The first time I heard the definition of parenting, I was about seven years old. I was on a sleep over at my best friend’s house at the time. We’ll call her Betty. So, Betty and I tell her Mom we want to make breakfast. We were sure we could make pancakes. Betty’s Mom had to run an errand and promised to be back in just a few minutes. Betty’s Dad was in the next room watching TV. What could go wrong?

When Betty’s mom returned a short while later holding a small grocery bag, it was hard to describe the look on her face. Apparently, it was obvious to her that the mixing machine could not hold the pancake mix, eggs, and milk, as it normally did. Those ingredients were now flung far and wide on the walls and on the floor.

Not only that, but all the gooey maple syrup dripping and flowing off the kitchen counter made it clear that we hadn’t been able to make things look better before she got home.

Now, there were many possible reactions that Betty’s Mom could have had. Just thinking about the full range of emotions that might happen at any minute was enough to make two best friends tremble. Instead, Betty’s Mom put down the grocery bag, let out a sigh, and uttered these words: “You know girls, sometimes parenting is REALLY inconvenient.”

I give this fine woman a lot of credit. Not only did she hold her anger in check, she showed us how to clean up our mess. Then she did something really special. She worked with us to make a delicious pancake breakfast with all the fixings. Betty’s Mom and Dad sat with us, laughed with us, and created this memory that I am sharing with you today.

Cleaning up messes, responding with grace, tolerance, kindness, and teamwork, were just some of the lessons I learned in that kitchen. I now pay the gift forward in the many life lessons served up in the Boomer and Halley series of books I write to help children learn lessons wrapped in laughter and love.

These are the same kinds of stories you’ll find throughout Shady Pines Story Town.

I hope in your home, your family, and in your community – you find a way to do the same!


Mary Jane McKittrick is the Chief Creative Officer of Shady Pines Story Town, a delightful destination that harkens back to a kinder, gentler bygone era. In this tight-knit community populated by human and animal cartoon characters of all ages and backgrounds, children are encouraged to make good life choices through laughter, love, adventure, and imagination. This project combines Mary Jane’s love of animals and storytelling and her knack for wacky humor. A native of Los Angeles, California, she enjoyed a successful career in television entertainment, broadcast news, and corporate communications. She is also a national award-winning author of the Boomer and Halley book series. In her Shady Pines™ Story Town project, Mary Jane draws upon life lessons she learned firsthand while living on a historic horse farm in North Carolina.