Sarah Jackson
Beyond Perfect
Alas, the time has come: After six years of serving as editor of Minnesota Parent, I’m heading to a new job at an amazing local company.When I started in this role, my son was just 5 years old, halfway through his kindergarten year.Now, he’s set to enter junior high — seventh-grade! — this fall. As he moves onto a new school and phase in his life, I’ve decided I’m ready to do the same. (I'll also be leaving my other editor role at Minnesota Good Age.)Indeed, the time feels... more
Parenting during a pandemic
Who was it that posted that very first school’s-closed-here’s-what-to-do-at-home schedule? You know, the one that had you getting up at 6 a.m., followed by 7 a.m. breakfast, 8 a.m. dressing, teeth-brushing and chores and one hour of reading at 9 a.m. and on and on it went with enrichment in every aspect of academic and social life.Are... more
Welcome aboard!
You’re pregnant! Congrats! This is going to big. I mean, it’s going to HUGE.If you’ve never had a child before, it’s hard to know what it’s really like to be a parent.Like a kid standing below a roller coaster — as its little train of cars twists, turns and plunges oh-so- high above you — you can only imagine what it’s like to ride that... more
Letting them fly
My son’s father recently suggested that our boy, age 11, fly to Washington, D.C., to see his grandmother on a solo trip this summer.After all, my son’s dad had flown alone as a child — starting at age 5! — to visit his relatives. And my son’s grandmother had sent her sons off to fly as minors as well. It’s actually not that... more
Worry. Fear. Anxiety. Self-doubt. Exhaustion.Why are these so often the badges of modern parenting? It’s because we care so much. Oh my god, we love them so much. Wearing these badges doesn’t feel like a choice to me. And I’m a relatively seasoned parent to an 11-year-old son.Yes, even now, when I drop him off at school, I can... more
A grateful 2020
A friend of mine, who has an equally dark sense of humor, recently recommended I download an app called WeCroak. It’s “The App That Reminds You You’re Going to Die,” according to The Atlantic.Inspired by a Bhutanese folk saying — “to be a happy person, one must contemplate death five times daily” — it indeed does notify you of this... more
Top priorities
I was standing in my kitchen on a Saturday with 1,000 things to do and just a few hours to go before I had to leave on a three-day trip. I was feeling overwhelmed, torn as always, about what to choose and what to let fall way.I had a head full of things I wanted to do, things I had to do and things I dreamed of doing — and they... more
Shop local!
Welcome, parents, to our annual Toy Issue, our official holiday gift guide, our map to all the things, sorted by age from baby to tween.This year, we’ve got quite a crop of gift ideas for you, a whopping 49 toys, 12 games and 6 stocking stuffers, all tested and approved by kids, parents and even a few grandparents — as part of our 10th-... more
Voices of color
Have you seen the billboards? The ones that say: “Minnesota schools are worst in the nation for our children of color”? As I write this Education Issue opening note, I can’t stop thinking about those signs.In fact, I was about to chime cheerily about the incredible amount of school choices we have in our fair state — as seen in two... more
What to expect
When a woman is pregnant, we say she’s “expecting” — because yes, when you’re with child, you’d better be ready! That baby is coming! And a lot will be expected of you, your body and your family.When I was pregnant, I religiously read the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting. (There’s that word again.)Yes, it was fun, discovering... more
Less is more
Is summer drawing to a close?If the State Fair is nearly here and Target has been selling Crayola products for weeks, I guess it is. I ask you, as I do every year, where did it all go? How did it go by so fast?And isn’t that just the perfect metaphor for parenting?And then there’s the way that summer ends — a too-soon-in-coming... more
A foodie’s paradise
We did it, guys: We published our first-ever Local Eats issue of Minnesota Parent! We’re so delighted to bring you this fun little romp through the Twin Cities food scene. Of course, we’re only scratching the surface of what’s available in our local culinary mecca, which has been basking in James Beard awards and national-media... more
Book that campsite now!
Welcome to our annual Outdoors Issue! As I write this, we’re in the middle of a fairly wet and cold spring in Minnesota. But fear not! This month’s magazine is designed to inspire you to jump into summer and the Great Outdoors with everything you’ve got. We’ve got parks for picnics and playdates; three Minnesota road trips; a... more
All of us
Welcome, parents and all, to our third-annual Special Needs Issue! I’m so glad you’re here. And I’m delighted that, three years ago, we decided to build an issue around this theme. Although not every story in this month’s magazine touches on special needs, our focus on this topic has been an amazing learning experience for our... more
Birth without fear?
Parents and parents-to-be: Welcome to our annual Maternity Issue!I’m so glad you’re reading this magazine. It’s filled with stories about the amazing phenomenon we call pregnancy as well as the miracle of birth. But to tell you the truth, I’m a bit conflicted about this issue, too. You wouldn’t believe how many stories we... more
Summer is coming
As I write this, the Twin Cities is yet again under siege — the snowy kind — with an inch or more falling per hour. Roads are only just passable. Schools, of course, are cancelled. My son is parked in front of his device, playing Fortnite with his other school friends, who are (thank goodness for me) doing the same. Right... more
A costly choice
Choosing someone to care for your child is one of the biggest decisions you can make as a parent.It’s a step in the parenting journey that creates the very beginning of your for-hire village. For me, choosing childcare wasn’t just about the excruciating decision to choose long stretches of time away from my child, which I knew would... more
Not for nothing
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Oh, how true, how true! As a Type A gal, this is one of the most challenging parts of parenting for me: Here’s this amazing little guy who I love so dearly, and I can’t and shouldn’t protect him (... more
Travel without fear
Before I had a child, I didn’t realize what a privilege it was to travel freely as an adult — without the need to care for another human.With kids, travel changes: You need a diaper bag filled with extra clothes for poopsplosions and you need to be ready to nurse or provide formula and/or snacks. Instead of being the airline... more
Watch out!
“Mom, watch me!”“MOM! Come here.”“Watch me! Watch me!”“Mom, mom, mom, mom, MOM.”When I hear this — as many of us parents so often do — I sometimes want to scream: “WHAAAAAT!?”It always seems to happen the second I’ve just started something or when I’m just about done with something (but not quite) or when I’m just TIRED.This is why it’s... more
A teachable moment
What’s at the top of your parenting regrets list? I’ve had 10 years now to second-guess all my mama moves and the list feels pretty long.Most of the time, I cut myself some slack and allow that this journey is a human one — and therefore imperfect.But as I was editing this Education Issue — our annual edition focused on the art and... more
Welcome, Parents!
When I was first married — undoubtedly talking about how stressful and busy my childless life was — all the seasoned parents around me would say, seemingly constantly: “Just wait ’til you have kids!” How utterly smug they seemed. It felt downright insulting, like they were saying: Honey, you have no idea. (I almost wanted to... more
Do you believe?
“Whether you think you can — or you think you can’t — you’re right.”This beloved self-help adage makes sense to me. They’re words to live by for sure. But could we extend that saying to how we treat our kids? Whether you think your kids can or can’t (do something), you’re right!As we move into back-to-school season, that time... more
Drink it in
Is anyone else having trouble staying focused lately?I don’t know about you, but this year I’ve had the WORST case of spring fever! All I want to do is be outside — just soaking it all in. Gardening, going on walks, hitting the trails, the beach, the pool, the soccer field, the tennis court, lakes, breweries, ice cream parlors.... more
Pulling it together
I know life is messy.In fact, becoming a parent has been a crash course in learning that life is really messy, figuratively and literally.But why oh, why, tell me, did my car have to die in rush-hour traffic in downtown Minneapolis in 90-degree heat, 75 minutes before my son was due to take the stage with 100 other kids at his choir... more
The good old times
As I write this, spring is in full swing and my house and yard are a mess. With all of us running in and out of the house, it’s even more chaotic and debris-filled than the winter months when we were holed up with books, screens and baking projects.Now — with our entire yard being used as part of our living space — I keep thinking I... more
Blind to difference
When our son was in preschool, he didn’t seem to see race.His dad and I were always so proud when he would describe a black person as “the purple guy” because of his purple shirt. His best friend was, in fact, black, and a girl.What a wonderful world, I thought. Our son, who attended a school far more diverse... more
A new kind of love
Welcome, parents and parents-to-be, to our annual Maternity Issue! It’s such an honor to be able to curate and edit this special edition with its focus on bump, birth and baby. Few experiences are as profoundly meaningful as having a child. Honestly, it’s pretty hard to do it justice. Parenthood is as big as it gets — creating (or... more
Letting go
I'm a big fan of the phenomenon of “camp.”Camp, as I’ve known it so far with my son, doesn’t look anything like the camps I knew as a kid — involving two weeks spent away in the woods in rustic cabins with counselors, swim buddies and campfire songs.To me, modern-day camp is day camp — a glorious (if somewhat costly) invention created to... more
Choosing childcare
When I was pregnant with my son — my first and only child — I was working full time as a newspaper features reporter.I told my boss I was for sure coming back to work.Childcare had been arranged so that both my husband and I could work. My son would go into full-time care at 4 1/2 months old.Would our plan actually... more
This too shall pass
I remember when our son — who started full-time daycare at 4½ months old — got sick ALL THE TIME.My husband and I went to work each day wondering if we’d get “the call” — fever, random vomiting, pinkeye, unexplained full-body rashes, constant crying.We’d bargain desperately with each other, trying to figure out who could take... more
What a trip!
Before I became a parent, one of my biggest pet peeves was babies wailing endlessly on airplanes. Why are you flying with infants, people? Flying is for grownups: sophisticated, vacationing folks who don’t want to be ear-ravaged in enclosed spaces. Babies don’t even have to PAY to be on planes because they don’t need seats. Why... more
Toy joy!
What does it take to put on Minnesota Parent’s annual Toy Test? All you need is two hours, 125 toys, 15 kids and two dozen critical parents and grandparents!You mix them all together and it’s easy to see what stands out and what fizzles. Parents fill out questionnaires with their gut reactions, listing pros, cons and whether they’d... more
Full of surprises
When it comes to academics, parents today face a ton of pressure! Even before our children are born, we’re encouraged to read to them and expose them to music in utero.Then there are the educational toys required to foster early math, reasoning and motor skills. And the music and movement classes. We must make our kids smart to... more
Struggles, not ‘snuggles’
When I was a new mother, Facebook was just becoming a big thing.It was so long ago (2008), that we announced our son’s birth primarily by email.But as the months went on, we started sharing photos of our kid — who we were just getting to know — with the ever-evolving social media landscape.It was addictive, watching the likes and... more
Bribery for behavior
One morning, when I asked my kid to get himself dressed for school, he immediately asked if he would receive an early birthday present in exchange for this great service. I said no, of course, thinking: Wait, what? After thinking for a second, he retorted sincerely: “But I’m not motivated. How am I supposed to get motivated?”Oh... more
All aboard!
If your kids are little and your budget is tight, the idea of traveling may seem like a joke: How can your family afford Disney World when you can barely scrape together enough to cover daycare and a holiday trip to visit your in-laws? And what’s so romantic about taking kids in diapers on the road, anyway?I feel you.But travel is... more
Mind over mud
Getting kids to play outside should be easy. But sometimes — in this age of nature-deficit disorder/screen-time and a strictly enforced culture of helicopter parenting — it seems like it’s never been more difficult.However, I’m here to tell you: Our kids really, really want it — water, dirt, air and mud, lots of mud — yes, even... more
Struggles, celebration
Welcome to our Special Needs Issue!I’m so excited to be bringing you a magazine with this new, important theme.Although we try to address special needs in every issue of Minnesota Parent — typically in our On Behavior department as well as throughout the magazine — I felt we needed to step up our game. And, boy, did we learn a lot... more
Growing up again
I cannot read Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! to my son without welling up with huge, mama-bear tears. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.Except when you don’t.Because, sometimes, you won’t.I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-upsand Hang-ups can... more
You won’t believe it
When my best friend had her first child, she couldn’t believe how hard it was caring for a baby. She’d heard all the stories about sleepless nights, endless crying and nasty diaper blowouts.She was a longtime babysitting pro and an auntie, too. She was great with kids. She even worked with elementary school children for a living.... more
Fake it ’til you make it
During my son’s earlier years, I wasn’t a confident parent. And the problem was wildly exacerbated during daycare drop-offs. Instead of emitting calm during the hand-off, I would respond to my son’s every effort to resist our separation.Oh, honey, you don’t want me to leave? How about one more hug? OK: How about I sit here for a bit... more
I just want a shower
I remember, when I was a new mother, looking desperately to my mama friends for advice.I had one friend who — skipping the fake war stories and humblebrags I’d become accustomed to — bluntly said: “I just want a damn shower.” Please pardon the not-family-friendly language, but the inflection/anger is important here.Indeed, just... more
Doing the best we can
Happy New Year, Minnesota parents!Will 2017 be a no-yell year for you? Will this be the year you finally take care of your marriage/partner/self (and not just your kiddos)? Will this be the year you become perfect and balanced and start going to the gym three times a week again?Of course it won’t. But as Amanda Bell — the #... more
Parenting hypocrisy?
Welcome to our Technology Issue!Yes, it’s that time of year when we address one of the biggest distractions human children have ever known — digital media. Given our issue theme, I thought this might be a good time to return to the story of my 8-year-old son and his technology use.Maybe you remember how, in our June Issue, I wrote... more
When the toy era ends
I’m so excited about all the awesome toys — and toy-related ideas — we’re spotlighting this month in our annual Toy Issue!Wait. What?You don’t want more toys? You don’t like how your carpet/coffee table/entire existence has disappeared under a thick layer of giant playgyms/mats/bouncers/vibrating chairs, noisemakers and Megabloks? Or... more
Sharing is comparing
When you have kids, you can’t help but be proud of them.Even the littlest things can make you swell up with almost unbearable pride — those first baby smiles, those early toddler dancing skills, those kindergarteners who can read before the start of school!We just can’t help it. They’re so impressive, we just have to tell our... more
Wide awake
Welcome to our annual Baby Issue! Whether you’re feeding a newborn right this very second, patting your belly in anticipation of a very important arrival or maybe even getting ready to welcome your first grandchild, this issue is for you! I expect the most-read article this month will be our sleep story, outlining five... more
A new chapter
It’s time for back to school!Oh, wait. Are you just starting school?I feel you. I remember my son’s first days of kindergarten (a big topic in this issue, as you will see). It all started the winter before his 5th birthday. His school hosted a Kindergarten Round Up, an afternoon event at which preschoolers and their parents... more
Summer’s flipside
Happy summer, Minnesota families!If you’re looking for things to do with your kids in the Twin Cities, you’ve come to the right place!This month’s issue — our annual Beat the Heat edition — includes 2 inclusive parks designed for all abilities, 4 family day trips reinvented, 13 shady places for babies, 14 fun splash pads, 19 summer... more
Nothing better to do
It's June!It’s time to spend every minute we can outside, right? But how? Check out our Outdoors Issue (June 2016) for starters. It's on racks now.Then please consider my advice for making the most of these summer months ahead: Pull back on screen time. I know, I know: I’ve read suggestions like these many times and I’ve... more
My birth story
OK, this isn’t my WHOLE birth story.But I can tell you this: My son’s birth included a dose of morphine and a possibly-botched epidural installment (because of curvature in my spine), which meant I felt powerful contractions to the end.Why exactly did I receive a narcotic?I believe, ultimately, it was because I was afraid — of pain, of... more
Why we need camps!
Have you picked up our Camp Issue (or perhaps paged through our e-edition) yet?It's a whopper.Yep: March is our biggest issue of the year for Minnesota Parent.Why? Summer camps — whether you’re looking for a half-day camp for your preschooler or an overnight camp for your teen — have become a tremendously important part of growing up in... more
The imperfect life
Parenting in the modern age — let’s face it — is complicated. To use the words of Jen Hatmaker in her viral essay for Today: We don’t just drink “a case of Tab” and send our kids outside for the day like parents of yore.No, we try to manage everything into a state of perfection. And things today are so not perfect.So, in our... more
Don't unplug
How could it possibly be December?Minnesota’s weather has been so dreamy — so delightfully mild — this fall! There’s no possible way I’m going to be prepared for the holidays in time (not that I ever am).And, yet, I have no regrets: When you get a chance to pick apples in late October, take bike rides in November and skip wearing... more
The wonders of kinetic sand!
Early childhood experts are always talking about how kids don’t need special toys: Just give a kid a cup, bowl or stick and let his imagination do the rest. This, they say, is how children learn — organic, creative, unplugged, self-directed play.And, for the most part, I believe this is true, especially for babies. (Check out... more
We're back to school! Now what?
We’re no longer heading back to school.We’re back. We’re in the thick of the school year now — whether that’s preschool, elementary, middle or high school — and we’re dealing with all the challenges that come with that.We’re back to homework, behavior issues, time-out chairs, test stress, bullying and everything else that comes... more
The business of being (re)born
Minnesota Parent’s annual Baby Issue is on stands now!It’s one of my favorite magazines to produce every year because — in my opinion — few things are more interesting, more complicated, more challenging or more fun (yes, really) than babies.Babies are the beginning of everything.Yes, they’re starting their own lives. And that’s... more
Summer's not over
What a strange time of year this is for us Minnesota parents: We’re reluctant to let go of our cherished last gasps of true warmth — and all the fun that summer brings.And yet, school-supply lists have been out for weeks (or longer). This year my son starts school on Aug. 31, which just makes it feel particularly early.Fortunately, our... more
Summer's almost here! Ready to explore?
When I was pregnant, my husband and I talked a lot about how we’d take our baby hiking.Living in Seattle at the time, we were big into outdoorsy stuff — backcountry camping, epic day hikes and 40-mile bike rides.Maybe we’ll get one of those bike trailer things, we thought. And we’d definitely need a backpack baby carrier.Well, it turned... more
Do you let your kids roam?
Are you a free-range parent? Or do you, like me, fall into the “reluctant helicopter” camp?Do you let your children play unsupervised, running around your neighborhood for entire afternoons without knowing their exact whereabouts? Would you let your kids walk home from the park even if it were a mile away and crossed a six-lane... more
Don't worry, Mama
You’re pregnant! For the first time!Or, maybe, again! Again? With twins! Twins!? Yep: You’re about to experience something awesome, dare I say, miraculous. And, yet … a pregnancy can also leave you wondering: What was I thinking? Never are the sublime and mundane so tightly intertwined as when you contemplate bringing a new life into the... more
V-Day inspiration!
Valentine's day falls on a Saturday this year. Um, yeah, like, THIS Saturday.What’s your plan, parents?How about … brunch at home!We know: Couples with kids (especially little kids) tend to push romance to the back burner. But with this easy plan, you don’t have to! You can even invite the kids! Single parenting? Make it FOR the kids!... more
School choice? Plenty!
Educational choice is just one of the reasons Minnesota is a great place to raise our kids. Though traditional public schools in our state are some of the best, many Minnesota parents often take advantage of other avenues to education such as open enrollment in a school outside their home district, plus charter schools, magnet... more
Education Fair
Need a FREE activity this Saturday? Join us at Minnesota Parent’s 9th-annual Education Fair at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory! Check out a variety of vendors offering ed opportunities in the classroom and beyond. And let the kids take part in a host of cool attractions from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., all free:• Photo-booth sessions... more
Why you should go to Ren Fest this weekend!
This year, I went to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival for the first time.Everyone I knew (across all age groups and walks of life) had raved about it. Arguments for the awesomeness of this so-called “Ren Fest” included:* Turkey legs!* Mead!* Jousting!* Unlike some festivals that throw up and tear down tents and exhibits in parking lots... more
Oh, baby! What now?
It’s finally out: our annual Baby Issue, highlighting that glorious stage of parenting — the first one — with all its mind-blowing joys, mystifying, frustrating challenges and personal growth you never thought possible!How could you love something this much? And — oh, yeah — why is it so hard? (Remember when you used to compare your dog... more
Mom wisdom for new parents
What could be more awesome than a new baby?If you’re secretly thinking: “A lot of things, actually,” I feel you. (As I've said previously, I didn't "take" to the early stages of motherhood very easily!)Your baby is supposed to be the best thing that’s ever happened to you. But your little darling can turn your life (body, mind, spirit)... more
First grade isn't any easier!
My son starts school on Tuesday.First grade!I thought this year would be easier.But today I woke at 3:30 a.m., worried.Anxiety: He’s taking the bus home from school for the first time this year and I still haven’t heard back from the bus folks to make sure he's on the schedule. (I filled out the form a tad late.)Will the teacher know to... more
Stop party-present mayhem
Parenting is full of unexpected phenomena.One of the craziest, if you ask me, is insanity that ensues when a young child opens his or her birthday presents at a big, public party.It started for our family during the preschool years when we began having bouncy-house birthday parties for our son.After jumping around like crazy animals for... more
Playing with a stick is ‘magical’
“If our grandmothers and great-grandmothers could see the pressure modern mothers put on themselves, they'd think we were insane.”That’s how Bunmi Laditan, the Quebec-based author of wildly popular “Honest Toddler” book and blog opened her post, “I’m Done Making My Kid's Childhood Magical.”“Ah, yes,” I thought. “This is just what I need... more
Expect great things!
One of the trickiest things about parenting for me these past six years has been managing expectations.
It all started with What to Expect When You’re Expecting and What to Expect: The First Year. These books led me to believe my baby boy would behave in a certain way (the correct way). And if he didn’t, I was worried, frustrated and,... more
Spring is here! Right?
Well, time will only tell just when spring will arrive for good. But, when it does, you’ll be ready with our May issue of Minnesota Parent magazine!We're taking you to five different waterfalls across the state — perfect outings with young kids who really need a goal, such as a gorgeous destination, to get motivated. Then we’ll help you... more
Parenting 101
I have so much to learn.That’s what I keep thinking as I travel down the winding, wonderful road of parenthood with my 5-year-old son.Every time I think we’ve figured it out, I realize there’s more to discover. I want to teach our boy everything. I want to empower him to take care of himself. But what are best ways to do that in a... more