Hi everyone. Please stop over and say hello at dot moms because I have a post up today!
Here at the home of the ParentsPalooza Festival, I'd like contribute a lengthy heartfelt guitar riff (here I can pretend I play one) to the chorus of parents singing out in favor of Parent Appreciation!
And to that I'd like to add another song.
A few days ago I wrote about my favorite biology teacher who was shot and killed in a parking lot on Friday. Well, talk about a great parent. At the funeral, people spoke about Bill as a supreme human, in so many many ways, but especially as a parent. It was clear to his colleagues and friends that while Bill was a great educator, mentor and friend, he was first and foremost a family man, devoted to Susan and their two kids. In the crowd that overflowed the sanctuary, one speaker talked about his feelings of relief and gratitude that Bill's family unit was so strong and so loved. He quoted Susan as saying, "What has happened is unimaginable and horrible and will change our lives forever. But we will be OK."
What a tribute.
I took something else from the day in Baltimore. A number of people talked about wishing they had told Bill how much they loved him and the profound influence he had had on their lives. While I'm of the school that Bill is looking down on us right now and knows how heartsick we are, I can't shake the reminder that life is unpredictable, that we don't know what's coming our way. It's cliche, I know, but are we sharing the good stuff with the people we love? Is the obvious going unspoken? Are we leaping into the void and sharing our mushy feelings so people can dine off them for awhile?
There's a tie-in to parent appreciation day here, isn't there?
So, the other song I'd like to play for you is Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." The high school acapella group sang it at the funeral, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. I downloaded it this morning and have a whole new appreciation for the lyrics. Here's a snippet:
"Sometimes you picture me --
I'm walking too far ahead
You're calling me, I can't hear
What you've said --
Then you say -- go slow --
I fall behind --
The second hand unwinds
"If you're lost you can look -- and you will find me time after time.
If you fall, I will catch you -- I'll be waiting time after time."
The karmic exercise of sharing random comments of kindness with parents in the blogosphere has revealed some wonderful things:
1) It feels good and right to say nice things to someone about what you like or admire in them, and it sure isn't hard to do;
2) What you give comes back twofold;
3) You know the old cliche 'ignore the unproductive negative and focus on the positive,' well, that appears to be working;
4) Parents everywhere really, truly need a pat on the back, but not for just one day - they need it from themselves and from the people around them every day.
And that is the most important lesson - Parent Appreciation Day needs to be more than 24 hours, it needs to be a constant state of being.
It is hard to go anywhere or read anything without being reminded that how we live our lives and raise our kids just isn't the right way to do things. But, the fact is, we are all different and we all do things our own way. There is no 'one size fits all' formula for anything in this world, let alone parenting. Time Magazine exclaiming "WHAT TEACHERS HATE ABOUT PARENTS" or Newsweek's "Myth of the Perfect Mother" are just two more examples of things that make us question ourselves and our abilities and choices.
Is it really necessary? Maybe in some instances. But, for the most part, we are doing a good job raising our kids. For the first time in contemporary history the majority of teenagers say the people they admire most are their parents. Children are healthier, and happier, at least according to recent studies. Do you really think the stereotypical 1950s moms with their casseroles and jello molds and their perfect 2.5 children were better off than we are now?
It is simply not fair or right to make blanket generalizations about "families" or "parents" or "mothers" because, there are no set rules for 'Family Values' - whatever those are - or living our lives or raising our kids. We each have ways of doing things that are different but work for us.
You know, if I choose to spend creative energy and lots of time on an ornate, beautiful cake for the 2nd grade bakesale - well, what's it to you? Maybe my kid will see how much effort I put into something for her and her class and feel good.
Anyway, out there on hundreds of parenting blogs are observant, sad, funny and dead-on posts about families and love and anxiety and insecurity and innovative, imaginative ways of raising kids. All those posts and thoughts and ideas are different. We are all different. But most of us (with the exception of some horrible situations which are few and far between but seems to be everywhere because they always make headlines) are making choices for ourselves and our families that fit who we are and are good for who we are.
That is not to say everything we do is perfect or right. Quite the opposite, because, who - by the way - wants to be perfect? The thing is, if we make a mistake, we learn. And sometimes negative comments, articles or what have you can help us identify things we want to change, or inform a decision we will make. Ultimately, though, if we can get through a bad thing or rough time, well, we find that when bad things or rough times happen again (and they will) we can get through those, too.
So, with all that said, we hope we can all go forth in a constant state of parent appreciation. We are doing hard, complicated, life altering work every second of every day. It doesn't help, and in fact it hurts (a lot), to let others or ourselves criticize the decisions and values and experiences we choose for our families. With all we have going on, why do we need to add so much doubt into the mix? Let's build ourselves up, not cut ourselves down. Everyone will benefit. We will, our partners will, and - especially - our children will.
Notice: Parent Appreciation Day will continue until tomorrow! Mainly because I need it and suspect many of you do too. So, since it is more like a two-three day thing, I guess we need to call it the Parent Appreciation Festival or ParentsRockPalooza or something. I wish it was just a way of life. Maybe we can make it that way?
You know, the "Good Job!" comments we got just made me feel awesome. On a day when my kids were fighting, the teacher called and the baby won't nap -- your words of support lifted me up. And that is what this celebration is all about. We won't let naysayers or broad generalizations get us down! We won't listen to the noise! We are committed to our families, we want our children to be happy and healthy and we hope, at some point, someday, we will breathe a sigh of relief that after all this, our kids are happy, healthy and productive adults!
I LOVE Parent Appreciation Day here at Been There because parenting is a job that doesn't provide nearly enough strokes. Having come from the 'working world', I'm used to getting the positive reinforcement that comes from doing great work for a client or managing a team of people to complete a task successfully. There's lots of positive feedback in the outside world, and so little in the inner sanctum of raising kids. And that's just backwards. But, it is as it is....
So, as Cooper suggested I'm spreading the love. And the first person I'm going to talk with is my Dad. I don't know if he realizes how much of an impact he had on me.
A couple of stories come to mind. In the years following my parent's divorce, I was in my 20s and living in Dallas. Looking back on those years, Dad used to show up at regular intervals for conferences in the city, including one that, coincidentally, took place the day after I needed minor surgery. He never uttered a word about the effort or inconvenience involved in the travel, and what do you know, after I left Dallas, he didn't have any more conferences there.
The other night, we went out to dinner with Dad and our kids. As we were leaving the restaurant, a band was playing and Dad took my hand and starting dancing with me. No one else was dancing, and as we started he said, "Want a lift?" By which he meant, I could stand on his feet to follow his steps, as I did when I was a little girl. Of course, I didn't because I would have crushed his toes, but it brought back how much he remembered those dances from 30 or so years ago.
When I was little, he taught me how to sail by giving me the tiller and helping me fix on a point on shore to aim for. He was always calm and gave the impression he had the utmost confidence in my ability to sail the little sunfish. To this day, when I'm heading into unfamiliar terrain in my life, I feel his confidence in me.
As part of Parent Appreciation Day, I know I and my friends with young kids don't get nearly enough appreciation for our efforts, and I'm realizing, neither did my parents. No time like the present to change that.
The ingenuity and resourcefulness of moms never cease to amaze me.
For Example: A couple years ago two moms I know (like lots of people these days) started knitting. With five children between the two of them, in their very spare time, the moms would get together, chat, laugh and knit. They figured out they were a good team and they were good at knitting. Somehow - in between raising little kids and all the things that go along with kids and life in general - these women were able to put together a thriving business (called Knit Wits - isn't that cute!)by selling their knitwear at art and craft shows and other venues and (last week!) launching a web site filled with their custom knit wear - which is fabulous. So please go say "hi" to the Knit Wits and check out their beautiful things. (BTW: It is not surprising at all is it that the majority of small business owners are female.)
So, I have been thinking: Don't you agree that parents (and that goes for DADS too) - people who for the most part are trying with all their might to balance work/family/creative life - deserve some credit?
As I am sure you know, we parents often parent in a vacuum and have no idea if what we are trying to do is actually working or right. Add maintaining an independent identity, having time for your significant other, being creative/working, taking care of a house, contributing to the community, tending family ties and friendships and lord knows a million other things, how can we feel like we are remotely succeeding at, well, anything?
And yet, if the blogging world is any indication, parents seem to be navigating their complicated, chaotic lives with humor, curiosity, introspection and a lot of love (sprinkled with expected doses of insecurity and anxiety.)
Screw all the Newsweek/NYT "overloaded/crappy mom" articles lately. I mean, my god, aren't we doing pretty decent jobs having a life and raising our kids? Back up a second and let's get real. Yes, it is nuts - but - aren't we DOING OUR BEST? Fast forward a few years and I am willing to bet - and the odds are - we will have raised well adjusted adults. At the end of the day, isn't that the key part of all of this? Seems like that is the element most of these articles forgot to mention.
With that sentiment in mind, here is a been there challenge for the day: give all the parents you know who are trying to balance family/creative/work life a HUGE, virtual (or actual) pat on the back (read: email them, leave a comment or tell them in real life.)
Go to your favorite sites (or find a friend in the check out line) and tell them: in honor of Parent Appreciation Day at been there, I just want you to know, YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB.
Let's stop tearing ourselves down. I know there are lots and lots of days I could really use a compliment or an affirmation about how I am raising my kids and living my life. Couldn't you? So, go ahead, spread the love and let's have a group Parent Appreciation Day hug.
There is no reason on earth for Emily's high school teacher's senseless and horrible murder outside a shopping mall by thugs looking for money which they never even took. Bill Bassett's wife and children are left, suddenly, without him; his students are devastated; his community shocked.
It makes my stomach knot up when I think about the fact that we just never know when bad things are going to hit. My mother in law had a mass removed from her stomach yesterday, but no one is sure what that means yet.
Don't you think those who have figured out how to live in the moment really know what they are doing?
We once had a neighbor named Ruth, who, at age 95, would drive up our extremely steep driveway in her stick-shift sports car to deliver eggs laid by chickens she raised. She smiled a lot, always asked a lot of questions and went to every play, musical performance or art exhibit she could. Ruth loved life and I was in awe of her. I loved being with her. She died a couple years ago, just shy of her 100th birthday, and everyone she knew agreed that Ruth lived a wonderful life.
The killers have been caught, according to The Baltimore Sun, which also has two moving articles on and a great photo of Bill Bassett, my high school biology teacher who was shot and killed on Friday. Apparently the two men confessed to going to the mall with the intention of robbing someone at gunpoint. They shot Bill, though his wallet was on him when he was found dead on the fifth floor of the parking lot.
I still can't come to grips with his death. He was a world class guy, someone you expect to live for a long long time, giving his own blend of magic to the world. I don't suppose a family can ever come to grips with a killing like this.
In a way, in a the age of Law & Order episodes running around the clock, I expect to learn that his death isn't real, that it's just part of the fictionalized world of police dramas. Having watched innumerable episodes, I can imagine what unfolded after Bill was found lying on the floor of the parking garage -- detectives and crime scene investigators doing their work -- but that imagined 43 minute version of the story misses and trivializes the real pain. I am part of an enormous community of people who are feeling raw and gutted by its loss and sadness and nothing in popular culture can come close to approximating the impact his death will have on his wife, his kids, the students he taught and their families, and his colleagues and theirs. I'm not sure I can watch the big crime dramas again without resenting how desensitized we have all become -- me included -- to the aftermath of tragedy.
A memorial fund has been set up in his honor if you'd like to contribute: The William Adnee Bassett Memorial Fund for Faculty Development at St. Paul's School, PO Box 8100, Brooklandville MD 21022-8100.
I'm so very sad today. I learned yesterday that my favorite biology teacher, Bill Bassett, was shot and killed in the parking lot of a mall outside Baltimore yesterday. The police are looking for the killer. He has one son in college and a daughter in high school, and had worked at my alma mater for 31 years.
I can't even fathom what his family is going through right now.
What an amazing guy he was. He had all of us in his AP Biology class call him by his first name -- a first for us. We went on camping trips to Chincoteague and the Everglades to study the ecosystems with him and his wife. I remember the first day we arrived at the campsite in Chicoteague, and his assignment was simple ... to take our binoculars and bird books and identify 20 different species of birds. We went into the assignment thinking birding was pretty lame, but once we got started on it, we were all hooked. It became a game, and to this day, I keep my eye out for interesting birds in the neighborhood.
When we were in the Everglades, he had us walk onto a boardwalk over the marsh, put blindfolds on and sit quietly listening to the sounds of the animals around us. Later we identified everything we heard -- crocodiles, turtles, frogs, lizards, snakes and I can't remember now what else.
My brother said last night that he and his friends assumed he worked for the CIA on the side "because he was so damned smart he had to do more than teach biology."
Looking back on my senior year in 1979, I realize now how young he was starting out his career. He didn't have his kids yet and he was all brilliant, challenging, creative energy. Bill went on to run the upper school and be dean of the faculty, and he had a huge impact on kids' lives. Especially mine.
Cooper & Emily
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