Monthly Archives: November 2013

Best Gift I Ever Received

As we enter the holiday season, I am reminded of one of the best gifts I have ever been given after reading a blog by a mother of a young boy in school. The author used to be a teacher and was now the mother of a bright, busy, energetic young boy and was struggling with her love for him and her knowledge of how his exuberance impacted his teachers. I thought back to my son’s early years in school and the best gift I received was from his kindergarten teacher, 17 years ago.

My son, now 23, was THAT kid. You know, the kid who is always moving, always talking, always engaged with the world, but not always in ways that are easy and pleasant. He was a challenging young boy and is now a challenging man, but in a good way. He is interesting and still engaged in the world. But like when he was little, he still values being right over getting along. And while this trait serves him well now, it didn’t so much as a child, in a classroom.

When my son started school, we lived in a school district in northern California that was overcrowded and valued conformity and control over intellectual curiosity and play. A neighbor whose son was the same age, told me of visiting the elementary school and watching the kids do a drill on the playground in which the teacher blew a whistle and all the kids were to get in line with their hands up—as if in training for being arrested. Neither of us could fathom putting our sons into a school in which this was a part of the daily curriculum. She and her family chose to move to another part of the state, an option that would not work for us, so I started to explore private schools in the area.

We looked at four schools knew that the odds were against us as there were not enough private school spots for the number of families looking. It was an awful situation, in which our son was tested and interviewed for a spot in kindergarten.

We were thrilled when he tested into the school for gifted kids, even though it meant a long commute. But then were crushed when he was rejected because he couldn’t solve do mazes at his interview. I told myself that I didn’t want him in an environment like that, but the truth was I did. I wanted him a resource rich school that valued his mind.

Another school he didn’t get into was the very cool and hip one. While at the visiting day (really interview, but they used euphemisms like visiting day), it became obvious that he wasn’t going to get in either. They wanted children who were quiet, and inquisitive, well behaved and creative. Our son was curious, exuberant and beyond the opposite of quiet. I still remember them talking about why the berries on bushes turn bright red in winter (to attract the birds who will eat, and then through their dropping, propagate the bushes) but my son doesn’t remember learning this. He was too busy running around, enjoying the playground equipment now that all the other kids were dutifully lined up at the edge of the yard, looking at the bushes, listening to the teacher.

The third school he didn’t get into was the more straight-laced, dare I say up-tight school. For that interview (at this school they didn’t use any cool warm fuzzy euphemisms), they had the kids play with manipulatives – something my son loved to do. He loved lining up little objects by height or width or color or fill-in-the-blank. While this school didn’t thrill me, it still was better than the public school. Afterwards, as we were walking back to my car, I noticed he was fiddling with something in his pocket. When I asked him what it was, he got quiet and made a strange face. When he finally pulled out his hand, he had a few small plastic bears in the palm of his hand. His first story was that they gave them to the kids, but that didn’t sound right. And at that moment, I knew in the pit of my stomach that he wasn’t going to get into this school either. My job as his mother was to help him walk back into the school and return the bears. I held onto a thin ray of hope that perhaps they would appreciate our values but I knew as soon as we walked in and my son confessed that they didn’t care one bit for my son or our values. I saw the stern woman mark something on her clipboard and that was that for them and for us.

The last and final school was the one place in which they had plenty of space for kids. And it was because they were connected with a church. But this wasn’t a Christian Church, it was a church that combined Hinduism and Christianity started by a swami and connected to a community of people who lived and worshipped together. A place that I knew make our families uncomfortable. But it was there that I received my best gift ever.

Our son’s kindergarten teacher loved and appreciated him for all of his exuberance and curiosity. This teacher was perfect for my son. She didn’t see trouble or a problem when she saw him, but rather saw a bright young boy, brimming with excitement about all that he would and could learn about the world. And instead of thinking her role was to teach him to stand in line she saw her job as opening up his mind to the wonderful world around him. This was her gift to him. But her gift to me was equally important.

This woman, this teacher, this ‘yoda’ gave me the best gift I have ever received. It happened at the end of the year parent-teach conference. This wasn’t the typical school gift like a portfolio of beautiful drawings or projects our son had created in school. It wasn’t a cute poem that tried to touch my heart strings or his handprints in plaster, all of which I have been given by the kids’ teachers over the years. No this was the gift of recognition of who our son was, along with great information on how best to help him become the man he could be.

She started be telling us how amazing our son was, a real gift and pleasure to teach—something every parent wants to hear. She went on to say that because of his energy and enthusiasm and intellect, we would probably encounter teachers who would reprimand him and might even suggest that we use medication to help ‘control’ him in the classroom. She looked us right in the eye and said that our son did not need medicating. And that any teacher who wanted to do so was looking for an ‘easy’ way out to manage and control her classroom and was not acting in the best interests of our son. Period.

She said that I would need to be a special advocate for him as he was very bright and needed to be in intellectual rich and stimulating academic environments and that IF this was provided, he would not be a distraction or a problem but rather a dream student for talented teachers.

Over the years I took her advice to heart. I remember having one of his teachers tell me how difficult he was in her German class. Turns out he was asking too many questions and she didn’t have the time. I was uncomfortable with telling her how to teach him, but I came up with ideas that would help her and help him. Finally we pulled him out of her class and sent him to German Language camp at the end of 8th grade, hoping that in one month’s time he would be able to catch up with his peers and be ready for German II in 9th grade. Instead he came back ready for German IV (and this on top of also taking Spanish!)

And then there the head of the Math Department one year telling me that he missed the cut off for the advanced math class because they only had room for 20 kids and that he was too rambunctious for that class anyway. When I told her that I knew it was my right as a parent to override her decision and to insist on his placement in the class I heard an earful about being a pushy, overbearing and entitled parent who had no clue about my child’s real capacity. When he scored an 800 on his math SAT and perfect 5s in all his high-school math AP classes, I felt vindicated.

But mostly, I thought back to his kindergarten teacher who gave me the best gift I ever received: to love my boy for who he is and to appreciate all of him—even those parts that others find hard to accept. Because these parts of him are equally important to the whole wonderful, amazing person he is and is yet to be.

As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

Happy Birthday Aunt Moanne

This past weekend would have been my aunt’s 83rd birthday. I always remember how old she is/was because she was exactly 30 years older than me (well really 29 years and 11 months, but who cares). But I always had a hard time remembering the exact date of her birthday. I knew it was at the end of November, but some years it was on or around Thanksgiving, some years as much as a week off.

When she was alive I tried to call often, many times as much as 3 or 4 times a month. She was always interested in talking and listening on the phone, a great combination for someone I love who lives far away. And I usually made sure to call around Thanksgiving, knowing it would be close enough to her birthday. She loved celebrating her birthday, in fact when I think of her, I think of a celebrating kind of gal.

Last time I saw her, before her death, I took a tape recorder, and had her tell the family stories to me once again. One of the many stories I loved to hear was her reaction to finding out I was born and that she was now an aunt for the first time. It was always funny for me to hear this, because by the time I was born, she had 4 children, all under the age of 10. And yet she celebrated my birth and becoming an aunt. When I think back to the days when my two children were young, I became an aunt left and right between my brother and my husband’s brother and two sisters. All of a sudden, the whole next generation was born and frankly I was too consumed with mothering by two to be a special aunt to the other 11 children born in those years. I only had two and she had four and yet she told me how special my birth made her feel to become an aunt for the first time. And because she felt special, she treated me as the cause of that specialness.

This meant I always felt at home and welcome in her home, which was no small feat for me given that growing up, we moved every few years. By the time I was 10, we had lived in 5 places, no one place lasting even a full 5 years. But going to my aunt’s home, was a constant back then to me. It wasn’t my family home, but it was a family home in which I felt wanted and welcomed and cared for. And because my aunt showered me with her love and affection, her kids did too.

But this year, I sort of forgot. At least for a few hours. This year, on her birthday, without realizing it was her birthday, I went to a yoga class and during the quiet meditation time afterwards, when I like to feel my mind and spirit clear and clean and twinkly, I felt a strong pull. Normally when my mind wonders while meditating, I am able to push it aside, but this wasn’t a wondering as much as a strong urge and pulling sensation. And it wasn’t from her so much as from the house, which is now for sale. So I went with it. I allowed myself to be pulled to the family home, in western New York State far away from my new home in northern California. I see distinctly her dining room, the table, the chairs, the drapes the carpet, the homey feel of a loved and cared for family homestead, like an anchor. And then all of a sudden it hit me, like a ton of bricks, decorating the outside of the front of her home, that it must be her birthday. I just knew it was.

Then, like so many days these past 4 months since her death, I yearned to reach out and touch her on the phone. I longed to hear her voice, in that western New York State twang that reminds me of a home, that I never lived in, but always came back to.

Happy Birthday Aunt Moanne. Rest in peace.

As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

I had no clue

I was one of those women who really had no clue before I had children. I wasn’t one of those woman who had strong opinions about the right and wrong ways to mother children. I just thought you have a child and then move on with your life. I wasn’t prepared for how much becoming a mother would change me. I really had no clue, which is ironic considering I ended a major relationship with a man I thought I was going to marry all because he said he didn’t want children.

My picture of motherhood was that I would have a baby and then resume my life. That I would be able to take my baby all sorts of places, much as I take my purse or backpack places. Once at my destination, I would lay my baby down and it would be there, quietly, peacefully, contentedly waiting in the background of my life.

Of course it didn’t work out like that, not a bit.

The big picture is that becoming a mother turned my world upside down and inside out. Mostly in great ways, but not all great too.

Some early surprises:  I knew I would have a girl first. After all I was a women’s study major in college and had all sorts of fantasies about raising girl children into strong women. When my son arrived on the scene, it was a shock. I didn’t have any clue as to my baby’s sex before his birth. And it was a good thing I gave birth in a birth house in Vienna, Austria (another blog on that) at which the baby never leaves the mother’s side. Otherwise I was have sworn that this baby boy couldn’t have been mine, after all I was having a girl.

This child came out ready for his close-up; it turned out that he was not like a purse or a back-pack—at least not any I had ever owned. He was not willing and able to sit (or lie) contentedly in the background of my life. He needed constant holding. In fact the only time that child seemed to sleep his first five years were either in my arms, or tucked up next to me.

This child, my son, who was born on a hot summer day in Vienna Austria to a woman who had no clue, opened up my heart to a brand new adventure: me as a mother. I was clueless and while it felt all new and a bit strange (some of which was due to giving birth in a foreign country in another language) it also felt surprising familiar—as if this was what I had been waiting for, for so long.

Mothering a baby was a new activity for me. Of course I had done the requisite babysitting as a teenager and my father’s second wife had just given birth to her first child, my half-sister just a few years ago (also fodder for another blog post). I had been mothering friends and some family members before that, but it wasn’t until my son was born that I started my in-depth mothering adventure. Now, looking back 23 years later, I recognize his birth as a new beginning not only for him as a human, but also for me as a mother to him (later his sister) and even myself as a woman.

I had little real training and wasn’t prepared for how much my heart would open to this baby, who never slept or wanted to leave my side. His strong need for me, and what I offered was just what I needed: mothering by the seat of my pants, or should I say in the depth of my heart.


As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!