Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mother's Day is Coming!

Yes, Mother’s Day is coming, which leads me to remind you all that my book All About Motherhood is the perfect gift for moms at all ages and stages. In keeping with this Mother’s Day time of year, I was thinking, the other day, of a woman I know who once told her prospective second husband at the very moment that he asked her to marry him, that he’d have to keep one thing in mind if he wanted the relationship to work. “I’m a mother,” she said, “and my daughter will always come first.” Hah!
            Now, usually (but certainly not always) men don’t find this out until much later, until after the wedding has taken place, the years have passed, the nine months of pregnancy have been enjoyed (or endured). Only then, when junior pops forth from the womb, does dad see the glowing, glazed look in his wife’s eyes, and somewhere, deep in his soul, realize that in his wife’s heart he may never really be numero uno again.
            Now, certainly this isn’t true of all women, and some men may be just as likely to put their kids ahead of their wives (though I don’t know these guys). And maybe this is wrong (I’m not judging) or maybe it’s right. That’s not the point.
            The point is, however, that women who put their children before everything else (and sometimes, sadly, even before themselves which can lead to big problems) are everywhere. And whether it’s right or not, survival of the next generation rather depends on mothers (and fathers, too) making their kids a top priority. What would happen, after all, if mom forgot to nurse her newborn, or neglected to change his diaper? It wouldn’t be pretty…We may be tempted to critize the woman who tells her husband that baby (or in this case, her adolescent daughter) comes first, but it kind of makes sense in the big picture.
             A mother’s love is stronger than wind, deeper than oceans, wider than the world. It travels everywhere…into the sock drawer, into bank accounts, over teacher’s desks, into doctor’s offices, into preschool and college admissions offices, up trees, under couches, in laundry bins, and everywhere else.  Mother love makes us fearless when we were once filled with fear (and it also makes us fearful where we once were fearless). Everything changes, and I mean everything.
            Good or bad doesn’t matter, it just is. In fact, I might go so far as to argue that a mother’s love is the strongest force in the Universe. Think of it this way: Where would we collectively be without it?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ode to Toddlers

Yes, it's that time of year...Mother's Day is just round the bend...a perfect time to get a copy of my book, All About Motherhood: "A Mom for All Seasons" & Other Essays, the perfect gift book for the mom(s) in your life (or if you're a mother, for yourself!). You can order the new, expanded edition at your favorite online bookseller, in paperback or for your Nook or Kindle. Please buy it soon... Mother's Day is on the way!  Below is an excerpt...Enjoy!

Don’t you just love toddlers?  Yes, I’m talking about the “terrible two’s.” I think this age group has gotten a bad rap (especially in retrospect, now that my toddlers are grown).
            When I had toddlers, everyone would look at me with sympathy and concern.  “All that chasing around!” my mother would cluck.  “You’d better sit down now, because once he’s a toddler, you’ll never sit again.”  (There was some truth to that!) I also suspected that my gaze would never again meet the gaze of another adult; it was constantly traveling—up on counters, into drawers, under cabinets…wherever the toddler went, my eyes, arms, and legs would follow.
            No one denies that toddlers are hard work, but they’re also undeniably cute—and they seem to carry a special message for harried parents.  Just this week, I was reminded of how much toddlers have to tell us—even though, for the most part, they’re not especially articulate.  After all, you wouldn’t normally think of people who bellow things like “Me want cookie!” or  “No, no, noooooooo!”  as savvy advisors. 
            But just watch a toddler for a moment or two, and you’ll be amazed by how deftly they communicate deep and resonant messages. For instance, in just one short walk around town last week, I noticed toddlers everywhere, desperately trying to teach their parents and caregivers.  On one corner was the little girl who had meandered over to a bench, while her mom—one arm laden with packages--yelled “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon!” while briskly snapping the fingers on her free hand.  This child had about as much interest in moving as a signpost; as she sat on the bench, happily watching the cars go by, she seemed to be saying, “Slow down, Mommy. What’s the rush?”
           On the next block I found another toddler stumbling round and round a tree while his parents stood nearby, helplessly watching.  It was clear that this child’s well-dressed parents had places to go and people to meet, but they were stymied by their son’s ability to trace, retrace, trace, retrace his steps ad infinitum, all the while embracing the knobby girth of the tree trunk.  Like the little girl up the block, this toddler seemed to be trying to get a point across--something along the lines of, “What’s your hurry, when we all end up back in the place we started anyway?”
            A few steps later, I came across another toddler perched backwards in her stroller while her grandmother fussed nearby.  No matter how hard this poor woman tried to get this toddler to sit down, the child simply would not stay. Grandma would tuck her into the stroller face forward, but within seconds she had squirmed back up and was standing backwards again.  Obviously, her grandma couldn’t go anywhere with the child in this precarious position.  She was forced instead to stand still and marvel at her little Houdini.
            But just in case you’re thinking that all toddlers want is for parents to hold still, the next two-year-old I came upon was running as fast as a bullet, while her plump nanny trailed breathlessly behind her.  This kid had obviously had enough of life in the slow lane; her message was that she had so much to see and do that she didn’t have time for rest and relaxation. No sitting in the sandbox for her!
            By the time I got home from my walk, I was completely exhausted, not from the three miles I’d covered, but from observing all the two-year-olds I’d encountered along the way.  And I thought to myself, why are parents so frustrated by toddlers?  Is it because they demand so much of us--trying our patience, playing us like puppets as we chase them here and there? Or is it because they force us to take a good look at ourselves?
            Toddlers certainly inspire us to look at life from a different perspective--whether upside down, on all fours, or on the run. Sure, they throw tantrums and sometimes they bite or hit.  But maybe that’s just what it takes for such a little person to get his point across to the big folks who obviously don’t have all the answers, even though we’re in charge!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

All Abloom!

Did you ever notice that sometimes you’re just chock full of great ideas? Sometimes you’re blooming with creativity, energy, originality? If you’re a musician, all the right notes come out, if you’re a writer all the right words flow, if you’re a yogi or a dancer you have all the right moves? If you’re a computer geek you’ve got every program figured out; every swing lands you a home run?
            And then, there are those days, weeks, months and possibly even years when you don’t bloom at all. I’ve been through some days, months, and yes, years like that, and it sort of reminds me of a certain pear tree in my back yard. Some years the tree is full of blossoms at this time in spring, and by September my lawn is covered with pears that have dropped from its branches. But other years, the blooms are scarce, with only a few pears to pick up in the autumn (we don’t spray the pear trees, so the bugs, birds, and woodchucks enjoy the bulk of the fruit).
            Well, here’s my point: Every time I have a week, month, or year off I tend to panic. Will I never write a sentence again? Will I never have a worthwhile thought again? Will I never have another plan, or another idea, or another hope, dream, or project? Are my days of blooming over, never to return?
            A few years ago, we lost an apple tree in our yard to a ferocious storm (you’d think I live on a farm, not on a tiny plot of land in New Jersey)…but the strange thing was, the following year the nearby plum tree, which had not bloomed in twenty years --was absolutely laden with gorgeous, sweet-smelling, white blossoms.
            The word is trust. Just like that pear tree that sometimes seems to have given it all up, just like that plum tree that was dormant for two decades, we all can keep on blooming. Maybe not on our schedule. Maybe not in the area in which we planned, maybe not even this year. But, as Mother Nature shows us, it’s okay and perhaps even necessary to take some time off. You may feel stagnant, or hopeless, or even in despair, but trust that you will bloom again. We always do.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Go With the Flow

The other day I went to a rugby game to watch my son play. I must admit that I’ve never been a sports fan, and I’m especially not a fan of rugby, which looks like a lot of fun but appears to be even more dangerous than football (in fact, two of my kids took up rugby in college, most likely because I, ahem, encouraged them to be in the marching band in high school rather than on the football team). And thanks to rugby our medical expenses have been much higher than we’d like (torn meniscus, concussions, etc.).
            Which leads me to my topic…the sticky question of exactly how much guiding, prodding, instructing, and downright forcing we do when we try to get our kids to go in a certain direction, or even more precisely, to NOT go in a certain direction. And do we do more harm than good when we intervene, intercede and put our foot down?  (A friend, who was extremely protective of her son as a child, now has to bite her tongue when he goes cliff climbing or white water rafting.)
            Since I am the mother of three sons, I had three opportunities to try out my theories on this subject, but all of my experiments and ponderings have led to basically the same conclusion: follow them where they lead, be there to support and cheer them on, and let them decide. Chances are, if it’s the wrong path for them they’re going to find out pretty soon anyway, and if we the parents step in to thwart their efforts they’re probably going to just try something even more idiotic or dangerous at a later time, or when we’re not looking.
            Long ago, when I was starting my parenting journey, I told one of my sons that he couldn’t get a drum set (in a small house, with younger siblings who needed to take naps, it didn’t seem feasible). Instead, I guided him toward the piano and saxophone, which were swiftly abandoned as soon as he left for college. Years later, I realized that the drums would have been a perfect instrument for him, and his instincts had been right. (And he still bemoans the fact that I never bought him a set, though he could now afford to buy himself ten drum sets or more.)
            Thus, I’m pictured above at my youngest’s rugby game (where, BTW, he received a very nasty clout on the head before my very eyes, but seems to have survived). Yes, we give them life, but we don’t own them, nor do we own their paths. Happily (unlike ballet) it’s not too late to start drumming--or practicing yoga for that matter! (Sorry, guys, but I still can’t help offering a tiny suggestion now and then!)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Getting Old

No, I’m not talking about my age! I’m talking about all those annoying, negative, nitpicking thoughts that fly through my head on a regular basis. They’re getting old. For instance, how many times do I have to say to myself, “I hate these shoelaces!”?
In the case of the shoelaces, there are three choices: get another pair or switch to Velcro, don’t wear those shoes, or stop going out for morning walks.  Instead, I continue to get up in the morning, put on my running shoes, and think: “Damn! I hate these shoelaces!” (No matter how tightly I tie them, by the time I get to the bottom of my hill they’ve come undone.)
            I can’t stand it when I have smudges on my glasses, either. How many times in a given day do I think to myself, “Argh! I have to clean these glasses!”?  Or, “I’m too cold!” Or, “It’s too hot!” Or, “I have too many layers on!” Or, “I wish I’d worn more layers, I’m freezing.”
            The mind is virtually an over-flowing cauldron of complaints (if you let it be). So lately, because it is spring, and because spring puts me in a good mood, I’ve been trying to banish those irritating thoughts and replace them with positive observations. After all, one complaint just seems to lead to another, and another, and before you know it you are simply drowning in all the things that annoy you. Isn’t it better to be buoyed up by all the things that you like?
            I’m not a Pollyanna, and if you’ve read this blog you know that I can complain just as long and as loudly as the next guy. But after a while, don’t you just get sick of listening to yourself be unhappy? I know I do. After a while, all those whiny “Why couldn’t I do this? And why I couldn’t I do that? And why can’t I be, have, get"…whatever!—just become overwhelming. The same complaints over and over get old and stale, just like a cracker left out of its box.  In fact, there are times when I just wish I could turn my mind off like a faucet. (And, have you ever noticed that those negative comments can be even more contagious than strep? Just hang around with a complainer for a few hours and see if you’re not tempted to join in).
            Anyway, I’m off to buy some new shoelaces! Hopefully I won’t trip on my way to the store.