The Imposter Parent (5 Things I Learned about Parenting from 5 Unlikely Sources)

In a slant of afternoon sunlight, while I stood barefoot in the kitchen with the refrigerator door open eating my kids’ Halloween candy, while they were off at school, I received an email about the upcoming Readers’ Favorite award ceremony.

Next week, my family and I will board an airplane and fly to Miami, Florida to witness Bedtime Stories for the Living receive the Gold Medal Award (first place) in the Parenting Category of the International Readers’ Favorite Book Contest.

I crushed a Kit-Kat and read over the weekend’s itinerary. About the Miami Book Fair and Friday’s Meet and Greet with best- selling authors and New York City publishers and media outlets covering Saturday’s award ceremony.

As I tongued the chocolate from the corner of my mouth, I realized the other medal winners in the Parenting category might be there and they might have great expectations for the Gold Medalist. My heart thumped.

Between bites of a Twix, I Googled some of the other books in the Parenting category. They were well-researched books written by professionals, doctors and child psychologists, who built careers studying, researching, and teaching about the family enterprise.

I opened an Almond Joy, the one candy bar my kids unanimously dislike, and took a bite. When I asked them why they dislike Almond Joys, Dylan informed me that they are for, “old people.”

I imagined the other authors might want to talk parenting strategies with me? Maybe they’ll use big, academic terms that I’ll smile at and pretend to know. Maybe they’ll ask my thoughts on the groundbreaking parenting research done by Darling and Steinberg. Maybe they’ll ask of the four main parenting styles do I find most effective. I swallowed.

Would they expect the Gold Medalist to be toting a wrinkle-free, color-coordinated family, who collectively smells like coconut, and who functions like a well-avocado-oiled machine?

Imposter syndrome is defined by the inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills. It’s symptoms include: self-doubt, feeling unworthy of praise, and pretending to not know the answers to questions they know the answers to.

In fact, the Cleveland Clinic concurs that imposter syndrome is common among adults. Seven out of ten adults experience this self-sabotaging syndrome. And this “fear of being exposed as a fraud” can trigger stress and anxiety, which can lead to unhealthy behaviors. Like relentlessly eating your kids’ Halloween candy.

In this letter to you, I want to be very clear and tell you that winning the Parenting category was a tremendous achievement. I’m extremely proud of the book. I believe the book is relatable, well-written, and thought provoking. However, I’m a bit intimidated to step into a room of finely dressed professional writers. I feel a bit like a kid on Halloween, I’m simply wearing a parenting costume, posing for pictures, and, with an old pillowcase in hand, attempting to trick everyone

My parenting qualifications pale in comparison with the experts and since there is no time to return to school and earn a PhD in Parenting before next week, I need to ease my imposter syndrome and remind myself I do know some things about parenting. So here are 3 books, 2 songs, and 1 movie that taught me important lessons about parenting.

3 Books:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Despite battling starvation, hypothermia, and hungry cannibals while tramping across a stark, post-apocalyptic world, a father tries teaching his son the importance of compassion in a compassionless world.

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

This play exposes the destructive power of believing in one’s own bullshit. How a parent’s bullshit is eventually smelled by their kids. And how the foul scent can linger for a lifetime.

The Humans by Matt Haig

An alien invades Earth, morphs into a human mathematician, falls in love with a woman, helps a depressed teenage boy, and learns a fundamental truth: love demands the truth.

2 Songs:

Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) by John Lennon

Close your eyes
Have no fear
The monster’s gone
He’s on the run and your daddy’s here

A parent’s principal duty is simply to be present. To scare away the monsters. To make the world a little less scary.

Jesus was an Only Son by Bruce Springsteen

Well Jesus was an only son
As he walked up Calvary Hill
His mother Mary walking beside him
In the path where his blood spilled

The cruelest thing for a parent to witness is their own child’s suffering. Yet children must walk alone, like their parents did, along the hard path of consequence and suffer. Because sadly, in this human experience, suffering is the only way to discover truth.

1 Movie:

Mrs. Doubtfire

The cinematic exemplification of the imposter syndrome. Robin Williams taught us parenting requires adaptation. In life, things happen and parents must be willing to adapt to those changes. Even if it requires you to dress up like a post-menopausal English woman.

I finished a Butterfinger, jiggled the candy bowl so the kids wouldn’t notice, and closed the refrigerator door. And if they ask about the candy, I will shrug my shoulders and pretend not to know anything.

Be well,


Buy Here!

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take…

A few months ago, with low expectations, I took a shot and entered “Bedtime Stories for the Living” in the highly regarded, highly competitive international book contest presented by Readers’ Favorite. Readers’ Favorite is an established force in the publishing industry. They have worked withPenguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors.

Anyway, just before I was about to take a midday nap, I was informed that this suburban dad had won…

First Prize, the Gold Medal, in the Non-Fiction/Parenting genre!

The award ceremony is in November and is at Hilton Blue Lagoon in Miami, Florida.

It was totally unexpected. I’m totally honored. And I totally can’t wait for my kids to question my parenting skills so that I can gently remind them I wrote a Gold Medal winning parenting book.


Quote of the Week:


If you would like to share something with others (a photo, a poem, a song, a quote, etc.) that tosses some positive vibes into the world, please send your suggestions to me at Thanks!


Are you a reader? Looking for your next good book to read or listen to? Check out my new page “Jay’s Book Shelf” for some book recommendations.

Here’s what I’m currently reading: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I taught this book for years to my 12th grade students (hence the tattered, Post-it filled copy). Most of the students hated it. It’s not a beach read or one you could casual skim like Tik-Tok videos. I mean, at 18 years-old, I’d probably hate it too. This is an “old” person’s book. I think the longer you live, the more joy and heartbreak you experience, the greater appreciation you will have for this Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Also, if you haven’t heard, McCarthy’s novel “The Passenger” was recently published. It’s his first novel in 16 years. 


If you like this post, you may also like:

The Big Reveal


How to Climb Today’s Mountain


Your Voice is the Most Powerful Thing You Own


A Letter to My Son (mostly about) Baseball


Jay Armstrong is a writer, speaker, former high school English teacher, and an award-winning authorDespite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. The leader of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group, he hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:

1. Reading
2. Writing 
3. Exercising
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a drink with his friends)

Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time. 

You can also visit Jay at


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