My Mother’s Day Gift to You: What Not To Do

The greatest meaning a person can find in life is in service to others. (And also to have fun while doing it.)

There’s not only one way to help your fellow humans. You can be Nelson Mandela (who was confirmed the winner of the South African presidency on this date in 1994).

You can be a Mother Teresa.

You can be a Marie Curie.

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You can even be a superstar basketball player (Happy birthday, Chris Paul!)

LA Clippers Point Guard Chris Paul - STACK

You can  be a teacher, a doctor, or volunteer your time in a school. You can even, against all odds, be kind and patient and forgiving in a Trader Joe’s parking lot at dinner time.

     (Kidding. That’s not Trader Joes. No Priuses.)

Or, like me, your highest calling for service may be making other parents feel better about the job they’re doing.

There was the time I forgot to register my son for kindergarten. There was last Mother’s Day when I lost the same kiddo and the police were alerted. And there’s this afternoon, when his adamant insistence that he is not going back to swim team broke my resolve that he keep going because it’s good for him.

“Have a backbone,” I counseled my dear friend yesterday, a mother of one-year-old twins. “If I could do one thing different as a parent, I would have a spine.” I would, like some of my peers claim to do, require “a sport and an instrument every semester.” I wonder, do their kids push back as hard, do they bristle at these must-do’s, or do they actually want to play lacrosse and clarinet?

Swim team per se isn’t important to me, but he has rejected every other sport he has tried and I am hyper-aware of the call to arms that our children must be active or face ruin! Move! Get up! Run in place in front of the TV for godssake! Just don’t be still! I believe my son objects to the structure of team sports and after-school lessons. After six hours in school, he wants to come home, goof off, play on the trampoline…and watch lots and lots of television. (I usually have the backbone to hold off on the last one.)

As we approach the carefree unstructured days of summer, I must practice saying, “Go outside and play.” I will try to summon the strength of my convictions, and I will fail to meet my standards.

As ever, I will offer myself as your source of Scheudenfraude, so that no matter what happens you will be able to say, “At least I’m not as bad as Laura…”

You’re welcome, in advance.

A Giveaway for International Book Giving Day!

I didn’t know there was such a thing as International Book Giving Day until my friend, writer and do-gooder Susan Schaefer Bernardo, told me. So it was inevitable that I would ask Susan, the author of a children’s book, Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs if she’d write a guest post and yes, give a copy of the book to a Confessions of Motherhood reader. Everyone who leaves a comment will receive an e-book, and one commenter picked at random (scout’s honor) will receive a hard copy of the book. So make sure to leave a comment at the end of this post!

Susan says, “Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs was born out of love and loss.  I wanted my kids to know that I love them wherever they go — that we are connected even when we are physically apart.” 

Here is more from Susan:

When Laura asked me to write a guest post for this beautiful blog, I sifted through my memory for a captivating confession.  I’ve got lots, what with sixteen years of mothering two boys under my belt (a larger belt these days — I’ve been eating the crusts off their pb&j sandwiches).

I’ve got more confessions than my son has little-bitty Legos.  All those times they wore mismatched socks to school because I didn’t get the laundry done…Or how about the infamous day I threw my son into the pool to end a tantrum (he held tight and pulled me in with him!).

Here’s another confession: I was glad he clung to me, because I absolutely, positively hate letting go. I know, I know — it was clearly stated in the job description. Moms are meant to help their kids grow strong wings and show them how to fly the nest. I do…but at every step – the first day of pre-school, first sleepover, first driving lesson – it feels like part of my heart flies off with them.

My children’s book, Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs was born out of love and loss.  I wanted my kids to know that I love them wherever they go — that we are connected even when we are physically apart. 

Mother love transcends all the “bad mommy” moments: it’s a love that isn’t conditional on how clean their rooms are or whether we got enough sleep last night. It’s a love permanently etched onto our hearts like the stretch marks etched onto our bellies. Love is an ever-present force of nature, as powerful as the moon’s gravity:

“It’s true the moon cannot reach down to hold your hand,

but she’s strong enough to pull waves onto sand.

Her invisible arms rock the tides by night and day,

Like my love holds you safely when I am away.”

The last few years have been challenging –a painful divorce (is there any other kind?), a transition from stay-at-home mom to working woman. The hardest part for me has been sharing custody. I miss my kids intensely, even though they are safe and happy with dad, too.

My friend Courtenay Fletcher and I take a lot of long “walk n’talks.”  In 2012, I shared how I missed my boys…and she shared her sadness about a friend dying of breast cancer and leaving behind a 5-year-old daughter. As we consoled each other, Courtenay recalled something her mother once said: “Even when we are apart, we see the same moon – and we can send each other hugs that way.”

That idea inspired me to write a poem. That poem inspired Courtenay to create beautiful illustrations. A book took shape, and we became two moms with a mission. We raised $10,000 on Kickstarter and printed 3,000 copies. (The book took nine months from conception to birth – how perfect is that?)

Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs is a book for every child – it reassures kids they are always connected to the ones they love.  Soothing words for bedtime…and for hard times, too, when kids suffer grief or separation anxiety.  Writing the book helped heal the ‘child alone’ inside me, too.

Whenever I miss you, I will find a way to hug and kiss you….

Hugs by moon, and kisses by sun,

I’ll always love you, Little One.”

So that’s my big confession. I love my kids like crazy, and I’m willing to do the time for my crime. In fact, like every mother I know, I will happily serve a life sentence – and beyond.

——-

Author Susan Schaefer Bernardo and illustrator Courtenay Fletcher love to share Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs with kids and families in need…so they donate lots of copies to great charities like A Window Between Worlds, United through Reading, hospitals and more.  Once in a blue moon, they offer the e-book FREE so EVERYBODY can share the love. It might not be the world’s most profitable business model, but it works for them. Hardcover and Kindle versions are available at Amazon.com…if you love the book, please leave a review!

Be sure to comment below to receive your free e-book and a chance to receive a hard copy in honor of National Book Giving Day.

Christmas Schmristmas — It’s Hanukah Envy, Baby

Hanukah begins tomorrow night, and I’ve been shopping.

“I think the boys are going to be disappointed,” I bemoaned last night, as I pictured them opening presents that include sweatshirts and pajamas. My husband tried to console me, “Didn’t you also get them each a Wii game?” 

“Yeah, but I can’t find the box I put them in.”

Sigh. This time of year, I’m a big ball of conflict. All year long, when they ask for stuff (mostly crap), I brush them off with, “Let’s put it on the Hanukah list.” Then I forget about it. Mostly, they do, too.

On the one hand, I don’t want to encourage them to be materialistic, so there’s no iPad, no oversized heavy box laden with a massive toy that will be abandoned or busted or both by next week. But I also want them to be delighted, thrilled, ecstatic! I want them to be happy. I want them to like Hanukah. I want them not to be bummed out that they are Jewish.

Where’s Adam Sandler when I need him?

I suppose a little Christmas envy is a rite of passage for Jewish kids. It builds character. I should take heart; mine have graduated from envy to competitive Hanukah pride. The evidence? Yesterday, I surprised Emmett by taking him to the cupcake store for the first time in months. He browsed his choices and exclaimed, “There are Hanukah cupcakes!” and he picked out the one with the most frosting. The next little girl who walked in the door, whose mother and I went to Jewish pre-school together, did the same. More evidence: my sixth-grader reported that his friend was telling him all the reasons Christmas was better than Hanukah. Aaron didn’t back down, but instead gave him the whole “we’ve got eight nights” spiel.

“Oh yeah, well all you’ve got is fire!” his friend countered, referring to our menorah.

Aaron didn’t miss a beat. “Do you know how many house fires are started by Christmas trees?” I have no idea where that line of argument came from, but we’ll see how well his friend sleeps from now until New Years.

As long as we Jews live in a non-Jewish world, there will always be some Christmas envy, at least for those who see the holidays as a time for getting lots of presents. (An inverse relationship exists for those of us who do that shopping.) But that same dynamic, a match-up of holiday versus holiday, can be a catalyst to look at who you are and find strength, identity, family, community and pride. And that’s before word one about those kickass Macabbees. I can’t wait until Aaron tells his friends about them.