earth, but this year, the world seems gray instead of green. The universe is ensuring we are aware of its displeasure.  About what is the gnawing question. Hoping Mother Nature dispenses with her temper tantrum by summertime reminds me I still need to book that cottage today for our family vacation before there are no openings left.

              I heard Kate pounding down the steps before I felt the wind whip by me in her hurry to leave. “Wait up, young lady.” Sternly adding, “You aren’t wearing that to school,”

She hovered over the door jamb with the screen door held open in her hand, trying to decide if she should make a run for it. “Mom, come on,” she screamed at me without turning around.

“Turn around, Kate,” I instructed as calmly as I knew how, knowing full well I wouldn’t like what I saw.

She turned, deliberately, slowly, with a snarl on her face. But more horrifying was what she had on her face. She’d painted tears at the corners of her eyes to make it appear like blood was coming from them, and black surrounded the sides of her eyes and eyelids.

“What the hell.” My voice was now not so calm. “You can’t be serious. Get upstairs, wash that off your face, and change your clothes into something more appropriate for your age.”

The screen door slammed shut as she stomped up the stairs, arms flailing and mouth going nonstop. She was mumbling because Kate knew she’d be grounded again if I heard what she was probably saying under her breath.

I stood at the bottom of the steps this time and waited. Finally, she showed up at the top of the stairs and glared at me, “Is this suitable, your highness?”

Although wrinkled and I saw a stain, at least the outfit didn’t show her behind and boobs.

I nodded and added, “Take that stuff off your face.”

“It’s art, Mom,” she wailed.

“No, it’s evil and will scare any little kids that see you. Take it off,” I tried to say as calmly as possible.

Ten minutes later, she came out of the bathroom, eyes red from rubbing off the black and blood stains and still wearing the snarl. “Hope you’re happy,” she huffed as she walked by me and out the door.

Well, I wasn’t happy, not by a long shot. So why would Kate think my fighting with her would make me happy? This child, normally so full of life and mischief, was a bit of a conundrum to me lately. She’d recently developed a ‘your opinion isn’t important’ attitude. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was caring and affectionate, leading me to wonder why she wanted everyone to think she wasn’t.

I reminisced how, on several occasions, she’d sense I’d endured a bad day, and she’d be the one to encourage the kids to go and play, getting them out of my hair for a while so I could breathe, even if just for a little bit. I understood this was a rare gift.

Many children might sense something was wrong with their parents, but not many would take the time to do what they could to help. Most wouldn’t even know ‘how’ to do something about it. But my daughter was always working people. Unless you wronged her, she’d work with you to find out how she could help. Make your life better. But if you hurt her or anyone she loved, well, let’s just say you won’t want to do that.

I smiled as I sat over my coffee, thinking about all that made up my complex, incredible, yet challenging daughter. I loved her intelligence and her ability to read people. I loved her helpful nature. I loved that she was extremely loyal. What I didn’t love was her secrecy.

Kate did not share her thoughts easily, so finding out the truth from her was almost impossible. Coming right out and asking was probably not my best option right now. Remembering my children mimicking Winnie the Pooh when they tried to figure something out, I tapped my finger to my temple, then quoted Winnie by saying, “Think, think, think,” hoping that little gesture would work. Maybe I should ask her brother.

Although brilliant in many ways, my oldest child was usually in his own world. He loved spending time with us, but he wasn’t always mindfully present. Instead, he would be off in his head, thinking about his current obsession. Be it rocks, gems, tornados, writing, or snakes. His newest obsession was fashion. My son was determined to become a model, which caused him to check out skin blemishes or pose in front of every mirror he passed. He was obsessive to a fault but tenderhearted and loyal like his sister, leaving me to wonder, would he even tell me if he knew?

“No, Mom, I don’t know what’s wrong. Are you sure there’s something wrong?” he added when he glanced at me through the mirror, seeing my arms crossed in front of me, leaning against the door jam. He knew I wouldn’t let him off that easily, so he finished by saying. “You are probably overthinking this. Or maybe one of her friends is pissing her off.”

“Not helpful, thanks,” I threw over my shoulder sarcastically as I pushed my shoulder off the door jam and walked out of his room.


Washing the dishes at the kitchen sink and gazing out at the spring flowers that had finally started to rise in the neighbour’s garden, I pondered what our summer would be like. I was hoping for long, sunny days with cool evening breezes, but if Mother Nature is still as angry as she’s been this spring, it will probably be a long, humid season. Attendance to our ‘Family nights’ would be easier if it was hot and humid as everyone would want to be inside with the air conditioner.

That was the one good thing about winter, as it got dark earlier, making it easier for everyone to want to be snuggled into the rec room with the fireplace, eating hot popcorn, playing games, or watching movies. Getting them to commit to being there on a Friday night was more challenging in summer’s warmer, longer days. We eventually changed it to Sunday nights, and it became something I rarely had to push.

Usually, I’d gently remind them when and if they complained that if I could give up work and events to put my family first, so could they. Ultimately, they must’ve enjoyed those evenings because they rarely gave me a hard time or tried to escape them.

Maybe this year during the summer we could play games outside. I could have a ‘Fear Factor’ challenge. That would be —

“Mom,” Kate interrupted my pondering with an annoyed voice, obviously ticked that she’d had to call me twice.

“What?” I turned to face her, irritated that she scared me. I’d not heard her come down the stairs or move beside me. Kate stood there, staring at me with eyes full of apprehension. I wasn’t sure if she’d refuse, but I leaned in for a hug, partly to help calm her but mostly to calm myself. I was a bit jumpy, not only from her scaring me but mainly from the look in her eyes. She leaned into my open arms but didn’t hug me back.

“Do you want breakfast?” I asked, hoping to alleviate some of her tension.

“No, thanks.” She tensed up. I sense excitement, or maybe it’s fear, but I’m not sure which.  As she pulls away, I try to figure out which one. “I want to ask you something.”

“Sure, anything,” I answered without hesitation. I was apprehensive due to the concentration on Kate’s face, but I could tell this would be a serious conversation, so I was praying I‘d have the wisdom to give good advice.

“How do I become a camp counsellor?”

“A what?” I asked, stunned. Okay, so maybe this wasn’t going to be a serious conversation. She was kidding, right?

Annoyed by my response, “You know, like at the camp you used to live at, but obviously, I just want to go for a week,” she snapped.

“Okay, sorry. No need to get edgy,” I snapped back. I paused for a moment to compose myself. I see Kate impatiently tapping her foot, waiting for me to continue.

I’m trying hard not to let her edginess make me overreact. “But you don’t like kids, and you don’t like anything to do with the church. You roll your eyes whenever I talk about the camp where I grew up. Are you sure you realize you are asking to be a counsellor at a Christian camp?” I  paused to inspect her more closely. “If so, I’m just a little surprised, that’s all.”

“Well, I need more volunteer hours for school, like 30 hours, and I could get them all done in one week as a counsellor.”

My brain went to all the reasons why this was probably not a good idea, but instead of saying so, I just nodded, turned to the island and started wiping down the counter.

She rounded the corner of the island to make me look at her. “Can you help me figure out how to apply”?

“I can,” I paused, “but I’d assume it is too late to try and get in so close to their opening season. But let me ask around for you.” Considering her lack of interest in the church and her attitude lately, I was not sure this would be an easy sell, nor was I convinced this was a good idea. I decided not to express my concerns.

I changed the subject by holding up a cup, silently asking if she wanted a coffee. Kate had turned down breakfast, which was not unusual for her as she rarely eats before noon, but I wasn’t surprised when she nodded yes to the coffee. She loves coffee. Truthfully, she loves those creamy, slushy, cold coffee-flavoured icecaps from Tim Hortons more, but I wasn’t offering one of those so early in the morning. I was hoping the coffee would distract her, and that would be the end of the discussion for now. I’d think about it again later when she wasn’t around.

“Mom, I really, really need this,” she insisted.

I sighed, realizing neither my rebuttal nor trying to distract her had worked, so I replied, “Okay, sweetie, I’ll call around.” I was hoping there were no counsellor positions available. There was no way she was even slightly aware of what taking care of that many children would be like, and I couldn’t imagine what she’d do if one of the campers treated her like she sometimes treated me.

She turned and went back upstairs.

I knew she had a lot of volunteer hours already, but she’d not asked the leader to sign the sheets at the time. It would’ve been easier to go back and get those signatures than to handle a cabin full of kids for a week. I was stumped. But, on the other hand, spending time away for a week in a safe environment might be what she needed to get out of her funk.

Perhaps she could make new friends who would be better influences than her current ones. I felt terrible thinking that way about girls I didn’t know well, but that was part of the problem. I often offered to have them over for dinner, come for a drink on the deck, or join us for game night, hoping to get to know them, but Kate always came up with excuses for why that wasn’t possible. She’d always wangle out of them coming over and instead would go to their place, stating, “I’m not embarrassed by you guys, but they have more fun stuff.” I’m sure there was more to it, and worse, I hated that  I didn’t believe her.

Sipping the last of my coffee, I quickly turned toward the sink and spat it out. I hate cold coffee. I glanced at the flowers in the neighbour’s garden again and wished my life could be as simple as theirs. Instead, I’m standing here trying to determine what my daughter is up to. She wants to be a counsellor? Really? 

Other books from Lynda Harlos

I was the Perfect Parent...then I had kids book cover

“It” might happen during pregnancy or when your children are teens, but we all get there eventually: that feeling that, as a parent, you are a failure. The fear that you have screwed up your children and you are not sure if they will survive. At one point, you probably thought you had it all figured out–then your kids proved you wrong. Lynda gets it as she has been there.


This parenting guide is the sequel to ‘I was the Perfect Parent…then I had kids’, and will lead you through the highlights of the stages of a child’s life and the parenting journey you are now on and give you some suggestions of how to survive and thrive in each of them. Lynda hopes the gift of her ‘Confessions of a Perfect Mom,’ will show you that you are not alone in your struggles. Even though you most likely will make mistakes, just keep doing the very best you can and ensure your motive is to help them become the best person they can be, always giving them a safe place to come home to and making sure they know you love them, no matter what! 


“Between last night and this morning I spent about 3 hours reading your book ‘I was the perfect parent…’ And I absolutely love it! I’ve learned so much about parenting that I wish I knew before. It would’ve prevented me from many parenting mistakes. Keep up the great work! “

Irene M.

“Already loving the title and am so intrigued by it! And your vlogs are incredible, thank you for sharing! Can’t wait to read more!”
Alisia A.

I LOVED IT!  It will be an inspirational book for many just like the author. It’s warm, generous, and so good for helping with the guilt you feel at times with raising children”
Irene M.