Archive | July, 2012

Going for Gold

29 Jul

“If it wasn’t for my mom, I don’t know where I’d be….” is a sentiment I must borrow from Ryan Lochte, the swimming champion currently competing in the Olympics. I stumbled upon the Proctor & Gamble videos, Raising an Olympian  and soon found myself mesmerized by the interviews with current Olympic athletes and their moms.  I write this blog because I am thankful that my mom created a “safe place” for me, just as the triathlete Paula Findlay’s  mom did for her.  Beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh-Jennings’ praise of her mom filled me with nostalgic feelings of my own mom and inspiration to “want to be a lioness for my kids.”

My mom certainly never intended to raise an Olympian and neither did these moms! They did what most of us moms want to do: they helped their children make the most of their talents and skills. Well, then, of course, one thing led to another and there they are in London!  Actually, I made it to London too (for college study abroad in 1985) and I do have my mom and her sister (one of my dearest “other mothers”) as well as my dad and uncle to thank for that.

The fifteen minutes I spent watching these videos provided some of the best parental advice. I only hope to be affected by the moms’ recollection of their goals and parenting styles. Kerri Walsh-Jennings’ mom takes more pride in the “wonderful human being” her daughter is than in her athletic accomplishments. She helped her daughter dream big and play to win, but also helped give her stability and balance. The British runner, Jessica Ennis is lucky to have a mom who saw her desire to compete and helped nurture that desire. It sounds like Paula Findlay’s mom’s glass was half full. She put a positive spin on the tough times while giving her daughter “freedom to flourish.” Ryan Lochte’s message hit me the hardest. While his mom helped him persevere, he also felt that “If she had a tighter leash…I might have hated it (swimming).” I am already hearing him as I want to tell my son or daughter what to do next….

Not all moms can or should raise an Olympian. And, certainly many Olympians and world-class athletes come from broken and dysfunctional homes. I have written about the risks my mother encouraged me to take, the lessons I learned from her, and the many interests and skills I have because of her. I credit both of my parents with allowing me independence and fostering self-esteem and my desire to achieve my goals. They were proud of my accomplishments as long as I strove for the gold medal in whatever I chose to pursue.

I hope you will watch some of these videos that inspire gold medal mothering and I would love for you to comment on your favorites.

Grandma and the Mall

22 Jul

I wish my mom knew how much her wisdom still inspires me. While I did not have the chance to admit to her that she was right about the tan (and obviously still need to be reminded), I think that she must have seen my powder cover-up as a sign of guilt and acknowledgement.

Of all the things I wish my mom was here for, being a grandma to my children tops the list. She would have kvelled constantly. I often think of how much pleasure she would have had from being their grandma. Fortunately, I did get to witness the wonderful relationship she had with my nephews from birth to age 5, when she died. She was thrilled with everything about them.

I must have had this on my mind when I was walking through Livingston Mall the other day. I spotted a few young girls walking with women who appeared to be grandmothers and immediately thought of my mom. As much as I wish my mom was here to do that, I’m not sure she would have. She did like to shop, but usually in an antique store and/or with a mission or purpose. She was never a mall walker or window shopper. Unlike her, I am. I love to wander through the mall especially during the summer when I have more free time. Later in the week, I observed more girls and grandmas strolling in the Mall at Short Hills. I imagined they had finished lunch and were carrying bags of clothing they chose together. Some held hands—forcing me to smile at their special moment.

As I watched them walk by I thought about my trips to the East Brunswick Mall with my Grandma Lena, my dad’s mother. She made a big deal date with me at least once every few months. Sometimes one of my parents would drive us to the mall, but often we took the bus which stopped right near her apartment. I was always eager to go with Grandma Lena, partly for the window shopping, but mostly for the shirt she would buy for me. I also loved making her happy with this somewhat selfish, activity. And, she loved getting dressed up for our outing. She would tell me, in advance, what she planned to buy me- usually a simple shirt or sweater and never expensive. Of course, it was not about the gift,

So, I wonder, what activities would (or does) your mom enjoy with her grandchildren? Does she take them to the mall? Museums? Parks? Did you engage in similar activities with your grandmother? Just as I did during my mall trip, I’ll live vicariously for a few moments.

Summer Tan

16 Jul

Confession #1: Attempt to conceal a suntan

 

My father’s work centered on exporting Ban De Soleil which did not provide enough sunscreen and helped me tan….

I wish my mom I hope my mom did not know about all of the times that I hid my tan. Honestly, I think she must have been able to see through the J & J Baby Powder I often applied on the way home from a too sunny day at the beach. Her adamant anti-tan stance was certainly strong and right. Although, as a teenager—or even young adult, I never acquiesced and always argued against her anti-tan campaign. This is definitely on the top ten list of “Things I Swore I Would NOT Do When I Became a Mom, But Now Do with Conviction.” Except, I recently got caught falling into that old, bad tanning habit.

Confession #2: Being tan again

I was inspired to write this particular post last week when a kind, unassuming woman who seemed to be about the same age my mom would be (80 ish) commented on my tan. I was waiting for my son when she walked into the doctor’s waiting room, smiled at me and said, “Oh, what a pretty tan you have.” How could she know that her comment would incite guilt. I  had not even realized that I have a noticeable tan. I looked at my arms and saw my soccer mom’s tan. It makes sense that the sun’s rays have pierced through my sunscreen given the many hours I’ve spent on the sideline.

I felt my mom’s reprimand from years ago and replied, “Oh thank you, but I think I’d better be more careful when I watch my son play soccer.” Not intending to play devil’s advocate, she interrupted my confession and continued to compliment my “lovely color.” Then, she re-directed our discussion to questions about my son and his summer soccer. Soon I was entranced and enjoying the attention and her interest in me and my son.

Confession #3  This post is not just about the allure and danger of being tan

One of the reasons I started this blog is my husband’s observation 16 years ago. He noticed that after returning from playing with my daughter in Taylor Park, I would often have a story about older, grandmother-type women I met. I would gush, “Oh she told me about her children….she takes her little grandchildren to the park…she can’t wait to see her daughter’s new baby…..” Sometimes they gave unsolicited advice that I imbibed—I hope you don’t give her too much candy…make sure you set rules…enjoy each moment….Of course they oohed and aahed as they exclaimed how adorable my daughter was, how smart she seemed, what a good jungle gym climber she was…. Scott put this all together with a spot-on summation: through these women, I was able to experience the mom/grandmother relationship I so desired. These “other mothers” , provided a glimpse into the life I imagined I’d have with my mom. My experience last week gave me a few moments with an “other mother.”

I wish my mom knew how much her wisdom would inspire me. While I did not have the chance to admit to her that she was right about the tan (and obviously still need to be reminded), I think that she must have seen my powder cover-up as a sign of guilt and acknowledgement.

There’s No Place Like ________

8 Jul

“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. No place…..”* I am sure that many young campers empathized with Dorothy in the past the few weeks. I hope, by now, sleep away camps are filled with young children who have turned that phrase around and feel that there’s no place like camp.

Last summer I wrote about “Those Summer Days” (https://iwishmymom.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/those-summer-days/) of my youth when I was sometimes thrilled to be at our swim club and sometimes overwhelmed with boredom, but never, ever envious of children at sleep away camp. In fact, the one summer I did attend sleep away camp, I suffered with extreme homesickness for the entire two week session. I can still feel the angst and sadness I endured when my parents said goodbye and drove off to Niagara Falls. “How could they leave me and go so far away,” I wondered over the ensuing 14 days of misery. I must have been almost delirious because I cried and screamed, “I need the nurse…let me see the nurse” as the Camp Sacajawea nurse attempted to comfort me. Eventually I settled into the camp routine, accepted my predicament and even decided to enjoy camp. The postcard my parents sent from their trip made me sad, but also gave me hope that they would return.

As I hear stories of homesick campers, I wonder if my mom had a difficult time leaving me or if she drove off with that all-knowing parent confidence that I would endure and even triumph over my fears. And, I wonder why I was so homesick. Was I just too young to go to sleep away camp? Would I have thrived there if my parents had waited to send me? I do not think I was overly attached to my mom and I had watched my best friend leave for sleep away camp without any hesitation. I should have been able to adjust. My mom had the right intentions—why wouldn’t I enjoy the same camp that my sister (2 ½ years older) liked the year before?

Even after my own children became day campers, I questioned the necessity of this all-day and sleep-away camp experience.  I never even liked day camp (I was one of those children who couldn’t learn the camp bus songs. Fee Fi FoEeeny meeny desoleeny was too confusing for me), but I knew that my daughter needed to have summer days full of scheduled activities. After first refusing to even tour Willow Lake Day Camp, she agreed to meet with the director. A few minutes later, my seven year old baby girl wanted to sign up and started counting the days until camp started. And, nine summers later, she is now a counselor helping first and second grade girls cope and even thrive while sleeping at Camp Poyntelle for 7 weeks. She is distracting them, helping them miss and write to their parents without too many tears. I am so proud of her and think back to how her first grade leap to Willow Lake paved the camp road for her.

Contrary to my daughter’s desires, my son has chosen to stay home and play sports each summer. He happily attended a week long  sleep away camp for a few summers, but chooses playing a sport over leaving home. How fortunate that two siblings who each wanted very different summer situations have been able to have what they desired. How nice that after my 2 weeks of misery, my mom knew to wait until sending me away again.

Why do so many of us choose to send our children to summer camp without first understanding what they really want or need? Is it because that was what our moms did for us? Do we base our childrens’ summer plans on what is best for them or for us? How do we know whether we should push our children through a spell of homesickness? How can we help our children fill in their own blank, “There’s no place like ____________.”

*Baum, L. F. The Wonderful Wizard of Ozz. New York, NY: HarperTrophy, 2001.