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Thursday, May 8th, 2014
Phil always takes Fia to school while I do the pickup. He walks her to the classroom, thus passing the board postings with sign up sheets and information about all that is going on. I find her on the playground and don’t walk past the boards. Which is why I got a call from Phil at 9:05 this morning wondering why I didn’t bring her to school.
“Are you aware there is some Mother’s Day tea thing you’re supposed to do with Fia this morning?”
“Um, no,” I said as I looked down at myself, still in my pajamas, while Emmett ran around in his diaper, snot pouring out of his nose. Leave it to me to mess up my own holiday.
“Well there is a 9:30 slot. I signed you up. You have to come right now. Bring Emmett with you and I will take him home until you get back.”
It figures it’s a day that Em has a cold and can’t go to preschool. I hate inconveniencing Phil. He writes from home so it feels like a slippery slope when I have to ask him for a favor. But in this case, he volunteered. Still, I was stressed about his potential annoyance of this event cutting into his workday.
I threw Emmett and myself together in exactly 243 seconds and bolted out the door.
I cursed traffic and myself for not checking the board. I thought, Maybe Phil should just quickly do it since he’s there already. Then I can do Father’s Day or something….I mean, will she really know the difference or care?
I got there at 9:34, handed off Emmett to Phil, (who luckily didn’t seem at all resentful), and ran in.
There was Fia in her pretty red dress and striped tights waiting for me. I was the last mom to arrive. She beamed and took my hand.
“Come Mama, first we do a work project together.”
(This being Montessori, I’m always curious about what they do during the day.)
Fia sat down at her table where her “cracker work” is. Now this is something she does every single day. Usually it’s her first task. It’s a tough one. You put 4 saltine crackers on the grid, then eat them. It’s only for the very brilliant. This little morning ritual cracks us up.
Every day, “Fia what work did you do?”
“The cracker work!” she says through giggles.
“Of course you did,” we reply in unison.
However, today the teacher and I agree that maybe we can find something slightly more interesting (albeit probably not nearly as challenging) for us to do together. Fia picked a project where she had to match picture cards of baby animals with their mama’s. Appropriate since we are honoring Mother’s Day.
First up: An elephant. Whose baby is called a….. Baby elephant? (My guess). Nope, a calf.
Next: A horse, whose baby is called a…. Pony? (My guess). Nope, a foal. And mama is a horse? Nope, a mare. Dad’s a stallion. Oh right.
Perhaps I should have stuck to watching her eat Saltines. I did manage to get the Kangaroo and Joey combo correct so all my schooling wasn’t for naught.
After we completed the work Fia again took my hand and brought me outside to a table. There, she served me cold tea with banana bread and fruit.
It’s amazing how small things like this can be so damn touching when you become a parent. I noticed her confidence in taking my hand and guiding me; her pride in telling her friends, “here’s my mom!” and her love, which is fully encompassing.
I am so happy I didn’t miss this little event. It’s a simple reminder that despite the daily schlepping grind, the diaper changing and snot wiping (at least for Emmett), the battling of traffic–and battles in general– it is a privilege be carry the title “Mom.”
When we were finished eating she gave me a card, neatly wrapped with a paper flower and bookmark she had made. In it there were sentences she had finished. “I like my mom because (fill in blank).” Her last line said, “My Mom is special because…she really really really loves me.”
She will just never know how much…until she becomes a mom herself.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. We are the luckiest club in the world.
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Find fun, crafty projects your daughter can bond over, here.
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips
Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Before I say anything else, I want to make it clear that not all parents are worthy of respect. The father who walks out on his wife and kids, only to show up on their doorstep 11 years later doesn’t instantly become an admirable man. And surely, there are too many mothers and fathers out there who abuse their children, either verbally or physically. But if your parents put a roof over your head, clothed and fed you, sacrificed their time and energy for your benefit, are generally good people and you still find yourself treating them like second-class citizens? Then this blog is for you.
Soon after my mother died in 2012, I developed a hypersensitivity about people not respecting their parents. I wanted to shake them and scream, “You’re luckier than you’ll ever realize!” But the sad fact is, it won’t hit most people until it’s too late. And these are the people bawling uncontrollably in the front row of the funeral parlor. These are the people soaking in all the sympathy because, even though most of those tears are products of guilt, onlookers will perceive them as pure grief and nothing less. I wish I could say I haven’t seen this myself.
Look, I’m well aware that arguments are going to happen. Dreadful ones, in fact. And an unblemished relationship where both parent and child get along swimmingly into adulthood is practically impossible. But there’s a difference between being occasionally at odds with your mother and refusing to call her for a year because she crossed a line that you didn’t appreciate being crossed. Put another way, it’s one thing to unfriend an old high school buddy on Facebook because the constant pictures of his cat annoy you. It’s yet another to shout at, run from, or worse yet, ignore a parent because they’re in your face too much or aren’t filling the exact role you envisioned. I promise there will come a day when you wish they were in your face again.
I wasn’t always so sensitive to this. But two major changes in my life altered my perception of the parent-child relationship. One, obviously, was losing my mother before I ever expected I would. Those “everyday, nothing special” conversations became what I longed for, and despite having a good relationship with mom, I started beating myself up about how I didn’t do more for her and with her. Another, frankly, was becoming a parent myself. Because now I see the heart and soul that goes into it. I see the multitude of personal sacrifices it takes, and I see the undying, relentless love I have for my own children. If either of them grew up to treat me with indignant disrespect, I would feel like I’d done something terribly wrong in raising them.
Maybe I’m able to say these things because I always had a good relationship with my parents. But were there times when I felt they intruded on my privacy? Yes. Were there times when I felt that they truly didn’t “get me” and disagreed with my life decisions without sound judgment? Absolutely. But I was raised with a firm understanding that your parents demand respect. Period. Thankfully, I listened.
It’s a cliché, but I’m going to say it anyway. If I reach even one person with this blog, it was worth writing. If I convince just one person to give their parents the type of attention and love they deserve, then I’ve been successful. And to be clear, I’m not suggesting reverting back to the 1950s where calling your father “sir” and mother “ma’am” was the norm. But your parents are indispensable pieces of your very being. Give them the honor they deserve, or be the guilty one weeping at their funeral, as you sadly think of how you could’ve done things differently.
I was somewhat reluctant to touch on such a somber subject this week. But I see far too many people complaining about having to call their mother once a week, or rolling their eyes through the transport of their dependent father to his doctor’s appointment. There was a time when you couldn’t so much as breathe without their help. These aren’t strangers on the street, folks. And if anyone is worthy of dignity, don’t you think it’s them?
Thanks for reading, even if this didn’t pertain to you personally. For my more comedic side, check out my brand new Facebook page! Or follow me on Twitter.
As always, feel free to join the conversation by adding a comment below! Would love to hear from you.
Image: “Respect” photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
This needs to be written about. Not because it’s a topic I enjoy bringing up, but because this is a time of year when, despite the inherent joy of the holiday season, people are hurting more than we think. The reason I know this is because I am hurting more than you think. And I know I’m not alone. For reference, here’s my back story.
If you’re going through your first holiday season after the loss of a parent (or anyone you were especially close with), I don’t need to tell you that it’s practically unbearable. And for me, it was after seeing the Christmas lights strung up on banisters around town that it hit me—whether I liked it or not, life was going on without my mother. And I had absolutely no choice but to deal with it. In the grand scheme of things, the conveyor belt of life continued to operate, and I felt like I had two choices: Stay on and force a smile, or jump off and pout. You’ll probably find yourself doing a little bit of both. Especially during the month of December.
I’ve also learned that, despite the support we get from our close friends and families, how we cope with these losses is something we must decide completely on our own. In other words, it’s our cross to bear. So I’ve assembled a list, a defense strategy against the inevitable sadness that can and will overtake you over the holidays. I’m certainly no doctor, but I hope it helps. It has for me.
This is absolutely crucial. Don’t over-work yourself. As parents, we have a tendency to forget about our own well-being completely, but in grief you’ll realize that this tactic will backfire. So, take days off. Surround yourself with only people who bring you up, not down. Get a massage. Go to the movies. Don’t be afraid to pamper yourself. After what you’ve gone through, you wholeheartedly deserve it. And if anyone dares question your new-found affinity for taking care of yourself, feel free to be blunt with them.
- Remind people you need them
It’s not easy. I’m well aware of that. We all want to be perceived as being strong, a rock. But that strategy works against you in grief. For me, picking up the phone and calling my 87-year-old grandmother or a friend to let them know I still need their support certainly didn’t feel natural. But the people in your life who truly care for you will respond in kind. As I’ve discovered, as soon as the funeral ends, most people will go on with their lives assuming you’re fine unless you speak up. And if talking to friends and family doesn’t help, don’t be afraid to seek counseling. There’s no shame in this game.
- Remember the parent in your own way
I’ve gone through phases of holding onto my mother’s possessions for dear life (keeping her cell phone in my sock drawer, storing her social security card in my wallet) to shutting her image completely out of my mind. I’ve gotten to the point where I feel comfortable having pictures of her up around the house, and on occasion bring her up to my older son so that she seems “present” in his life. And during Christmastime, while every other window is illuminated with a single white candle, I leave the candle in my bedroom off, in memory of her. That might seem odd to some, but it gives me a small bit of peace when I need it most. It doesn’t have to make sense.
- Focus on your greatest blessings
If you have children, hug them tighter. If you have cats, hug them tighter. If you really love chocolate, don’t hug it tighter. That would be weird. But you see where I’m going with this. I’ve found that accentuating the strongest positives in life helps enormously. It reminds us that there’s still plenty of good left in this world to enjoy, despite what we’ve lost.
- Don’t feel guilty “moving on”
I think there’s a tendency to stay “stuck in the moment” of losing someone, especially a parent. Your life grinds to a halt, and it almost doesn’t feel “right” to move on without them. I mean, how can we simply keep living like everything’s fine when it clearly isn’t? I’m incredibly guilty of clinging to this perspective. But what I (and anyone dealing with grief) need to know is that moving on does not mean forgetting. It does not mean we don’t care and it does not mean we’re not in pain. It simply means that we’re choosing to embrace the light rather than the dark. There will be days when the dark wins, but if we put ourselves in situations that enable happiness (for both us and our children), I think we’ll find ourselves smiling more often than not.
Sorry if you were expecting my “lighter side” today, but frankly, the weight we feel on our shoulders (specifically as parents) can feel unrelenting at times. People need to know they’re not alone in their most personal stresses. I hope this provided even the slightest bit of relief for them. So this is Joe DeProspero, guest blogger for Parents.com reminding you that we’re all in this together. Happy holidays, everyone.
On this topic especially, I’d love to hear from you. Simply writing about your personal experience could provide more relief than you’d think. Feel free to add a comment below.
* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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Joe DeProspero, Losing a Parent
Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
It’s easy to learn things from people who won’t shut up. For instance, I learned a great deal about college basketball and why I should be excited about it from famously boisterous announcer Dick Vitale. I learned about democracy from my know-it-all politics professor in college. But the important stuff? The lessons that help mold you as a person, facilitate connections with others and help you to become a functioning member of society? I learned those from someone who never had to shout them in my face.
My mother was (and I still don’t feel comfortable using the past tense) the kind of person you wanted at your party. She was the kind of person you’d call when you wanted to escape the stresses of your career and the evils of the world. But one thing she wasn’t was preachy. Never. I always appreciated that about her. Sure, she let the hammer fall if and when I failed many, many science tests in school, but she tended to mind her own business when it came to my decisions beyond the age of 18. Regardless of that fact, I learned invaluable lessons from her, sometimes intentionally and sometimes completely by accident.
Mom and me at my band’s show, 2008
In no particular order, here’s what I’ve learned from mom, either through her actions, words, or lack of words.
Kindness is contagious
It was nearly impossible to dislike my mother. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my mother. She was unbelievably amiable, always pleasant in her dealings with others and her smile and laugh were downright infectious. Because of that, people around her tended to be friendlier, happier and in better spirits. It’s often stated that “misery loves company,” but what doesn’t get said enough is that happy people create more happy people.
If you have something to say, even something negative, say it
You may hate the reference, but that John Mayer song holds a great deal of truth. In the song, “Say” he includes the line, “It’s better to say too much, than never to say what you need to say.” I remember it often, especially how it relates to my parents’ marriage. Hard feelings fester and eat away at you over time. Despite my mother’s cheerful disposition, I often believed that she held her negative thoughts inside so as not to hurt feelings. This probably explains why she rarely had anything to say to my father, who she was divorced from by the time I graduated college (to be clear, I’m not pointing a finger at either of them, but it was obvious that communication wasn’t bountiful). Whenever I’m at odds with someone, I think of the silence that too often surrounded my childhood, and for better or worse, I say (or type) what’s on my mind. If you’re a regular reader of mine, this much you know.
Be remembered for your smile, not your title
Put another way, work to live, don’t live to work. I don’t think my mother was ever passionate about her career, but she still left one hell of an impression on people she worked with, co-workers from two and three jobs ago attending her funeral services, devastated. The thing is that, while she wasn’t passionate about her job, she was passionate about her family and how that job provided for them. And you pretty much never heard her talking about work at the dinner table, nor would anyone distinguish her by what title she held or what company she worked for. When she died, people remembered her laugh, her sense of humor, and “that time we got silly drinking gin and tonics.” I’d prefer to be remembered for those things, too.
Don’t waste time on a bad friend
More often than I’d like to admit, I’ve tried breathing life into a friendship that was clearly dead on arrival. Since I’m such a loyal person, I tend to clutch onto relationships, even if the other half of the equation isn’t doing the same. Many years ago, when I was just a teenager, I noticed that mom’s best friend, who normally was a mainstay in our house, hadn’t been around in months. Glumly, mom informed me that, despite her best efforts, this woman was showing no interest in continuing the friendship, so she was no longer pursuing it. I know it hurt my mother to accept that, but I understood that we all come to a point where we’ve “done all we could.” Unfortunately, immediately following mom’s death, I also lost a close friend, who no-showed the funeral services entirely. I stopped reaching out afterward, and not surprisingly, he followed suit.
Treat your guests like kings and queens
Coming from an Italian background, this one was a given. But I learned at an early age that, when you have people over the house, you feed them. A lot. Almost to the point of making them physically ill. And you make them comfortable. It’s an Italian thing. It’s what we do. Mom’s opinion was always that, if you didn’t want to treat your guests like family, why bother having them over in the first place?
Don’t be defined by bad news
Shortly after my mom died, I overheard someone describing me to another person on the phone. I was explained as, “That guy whose mom died at age 59, he found her body, and then he told his grandmother, and she died too.” I know it’s an easy point of reference, but I truly hope that at the end of my life, I’m remembered more for the way I reacted to bad news than by the bad news itself. Losing mom forced me to flex a muscle I never knew was there. But despite the inherent sadness and gloom, her death also provided a learning opportunity. I learned that I can either succumb to life’s challenges or grow stronger from them, for me and for my children. Every single day, I’m striving to accomplish the latter, no matter how unnervingly sad her absence makes me.
I think the most important lessons are ones we learn from the actions of others, and not necessarily specific words that were said. As parents, whether we like it or not, our children will learn their most important lessons from us. That fact may terrify you (it certainly does me). But I try my best to encourage my kids to make a positive impact on others, the same way my mother did for me. I can only hope that in 30 years, my boys have similar words to say about their parents.
So, before you go to bed tonight, think of the lessons you learned from your parents and how many of them you wish to instill in your own kids. Thanks for reading, as usual, and I strongly encourage you to join this conversation by adding a comment below.
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Wednesday, February 27th, 2013
Cynthia Roelle, mom to a 2-year-old daughter and award-winning photographer, believes that children do see skin color and that it’s up to parents to teach them it doesn’t matter.
I don’t generally get worked up over things I read on Facebook but earlier this month a friend posted something that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind.
My friend was with her girls at the playground. A little girl with blonde hair approached her and asked if she was the girls’ mom or their babysitter. When my friend told the little girl that she was their mother the little girl said: “Well they look different than you. You know, their skin is darker and yours is like mine.”
My friend looks similar to me. She’s a taller-than-average white girl with shoulder-length brown hair and fair skin. Her daughters are both blessed with beautiful dark brown hair and skin that’s a creamy shade of caramel. What I would give for skin like that. Those lucky little ladies got it from their father whose family comes from Ecuador (though he’s pretty light himself).
One of the cool things about my friend is that she doesn’t have thin skin, fair though it may be. But something about her encounter with the little girl left her feeling sad. After explaining the scenario on Facebook she wrote: “I can only say that for various reasons, I don’t think that what happened this afternoon was a clear cut case of either curiosity or prejudice.”
Most of the people who commented on my friend’s post saw the exchange as a “teachable moment.” But one woman had this to say:
“[Y]ou taught that little bigot about life. What difference does skin color make…. Most young children do not see skin color unless some adult brought it to there [sic] attention.”
I wasn’t at the playground that day so I can’t speak to the girl’s tone or demeanor but to call a little girl a bigot? Wow. That’s harsh. And to say that children do not see skin color is simply wrong. They just don’t form judgments about people based on skin color. They can’t, because they have no framework in which to do so.
That’s where parents come in. It’s up to us to teach our children that color is, quite literally, only skin deep. It’s up to us to teach them that people come in all colors, shapes and sizes but that skin color and physical characteristics do not define a person. It’s up to us to teach our children that while every person is unique, we are all equal.
Children learn and form assumptions about the world based on what they observe. They just haven’t developed a brain-to-mouth filter that keeps them from asking blunt questions.
In the case of the little girl at the playground, it seems to me that she did the best thing she could have done. She noticed a difference in skin color between my friend and her daughters and asked about it. She made a blunt comment about the difference but her comment, at least as I read it, was free of judgment.
What do you think?
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Cynthia's Guest Blog, Mom Situations, Must Read