life lessons, motherhood

TO MOTHERS DAY

I was raised with lots of expectations leading me to a lifetime of feelings of not good enough over my lifetime. Expectations are a double edged sword. We set them and expect. We expect certain behaviors, we expect performance, we even expect people to show up and act like they should act based on our own set of standards and values. In a work environment, this is standard practice and is a necessary piece of the puzzle we call careers. In our families, though, at times, expectations can also have layers of guilt attached and this is when they can turn into something other than what was originally intended.

In my family, when I was a kid, there was always an expectation of being good. What does this even mean? We use this one liner well into our adult lives when we say things like, “I’ve been good,” as it relates to avoiding the enjoyment of a nice big bowl of ice cream when we rationalize the stop on a warm summer day. “I’ve been good,” we say when we have decided to stop doing something that could interrupt us mentally or physically like going to the gym, abstaining from the nightly routine of a big glass of red after a long hard day at the office or making a big purchase when trying to say on a strict budget.

I’ve been good is a phrase so easily tossed around when our brains need to change some behavior that may have otherwise been helpful to our beings and we need a rationale for the change. At least this is me and my patterns. It is all too easy to blame this belief system on how I was raised, but the truth of the matter is, expectations are set so we have something to reach. At times they may seem unobtainable but we keep trying to climb anyway. We fall off the horse and we either walk away or we get back on and try again. Sometimes the very expectations that are set are subtle. In my memory much of our experiences are subjective when we look back. Two siblings can live under the same roof and have two completely opposing memories of one experience. I linked an interesting podcast below on the subject of memory from Malcolm Gladwell that will surely question your own memories.

When it came to birthdays and Mother’s Day, I was expected, as many of us were, to give at least a card and as I got older send one in a timely manner. This seems reasonable on paper, but for me, because there was an unwritten code that this was something I was supposed to do, often I would forget or be late in getting the card in the mail. This would cause hurt feelings, causing me to feel like a failure as a daughter, guilty as charged for missing the boat, lacking thoughtfulness and consideration for the person who gave birth to me.

I could never seem to get it right. Mother’s Day is always on a Sunday and if I mailed the card on a Monday, it would surely arrive in time. But Monday seemed to early, so Tuesday or Wednesday would be my target date so the card would arrive in perfect timing for Sunday. But I wanted the card to arrive on Saturday because for some reason earlier than that seemed contrived. At least in my monkey brain of aiming for perfection and then finding myself forgetting to mail the card completely until it was too late thus arriving after Mother’s Day defeating the whole holiday all together.

Clearly there was more to the simple act of sending a card here, years of expectations all fully present in all of this thinking. As easy as it sounds to get birthdays and Mother’s Day right, one slip up and you get it wrong and two people end up feeling bad defeating the purpose. Perhaps if my relationship with my mother hadn’t been so tumultuous over the years, these issues would be non existent. I never forget my son’s birthday or anyone I am deeply connected with. Ironically, this entire problem was solved when my mother stopped talking to me and in some ways it was freedom from the pressure of not getting it right.

The true irony though is not sending my mother a Mother’s Day card when she wasn’t speaking to me became almost painful. So at year two, I sent her a blank one that I had hand written simply, “You are still my mother,” and sent it on its way. In all of the years of those silent thunderous expectations, this card was probably the best Mother’s Day card I had sent. Because it was my own thoughts and heart that sent it, not Hallmark’s, and not my mother’s. Mine. My decision, my kindness.

When I had my own child, I made a decision to not set the barre for any of this nonsense. If my son made me a card, sent me a card, wrote a few lines with a stubby pencil on a piece of scrap paper, simply said Happy Mother’s Day or none of the above, this one day did not summarize his lack of love and adoration for me. I would not allow one day of the year to dictate the other three hundred and sixty four. The feelings of guilt in not getting it right and my own mother’s hurt expressions over the years would not be something I would put on my son. Ever. And I think because of this deliberate act, I have been the recipient of lovely handwritten stubby penciled notes over the years that have more meaning than any five dollar sappy card. As a result I have had lots of lovely Mother’s Days and I enjoy them so much because I know that when if time comes when my son could get married and have children, these Mother’s Days will have a shift for sure. So they are precious and appreciated.

I write this today so that we can remember that days like Mother’s Days are not about professing a years worth of maternal adorations for all of our hard work. If your child forgets to do something special, or not as special as you would have liked, could it be possible to just allow this and use the day to remember how lucky we are that we actually have children? Maybe we could choose to not say anything, not show hurt or disappointment but to just show gratitude for the day.

Every single day is special and as my own son gets older, I am more in tune with the privilege of having a healthy child who is still alive and well, who has made it this far so far. This is the best Mother’s Day gift I could ask for. Keeping this in perspective is the lesson from my mother over the years that I have learned the hard way, but my son gets to reap the rewards from.

one of the many lovely Mother’s Days out for a walk with my boy.

Happiest of Mother’s Day to all of you who get to wake up to your child tomorrow. There are so many moms who don’t. Lets try to remember this as we lie hoping for the breakfast in bed or the call that may not come at exactly the time you wanted or at all. As my grandmother used to quote frequently, “Those who hath no expectations shan’t be disappointed.” Easier said than done, but perhaps just relishing in the day and using it as an excuse for breaking your own rules, going out for your own ice cream sundae or a walk alone in the park listening to the birds and celebrating your own goodness as a mother. Enjoy the glorious day and cherish the little people we have raised. This is something to celebrate for sure.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/free-brian-williams/id1119389968?i=1000413184954
college, Parenting

MORE COLLEGE PERSPECTIVE

“My mother made me take the SAT six times!” my son’s friend, Jake, announced almost four years ago in the back seat of the car I was driving. The backstory of this announcement was that our dear friend Jake was trying to get into Annapolis. His mom is one of the fiercest mama’s I know and if this was his goal, she was going to help make it happen. 

Getting into Annapolis is no joke. It is a huge accomplishment and with a lot of hard work, perseverance and incredible help (it takes a village for sure), Jake achieved his dream and is about to finish his second year. This is one instance where I don’t roll my eyes at the notion of a SAT repeat, repeat, repeat, you get the point. I mean, come on, ANNAPOLIS, is like Harvard except with many more layers of bad ass.

Meanwhile my son, who was finishing up his junior year of private high school, seemed to be taking the path of least resistance. His first run at his SAT was nothing to scream from the rooftops about, I think it was something in the low 1600’s. Considering his mother took her SATS back in the day perhaps a little on the high side, I mean it was the early eighties and I lived with my father who believed that a sixteen year old should figure herself out by her own errors and judgements. Hence the decision to be baked causing my score to be a number one would expect to see in the movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. More on that some other time.

The only reason our son went to private high school was because I used to volunteer in the lunch room of his public middle school. On more than one occasion, many of his teachers would come up to me and encourage me to allow him to go to one of the private high schools. We took the bait. Though I don’t regret it, I know he would have done excellent at our local high school. Michael is a smart young man. He makes good decisions, always has. He is the type of kid who people say things like, “He’s going to go places.” But he is also the type of kid who does what he needs to get by. He was not the type who would join every group and club because it would look good on his college application. He was also not the type of student that would take the SAT again just to get a better score hoping that the college of his dreams would accept him. I distinctly remember his saying this profound statement at his senior year when he was applying to the five schools expected of him by said private school, “If the only reason I don’t get into the college is because of my SAT scores, then the college is not for me.”

This type of comment from my son was not surprising to me. When he was around three, he was in a private home day care around the corner from our house. Often I would walk him in the stroller or maybe we walked, I can’t remember now, but he would refuse to put on his coat. For some reason, I went with it. “Ok, you don’t want to wear a coat, your choice.” And off we went. I was taking him to a house filled with mammas, and my son showing up with no coat on a brisk day could cause judgement and eye rolls, lots of potential tsk tsks. I was seldom the mom who got sucked into that vortex. I was usually an outlier type mom. My son knew his own body temperature. His dad never wore a coat, he ran hot always so I just guessed that my son had the same body heat. I think these small decisions as a parent over time allowed me to be more accepting of his laissez faire attitude when we got closer to the college application circus we found ourselves in.

A circus indeed. At the same time he was applying to college, I had decided to take some classes at our local private university. At the first and only class I took there, I was surrounded by mostly white kids, they looked mostly the same, most from New Jersey, New York or Connecticut. These kids were uninterested in the class, many of them texting while the instructor was offering valuable information. This university was almost 45k per year and these kids were ambivalent, entitled almost. I couldn’t take it. So off I went to Rhode Island College for some classes where I found a diverse population, many kids who were there for the price, or as first generation college attendees. These kids were hungry for learning and I am guessing many of them held full time jobs while trying to get through their classes. Impressive and I had a new found appreciation of our local state colleges and universities.

Meanwhile my son was getting acceptance letters from four of the five schools he applied to. He could have gone to an out of state school for an extra 25k more per year then our in state colleges, not counting the travel back and forth for holidays and every time there was a hurricane warning. But with his unique wisdom, he was not sucked into the bragging fest. He was and still is pragmatic and frugal. His father and I were offering him a free ride at University of RI because that was what we could afford so that he would be able to leave college debt free, if he chose this path. Should he have decided to go to the out of state program, he would have had to take on some loans, so much harder to start his young life with after graduation.

I met a professor from Brown one day who told me that she had a student who was a first generation college attendee who managed to get into Brown the old fashioned way, by actually applying and getting accepted on her merit. She also had to take on student loans that would make your head spin. At the time of graduation she was burdened with over 150K in tuition debt. It is shameful that our colleges are even allowing this. The pressure to get a job right out of school so that they can begin paying their debt down is catastrophic to our children’s futures and their creativity potential. For what? So they can for four years say they went to a fancy school? I am not saying that kids shouldn’t go to these other schools at all. If they can afford them, if their parents can afford them without taking on home equity loans and burdens of debt that make them have to work well past retirement.

Our son gets to leave college with no debt because he had two parents who work hard, saved money and offered him this final gift in his young life. Neither of his parents finished college. We learned trades. Skills. And this has done well by us. I have always said that college shouldn’t be the only directive for our children. We should be allowing them the freedom to discover what ignites their passion and SUPPORT it without feeling like they are failures.

When I dropped out of college and chose the path of esthetics, aka beauty school, I thought my grandparents who were like my parents, were going to kill me. They were not happy. But I persevered; after all it was my life, my money. My problem was the outside forces who try to make our kids feel bad if they decide to go a different path or choose a community college or state university because it is what they can afford. I say bravo every time I speak to one of my son’s friends who have chosen to go to Community College of RI for two years to save money. Of all of the choices, these are the smartest ones. NO DEBT, this is what we should be teaching our children. This is a way better gift then bribing their way into a prestigious university with a brand name.

I think it is time we look at what we are teaching our children by forcing them to choose college as the only path. I know that life is harder without a degree, but I also know that pigeon holing our children from the time they are in kindergarten to think that college is the end all, we are doing a major disservice to the creativity that lies within each of our children. We should be working harder to develop their passions, juices, their entrepreneurial spirits, their community activism. College isn’t for everyone and clearly with this latest scandal it shouldn’t be.

Michael and his friend Jacob way before college became the thing it became.

college, Parenting

THE EGO OF COLLEGE

The latest college application scandal has been all over the news for the past few days. Interviews with college sports directors- the good ones, and interviews with people who help kids with their college applications- the honest ones. Interview after interview, each one more embarrassing to these prestigious schools that parents have paid boatloads so that their children could get accepted into them.

I remember the two years prior to my son going to college like it was a bad dream as I reflect on the absurdity of it all. The pressure between his peers, the parents I spoke to daily and the teachers and counselors. It was like he was getting ready for the Olympics.

“What colleges have you applied to?” People would ask. The laundry list would be repeated, mind you each application had a non-refundable fee, and there would be discussions about the choices as if somehow this was a gauge of worthiness, of intelligence, of prowess for both our son and for us as parents.

Then there were the visits. The expectations of them, the decisions to go to them, the costs involved with them, the time it took to schedule them and the visits themselves. My son applied to five schools. Two local schools in our own state, Roger Williams University and University of Rhode Island and three distance schools, University of Arizona, Florida State and The University of Alabama. He got into four of them, two were a good distance from our home.

He had the same idea as many of his peers to go to a school “far away from this little state we live in, Rhode Island.” The pressure also poured in from the private high school he attended who wanted their own accomplished students to be able to say they went to “acceptable” schools. Schools that would make their roster of students who attended them add value to the price tag of four years of a private high school I suppose so that when parents were shopping for high schools, those lists of colleges that the seniors had recently been accepted into would be that sparkle you see in the rings at a jewelry store. I remember thinking to myself, Am I the only one out here who thinks this is the most ridiculous bullshit I have ever seen?

We ended up visiting Florida State and Alabama, beautiful campuses with all of the bells and whistles you never knew were possible at a college. There were times I looked around thinking, Am I at a college or a country club? Isn’t college supposed to be crappy food and dorm rooms the size of a postage stamp?

I remember sitting in the orientation at Alabama after our wild tour of their football stadium, and boxed lunch at said football stadium followed by a rousing practice cheer “Rolltide!!!” As I looked at my all too happy son and my former husband  screaming Rolltide, I sat wondering if we were ever going to see a classroom.

The starry eyed look in my beautiful son’s eyes as we were promptly dropped in the Alabama store where my former and I began buying all things Alabama like there was no other school in our dreams. Sucked into the Rolltide.com machine. I know for you Alabama football fans out there, this is blasphemy, but I started to question what the 42k price tag was actually paying for. A beautiful campus and I am guessing some form of education, I wouldn’t know, we never saw a classroom. Yes we went to the business school auditorium where the dean of business talked about what else, Football. He did occasionally mention the curriculum, but he lost me when he started a sentence with Irregardless, a pet peeve of mine going all the way back to my teacher grandmother. I saw my son’s heart sink because he knows me well and that one grammatical slip was likely the nail in the coffin.

Then we sat down at the how are you going to pay for this school seminar where we learned that I had misread the tuition costs. I thought the costs were 21k and it turned out that was PER SEMESTER. Needless to say, I felt like an idiot, my ex-husband freaked out like a five year old, reminding me of why we weren’t married anymore (there had to be some bonus to this wacky trip), my son was almost in tears because there was just no way we were going to spend what would have easily turned into 60k per year on college and I felt like a failure as a mother. As we made our way to Florida State somber, but hopeful, I really began thinking about all of this nonsense.

The pressure for what? Except for bragging rights, and connections, wasn’t the point of college to get a degree and get out and get to work? One thing I knew was there was no way I was going into debt for college. I convinced Michael and my former to visit URI. They begrudgingly agreed with their tails between their legs. I became the cheerleader and we found our local school to be a great fit for many reasons. Location, ease of getting there and home for holidays, a good program, and the cost.

If Michael went there, Dave and I could give him the gift of a college tuition with no debt for any of us. I began my sales pitch to my son and we decided that he would give it a year, then transfer if he wanted to Alabama where he would have to pay the difference of the cost of URI. My son is a frugal sort and I am guessing that this alone made him decide to give my idea a try. Well after the first year, he loved it, and stayed.

As he approaches his senior year, I look back at all of the worry and angst as well as the money spent prior on college coaching and sat prepping now through the eyes of this scandal and roll my eyes. Our children are watching us. What are we teaching them when we take our big egos to the college visits and write even bigger checks to ensure their little babies can have the bragging rights they were raised for.

What I also find amusing and disturbing in this scandal is the blatant mentions of the actresses and their names and photos in all of the headlines and not as much attention on the rest of the people who were caught adding another layer of female focus to this embarrassment. The calling out of women in the press adds another conversation to be had, but this is for another piece. Why not list everyone? Why is it only the women in the headlines? Just curious.

If you are a parent getting ready to send your child to college, first think price rather than experience, think education, safety, location, is it easy to get your child back and forth if they want to come home for all of the breaks, how much will that cost too? Four years goes by at a blink. When they get to be an almost senior, all of this worry that seemed so important at the time is forgotten at the same speed. No one cares. Except how you show you care.

College admission has been a great opportunity to set an example for financial responsibility, and we have given our son a gift that allows him to get out of college with no debt. What this gives him is financial freedom to travel after he gets out, to not feel pressure in having to line up his career immediately, to learn what he enjoys so he can choose what he wants to do with his life rather than it choose him. In this scandal I realize that the money is no object here. These people have the money to pay for their children to go to college. Maybe a better use in hindsight would have been to set up a college fund with the extra money that had to allow kids who otherwise couldn’t afford to go an opportunity. One of these checks probably would have paid for five or more kids to have the privilege. Hindsight.

This scandal is about EGO. I remember clearly the pressure coming from all angles and for some reason, we managed to get through it. I hope that this can be a teaching moment for all parents and their kids to settle down here and look at what is important. A good education, as little debt as possible and more important, an honest one.

Uncategorized

TWENTY ONE

TWENTY ONE

I was sitting on the dark non descript seat of the school bus, front row, of course, taking the practice ride with my son who was about to embark on his first great adventure. Kindergarten. I too would be starting my own adventure of sorts, letting him out of my sight and delivering him to the hands of public education via a yellow school bus. I looked to my right and saw the same nervous look in the eyes of a tiny blonde woman who was sitting next to her blonde son and we made eye contact. Kind of a knowing relief that we both seemed to be the geeky moms not really looking forward to releasing our children just yet. We made some small talk, introduced the kids and just like that I made my first kindergarten mom friend.

That was sixteen years ago and the kids are still excellent friends and my son, Michael just turned twenty one. A milestone of an age, way more loaded with feelings then the age of one, ten, sixteen or eighteen. Even though his dad, Dave, and I still fully support him as he makes his way through his final junior year of college there is a strong significance to twenty one. It is celebratory, meaningful, filled with doors opening and doors closing. Truly an adult and his life is pretty much out of our hands now. The transition to twenty one feels both energizing and sad for me as his mom, though. It brings up everything before. The kid parties, the trips, the stages of growth, the traumatic events and their losses as well as the celebrations. Everything. Like a full life rewind. Did we do a good job? What will his future be like? Will he get married and have children, will he travel the world, what job lies ahead? I can hear the soundtrack of Doris Day belting out her famous song, Que Sera Sera, whatever will be will be. Past and future thoughts stir like a simmering pot of possibilities. Before twenty one, they were just little popping thoughts, but now that the time is here, he is closer in age to thirty then he is to ten. Lots can happen from now until then. And it feels strange to be the happy and satisfied mother of a well adjusted twenty one year old young man with the world as his oyster.

I am really proud of him, but also really proud of me because this great parental experiment as so many of us know could have gone terribly wrong. He made it, lots of kids don’t make it to twenty one and this alone brings me to my knees in prayer. Based on my own life experience, I am grateful for the lessons my past taught me though because I really believe it could have gone either way, surely. Luck of the draw? I don’t think so. I think, actually I know, that I was a conscious parent as much as I was able to be. Dave was brought up with a set of values making him a great example to me as a parent. This coupled with some great friends, like the small blonde woman on the bus that day, Kerry, and many other kindergarten moms I am still friendly with today who were also strong and grounded parents helped me along the path of being a better parent.

Now as I watch the celebratory drinking that naturally rears its ugly head towards my son, I find myself with a whole new set of worries. You are taking an Uber, right? Remember the conversations we have had about alcohol and the family history as you find your way through the maze, I find myself repeating. Just because you are twenty one now doesn’t mean that you should be buying alcohol for anyone who is not. I remind him like I used to say look both ways before you cross the street, like he is five again and he needs to hear this instruction.

We go out to eat and he orders a glass of Rioja and a dish of venison, he tries the foie gras. Though he is quiet, he is polite, well mannered, he knows how to carry himself, he is well traveled and observant. I like this about him. I like watching my son be the man he had turned into. I know that every single day I get to have him around me is a gift because frankly he can leave anytime. He has a house in Narragansett off campus he shares with three other boys that is near the beach; he doesn’t have to stay home with his parents, but he does. Maybe he is bored, but he doesn’t show it, he shows up for dinner, he says yes when I ask him to go to breakfast and he walks with me as I traipse around town stopping in the shops to say hi to some store owner friends. We love each other, yes, but we genuinely like each other’s company and of all of the surprises of parenting, this one I would say is my favorite. We like each other, enjoy each other. Whether it is just being in the house, me downstairs him upstairs, or going to dinner with Dave and our old friends from my old neighborhood, there is an ease between all of us that makes me take a big satisfied sigh. No one knows what the next twenty one years will bring. This first twenty one has been an excellent start though.

Happiest of Birthdays my son.

I love you.




Uncategorized

GIRLS AND SEX

GIRLS AND SEX

I stood there at the counter that separated generations. I was in sixth grade and there it was, behind the counter in the Hands Off, you need to get permission from your parents section in the Jamestown Library in 1977. At least this is how I remembered the book, Girls and Sex sitting uncomfortably and somewhat illicitly next to its companion, Boys and Sex. The much older than me librarian standing in front of me with the key to my future of understanding what was going on in this body of mine. I am guessing that I was an unusual child mirroring her back as I somewhat uncomfortably asked her for the book that looked like it would sizzle in my fingers if I had been allowed to get my hands on it. Of course this would not be happening, the sexual revolution of the sixties and the sexual promiscuity of the seventies hadn’t translated to the librarians of The Jamestown Public Library. The Jamestown Public Library located on the island of Jamestown in Rhode Island that had a population of three thousand year rounders if we were lucky was in no way going to contribute to the sexual questions of a curious and highly sexualized twelve year old girl who had just recently moved to the island. I would have to get permission from my parents to take this book out, I remember the librarian saying probably with a bit of a tsk tsk eye roll. The fact that I even had the courage to ask about this book should tell the reader something about my sexual curiosity that had found its way into my body like a concord jet flying overhead on a quiet spring Sunday morning with your windows open for the first time. I had no idea what was going on in my body, but what I did know was that there in front of me was a book that could answer my questions so I wouldn’t have to humiliate myself by asking my mother. Girls and Sex is how I remember the book. This is not the current and modern Girls and Sex book written by the hip and fabulous writer, Peggy Orenstein. When I tried to find the original book on Google, some really disgusting videos came up that made me want to throw my phone in a hazmat suit, so I am not sure what had happened to these books so I looked them up in a more grown up better place, the Ocean State Library website. Voila, there it was like an old fashioned beam of light, just like I remembered it right next to Boys and Sex, both books written by Wardell B. Pomeroy. He was born in 1913 and I was surprised to learn that he was a co -author with the famous Alfred Kinsey. That book may have been so helpful. However, I wouldn’t know because in my second courageous act, (after the first one of drumming up the courage to ask the librarian for the book), I went home and asked my mother if she would take the book out for me. I would have thought that my mother who was only thirty two when I was twelve, would have only been too happy to relinquish the dreaded sex discussion to a book rather than a face to face. She did in fact take the book out for a quick perusal and promptly said a firm No, that I was too young. And just like that, my curiosity (and bravery if I do say so myself) went down under, silent, never to come out again except in the woods behind the school with Robbie H. where we could both satisfy our interests with each other’s sexual curiosity. I navigated my own questions in the basement dances at the local churches dancing close to the equally eager boys, sweaty and pheromone ladened in a way that took our young breath away. But I was a girl and girls weren’t supposed to be feeling, thinking, acting like that. That being sexually curious, sexually charged and energized and actually open to the idea of sexuality was actually something that was a natural feeling loaded with mixed feelings that we girls would find ourselves grappling with for years ahead.

this is a later version of the book, Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy. This did not look like the book I wanted in 1977, the book I wanted was a mono deep red hardcover or something with no images as risque as this one.

I am not talking of intercourse or oral sex, that wasn’t even in my radar. (But thank you Bill Clinton for forcing me to have it in my parental radar when my son was born in 1997 having to watch endless television about cigars, semen and blowjobs). I am speaking of that old fashioned “petting,” as I have come to find out was one of the words used to describe some of the ideas in Wardell Pomeroy’s book. Instead of learning and ultimately validating that the feelings I was having from a legitimate book were normal and healthy, I had to learn from Judy Blume in her many books that weaved sexuality in and out in her themes right under the noses of our mothers who had seemed to turn conservative and June Cleaver on the subject.

Much to many of my friends horrors I began having discussions about sexuality with my son over card games as early as third grade. My thought was that my husband at the time surely wasn’t going to be having the talk and rather than make it a before and after in one awkward conversation, I would make the assumption that my son would be having these same feelings as early as I did and if I broached the subject earlier than his hormones, it wouldn’t be a “thing” but rather a natural part of normal maturity. Who knows if this decision was correct? Who knows if my son will be in therapy as he finds himself navigating his own grown up relationships with his mother’s voice chirping in his head. Eeee gads, but I had the mindset that discussion normalizes sexuality rather than surrounding it with all kinds of taboo and out of touch feelings.

These days, the notion of having to ask a librarian for permission to take out a book called Girls and Sex is like a Saturday Night Live skit. My memory seems as clear as a bell that these books were behind the counter, but I can’t imagine this now. These days, I am not sure that kids even read anymore. Our children who have a phone at their fingertips as a sixth digit on their hand have access to A-Z sex in videos and porn that make our own wonders and personal ideas about sex spin. Long gone are the days when a conversation about sex could spin from we parents caught in the act by our kids accidentally walking in on us or hearing us to realize that yes, their parents do in fact Do It. Kids today get all of their information unfiltered on the live sex shows that appear from an accidental google search with the word sex in the title. Sex is no longer left to our own personal journeys of undiscovered territory lead by our hormones and that first kiss of adolescence.

I am so happy I am past the point of having to think about these discussions with my son and instead get to focus on my own personal discoveries in the aging process. Fake boobs, body changing at the speed of light no matter how much I work out, waning and waxing interest, that pesky topic of vaginal dryness that makes for a buzz kill in the bedroom, a committed relationship that is not a married one, but a living apart together one and the simple fact that I am getting older as is my partner. Sex is everywhere, media for sure, the appalling songs that are in the buds of childrens’ head phones pumping disrespectful commentary about sexual expectations especially the female kind into their ears, innocent google searches, but also in the mating calls of birds and crickets right outside our doors and yet the open conversations about it are still in many ways locked away in our closets. Not for me though, I like talking about the ebbs and flows of sexuality and desire. My partner and I have introspective conversations about needs and wants making sure that this part of our own relationship moves in a growth pattern so we stay on the same page like all other aspects of a grown up partnership. Sex is a natural part of life and the more we can have these conversations with each other and our own children, the healthier their own outlooks on their bodies and what is going on with them will be.

If you are not comfortable talking about sex with your kids, figure it out, because if they don’t hear about healthy sex from you, the school bus and their iPhones will be their teachers. Start early because when they get to the age when their sexual interest is peaked, there is no way they will allow any form of conversation that has the word sex in it. I think we inadvertently teach our daughters that sex is a tool to be used as a manipulator by our mixed messages of being a “good girl” compared to what the definition of a “good boy’ means. For those of us fortunate to have a healthy outlook on sex and all of its attributes, I am grateful for the personal discoveries I made on my own, but I know feelings of inadequacy and shame could have been avoided if the topic had been talked about in an easier way with my mother rather than left to my own devices. Of course it is easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, I guess someone would have to ask my son if he thinks this was a good idea or if I ruined his entire adolescence by my openness.

What I do know about sex is it evolves right alongside with me. There is no on or off button, but just somewhere in between. Sex, as I grow, grows with me like a warm companion in the hand holding on the couch while we watch a movie by the fire. I love the experience of maturity and sex is no longer a validator for love, attractiveness and interest. This has been liberating because I think with the wisdom of retrospect I used sex as a tool, a weapon even at times to gauge my own perception of a healthy solid connection. I am gratified by the release of this idea that never served me well and surely is not part of who I am now. Another lesson for sure when the cape came off right along with my breasts and I head towards my mid fifties.

this is the book I would recommend if you asked me. This is not the one I coveted in 1977 because back then, it was not written yet.
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SUNDAY MORNING GLORY

SUNDAY MORNING GLORY

Sundays. Homemade freshly ground black coffee, a warming soulful fire and two newspapers waiting for me. Rising early, a little music in the background, my partner sitting next to me on the couch opening the local paper first to catch up on what is going on in our little state of Rhode Island. I sit here this morning writing with so many choices in my morning and feel fortunate and at peace. There is something so snug about this calmness; it is a life nugget that is not always present- or maybe it is, but I don’t always isolate it as a special moment.

Today I notice. I only have forty five minutes before I have to get up from this couch to go to my 8:00am workout. I love my Sunday am workout with my crazy trainer and friend, Kathy; she has some nutty workout concocted. The goal of the group is to together burn 10,000 calories in this hour and fifteen minute class in our Patriots gear with head banging music screaming out of the speakers. I frankly can’t believe that this is part of who I am now, but as much as I love sitting on the couch, it will be waiting for me after the class with a much better feel under my body. I love sitting on the couch on a cold wintry Sunday of the morning of the Superbowl after a workout with nothing planned except writing, reading my new book from the library and getting ready to open the New York Times. I also have my ingredients ready to go to cook my contribution for an impromptu Superbowl gathering at my friend’s house tonight.

The Patriots playing in the Superbowl brings up some great memories for me from my former life. Well before we had our son, Dave and I actually went to the Superbowl in Atlanta, well before Atlanta was referred to as “Hotlanta.” The game was from the 1993 season, Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys and we were going with my friend and his wife who had gotten us tickets. Back then they were six hundred dollars a piece, no chump change for sure. This was when the Superbowl was still in January before the marketers got a hold of it realizing that one extra week would mean extra dineros. We were still newly married just celebrating our three year anniversary.

This was BEFORE. Marriage and Life are like this- so many BEFORES, time stamping our lives. Before we had our son, before we even were thinking of having children, before my brother was diagnosed or even had any indications that there would be a diagnosis. We had just bought our first home in the summer of 1992 so taking a trip like this was a splurge, but it fulfilled a dream for my former husband. I was that new young wife filled with the hopes and desires to live a rich wedded bliss so this was an exciting trip for us.

I remember thinking of the opportunity in Atlanta back then. There wasn’t even a bagel shop anywhere to be found. Atlanta was just getting ready for the summer Olympics in 1996 and there was an ‘up and coming’ not yet realized buzz in the hot Georgia air. Dave and I loved it so much, we were actually considering moving there. We had a realtor and everything picked out and were ready to dive in with our first big wedded risk until I remembered upon my return that there was no water to speak of, no ocean. Funny how I forgot about the missing ocean while I was traipsing around the streets of Atlanta. This Pisces chick couldn’t imagine my life without a fifteen minute ride to any beach so I caved in my decision. Dave would have taken the risk; there were a few moments like this I kyboshed in our young lives. I often wonder if I had some premonition of the isolation that would have come from a drastic move with someone I loved yet really didn’t have a lot in common with ultimately.

Come to think of it I wasn’t much of a risk taker back in my late twenties. I just wanted the safety, security and calmness of the home life I had ripped from me in my teens. I wanted the picket fence and the satisfaction of a good partnership, this was all part of the BEFORE. I worshipped the dream and the many lessons soon to follow that I surely didn’t know about yet as we made our way exploring the streets of Atlanta. We were starry eyed back then and we were happy to live in that starry eyed world of BEFORE. It was satisfying and exciting in some ways and I have watched with delight my young team beginning their lives with the same naivete.

Going to a Superbowl was a once in a lifetime for me and like the deep appreciation I had watching Dave be an amazing father to Michael, I watched him at this game more than I watched the game. Ironically, I don’t even like football. When we were down there I actually contemplated selling my ticket and sitting at the bar instead. Football games are wasted on me, I have never understood the game, still don’t, but I do appreciate the pomp and circumstance of the Superbowl so I went and was really glad I did. Just watching Dave’s face made me so happy. This was one of the many BEFORES. When life simply was, before I realized that the small rumblings of dissatisfaction would eventually unwind my notion of marriage to the person I thought I would be with forever. When our son was born, he was like a good luck charm as his birth on December 27, 1997 was the weekend of the first big time the Patriots at last began showing promise. December 28th they would be playing a playoff game against the Miami Dolphins. I don’t think my former husband could have been more ecstatic.

I watch my son’s love of all things sports and television. I watch his connection with Dave and the camaraderie they share because it just so happens that Dave ended up with a child who loves sports as much as he does. I don’t know what he would have done if Michael was into art and music or something other than sports instead. I have some friends who have children who could care less about sports. Not Michael. He is all sports and has been since his first T ball game. Not surprising since his birth was when it all started.

So much has happened since that Superbowl, but this is life coming at us. We have those juicy markers reminding us of all of the diamonds in the rough, the pleasantries, the traumas, the dramas, and the rediscovery of ourselves in the process if we are open to the lessons. I never realized that the Superbowl I attended in January of 1994 would be the last January of the life as I knew it. The next major life marker put me in a new frame of mind just six months later when my dear brother was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer and our lives would never be the same. Young death changed me, but so does LIFE and having our son two years later was the gift that keeps on giving. So as I get ready to actually watch the Superbowl this year without putting the TV on mute as I read the paper, (sacrilege, I know), I wholeheartedly celebrate the BEFORES because in all of them, the AFTERS are so sweet.


the day after Michael was born and a happy face the year they won their first Superbowl, 2002, only five years later and the rest is history including that other New England team we call THE RED SOX.
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A GOOD MOM

A GOOD MOM

“You’re a good mom,” Michael said to me with such a voice of sincerity a few weeks back. Hearing the words from my life partner, my paramour, my best bud, is one thing, but knowing he also is a family therapist and deals with moms (and lets not forget dads in this labeling mix) of all sorts as his profession is another. The glory of hearing the three words that make a woman’s heart sing is that I know I am a “good mom.” As nice as it is to hear the compliment, it is equally as nice to know that I don’t need it to validate my worth as a mom.

What constitutes the good mom label anyway? Being labeled as a ‘good mom’ is different than the label of being a ‘good dad.’ When I reflect back to my early mom days, when paternity leave wasn’t even on the changing table and even if it had been, my union husband wouldn’t have even considered it. Frankly I think he would have felt it embarrassing to ask for it. I roll my eyes even saying that, but it was true, probably still is for him and lots of dads out there still even in 2018.

I delivered Michael on a Saturday morning, timed perfectly for a new father who never took vacation time. We came home as a family on the following Monday afternoon. Let’s not forget that the Patriots were in a playoff game on Sunday, December 28th, the father son dream timing as I am pretty sure we had some Patriots paraphanelia along with the game on in the hospital. This was well before the Patriots Dynasty, back well before Perfect Tom. As Dave sat there with his new and highly impressionable day old son in his arms watching with great promise, the notion of perfect parenting started to make its entrance. Dave only missed part of a workday that Monday. I think he went in on the morning of my checkout actually and picked us up. The next day, he lit a fire for me in our new fireplace, got me settled in on the couch and off he went to work. I remember thinking holy shit, how did this happen? When did the memo arrive that said I knew what I was doing simply because I was born with a vagina and by proxy was the one who gave this little dreamboat I now called my son life and birth and a safe delivery?

As we both settled into our new roles, Dave getting to leave for work every day and me having a complete life change as I tried to wrap my ahead around how I was ever going to be able to leave the house again, I did find my way eventually. So did Dave and so did we both as a couple, kind of.

I quickly realized that Dave was a superior diaper changer so I unknowingly, but as it turns out cleverly, anointed him the title. This first lesson in parenting was a golden nugget. Compliment the dad in what the mom is expected to know intuitively and Dad becomes the proud father of the year with the added bonus of easily getting him to change a diaper. The constant reminders from my mother and my grandmothers about how lucky I was to have a husband who changed diapers did not go unnoticed in the world of parental equality. “You are so fortunate,” my grandmother would coo as she used my motherhood to reflect back on her own as we women do so often (usually reminding us of how happy we are that though this part is missed, it has permanently set sail into the horizon). “Your grandfather would never change a diaper,” she would say with such an envious glee in her eyes, allowing my former husband to puff his chest out ever so slightly. These comments continued as my mother and grandparents would comment on all of the things Dave did so well, cooking, cleaning up the kitchen, laundry (as I write this, I am almost forgetting why we split up, ahh the glory of sensationalizing the past in reflection.)

For me and my role, these things were expected. Mothers don’t usually receive any additional accolades for their performance around the washing machine, the sink, the changing station. Never mind that so many of us go back to work after twelve weeks and still have to address the child care issues of pick up and delivery, of doctors appointments and calling out sick when your baby gets the sniffles for the first time. No these are mama expectations 101. I am sure there are many men who are part of the party these days, but when we were new parents, this was not something that was part of our network; in fact it wasn’t even consideration, but automatic assumption of roles. I can see in the wisdom of retrospect how easy it was to build a wall of resentment surely not helpful to a marriage of only seven years. We figured it out though and for the most part enjoyed the experience as we navigated these roles.

I have a clear memory of our first home purchase together. The realtor, who my husband had known from high school, was doing a walk through in the house to show us where things were. He decided that I needed to be the one to be shown the laundry area and Dave would be shown the furnace and all things basement. As we stood in front of the washing machine and dryer area, I said, “Paul, why are you assuming that I am the one who does the laundry?” I really meant this. He looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I mean he didn’t ever conceive that this scenario would be anything other. This was 1997. I wish I could at least blame it on 1950.

I was out to dinner at Los Andes in Providence for my son’s birthday a few weeks ago and there was a large family having dinner like we were. Parents, children, grandparents, it seemed and a little one, like maybe seven or eight months. Dad was holding her for most of the dinner, walking around with her, rocking her, enjoying her energy in his arms with so much love and joy. I recognized the feeling he was having as many of us parents can identify with. The wife was sitting and eating her meal and looking like she was enjoying some baby free time. Dad held the baby the hold time we were there. Mom didn’t get up once. I didn’t notice any of this until my dear friend who also happens to be a social worker in the NICU at Women and Infants and also my go to Mom mentor for most of my mom life said, “Mom hasn’t moved an inch. Dad has had that baby the whole time.” I felt a little defensive of mom actually and said back to her, “Would you have said that if it was Mom holding the baby and Dad never moving an inch?” She paused and replied, “Probably not.”

Isn’t this interesting, our assumptions about parental roles and what constitutes heroic mommyness versus stellar daddyness? Kind of like our assumptions about gender, but that topic deserves its own separate writing.

Being “A GOOD MOM” is such a loaded topic. I for one never set out to be a “GOOD MOM” but a better one. My mom and I really never jived. From the get go, I think there was this weird competition between us for whatever reason. Her relationship with her mother was not a good one and there was resentment until the day my grandmother died. Ann, my mother, was only twenty when I was born as she and my father haphazardly eloped at nineteen and sent a telegram to let their surprised parents know. I am guessing that me coming along eleven months later gave them no time to catch their breaths from a hasty decision. Keep in mind that birth control only became legal for married couples in 1965 and even then twenty six states did not allow its use. There wasn’t the luxury of planned pregnancies so when you had sex, you probably got pregnant whether you wanted to or not.

I grew up with a mom who tried at the external, the nice dinners, the pretty home, the nice clothing and shopping at Sacks, but lacked the intuitive for the role. There wasn’t a lot of warmth and fuzziness. She didn’t have that from her mom whose own mother died when my grandmother was only 11. My grandmother was sent to a boarding school in Duluth Minnesota, Villa Scholastica to be raised by a group of Benedictine nuns, hardly a mush fest. With barely an example, it is no wonder. Then I think of my mother in law who was raised by a woman who perhaps would have been referred to as ‘loose’ back in those days and she ended up being the quintessential mom at least from the outside. You know, the rice krispy treats and fridge filled with food and kids always at the house at the built in swimming pool and so on. I think this is one of the characteristics that drew me to my former husband, her nurturing momness and his respect and love for her.

I did my best. I showed up, I was room mom, and volunteer mom. I was one of the four or five moms who had the massive sleepovers and birthday parties and end of the school year parties. I tried not to yell, though coming from a yeller, this was not as easy as sometimes Satan would rush up unannounced as I found it hard to control the gut reaction I had been used to on the receiving end when I was little. My son would say, “Mom, chill out, you don’t have to yell,” with a voice of reason I could not understand where it came from.

What constitutes a good mom is such an intricate and detailed weave of discussion. I’d imagine it is different for every person as they start this role and in hindsight reflect back on it. A good mom is a loaded three words, but I think if I were asked to define what makes me think I am one it would be this.

-Being open to what you can learn from your child as much as you think you can teach them back is numero uno on my lesson ladder.

-Look up. Technology is in our literal hands as I watch like an old lady the new moms walking their babies in their $1200 strollers trying not to judge as they stroll with a Latte in the cup holders, the leash of their Labradoodle in one hand and their Iphone in the other, texting, talking browsing missing this scenery of life. We didn’t have texting and phone emails that could so easily distract in 1997. I am sure in my perpetual world of multi tasking, I would fall into this trap. I am glad I didn’t have to make that choice.

-Learn from other moms you admire. I would say that this helped define how to be a better mom more often as I didn’t always have the knowledge to bank on. Some of the best parenting I did was because I learned it from other moms watching their example.

-Let dad be a father. I worked every Saturday and he didn’t so he was the on duty parent those Saturdays. I cherished the Saturday I got to go to work because I didn’t have to do any prep child care, I could just wake up, get ready and go to work like he did the other five days. Unbeknownst to both of us, it was one of the greatest lessons in parenting because he learned how to parent in his way and I learned how to let him. I have had many new mom employees who can’t fathom the release of control this takes. I encourage them to try it, usually with only a small amount of success. This built so much confidence in my husband as a parent and as a Dad and taught me that most of the things we moms obsess over are nonsense. The dishes get done, the laundry gets folded and life goes on. Watching my husband grow as a father was one of the best life lessons I had the privilege of enjoying. I actually think this was one of the threads that kept us married for as long as it did, I just didn’t want to give up watching him be a dad to our son. It was really a special time in our lives and I have only the best memories of it.

-Listen. My son has taught me as much if not more about being a good parent than I have likely taught him. As frustrated and impatient as I have found parenting to be at times, his accurate responses to that frustration, like when I have not been present to his never ending stream of questions, he knowingly and calmly has volleyed back to command my attention. “Mom, didn’t you always teach me to ask questions?” Touché.

All the chocolate chip cookies, volunteering in the classroom, and trips to different countries do not make up for these delicious mom moments. As much as my morning daily baking this past week for his return from school has likely assured my place in the ‘good mom’ record books in his eyes, it is often my own eyes that define it for me. As I have learned about myself and continued my own self inquisition, I have become a better mother proving it is never too late. This is gratifying in itself.









some of my favorite go to moms all these years.
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EVERY OTHER MONDAY

EVERY OTHER MONDAY

The reminders that I have set on my iphone for the past seven years are like this reliable clockwork I don’t want to ever forget. Every other Monday, yes even though you are at a college now and this no longer applies, the Michael reminder shows up every Sunday night. Like I could possibly forget that this is the day you would be coming back to me after a week at Dad’s. This is the reminder that I set up to remind me of the part of divorce that is the most annoying for you as the child of parents who separated when you were in the middle of your seventh grade year.

One week on, one week off. A visitation that you actually suggested as you lugged your stuff back and forth between two homes every other week.

I can’t imagine how this must have felt for you. I imagine not very good. The only consolation was that I did my best to make sure we stayed in the same town, that you had your house to call your home, that you had two sets of mostly everything to limit the amount of stuff you had to lug and whatever didn’t have to change didn’t. This was all to keep as much semblance of normal whatever that means as is. There are lots of people who stay married for the children and live in angst that does not teach children anything other than misery and pain as the example is usually a house filled with resentment and tension. I don’t believe that anyone should stay together if they are not happy. I don’t think this environment serves children well. I think it ended up being ok in the long run, but I also know that the alternative would have not been. There are lessons in everything and I hope the lesson you gained from this decision is that everyone has a right to be fulfilled and happy in this short life we all live. Life and decisions about it are hard and though staying in a relationship that has run its course seems like a choice often made, moving on is also courageous and honorable. I hope that it taught you that at times it is necessary to make the tough decisions and tha life isn’t always easy. The white picket fence isn’t always white and sometimes it needs to be painted a different color or taken down and replaced.

There is never a good time for two parents to split, but the worst time would have been to wait for the “let’s let you graduate from high school first, time.” This I am completely comfortable with in the decision I had to make so that I could free Dad and I from the chains that bound us in a way that no longer served our souls. I knew that by making this awful at the time decision, the pain would eventually move on so that you could at least enjoy your remaining time in school and Dad and I could do our best by you to repair our relationship so we could continue to do what we did best. To parent. This was the bond after you were born, my immense love and admiration for dad’s parenting. I didn’t want to give up watching dad be a dad to you. He was great and loving, just like his dad was to him. Still is.

It is your second decade today. You are twenty. You are on your way to twenty one and this next five years so many decisions will feel urgent as you move into your life. The twenties is the figuring it out phase. Take your time. Be patient and slow. Do not rush into big bold decisions. Use your gut as your guide. Travel. Don’t take the first job that comes your way and as a matter of fact, you will be in a position to be choosy because the gift dad and I have given you is no college debt when you graduate. This is the best gift. Financial freedom so you can move forward without other darts coming at you that force you into hasty decisions. You are so lucky to have the jumping off point from two parents who love you and still love and appreciate each other, but knew well enough that we weren’t the right fit anymore and set each other free. I hope that you will one day if not now appreciate the work we have both done to ensure that you still felt the intense love and adorations for you in the midst of a painful decision we had to make so we could both find happiness in our young lives.

You have been a blessing and a joy in our lives and we have learned so much from you. I know I can speak for dad too when I say that we are the luckiest parents in the world to get the privilege of calling you our son. Divorce is not easy on children, but often it is not the divorce as much as it is the lack of camaraderie that is the result of an angry divorce. The benefit of your grandparent’s disruptive and horrible divorce was that I knew I never wanted that to be your experience, that was my jumping off point and everything I did was with that in my mind. Of course the dream would have been for Dad and I to do our best to suck it up and try to work it out, but when this became impossible, I really thought that this would be the second best alternative. At least you could understand in your young life that two people who loved each other could also still love each other enough to let each other go too. This is a grown up very mature way to consider and it is with these glasses we came to this decision. When you are a parent there are lots of times we feel guilty about decisions, maybe considering mistakes that could have negatively impacted you and your view of the world. These are the decisions that I will never know the impact of, but as a parent I know 100% of the time I made them with the end result of your health and well being in mind. It has been hard to raise you in this town of Bristol knowing that you have been surrounded with traditional families who are together and are seemingly happy. I wanted this for you more than anything, the dream of you being able to come home from college and be a unit. It just wasn’t the story. We did our best and it just wasn’t something neither dad nor I could make happen for the reasons that are not necessary to explain, but had nothing to do with you. But I am sure you know this. This is one thing I am sure of, that our separation had nothing to do with you, but with each other. I like truth. If there is ever a time you need or want to talk about anything as you move forward into your twenties and begin the path towards the career path and the relationship and parenting path that lies in front of you, I am as you must know by now an open book. I will always tell you the truth.

You are loved. You are admired and enjoyed. Dad and I are so proud of who you have become and who you will still become. I am sure we have made mistakes because this is life as a parent, I am sure there are things in your head that we have caused good and bad but what I know Michael White is that there was never a moment of ill intent. You have always been a priority between us even when we were trying to reconfigure our own lives out separately in our new state of not being together. It is my hope that you take what you need and leave the rest and I hope the part you take is the deep love and respect I feel for you as a man in our lives.

My life is enriched and more joyous with you in it. I know Dad’s life is too. We are so lucky and happy that you are the connector of the tribe we get to still call family, regardless of its construct, its on occasion awkwardness and oddness, but nonetheless it is ours. We get to always call it our home and this is the most glorious blessing I could have ever imagined for you.

Happiest of Birthdays my dear love.

Love Mom











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RUGBY AND BEING A MOM

RUGBY AND BEING A MOM

From the time my son, Michael, was in kindergarten he was on the sporting track to play baseball. His dad played baseball among about five other sports so the first T ball game was like watching the Red Sox win the World Series. I wasn’t sure if I had more fun watching my son try to hit the ball off the black t looking like a professional baseball player or watching Dave, his dad, my former husband.

I wasn’t much of a sports kid when I was younger. I was more on the music and arts track as back then it seemed that you were one or the other. I am not really sure if this is accurate, but my perception was this and I also think it had something to do with your own parents personal narrative. My father was never interested in sports, I never recall any sporting events playing on television or him attending any professional games with my brother or me for that matter. My mother too was never interested either and so I ended up in music classes mostly. Violin, piano, flute and even a short stint with the oboe. I was competitive in music and vying to be first seat in whatever school band I landed in.

I did have a brief attempt at middle school basketball, but this was short lived as I was not comfortable with a team sport. I actually had intense anxiety before a game, so I quickly realized that basketball was not to be. I also tried cheerleading, but in the seventies and eighties cheerleading was an addendum to a sporting event, not the full blown sporting event it has turned into at present. The only sporting event I actually competed in was gymnastics and swimming. I loved gymnastics because even though you were on a team, you were solo performing and that was my thing. (for those people who know me I am sure this is no surprise). Swimming I was never very fast at, but I did enjoy my brief time on a swim team at the Fall River, Mass Y. I think I was in third grade around eight years old and I distinctly remember the superstars on the team because they stood out due to their parents’ example of parental performance at the swim meets. When Susie (this was the rockstar’s name- she must have made a an impact on me since I recall her name with such ease) propelled forward with her stunning butterfly swim down the lane, her parents cheered and hooted in a way that felt to me the way parents were supposed to hoot and holler at their child at a sporting event. I looked over at my parents who were in attendance and I actually think I saw them roll their eyes in distaste at Susie’s parents. I think they were likely thinking that the behavior was provincial and beneath the way they were raised. They would not be “those type of parents,” surely. For me this was a defining moment in my swim career. If I wasn’t to get the bells and whistles from my parents, swimming on the swim team felt anticlimactic. Perhaps I chose music because yelling and screaming at a performance was just not part of the menu options so this gave them the free pass at not living up to my parental expectation from the get go.

When my son started playing baseball I vowed that I would be the type of parent like Susie’s parents were. Attending every game, volunteering to be a team mom, doing my share at the concession stand and most importantly cheering loud and proud at every game. Part of my personal parenting strategy was to make up for all of my own parents’ inadequacies. Of course in hindsight this wasn’t always the best strategy, but it was certainly a great jumping off point. Dave was the opposite, his parents were those type of parents who went to games, bought all the gear and really participated, hence a repeat for his own son. I had the double pleasure of watching my son over the years, but alos watching my husband watch my son and it was a thrill almost every time. I say almost because there were those occasional wincing coaching moments of impatient coaches forgetting that the kids were eight and not trying out for major league baseball.

At my son’s games, I met parents, learned what was the best type of chair to buy to bring to the games, how to dress warmly enough, and for the next eleven years of his schooling, kindergarten through tenth grade, Dave and I went to almost every game and attended with vigor. We were both bummed when we noticed Michael starting to lose his enthusiasm for the game after tenth grade as I watched him lie around the house when he really should have been practicing for tryouts. As a result he got cut from the team after his second round of his junior year of high school. I wasn’t sure who I felt worse for, Michael or Dave or Michael having to tell Dave. Just like wishing I knew when the last hand hold or good night mommy hug was to be, I wish I had known that the previous year’s last game was to be, because just like that, my career as sports attending mom was over. No more complaining about the having to leave a campground to get to a game (we were teaching commitment to our young six year old, I laugh at us in reflection thinking back on how much credence we gave to it all) no more jumping up and down because of a great hit or or game saving catch. No more parental get togethers after the game and no more concession stand volunteering. I had to admit, I had some withdrawl, but I was happy to see Michael spread his wings a bit and take up golf, actually get a job because he was now free from the ties of a team and take up sailing. I think that the cut from the team was a blessing and it seemed that it was something Michael may have either consciously or unconsciously wanted. He took his senior year and the first part of his freshman year of college off from team anything. He was free.

When I got the call that he decided to give Rugby a try, I was a little startled. Rugby? Was it because I had taken him to London for his winter break? Why Rugby? I mean he is 5’7 and not a big kid like a traditional rugby player. Rugby doesn’t wear any protection either to speak of, but off he went to join the URI Rugby club. He started last spring and was hooked. This year, his sophomore year, he went to the Rugby camp that the salty dog Rugby coaches organized a week before school started. Last night I attended my first, his second game of the fall season on the B team and was at home again. Talking to a mom getting to know where to buy Rugby paraphilia because I now must have a URI Rugby shirt and I felt like the good old days again. I was transported back to the early years of glorious parent sporting event attendance. I didn’t realize how much I missed the camaraderie and the excuse to get out of the house to attend something totally out of my radar and comfort zone. I have no idea how this game works, but as I watched my son screech down the field, get tackled and protected I found myself in that familiar thrilling place of parenting like the good old days.

And I loved it. GO URI RUGBY.


happy me and my friend peg, my son the blury one.