We Are Both Right

Best of: Bringing Tears to Our Eyes

tears of joy

What makes you cry tears of joy? ©davidlat/stock.xchng

For my mother it’s the song “Pomp and Circumstance.” She could hear the hopeful notes being played as far away from a graduation ceremony as could possibly be (think Musak in the elevator), and she’ll still find herself welling up, imagining polyester gowns, squared-off caps and optimistic speeches that take too long.

Tears of joy — a phenomena that you’ll (hopefully) experience a lot as a parent. And the thing about crying happy tears is that you never know what will set you off. Maybe it’s a sweet homemade card or one of your kids doing something uncharacteristically nice for their siblings.

Whatever it is, despite you tears, you feel good inside and you are once again reminded how lucky you are to be a parent.

So in honor of Mother’s Day on Sunday we’re sharing our favorite ways our little ones bring tears to our eyes. Pass the tissues!

  • First steps
  • Preschool graduation ceremonies where they sing songs you wouldn’t expect — ask Suzanne about “I Believe I Can Fly”
  • Dance recitals
  • Watching a child sleep
  • Solos at the school band concert
  • School-sponsored Mother’s Day teas, complete with crumbly homemade cookies and watered-down juice
  • Watching your little athlete be handed the game ball
  • Thinking back to the delivery room
  • The Song “Five Days Old” by the Laurie Berkner Band (gets Amanda every time)
  • When they brush my hair
  • The last day of school (and camp) goodbyes with friends
  • Pictures of my children giggling and playing, full of love
  • The special moments when you see siblings really connect (and dare we say, adore each other)

What about you? What makes you cry happy tears?

This One’s Dedicated to All the Mom-Heroes Out There

They can leap over Legos, scale playground fences and see with eyes in the back of their heads. Who is your favorite superhero mom? © Mattel DC Universe

Ask a child who their favorite super hero is, and you’re likely to get back a response like Superman, Batgirl, Iron Man or Wonder Woman (my personal fav).

Sure, there’s something to be said for having a web at your fingertips that will let you swing from one building to the next on a moment’s notice — just as long as it’s not your four-year-old trying to get from the garage to the patio overhang.  And who hasn’t wished for the ability to don a cape and fly somewhere in a pinch, like when you’re late for the school bus again? (I know I could have used that last week).

But even without these extraordinary powers, mothers everywhere take on the role of superhero everyday. Who else could get by with two hours sleep and still have an endless supply of love to give all day long? Come up with balanced meals for a three-year-old on the run?

Put just as much emphasis on serving our country as serving their families? Ditch temptations of social networking in favor of playing Candyland. Engage an entire extended family in learning sign language to keep up with a hearing-impaired preschooler?

Round up enough dandelions to help a child create a bouquet, in spite of allergies? Get through the challenging teenage years and live to tell about it? And take joy in every moment, knowing that the minds and hearts of our children are the most powerful powers of all.

In honor of Mother’s Day, Amanda and I give all of you superhero moms a special salute. Enjoy the day!

Best Of: Advice on Being a Mom

What motherly words of advice were like a life saver for you? © Arjun Kartha / stock.xchng

Whether it’s your very first Mother’s Day or your twentieth, you have undoubtedly received some great advice that helped you along the way.

You know the kind we mean. The few words that picked you up when you needed it most. Or the detailed instructions that got you through those first few days home with baby.

Whatever they were and whoever uttered them — those words of wisdom made you realize that you were not alone in the sometimes overwhelming world of motherhood.

We’re sharing ours and we hope you will too:

AMANDA: One of the best pieces of advice about motherhood came, from all people, my husband. Now while he’s a great dad and the best father for my children that I could ever want or hope for, he is undoubtedly not a mother, nor will he ever be.

Still, I will always be grateful for his words of wisdom.

Start a blog.

I know, it’s not a sentimental pearl. Heck, it can’t even be classified as practical. But it was what I needed at the time and personally and professionally changed my life.

For years I had been writing professionally. Writing. Writing. Writing. My dream right? I thought so. Except I wasn’t happy. I was in a total rut. Because for all the words I was churning out on a daily basis, none of them were mine really. It’s not like I was plagiarizing or anything, but I wasn’t writing for me. I was writing what other people wanted me to write. And I was tired.

And then I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant with my youngest. We were freaked to say the least. I mean, we had talked about maybe having a third, but I think we were just about over it. My elder two were in elementary school, I had just lost about 35 pounds (all the baby weight!) — we were happy with our little unit just the way it was. And then two lines.

Big picture I was excited, but acutely, I was overwhelmed. Totally on so many levels. T. and I decided to keep the pregnancy under wraps for a while — we wanted our kids to be the first to know and before we told them about their new little sibling, we wanted to be sure everything was OK. The problem was, I was having trouble not talking about the pregnancy to my family and friends, especially under the surprise circumstances. I was hormonal. I was having mood swings. And I had no outlet, except for one person. And I think he was tired of hearing me talk.

So in his infinite wisdom, or maybe it was desperation, my husband suggested I start a blog.

The thing was, blogging definitely helped me work through my feelings, but it did other things too. Because suddenly I was writing again. Really writing. Like back in high school, dear diary, writing for myself writing. My voice was there all along, I just hadn’t been using it.

It felt so good to write what I wanted and how I wanted to write it. Not the repurposing I was doing in my paid jobs — press releases and stories on parenting that had been written umpteen times. But the funny thing was, the more I wrote about the soon-to-be-S., the more relaxed I became with my other projects. Everything improved. It was amazing.

So short term, the blog was helping me professionally and emotionally. But as time went on, I realized it had a much greater, valuable purpose. It’s S.’s history — his life and my pregnancy with him.

Now I haven’t been as good as I used to be as writing in it, but when I go back and look, I can not only read about S.’s “firsts” in great detail, but incidents and milestones that I would never think to record in a baby book. Funny yarns like the time C. lost S.’s exersaucer and all of his funny nicknames, as well as things from my pregnancy like how I was a childbirth class delinquent.

When I look at C.’s and A.’s baby books I see a lot dates and grasp at fuzzy details at the edge of my memory. When I read the blog about S., I remember.

SUZANNE:  It was my first job out of college and I was an assistant in the public relations office of a hospital. At the helm was this vibrant woman in her forties who was the best mentor you could want. She was a Fulbright Scholar. Be it in the Board Room or on Broadway, she had stage presence. She spoke as passionately about breastfeeding as she did her career. She was a fabulous cook, a gardener and looked as put together in Chanel as she did a barn jacket. In other words, you could say she knew a little about doing it all.

And even though I worked for her years before I had my first child, there was one piece of advice from her that I never forgot.

Superwoman. Stupid woman.

Yes, that was her advice. The woman who seemingly did it all said you were stupid if you thought you could do it all.

Which means a lot more to me now than it did then.

By nature, I’m the consummate multi-tasker. I feel accomplished when I fill my days to the max. But lately it seems to have reached a crescendo. My mind is now racing around the clock. My children are seeing way too much of a harried mom who is short on energy.

And I’m beginning to realize that if I keep pushing the limits, instead of having it all, I might actually lose it all. How I wish she was still around to ask her what to do next.

But I guess that’s the thing about advice. It’s like someone coming along and cleaning the eyeglasses you didn’t even know were dirty. And then it’s up to you to find your own way.

Or meet someone with some more great advice.

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What’s the best advice you’ve received since becoming a mom? What advice would you give to a mom-to-be? (Besides telling them to visit We Are Both Right!)

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Dad Planning a First Mother’s Day

©irenaeus-h/stock.xchng

What's the secret to planning a great Mother's Day? Ask the aforementioned mom! ©irenaeus-h/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

This isn’t a problem per se, but I am looking for advice.

This year my wife will celebrate her first Mother’s Day. Our son Gavin is 8 months old. I want to make the day special for her, but I’m not really sure what to do. I’ve asked her, but she’s been really vague about making plans, simply saying that she just wants a day with her family.

So what does that mean exactly?

– Dumbfounded Dad

Amanda: You are very wise to come to us with this question. And seeing as you are of the male species and don’t speak mom (and clearly you’ve lost your handy dandy translator) I’m happy to decipher your wife’s words for you.

She just wants a day with her family.

(Was that too on the nose?)

Yes, I know, you got that. “But what does that mean exactly?” I see your eyes rolling all the way over here. (And don’t take that tone with me.)

It means as long as you don’t decide to spend the day golfing with your buddies, this is an easy one. Just spend the day with her. You, Gavin and your wife.

Now you are exasperated. “DOING WHAT?”

It doesn’t matter. Really. It’s not a trick question (or answer). She just wants to be with you and your son. But since you seem to want something specific, let’s talk this out. You actually have a couple of options for planning a great day, and despite your wife’s indistinct directions, I think you should definitely take the initiative and plan something special.

You can totally surprise her with an itinerary for the day, or, if you are more comfortable, go to her with some specific ideas. You can even say, “Honey, I know you said that you just want to spend the day with Gavin and me, but I really want to make this day special for you. So I was thinking we could X, Y or Z. Or two of those. Or all three. What do you think?”

And if she’s still sort of undecided or unspecific on what she’d like to do, take your cue from that. Truly, maybe she just wants to spend the day at home doing nothing.

But the main idea is clear, whether you have brunch at a restaurant, breakfast in bed, a walk with her extended family, a day at the park or just time spent cuddling in bed.

She wants to spend the day with the two most important people in her life: you and your son.

Good luck and have fun!

Suzanne: While I agree with Amanda’s translation, I just want to make sure we’re speaking the same dialect as your wife.

Because when some women say what your wife did, they really mean it. Like me. And like Amanda.

If our husbands planned something low-key at home, just like we requested, neither one of us would be boiling inside thinking, “This is it? No diamond earrings, no spa gift certificate, no Mother’s Day brunch? Just wait until Father’s Day. Hummmppph.”

So think back. Was your engagement everything she dreamed it would be? Or did she later confess that she was a little disappointed that it wasn’t more romantic or splashy? Was there ever a time you agreed not to exchange holiday presents to save money, and she spent the rest of the day insisting she wasn’t mad that you really didn’t get her a little something, but you know she was.

Nothing against your wife if that’s the case. That just means she is into a flashier kind of a simple day. So you are probably going to want to make reservations for lunch, pay a visit to the jeweler and buy her a bouquet from you and the baby. Then everyone will be happy. For real.

On the other hand, if you’ve never disappointed her in the past, then Amanda’s plan will make for the perfect day. Tell her how much you and Gavin appreciate her and want this to be a day that is all about her.

If she still says anything sounds good, then plan the day around a few activities that give her time to focus on the best parts of motherhood. The fun of pushing Gavin in a swing. Or walking along a scenic path holding your hand and watching her son’s drooly smile as he rides in the baby carrier on his Daddy’s chest.  You might also consider making a keepsake of sorts, maybe enlarging a special photo of the two of them, stamping it with his baby handprint, and presenting it to your wife in a beautiful frame.

Let us know how it goes and whether a nice day at home was all she really wanted.

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OK moms and dads, got any suggestions/advice for our new friend D squared? How did you spend your first Mother’s Day? In a perfect world, what will you be doing this May 8?

You know what’s so great about sending your questions to advice@wearebothright? You get double the opinions!

Hey Kids, How Am I Doing?

What grade would your child give you? ©Dominik Gwarek/stock.xchng

Ed Koch has been on my mind lately.

Might sound strange, if you know who he is. But I remember him only for one reason. He was the former mayor of New York who was famous for asking his constituents: “How am I doing?”

And these days, that’s a question I’ve been asking of myself, wondering just how well I’m doing as a mother. Of course my children are alive and thriving. They are well-fed and happy most of the time, and not really in want of anything. But there have been days (more of late) when I have been mad at myself for not doing enough. For falling short. For not being focused enough on them.

It may all be unfounded. Usually my insecurities are.

I also realize that most of the time, it’s my own unrealistic expectations that get in the way of feeling secure in my abilities. Like the day last month when L. casually mentioned on the car ride home from school that it was a good thing they celebrated two birthdays in class that day, because he didn’t bring a snack to school. I nearly spun around in my seat while driving.

What do you mean you didn’t have a snack, did you have lunch, oh, no, don’t tell me we forgot to pack your lunch, what do they do if you come to school with no snack or lunch?

Just as quickly as I asked these run-on questions, he answered that it was no big deal. Kids forget their lunches and snacks all the time. They have spares on hand.

Oh.

So that means I’m not the worst mother ever. Parents forget more frequently than I do? *Begin breathing again*

This little mix-up — where I thought my husband packed his lunch and vice versa — and a few others lately — where the kids have been pout-ier than usual — have made me second-guess that I’m doing as good of a mothering job as I could be.

Then I remind myself that these things obviously bother me more than them. Even still, I needed to make sure. And so I created my first annual mother’s performance review. Kind of like the one I get at work every winter but with a little less emphasis on technicalities (because I don’t think they really care if I wash my hands) and with more focus on the touchy feely (since my supervisor doesn’t give me any extra points for my superior skills in reading bedtime stories).

And with Mother’s Day coming up in less than a week, it seemed like a good time for my kids to tell me how I measure up. On a scale of 1-100, these are the grades my two children gave me this year in ten job responsibilities that matter most to them:

MOTHER’S REPORT CARD

    Kisses and Hugs 92

    Cooking and Baking 94

    Sports 70 (I cheer really good though.)

    Pretend 89   (Although I do still have room for improvement in my development of princess plots)

    Playdates 87  (S. is satisfied, L. says I could improve on the frequency)

    Board games 97  (I do like Scrabble.)

    Bedtime Stories 93

    Rough-housing 0   (Guess it’s up to Daddy to pick up my slack.)

    Worrying/Safety 100 (This makes me proud; all those “wash your hands” and “be careful” warnings have penetrated their brains!)

    Homework help 81  (Is it wrong of me to do dishes at the same time, since he does well enough on his own not to merit too much help?)

    OVERALL AVERAGE 80.3

Pretty respectable (although I did much better in high school.) Maybe rough-housing shouldn’t even be in my job description — I would have been a whole lot closer to 90 if not.

In any case, I didn’t get any comments about being the worst mom ever and certainly no one told me “You’re fired!”  So I guess that means I should keep doing what I’m doing — maybe using less time to worry and more time to, oh, I don’t know, pretend more?

Now it’s your turn. Go ahead and ask your kids to grade you if you dare and let me know what your score is.

Just one last thing though before you go into the boss’ office for your mommy review. You know how trucks have that “How am I driving?” sticker? Do you think anyone ever calls to evaluate them?

Final grades are due by Friday at 5. In the meantime, get inspired by Amanda’s reflections on motherhood — which are much more balanced than mine, that’s for sure.

Reflections on the Joy of Motherhood

The joy of motherhood

How on earth did I get so lucky?

I am a mother. A simple enough statement. Four little words. But the meaning behind them is immeasurable.

I am a nurse, a cook, a chauffeur, a therapist, a teacher, a party coordinator, an ATM. A personal shopper, a medic, a protector, a camp counselor,  a coach. A cruise director, a life organizer, a drill sergeant, a travel agent.

I am a mother.

Every once in a while someone will do a story on how much a mother is “worth,” that is if there was such a thing as being paid to be a mother, how much would it be. ($211,813 per year for me according to this site.)

But amazingly enough, for all I give my children, they give me more. Oh, so much more.

Because those four little words — I am a mother — means I get to be around three wonderfully, amazing children who fill my life with love and hope and endless happiness. No matter how bad or desperate things get on the “outside” — in other parts of my life, in the world at large — I have these three reset buttons waiting for me. Loving me. And needing me to love them.

First steps. Notes in a lunchbox. A baby falling asleep on my chest. Surprise parties. A big hit in a little league game. Preschool. Riding the subway. A hundred on a spelling test. First words. DisneyWorld. Baskets at basketball games. Science projects. Climbing the Rocky Mountains in a rainstorm. First note played on a trumpet. Pierced ears. First chorus concert. Scoring a soccer goal. Birthday parties. Handmade necklaces. Cards, cards and more cards. Coming home from the hospital. Moving into a new house. The smell of a baby after a bath. And “google” more, as my daughter A. would say.

And don’t get me wrong. Being a parent isn’t all songs and roses. Hardly. Many of my darkest moments — the ones that terrified me or angered me or made me feel the least proud were a direct result of being a parent. And even on the days when they drive me the craziest (and oddly enough, maybe it is on the days they drive me the craziest), those are seconds when I’m the most aware of a mother’s love, and its ability to transcend everything.

I am a mother. I am happy.

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While technically we aren’t hosting a “Where We Meet Week,” in the interest of Mother’s Day, Suzanne and I have agreed to dedicate our posts this week to all things motherhood.

Our Two Cents: Just Who is Mother’s Day for Anyway?

©simmbarb/stock.xchng

How will you spend Mother's Day this year? ©simmbarb/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

Mother’s Day is supposed to be a day for mothers right? I’m supposed to relax, put my feet up and be pampered, correct? What I say goes? Well apparently someone didn’t get the memo — my husband. We go through the same thing every year. He wants to spend Mother’s Day with his mother. Which I understand. Truly I do. But there are a couple of issues here.

  1. We spend every Mother’s Day with his mother. Not my mother. His mother. I would love to spend a year (or, if I may be so bold) every year, with my family — my mother sure, but more importantly with my husband and my children, doing an activity of my choosing.
  2. When it comes to Father’s Day, my husband does what he wants. Sometimes he’ll go fishing, sometimes it’s a baseball game, but it’s always what he wants to do with no input from everyone else.

I hate to sound like a five-year-old, but it’s not fair! I’ve pointed out the disparity, but he never really gives me a straight answer, other than he wants to spend Mother’s Day with his mom.

Help!

– I’ll Show Him Mommy Dearest

Amanda: Holidays are tough aren’t they? Because there is a very limited amount of time in which to celebrate with what sometimes seems like an unlimited amount of relatives. Add some heightened emotions, a bunch of hurt feelings, a touch of passive-aggressiveness and your grandmother’s ambrosia salad, and you’ve got the makings for a family get-together for the ages.

Mother’s Day especially is a tough one, because if you are fortunate, there are a lot of mothers in the family to celebrate, all of whom have a different idea of how they’d like to spend “their” designated holiday. It sounds to me like you’d prefer a day with just your immediate family (and maybe a trip to see your mom too). And that’s great — for myriad reasons, that’s generally how me and my family spend the day too.

So how to do it?

First, come up with a plan of what you’d like to do that day. From brunch to a trip to a playground, to getting your nails painted, map it all out. Then try talking to your husband one more time. Don’t be confrontational, don’t yell. Explain what you had in mind for Mother’s Day and why it’s so important that you spend your special day together as a family. If your agenda doesn’t involve visiting his mom (and as far as I’m concerned, that’s O.K.), offer to have her over another day — perhaps the Saturday before for a meal or fun activity — as a compromise. Reassure your husband that spending Mother’s Day without his mom has nothing to do with her, rather, more to do with you wanting to bask in the glow of your own precious family.

If he’s still a no-go, then you have a decision to make.

  1. You can go with your husband to see your mother-in-law. I suspect if you go that route, you won’t be happy and will be quite resentful, but maybe not. You need to be honest with yourself here.
  2. You can do what you had planned without him. Take the kids and off you go to the beach or the mall or whatever it is you had in mind. Put the ball in his court. Say something like, “If you want to visit your mom, that’s fine, but the kids and I are going to xyz. I really hope you’ll join us.”

No matter what you decide, follow through and stick with it. And then relax and enjoy your Mother’s Day! Good luck!

Suzanne: Amanda makes some great suggestions about how to divide and conquer. But I’m heading in a completely different direction (are you surprised?) so keep an open mind, because this might not be exactly what you wanted to hear.

I think that instead of bailing on the extracurricular Mother’s Day and (Mother-in-Law Day) festivities, you take the position of “the more, the merrier.”  You say that you wish you could spend time with your mom on Mother’s Day too, so why not invite the whole gang to your place for the afternoon?

Now I’m not suggesting that you spend the entire morning cooking up a storm and cleaning the house in preparation for your company. To pull this off, you have to have the buy-in of the guys (namely your husband whose idea [read: fault] this was anyway). He has to step up and BBQ or order pizza or whatever it is that gets the family fed without any of the moms having to lift a finger. Make this a late lunch or early dinner and you will still have time for breakfast in bed, served up sticky-hand style by your own young chef. You could probably even fit in a leisurely walk to the park with your children and even your husband, if he’s not too busy prepping for later.

But in the end, no matter how you choose to celebrate this day of honor, just don’t let yourself be so disappointed if it doesn’t meet your ideal image of Mother’s Day. Besides it gives you the excuse to make up for it later. You can cash in on a “special” day with the kids or even on your own — for a day of beauty if that is more your speed – any day you choose.

Because that’s really the best thing about being a mom. You can celebrate your status any and every day of the year. And when your kids are young and always around, that makes it even easier. So maybe the official day in May should be left to celebrate with our own mothers — whether it means splitting the day or sharing the place of honor with an equally wonderful group of moms.

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What do you think? Should Mommy Dearest’s husband be spending Mother’s Day with his mother or his wife (or both)? Or is there a way to compromise?

If you’ve got a question that needs more than one answer, send it to advice@wearebothright.com.