Tag Archives: mothers

Hearts Full

On any given day, hundreds of thousands of children are born on Earth. Each of them is a small miracle, and for the purposes of this post, let us imagine those babies being welcomed and embraced as they take their first breaths. Let us hold in our minds the idea that every one of those children is wanted, cherished, and precious.

A few weeks ago, a little boy surprised his parents and arrived much sooner than he was expected. The universe aligned for him, and for them; he is healthy, beautiful, and thriving. In less than a month, he has attracted a large crowd of admirers, including me. His blissful mama told me that she can’t believe how much time she spends just staring at him. Today, as an infant, he breathes–calmly, or in short little breaths. He startles, and his arms tense. His little forehead furrows and his mouth makes a small o. Everything about him is absolutely fascinating, and he is the only person she has known for his entire existence. What she doesn’t realize yet is that she will never stop being amazed when she looks at her child. There is no comparable experience. It is simultaneously heart-stopping and dizzyingly fierce.

Also this month, another friend invited me to join her for a once-in-a-lifetime shopping trip: looking for a wedding gown with her and her daughter. I was–I still am— incredibly honored to have been included in such a special morning. The joy and excitement of the outing, and what it represents as a milestone, provided a happy undercurrent while we were surrounded by acres of tulle, lace, satin, and silk. However, the moment that made my eyes sting was when this woman looked at her child in what will probably become her single-most-photographed piece of clothing. In an eternal split second, she saw her daughter in one of those rare past-present-future glimpses that make our most intimate relationships timeless.

The title of this post was a hashtag emphasis posted by my college roommate and lifelong comrade in the journey of life. She had just established her eldest in his first apartment, ready to begin his professional life. “He is launched,” she wrote with bittersweet pride. I keep thinking about her thoughts during that weekend. How many times did she catch herself staring at him the same way she did when he was a newborn? Which of his small gestures or facial expressions took her instantly to the time when he was two, or five, or eleven years old? When did she find herself totally still, absorbing the reality of his adulthood?

These people who become adults always start out as tiny newborns. Of the many billions who presently share the planet, I offer you three as reasons to smile. With much love and gratitude to them and their families for bringing joy to me and mine.

Proportions

Yesterday was The Boy’s birthday. He’s 14 now.

The length of his lifespan computes to approximately 29% of my own life. In this case, statistical calculations do not offer an appropriate representation of the value of those fourteen years. For fourteen years and eight months, The Boy’s existence has been central to my own. Since the moment I found out about him, he has been a cherished and essential element of my daily consciousness. My transformation from individual traveler in the Universe to  parenthood is one of the greatest and most humbling changes I have ever experienced. In my case, this identity shift occurred by choice and deliberate action, and was sanctioned by a religiously and federally-approved marriage with an equally committed co-parent. It is, however, precisely the same gift that my friends and neighbors have experienced through adoption, gamete donation, family blending, and devotion to the people with whom we have all formed homes.

Love makes a family.

If you are lucky, you are a member of a family formed by love. If you are loved, you are statistically more likely to succeed in life.

This statement begs the question: How do we define success?

If you have found this blog post, some portion of our society has already defined you as “successful.” Rest assured, I am not arrogant enough to think that reading my blog is a mark of success. Access to any site such as this one, however, is an indication of a certain type of cultural capital. You are literate. You have the means to use a computer and a link to the Internet. Depending on the time of day that you are reading this digital missive, you have probably eaten at least one healthy meal today. I hope that you slept in a warm bed last night, and that in the past 24 hours, someone has told you that you are loved. If you are loved, you are not alone. If you love, someone else is not alone.

I’m writing this post on a Sunday night. Over the weekend, we have spent time with The Husband and The Boy, with my very best friend and her daughter, with four of The Boy’s closest buddies, with one of our dearest friends, and with my parents. I spoke to my precious niece. All of these people are part of our family. It’s a family formed by love. It’s a family formed by choice. The Boy chose the people he wanted to be a part of his birthday weekend. He chose well.

My boy is 14. He loves, and is loved. He has a family, built through biology and choice. There is no percentage or numerical exercise to determine the value of the people in his lives. There is no greater gift.

Carpe Diem

When I grow up, I want to be like my mother-in-law.

Really. No mother-in-law jokes here in our house (The Husband and I both got lucky in that regard. My mom is pretty great, too). Continue reading

One-word optimism

Take any negative sentence about yourself, or  one of your important relationships, and then add the word “yet.” Remove hyperbolic words like “never” or “always.” Sometimes you need to do a bit of grammatical tweaking, but notice what happens: Continue reading

A love letter to my profession

My 25th college reunion was last weekend. I didn’t go, but the event prompted an amazing string of Facebook messages with three of my closest friends from those days. Although we are spread all over the USA and into the Middle East, we’ve been able to reconnect electronically, which has been an unexpected gift. I’m sure I’ll post about the joys of social media sometime soon. Tonight I want to write about what it means to be a teacher and a feminist.

I went to a high-powered college during the Reagan ’80s. It was the era of Greed, the era of Jane Fonda, and the era of Sandra Day O’Connor making history. Women were seizing power everywhere. When I began my freshman year in 1981, I intended to become an international economist. I planned to work for the World Bank and help save struggling countries. A year later, I found myself teaching English to children from Central America as part of a social action project, and my fate was sealed. If you really want to change the world, start with the children. 25 years after graduating, I can look back with gratitude from the middle of my journey as an educator.

When I decided to become a teacher, my acquaintances were dismissive. “You’re wasting your potential” was a common refrain. Many of my classmates went immediately into graduate programs in law, medicine or business. Others joined the Foreign Service, or started partnership tracks at Big 8 accounting firms (that was way before ENRON and the demise of Arthur Andersen. But I digress…). Social status and success were firmly attached to earning potential. Against those measures, teachers were low on the approval scales.

Over the years, I have earned a couple of other degrees and moved past the classroom, but never out of schools. I want to say right here that teaching is one of the most empowering opportunities for women, and that power is why I continue to do this work. My female graduate students have heard this soapbox speech before, and I continue to give it each year.

When my mother was a college student in the early 1960s, the “nice girls” got jobs as teachers and nurses, or maybe as secretaries. The girls who were willing to forego marriage became the pioneers in more male-dominated careers. Teaching and nursing were seen as the helping professions; the jobs that were appropriate for young wives and mothers. Those jobs generally kept women fairly close to their homes. The pay was not large, but most of the teachers and nurses were married; their husbands provided the “serious” income for their families (Think about it: In a way, hetero-sexist society has subsidized the teaching profession). Many women took time off from work when their children were little. Those were the infant days of the feminist movement. Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique was published in 1963, the year I was born. “The problem that has no name” became the catch phrase for many young suburban mothers, and they encouraged their daughters to follow paths that they had not taken.

Out of that desire to expand their horizons, many women rejected safe choices and opened doors for my generation. When I became a teacher in the mid 1980s, it was in part to reclaim something–to reshape it for a new era. Teaching is still a profession dominated by women, and I am proud to be among them. It is one of the only jobs I know where I can form strong relationships with women who are 20 years younger than I am, 20 years older than I am, and everyone in between. I don’t know where else I could have found so many mentors, and where I would have had the opportunity to share my experiences with others.

There is a long way to go. Salaries need to increase. Professional status needs to be enhanced. Policies about accountability and educational standards need to be addressed. The great Brazilian educator and activist Paolo Freire wrote in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed: “In problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation.”

This type of empowered reflection is at the heart of my work. It defines the kind of person I want to be, and the kind of people I want to educate.

Hello world!

Me with my mom and my sister

Today’s my 47th birthday. I’m now older than I’ve ever been, and younger than I’ll ever be again. A few weeks ago, my friend Susan and I were talking, as we often do, about what it means to be women of our age in 2010. We are so fortunate to have the lives we have, and to have filled our lives with the people we have found over the years, and to have the luxuries of time and companionship to discuss these issues. One recurring theme in our conversations is the recognition that we are not held to the assumptions and expectations that our mothers faced. When she was my age, my mother had three children out of college. I have one child entering 6th grade. When she was my age, my mother had been married for 26 years. I’ve been married for 14 years. When she was my age, one of  my mother’s daughters (not me) was already married. I have no daughters, and my son is only 11 (and still single). At every age, my mother has been surrounded by women whose lives paralleled hers. They were, and continue to be, each other’s confidantes, reality checks, and group consciences. Many of those friendships still endure, and they continue to define my mother’s life in a wonderful way. At every age, my friends and I have made every possible choice and followed every possible path that presented itself. The amazing range of professions, locations, partners, accomplishments, interests, experiences, and views that define us makes it impossible to describe a “type.” I jokingly told Susan that rather than defining ourselves as middle aged ladies, we should begin to think of ourselves as role models. Given what I’ve been saying in this post, I really have no idea what that means. But bear with me. Let’s get a whole bunch of us to be role models–Not because we’re doing everything (or anything) particularly well, but because we’re all out there doing things.