Lukewarm Love: Tepid Parents & Tender Moments

J Dana Stahl
8 min readJul 16, 2022

This might be a blog…or the beginning of an entire story.

Tepid and tender go together about as well as oil and water. For kids who grew up with tepid parents, warm childhood memories are like unicorns. They might have occasionally happened, but you’ll need photographic evidence to serve as a reminder.

Lukewarm love blog by j dana stahl growing up with cold parents floral header

Tax-Day Love

If you grew up with a parent who expressed more feelings on Tax Day than on your first day of kindergarten, then you know. It’s not that they didn’t love us. They did. And they do still; it’s just different. It’s more of a hey-I-don’t-want-you-to-get-eaten-by-an-alligator love, not an I-want-to-hug-you-and-read-you-bedtime-stories love.

It’s also an if-you-get-into-a-tussle-with-an-alligator-don’t-get-dirt-in-the-house kind of love.

As a grown-up, when I hear friends talk about heartfelt talks and poignant coming-of-age stories, it all sounds like a fantasy language that might be spoken by gnomes and fairies and princesses at tea parties. I didn’t have tea parties, but on the other hand, there’s no way the “foibles” my family brushed under the rug would ever make it onto a Lifetime Movie either. We fell somewhere in the middle, and sometimes the middle is ok. It teaches you what you want to do better when you have a family of your own.

Diet Shasta, Country Roads & Dirt

I grew up in the country with a fridge full of Diet Shasta, a garden hose, and a mom who didn’t want to see us during the daytime. While other kids were learning to bake with their moms and had dads who patiently taught them how do drive a stick, I was trying to decipher the instructions on the tiny paper that comes inside the tampon box because taboo subjects, heart-to-heart conversations, and straightforward talk were off-limits in our house. Plus, if I woke Mom up from a nap, there was hell to pay.

I distinctly remember the day we had “the talk” about becoming a woman. It went something like this. My mom was on the way to her room for a nap, but before she closed her door, she handed me an informational booklet that told me all about how my uterus was going to turn on me and attack me from the inside with cramps, make me bleed until I was anemic, and need a slew…

J Dana Stahl

I’m a dreamer who believes there might just be a smidgeon of good left in this world. I believe in being nice, playing fair, and tacos...lots of tacos.