Posts Tagged ‘working moms’

The daycare dilemma

Friday, November 14, 2014
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We started daycare this week – that is, AJ started daycare.

I was a wreck on Sunday. The weepy kind of sad. Yes, I had been back to work for four days. Going back to work wasn’t as hard as I imagined. But there was just something about her starting daycare that really got to me.

Maybe it was the fact that for the first time in a long time I felt old. Whenever we hit a milestone in our lives, even a joyous one, it can cause the melancholy feeling of time passing too quickly. When I found out I was pregnant I felt young instead of old. Even when I had AJ and became a mom, I never felt like I was getting older. But taking her to daycare for some reason made me feel ancient.

Maybe it was that I was worried about entrusting my child to people who don’t love her. Sure, they will like her, but they don’t LOVE her like I do. They don’t physically hurt when she cries. They don’t know how to get her to sleep when she’s fighting it. They have other babies they need to pay attention to.

Or maybe it was that I was more worried that her caretakers WOULD love her. They will learn how to get her to sleep. They will shower her with affection. She will get to know them. They will tell me what she likes rather than the other way around.

Chris and I both went to drop her off on her first day. As I pulled out my list of instructions, one of the caretakers started asking me questions. Before I knew it, she had covered everything on my instruction list. These people know what they are doing. They are the experts (and by the way, they are great!). I am the one who is new to this, not them.

AJ looked around in awe as we unpacked her diapers, extra clothes, and other items. As I handed her over, the tears started flowing. I couldn’t hold them in. I kept apologizing, “I’m sorry, I’m being so silly,” but really I shouldn’t have apologized. There is no need to apologize for being sad to leave your child.

In the parking lot, I hugged my husband and more tears came. Although I am confident of our decision and know it is what is best for our family, it was still a hard day. This was a milestone in our lives, and the feeling of time passing too quickly overwhelmed me. Our baby is only three months old, but I felt like she was already growing up. Her newborn days, the days I swore I would not miss while I was going through them, have passed, and I do miss them. Every day I look forward to watching her grow and at the same time mourn another day gone of her being so small. Every day I wonder how I am going to “do it all” and yet I do “do it all.”

And now, I have something new to look forward to every day – picking her up after work and seeing her smile.

Being Present

Friday, November 7, 2014
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I went back to work this week.

My last day at home with AJ was Monday, and we had such a special day.

We did the same things as we did in previous weeks, but this day was different.

I made the conscious decision to be as present as I could be – to not worry about anything and simply enjoy spending time with my baby. For someone whose hobbies include making lists and organizing anything, this was a quite a challenge. I didn’t plan an agenda, I didn’t have a list of chores, I didn’t even worry about what was for dinner. And, maybe more importantly, I didn’t pick up my phone (except to snap a few photos) and I didn’t get on social media. It was wonderful.

I spent the day savoring little moments and observations – the curiosity in AJ’s eyes when looking at my hands, how her smile is already verging on flirtatious, her determination when trying to roll over. We played, cuddled, “talked,” and simply enjoyed each other’s company. Her little personality shines through more each day, and I watched her figure out the world. Unlike many days of my maternity leave, I didn’t worry about things like crying or naps or what time we needed to be home for her to eat.

I really think AJ could sense my mood and it wore off on her. She didn’t cry at all and was all smiles all day.

It was an ordinary day, but it was one of the best days of my life. This might sound like an exaggeration but I promise you it is not. I will cherish the memories of that day forever.

Not every weekend or day off will be like my last day at home. Bills won’t pay themselves and the dishes and laundry will pile up. Errands will need to be run and chores will need to be done. Responsibilities must be met.

But I learned a valuable lesson Monday – sometimes we need a “pause” day. A day where we pause our busy lives and make the effort to be completely present, physically and mentally. A day where we put all our worries aside, turn off our phones, and enjoy what we love most in life. These days will without a doubt end up as the best days.

Fitting in Exercise as a Mom

Friday, October 17, 2014
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I am by no means a health addict (there are some mouth-watering Red Velvet cupcakes in my kitchen as I type). But I do like to exercise. I try to get some sort of physical activity in four to five times a week. I’m not talking hard-core fitness work either – a short run or 30 minutes of weights is enough for me to break a sweat, feel energized, and not feel guilty about eating a cupcake every now and often.

One of the biggest aspects of my life that changed when I had AJ was suddenly my time was not my own. Although I expected it, it still takes some getting used to. It can be hard to find time to fit in exercising (or any “me” activities) but I really do feel better when I get a workout in.

So I thought I’d share what has worked for me so far and what I’m planning once I go back to work and AJ gets older. Please note I am by no means a fitness expert, just a mom who likes to exercise. I don’t strive for earth shattering results; I’m not trying to lose 10 pounds in two weeks or training for a marathon. I just try to get my heart rate up to help with general health and feeling good. With that said, here’s what works for me:

  • The best form of exercise I’ve gotten since AJ was born is runs or walks with my jogging stroller. She loves it; I love it. I feel good even running only a mile because I’m pushing something heavy. Having maternity leave in the fall has been great for our runs. In the spring and summer I plan to continue running with her after work and on weekends.
  • Now that it is starting to cool down and because of all the recent rain, I’ve started doing some exercise DVDs. I bought two DVDs from Amazon.com for $8 a pop. I chose ones that did not require extra equipment and included 20-minute workouts so I can realistically fit them in when I go back to work. AJ likes to watch me do the DVDs (I imagine it’s quite an amusing site) and I like being able to spend time with her and exercise at the same time. I’m thinking these will really come in handy during the cold winter months when I don’t leave the house unless I have to; plus I don’t have to worry about finding a gym with childcare.
  • When I need some extra motivation, I go to a group workout class. Like I said before, I am not a fitness expert; I can’t think up ways to tone my muscles on my own. I need someone to tell me what to do. I look for classes that are short and hard – short because I’m more likely to go and hard so I really get my money’s worth. I will most likely limit my class-going to the weekends once I return to work because after work I will want to spend as much time with my baby as possible, plus I don’t have to worry about my husband working late and not being able to watch her.
  • Pinterest might not come to mind for fitness, but there are countless (free) workout routines on the website. I use Pinterest for workouts when I am traveling or really in a hurry. A lot are a combination of pushups, squats, lunges and the like but again, I can’t come up with these routines on my own. This is also a good place to find ideas for things to do when there really isn’t time to workout, for example a five-minute squat sequence for the morning or a ten-minute cardio blast. These are hit or miss – some of the workouts I’ve tried don’t do much and with others I will work up a sweat in minutes.
  • The last thing that makes it work for me is I am not hard on myself. I’ve found that if I don’t put too much pressure on myself, I’m more likely to work harder. First of all, I just had a baby (how long can I use that excuse – one, two years?). If I only get to work out two days one week, I don’t lament over the past, I just try to do better the next week. If I only get 10 pushups in one day I tell myself, “That’s better than nothing!” and try to get a better workout in the next day.

Mine may not be the formula for getting in tip-top shape, but it is the way I squeeze in some exercise while taking care of my baby.

The Blame Game

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
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I’ve been told by numerous people on numerous occasions that I apologize too much.

My first response to their words is usually “I’m sorry,” which is just proof of what I’ve always known: my mouth often engages before my brain does.

But, to be honest, I’ve never understood their concern.  Many times, I’m simply conveying sympathy – as in “I’m sorry you are having to deal john burroughs quotewith this situation.”

At other times, I’m admitting my imperfections and mistakes.

That’s how I was raised.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents never engaged in guilt parenting. They did, however, set expectations that my brother and I understood consequences and accepted responsibility for our words and actions.

I’ve held on to a memory of my mother complaining about an individual for whom she held very little respect.  “There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes,” Mom said. “Everyone makes mistakes.  But you are likely to create more problems when you don’t  take responsibility for your mistakes.”

Of everything my mom has said, those words have probably had the greatest impact.

I’ve lived by them, and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that I have a difficult time understanding people who never take responsibility for their mistakes.

Sometimes, though, I do feel as though I should apologize for those feelings., especially because I’m a social worker who shouldn’t judge others.

I work for an absolutely wonderful organization with a mission to reduce poverty and advocate for people who are struggling. The stories my co-workers and I hear on a daily basis are often heart-breaking. Life is unfair, and we serve people who generally draw the short straw.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard an elderly woman apologize for even walking through our doors or listened to individuals who have nowhere to go because they have aged out of the social service system after being abandoned by parents who were abusive or addicts or simply had no interest in their children.  We see people with no support system and few resources who are doing their best to live  one day to the next and to contribute what they can.

Just last week, I was handed an envelope with a dollar bill, a few nickels and a handful of pennies. It was given to us by a gentleman who had received hygiene and cleaning supplies from our  personal care closet. He couldn’t give much, but he gave something.

Unfortunately, we also see people who take no responsibility for their situation and instead want to blame others.

Sometimes they blame their employer for firing them, Sometimes they blame a diagnosis of anger management issues for losing their temper at work and therefore losing their job. And sometimes, they blame staff at my organization for disrespecting them when we  ask about changes they might make to improve their circumstances.

My co-workers and I get frustrated with such individuals – not because they are angry with us but because, for some reason, they think admitting to mistakes is a weakness rather than a strength.

We try to change their perspective, but we often fail.  Despite that, we won’t give up on anyone who walks through our doors. Our personal support systems never gave up on us, never allowed us to sell ourselves short and, most importantly, taught us the importance of both accepting responsibility and learning from our mistakes.

I want to provide those same gifts to others, especially my own children, who I  hope will someday appreciate them.

In the meantime, I will never apologize for my belief that we can only move forward when we accept all of the missteps we’ve made and decide to take steps in a different direction instead.

Anticipating the End of Maternity Leave

Friday, October 10, 2014
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It is less than four weeks until I go back to work.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t dreading it. Let me explain…

I am very much looking forward to getting back to doing the work I love to do. I am looking forward to seeing and interacting with my coworkers and friends again. And frankly, I’m looking forward to having a reason to dress up and put on makeup regularly again.

But there are two main reasons for why I am anxious to go back to work.

The first is the thought of leaving AJ for almost ten hours a day with someone else makes my stomach turn. She has quickly become a part of me and I have not been away from her for more than four hours. Now that she is more active, smiles, and recognizes people, I feel like we are developing a solid relationship. She looks around the room for me when she hears my voice and smiles when she sees me. I know how to interact with her and I’m learning how to teach her things.

What will happen when she is with someone else for most of the day? Will she remember me? Will she still love me? Will she feel abandoned by me? Will they comfort her at daycare when she cries? These are the crazy mom thoughts running through my head. I know, I know, it will be much harder on ME than on her when I leave her at daycare, but these are the fears I have.

The second reason I’m anxious is that I just don’t know how I am going to do it all. I’m just now getting some cherished hours of sleep back and when I think of the time I am going to have to wake up to get to work on time…well I actually don’t even want to think about it. Every mom must have the thought, “How am I going to do it all?” at some point in time (daily?), whether she chooses to stay at home, work part time, work full time or something else. I imagine it will be like other transitions in life – when I started working I laughed at myself for thinking I was busy in college, when I had AJ I laughed at myself for thinking I was busy pre-baby, and I’m sure I will laugh at myself for thinking I was busy in these first weeks of AJ’s life.

Millions of moms have made the transition back to work before me and I know both AJ and I will be okay. But, just like everything else with being a new parent, I can’t help but be in awe of the moms who have done it before and wonder if I’ll get through it myself.

I know I am very fortunate to be able to take off three months to spend with my daughter. I looked forward to my maternity leave for months and I can’t believe it will come to an end in just a few short weeks. Time has flown by and it has been a time I will cherish forever – the ups, the downs, the challenges, and the moments of pure joy all come together to make up some of the best weeks of my life.

Career Counseling

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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I have two teenagers in my house, which means two people question my intelligence on a daily basis.

The years are long gone when my children thought I could bestow gems of great wisdom upon them or provide an answer that would make all things right again.

Their desire for my input has changed so much in the past few years that now I’m almost grateful when they ask me for anything but money.

And when they actually do seek my opinion, I want my words to be meaningful and memorable.

Unfortunately, that isn’t working out for me.

Take, for example, the other evening when my daughter asked me what career she should choose. Her question was preceded with an explanation that a few of her I eighth grade comrades have already decided. One, she told me, wants a job like Penelope’s on the television show Criminal Minds.

I was briefly distracted from the conversation by the thought that such role models as Penelope didn’t exist when I was growing up, and I wished I had known about that career option. But my distraction didn’t last long as I was drawn back into the conversation by Kendall’s insistence that I provide some clear career advice.

The best I could give her was, “Find something you love to do.”

That answer is one of the many reasons my children constantly question my intelligence. It’s the kind of answer that teenagers would consider “lame” if they actually used that word anymore.

And so, my daughter persisted.

“No, really Mom,” she said. “What should I be?”

I couldn’t give her a better answer.

Just that day I had been sitting in my office with my board chair discussing various issues related to my work for a non-profit, social service agency. I had launched into yet another passionate commentary about how to better help the people for whom we provide services while she listened attentively. When I was finally silent she said, “You are one of the lucky ones.”

Apparently, I had a confused look on my face because she added, “You have a job in which your values, your beliefs and your spirituality are all part of what you do every day. Few people are as lucky,”

She then told me about a former youth group leader at her church whose profession was building bombs.

“He lived in a perpetual state of conflict,” she said. “But he had to feed his family.”

I appreciated her comments. I didn’t mention that most of the jobs I’ve had could barely feed my family and that I’m extremely fortunate to have a husband who also works. Instead, I thought about the strange and twisted path that has become my career. I didn’t even know that the work I do was a career option when I was my daughter’s age. But somehow, through a series of both personal decisions and life events, I have landed where I am.

And I couldn’t be happier.

And that’s also why I couldn’t provide my daughter with a better response to what kind of career she should pursue. I don’t know how relevant my, or any other person’, input should be. She has so many choices to make and so make events to still experience.

What I really wanted to say was “Get an education in a field that interests you and  experience life as much as you possibly can. If you do both, your career will fall into place. Even if you don’t always have a job you love, you’ll have the foundation for an amazing life.”

I would have said that to her, but I know she would have  given me  a classic Kendall look that can only be defined as a mix of pity and frustration.

And so, all I could do was repeat what I had already told her  - make a decision based on her own interests and skills.

She still wasn’t satisfied with my answer, but I knew that giving her a list of professions wasn’t really going to help.

I also knew that someday she’ll recognize that maybe, just maybe, her mother was smarter than she once thought.

All the Cries

Friday, August 29, 2014
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Babies cry. Everyone knows this. Baby cries have never bothered me. Not on an airplane, not at the grocery store, not in a restaurant. I hardly notice a baby crying unless it’s in a very silent place (like church). When I do notice, it doesn’t annoy or upset me; I feel more for the parent trying to console his or her baby than anything else.

So I’d say I was significantly unprepared for how much I would be affected by my own baby crying. Her cries break my heart. I can hear her from anywhere in the house. If I’m sleeping, and she so much as makes a little coo, I wake up. And can’t go back to sleep, even if I’ve just fed her and it’s dad’s turn to soothe her. My mind races: Does she need me? What’s wrong? What does she need? I guess it’s that motherly instinct kicking in. One whimper and my senses shoot to attention, ready to meet her every need (if I can figure it out).

The baby books say you’ll be able to decipher your baby’s cries and respond based on what they need. Only in the last couple days have I started to notice different patterns of crying and sometimes been able to soothe her by meeting the need of her cry.

A single ‘wah’ is a cry not to be taken seriously; it comes out of nowhere and disappears just as quickly. I try not to let this cry bother me.

‘Ack, ack, ack’ is her tired cry. When she starts crying like this, I’ve learned it’s best to just hold her in my arms and be quiet and still. Eventually, she’ll doze off.

‘WaUH, waUH, waUH’ is her hungry cry; feed immediately or face the consequences.

‘Grunt wah, grunt wah’ means it’s time for a diaper change. But don’t change immediately; the grunts tend to come back after five minutes of silence.

‘Sob sob, whimper whimper.’ That’s her…oh wait, that’s ME crying. Hormones, exhaustion, hunger, not being able to figure out what your baby needs…there are many reasons new moms cry.

‘WAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH AHHHHHH WAHHHHHHHH’ is the worst cry of all, impossible to interpret and inconsolable. It’s this cry that makes me shed my own tears and hurts my heart the most. This cry comes at any time and lasts for a long time. Earlier this week, it lasted for three hours. I’ve tried everything I know to console her, and nothing works. I dread this cry. When she cries this way, my emotions range from sad to frustrated to desperate to sad again.

At her two-week checkup this week, the doctor said AJ has the symptoms of acid reflux. This may be why she has the terrible cries. I had acid reflux while I was pregnant, and it made me want to scream for hours on end too. I’m following various instructions to try to soothe her reflux. I also was given the go ahead to give her a pacifier, which has worked wonders.

Soothing her reflux may help, but the fact of the matter is, babies cry. Sometimes they cry for what seems like no reason. I won’t always know why she’s crying or be able to soothe her. I know this, like everything, is a phase, and we will get through it together. Holding her and comforting her is the best thing I can do, even if it doesn’t stop her crying. As I’m sure any mom knows, hearing your own child cry is worlds different than hearing a stranger’s baby cry.

And on that note, I better wrap this up…I think I hear a hunger cry starting.

The Empty Lot

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
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The small house was torn down only a few weeks ago, and already there are few signs it ever existed. Grass and clover cover the empty lotare growing where the foundation once was, and there is no indication of the fence that bordered the small yard.

Now, it is just an empty lot.

Maybe someday the area will be used for  a garden or a new structure, but the space will never be the same again.

The destroyed house shouldn’t even be on my radar. When it was standing, it meant no more to me than a random stop where my dogs sometimes greeted the dog on the other side of the fence. Soon, I won’t even notice the changed landscape during my short, daily commute to work. I will accept the space for what it is: the status quo.

Yet, the destruction of the house has been weighing on my mind like the rapid progress of time, the growing independence of my children and the aging of my parents.

Maybe that’s because its destruction was timed perfectly with my son attending his first real graduation party – not one for a family friend but one for a friend no one else in our family knows.

Dropping him off at the party reminded me of dropping him off for his first day of kindergarten almost eleven years ago.

For months, people had been asking me if I was ready, and I blew off their concerns. I didn’t understand why they thought kindergarten was so significant. Both of my children had been in day care since they were toddlers, and I thought kindergarten was no different from day care.

Only it wasn’t.

On that first day of kindergarten, his teacher didn’t know my name. The school personnel didn’t know my son’s unique issues or about his contagious sense of humor. He was just another little boy who needed to be taken out of his car seat, encouraged to wave goodbye to his mother and walked into his classroom.

And I, his mother, couldn’t even watch him walk away. The woman working the carpool line frantically waved me to move on as the tears trickled down my cheek .

Now, my son’s public school education is quickly coming to a close. This coming school year, he will be a junior, which is considered an upperclassman. He is already talking about colleges and moving out of our house – which is exactly what I want him to do. I have no desire to have a 30 year-old son still living in my basement and depending on me to do his laundry.

And yet, there is a part of me that is sitting in my car watching my 5  year-old son take a teacher’s hand and walk into doors which lead to a world over which I have no control. And I can still feel the tears trickling down my cheek as I realize that my children, like time, grow, change and move on without me.

I can’t control my children’s growth or the rapid flip of the calendar any more than I can control the landscape I pass every day on my way to and from work.

What I can do is appreciate the potential.

Roses might bloom in that now empty lot. Or a  young couple might build a house and start a family there. Or the lot might remain one of few empty green spaces where people can walk their dogs while enjoying fresh air.

But I have no doubt that the space is destined for something meaningful that will make the world a better place.

Just as I believe my children are destined to make a positive  mark on this ever-changing world.  And like the empty lot, their quickly fading childhood needs to be appreciated rather than mourned, celebrated instead of regretted and, most of all, serve as the foundation for something even greater.

 

Out of the Box

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
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I felt like climbing into a box, pulling a lid over  it and hiding from the world. Needless to say, I was having one of those days when out of the boxnothing goes as planned and everything goes wrong.

On the hottest day of the year so far, the air conditioning at work was broken, and I had to change my schedule to wait for the repairman. The finance office was asking about checks we had issued more than a year ago, and I was dealing with an unhappy volunteer.

Since the box wasn’t an option (and would probably have been even hotter than my office), I considered screaming, but that wouldn’t have been very productive either. Nor did I have the option of  going home to a partner who could sympathize with me. So I just dealt with each issue as best I could. Then went home to a husband was walking out the door on his way to work after having fixed dinner for our kids.

Such has been my less than traditional life for the past ten years when my husband took at job that required him to work evenings and weekends.

It’s a life that has its ups: a parent has almost always been home when the kids are off school or need transportation. It’s also a life that has its downs: there is generally only one parent available for two kids, and our time together as a family is very, very limited – even on holidays. And sometimes, it’s down right painful.

I will never forget the women at church who made the snide comment “at least my husband comes to church.” I kept my mouth shut (unusual for me), but what I wanted to say was “It’s kind of hard for him to deliver a national news broadcast from a church pew.”

Her comment  represented what my out of the ordinary life has taught me over the past ten years:  even though our lives, our families and our children often don’t fit into a neat package with a label, society operates as if they should.

I like proving they shouldn’t.

When people automatically assume that my teenage son plays sports, I take pride in telling them that he has other interests.

When people assume that my daughter is at an age when she feels the need to follow the crowd, I like talking about how she boasts about being a nerd who loves science fiction.

And when people assume that my husband and I have time together on the weekend, I appreciate how his strange hours have made me so incredibly independent.

I realize that the boxes in which we put people and situations can be comforting, but some things were never meant to fit in a box.  And even when they do, they usually aren’t very useful.

In fact, I’ve yet to find anything that works best when it is still in a box, even when I feel like hiding in one.

Getting out of the box, tearing off the labels and making every situation our own is when great things happen.

Or as my mother used to tell me, “Just remember that Albert Einstein was never called normal.”

And I’m pretty sure she’s proud that I haven’t been either.

The World’s Meanest Mom

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
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I left my phone on my desk as I was while attending to work duties outside my office Friday afternoon, and didn’t pick it up until the end of the day. By that time, there were seven missed calls and a text from my daughter.

I was thankful for the text because I immediately knew there was no emergency. My daughter obviously thought differently as she called again while I was reading the text.

“Can I please go to the party?” she begged.

My “no” was followed by a great deal of whining and asking “why not?”

Even though I had no need to explain my decision, I am a mom and the words escaped my lips before my brain engaged. “Because.” I said.

And then I hung up.

My co-worker asked what was happening.

I explained that my 12-year old was begging to attend a sweet 16 party, and I had said no.

“You go mom,” she said.

I needed those words of encouragement because I knew what I would be facing when I got home. And I was right.

Before I even pulled into our driveway, my husband had sent me a text warning that Kendall was very, very mad. (Actually, he used slightly different words but he captured the essence of the situation.)

When I walked through the door, he gave me a brief run down. He even told me she might be more mad at me for not answering my phone when she called than by my not letting her go to the party.

“I told her that she’s just not your priority when you’re at work.” he said.

He’s right, and I’m o.k. with that.  I might not get any more “You go Mom!” cheers for not creating the perfect balance of work and home, but I don’t live my life to please others. I live my life to make the world a better place – and that includes children who know the world does not revolve around them. My daughter is struggling with that reality.

I spent the first ten minutes at home listening to Kendall tell me that I am the worst mother on the world. Then I listed to her tell me  there was no rational reason for her not to attend the party. Then I listened to her slam doors.

Then I listened to myself.

Kendall  is 12 and in the seventh grade. She doesn’t belong at a Sweet 16 birthday party. Even though I’m not one of those moms who is trying to keep her daughter from growing up too fast, neither am I too keen on pushing her to adulthood any faster than necessary.

The consequences of that decision?  My daughter was angry for a few hours.

That was it.

By 10:00, she was showing me her latest drawing and giggling about something a friend had sent her. She never mentioned the party again. She even seemed to forget that I am the meanest mom in the world and begged me to chaperone the seventh grade field trip in May.

When I said I could make that happen, I was suddenly the greatest mom in the world.

Funny how that works.