Monthly Archives: May 2015

Why I am not afraid of lightening: A tribute to my mom

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Why I am not afraid of lightening:  A tribute to my mom

During hurricane Hugo, my Mom and I lived in Rock Hill, SC. My Dad had taken a job at the newly opened Governor’s School for Science and Math in Hartsville, SC. There were terrific storms all throughout South Carolina, tornados and high winds even into the mountains and foothills. But as we climbed into bed that night we had no idea that would be the case.
I was 17 years old at the time, and must have been pretty terrified, because my mom let me sleep in the bed with her. She was already asleep, while I watched with horror when the newscast faded to static as the Charleston affiliate lost it’s connection. My mom slept quietly as I listened to branches crashing against the window and the wind and rain howling outside.
My mom had brought a kitchen timer into the bedroom and set it one hour at a time, so that if the power went out she would still get up for work. This should tell you at least two things about my Mom, she did NOT miss work ( not if she was sick, and not if a hurricane came through town) and she was clever. No power, no problem.
We made it through the night, we did lose power, for a week, and water for several days as well. There was no work the next day or the next as our neighborhood was completely blocked in by fallen trees. But if at any time my Mom was scared, she never let on.
Several years before, during a much different storm, I remember my mom sitting beside me looking up at the striking lightening with a look of sheer wonder and delight. I was terrified of the lightening as it popped right over head. My mom assured me we were fine, encouraged me to enjoy the electricity and to relax, because storms that strong could never last long. It was too difficult to sustain that kind of chaos.
That advice not only led me to enjoy the storms that nature has shared with me over the years, but to be reassured that the storms that life brings will not last. Chaos can’t last. So I just set my timer one hour at the time and get up in the morning, survey the damage and clear out the debris.
Thank you Mom, for all the things you have taught me, to be independent, to be the life of the party, to be honest, to be responsible, to never give up, to be a good writer, a good friend and an incredible mom and of course, to weather the storms. I love you.

“Bottles, knives, guns”

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“Bottles, knives, guns”

Have you seen the video taken during the recent unrest in Baltimore of the angry mother repeatedly striking her son? Have you read the comments that follow the video? I’d say about a 50/50 split of (generally) ” no wonder these kids are violent, look at how they are being treated” and “you go Mama, I’d do the same thing”.
I don’t get to corner the market on worrying about my kids. As far as I’ve experienced, every parent worries. In fact I think we are the generation of most worried parents. Not only do we have the inter webs, with their predators and pedaphiles, corporations creeping around every billboard, sporting event and school cafeteria, but there are more books, articles and advice about how to be a parent than there have been in any other generation. Throw in some competing theories on vaccines, Facebook armchair parents, public vs private education, and deciding whether you are a helicopter parent or a not present enough parent and you’ve got a nice recipe for parental anxiety. And sorry ’bout it dads, but most of the guilt (though not all) is reserved for Momma.
What is a conscientious parent to do? Involve your kids in sports, but be sure to talk to them both about bullying and being bullied, how dangerous sports drinks are, and subliminal marketing. Send your kids to a public/private hybrid school that embraces diversity and uses test scores only to emphasize your child’s potential. Grow your own organic heirloom tomatoes for your family salsa making nights.
Or let them go play on the concrete foundation of the rusty, bacteria covered swing set, then come home when the street lights come on. Let them make their own lunches and walk themselves to school long after you have already gone to work. Let them watch MASH (reruns) or Scandal while eating TV dinners on TV trays in the living room. Let them do their homework on the bus, while trying to ignore the kid in the back seat that is coming down off a bad LSD trip. Learn about sex from their older friends, who may or may not be making everything up, either way, it sounds (hopefully) like a disgusting act that they would never willingly involve themselves in.
Now, I’m not literally suggesting we drive to the beach while the driver and passenger chain smoke and we keep the windows up even in the back seat because the A/C is on or that we embrace co-ed sleepovers just because, hey! it’s old school to think of relationships as only occurring between a boy and a girl, but sometimes I wish the lines were clearer. I suppose really what I wish is that I didn’t feel so obligated to pay so much attention to the lines and constantly adjust my definition of good, better, best.
Modern parenting is harder than it has to be and we all have these extra layers of worries. Divorce, death, dire economic circumstances, abuse, exposure to so many things via the internet, capitalist corporations with only their bottom line as a moral barometer, and our own over exposure to the misguided idea that there is, in fact, “A” right way to raise your kids.
Single parents, divorced parents, gay parents, foster parents, grandparents, let us boycott the onslaught of parenting advice that tries to pigeonhole us into a hierarchy of parenting success. The idea of perfect parents is a myth. We are doing our best, struggling and making mistakes. Right? Without compromising what you’ve developed as your recipe for parenting success don’t forget to be compassionate about the parents around you.
Would I throw punches at my hypothetical son if he was walking across police lines? Honestly, I don’t know. But I think I understand why, in that moment, that momma made that choice. Whether you parent with “Love and Logic” or by the seat of your pants, most parents want the same end result: to have our kids grow up safe, happy and successful.

Spoiler alert: you own your joy

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Spoiler alert: you own your joy

Well, I had a relatively quiet couple of months. The butterflies have launched, the play has closed and I’m back to managing three-ish jobs with moderate success. And then blam-o, the calendar reminds me that Mother’s Day is upon us with Father’s Day close behind.
Mother’s Day is the parenting equivalent of Valentines Day. Moms need and deserve a day. We (all) bust our butts for a reward that is a long time coming, if it comes at all. These days, with single moms being held responsible for a plethora of social ills, from lashing out in school to rioting, it’s hard to keep your head up. And my day to day, is still, well, embarrassing. I spend uncountable hours performing glamorous tasks like, cleaning up dog feces and looking for lost shoes and pieces of paper. Added to the mix is my own second (er, third) adolescence. I made toast this morning and felt pretty proud of myself. This month all the bills were paid basically on time, I only forgot one RSVP and I kept up with the various other appointments, well mostly. I made attempts to create quality time, to be patient, to be compassionate, to be quiet. I did my best, with varying results.
My point being, Mother’s Day can feel like an F-U. It can be the grim remembrance of who you are not, or who you have lost. I’m lucky to have a mom, to be able to call her, to be able to send her a gift. And I’m fairly certain my mother is racked with guilt and feelings of inadequacy that no card or bouquet of flowers can ever repair. I know because now I get to live on the other side of that equation too. Then of course, there’s the folks that fall into the categories of having lost their mother, being estranged from their mother, or just having a complicated relationship with their mother. See, it’s valentines day for parenting.
Being a mom is simultaneously the most difficult and the most rewarding accomplishment of my life. So, Mother’s Day is our day dammit! Moms, we earned this day. Daughters and sons, you earned this day to honor or remember or even be thankful that you live across the country from your mom. But we each get to decide what this day means and how we want to honor, or ignore it. But it is a choice. Confidentially i have set aside some sad sacking time on Saturday explicitly for moaning and feeling sorry for myself, for lamenting the mom I cannot be on my own and the husband that left me to do just that. But then I have a new plan. I say, If you’re feeling left out of the holiday send someone flowers, anyone who cares for you without demand, send your daughter flowers, or the old lady at the convince store that always calls you, ” honey!” . Send a card to the secretary at church, buy lunch for the waitress. Mow the lawn of an elderly neighbor, buy yourself a latte and a cupcake, You can honor anyone you want and I guarantee you’ll make the day of whomever you gift with your thoughts, because that’s often what being a mother is about: caring for someone else, taking care of the village.