I yelled up to Esther at 7:53am that she needed to get her butt downstairs NOW! The bus was coming in five minutes and I knew she still had to find her shoes, pack her backpack, and brush her hair.
But she didn’t respond, so I took the stairs by twos and ran down the hallway to her room. I found her standing completely still, staring forward and wiping tears from her cheeks, in front of her open closet door.
“M..M…Mo..Mom, I don’t have anything red to wear.”
Why do you need something red, my love?
“Be..be…be..b..be..cause it’s Listen To Your Mother day and I need to wear the colors for you.”
Oh love.. The words caught in my throat..You don’t need to wear red for me. I know you support me without wearing anything that matches the show.
“Bu..bu…but I want to because I’m so very proud of you.”
I haven’t read or presented anything that I’ve written or created in front of a large audience since I worked and did glamorous marketing things for a Fortune 500 company. Back then I would give reports and presentations with a Power Point slideshow with all kinds of numbers and graphs to back up my talk. And I used fancy slides to make me look like I knew what I was doing. Because everyone knows that corporate presentation have a large percentage of fluff and bullshit. But it was comfortable and I was confident talking to a room of suits.
But sharing my personal writing – OUT LOUD – is something I have not done since high school.
So last week, on the night of our Listen To Your Mother show – to say that I was nervous, had to pee a zillion times, and had palms that no one should touch – would be a gross understatement.
Because what if no one liked my words? Because words aren’t numbers that you can make look pretty with a bar graph.
The piece I shared stemmed from a blog post I wrote several years ago when I sat one day completely exasperated reading ANOTHER article on the Mommy Wars. But I rewrote this piece to fit with the show, to relate to the other pieces we would hear, to close the show, and it needed to be funny and light.
And I also needed it to be personal – how I was mothered and how I mother. And I knew that my family would be in the audience listening.
Here’s the piece that I shared. The YouTube video will be out shortly. Thank you to everyone for your love and support – and for wearing red if you were so moved to do so. If you’ve never been to a Listen To Your Mother Show – well you must put it on your calendar next year.
Oh, and here’s me eating a Hostess Ho-Ho on stage. I pretty much think anyone will nail a reading if eating a Ho-Ho is involved.
I stand here today as a survivor. I was exclusively formula fed as a baby.I never co-slept with my mom. I watched entirely too many episodes of The Brady Bunch and The Love Boat, and did not eat anything organic until I was 25. We enjoyed Hostess desserts and red Kool-Aid by the gallons. I come from divorced parents who both worked full-time, enforcing a childhood at that time that was labeled “latch key” and would now be called illegal please call CPS.
And I don’t remember what the other moms in the neighborhood even did- whether they worked or stayed home, or if we discussed if breast was best at any play-dates.
Because there weren’t play-dates.
There was “Just go out and play with your friends!”
I only remember one family that was a little different from the rest of us and I only recall this because of a very bad experience. You see one day I went to my friend’s house for a snack and I saw what I thought was a jar of chocolate pieces on the counter, and asked if I could please have a few. “Of course” my friend’s mom said and handed the jar to me. I reached in, shoved a few pieces in my little hungry mouth and promptly spit them onto her faded bell bottom jeans and brown etched leather clogs. “Don’t you like carob chips, my dear?” She asked.
No wonder this friend would come to our house and eat all of our Hostess treats.
Maybe back in the 70s we didn’t have Mommy Wars. No one acted like a parenting expert but instead just acted like a parent – of their own kids. Everyone pitched in and helped neighbors and kept an eye out for the kids that were all running around without supervision because it was what you just did. Maybe we drank our body weight in Tang each day because the astronauts told us too and that was good enough for my mom. Maybe the Mommy Wars didn’t exist because there wasn’t social media, Facebook, those pesky Mommy Bloggers to compare ourselves to, OR my nemesis, Pinterest.
But maybe those women were just wiser and had better things to worry about. Like the war, or whether Sam and Alice would ever marry and if they did would Alice leave the Brady Bunch or would Sam move in and how would they fit another square in the screen.
So I’m taking a lesson from my mother and her generation and believe it’s time we make the mommy wars go away by ignoring them, because they truthfully don’t exist if we just focus on doing what we need to do for our own families. Let’s make a pact today to stop talking about breast vs. bottle, sahm vs wahm, cry it out vs. co-sleep, and feeding organic vs feeding them a little Kraft Dinner once in awhile. Let’s start wars about more important things. I’ve been making a list of some things that bother me more than how others parent their own children.
Those moms who read People Magazine or Us Weekly or InStyle instead of award winning and educational and thought-provoking books.. What are you(me?) teaching your children about the importance of where to focus their time. Also, did you know that celebrities are “JUST LIKE US!” and grocery shop and walk on sidewalks? These are the important things I know because I read People.
Or you moms who actually throw away your kid’s half-eaten Mac-n-Cheese. This is wasteful…it is our job as moms to finish the plate as quickly as possible while standing at the sink and hoping the kids don’t come in and catch us. Don’t ruin this for the rest of us.
Or you moms driving your cool SUV’s or hybrid-eco-friendly cars like “oh I’m not going to be a sell-out and buy that Minivan even though I know it would be so much more convenient..but I’ll be damned if I can be one of ‘those’ soccer moms…” Oh my SwaggerWagon set has you all figured out…I mean it took me 7 years of motherhood to finally give in to the minivan. But the in-floor storage, the auto-sliding doors, the seating for 8, the low clearance for easy loading and unloading. I mean sure, when you do have that twice a year date night with your spouse – pulling up in the minivan in front of the new, hip vegan restaurant seems awkward on a Saturday night. But by Monday when you are driving carpool again, you forget your pain.
Now those are important subjects that I think we need to toast over a glass of wine. As long as we make it red wine. Because I don’t understand you moms who prefer white wine.
I am not my mother and made my own choices that surprised even me. I breast fed exclusively, co-slept, I quit my job to stay home with my kids full-time, yet I don’t keep a very clean house compared to her, I still don’t let my 11 year old ride her bike around the block by herself, and I mainly buy healthy snacks.
Until today. Because these Ho-Hos totally rock and I think I need to buy another package to share with my kids. I thank my mom for making sure these were always in the snack cabinet and not worrying about what others thought. She and others mothered without a manual, and I hope without a worry of whether they were doing it right, without comparison, without guilt, and without regret I believe, and thankfully without carob chips.
I think we can all take a lesson from the moms that came before us who didn’t live with the mommy war myth that is perpetuated by the media.
As mothers who have experienced loss, mothers who’ve made tough decisions, mothers who’ve overcome infertility, mothers who never thought they could experience such joy or such pain. And as daughters, all of us reading here today. We owe it to ourselves to just be at peace with our own choices.
So I toast you with my tang and my Hostess Treat that we just enjoy them together today as mothers, daughters and women who may have differences in practice and opinion but are unified in our celebration and experience. Unless carob chips and white wine are truly your poison. But I promise I won’t judge.
Esther was late to school that day – and she was not wearing red. It’s true – she owns nothing red. But the extra time we spent together that morning meant more to both of us than her wearing the right shirt.
After the show my girls rushed to me with flowers and hugs and tales of the shows. Esther looked up at me and said “I love you mom – you were really funny!”
And then Lorna Landvik came over and asked if I’d ever consider writing or performing stand-up comedy.
After I picked myself up from the floor I realized that I too had a story(a personal story – not one that using bar graphs and numbers) that was a worth sharing. As do you. xo
Listen To Your Mother has been a game changer for me and so many others. Thank you Ann Imig for your vision and love. And to Vikki and Galit – my partners in LTYM Crime – girlfriends I love you and would totally move a body for you. xo