Sometimes we parents seek advice from professionals: We read the “What to Expect” books, we ask our doctors, we read John Rosemond’s column (for those times we want to feel inadequate as parents.) But most of the time, we just want to hear from someone who’s survived an explosive diaper in the dentist’s waiting room, someone whose kids ask weird questions loudly during church, someone whose life is far from perfect but still manages to get up every day and make the coffee.
For 10 years, I’ve been that latter person, letting nice readers know that they’re not crazy if they let their 11-year-old play outside alone. I put myself out there in columns addressing breastfeeding in public, the Boy Scouts, and miscarriage.
But this right here is my last column in the newspaper I’ve been reading since my brother taught me to read when he was 6 and I was 4 (we weren’t brilliant, we just didn’t have cable TV and Pong had not yet been invented.) You’ll still have access to Rosemond’s syndicated column, but the dwindling freelance budget has fully dwindled.
I’ve been writing in various capacities for the same publication for 20-plus years, but my role as parenting columnist was the most rewarding, entirely because of the connections I made with readers. On the Saturdays I knew something I wrote was going to irritate someone I eagerly checked my email. But really, most of the readers who wrote to me were grandparents who read the column for a bit of nostalgia and perhaps some reassurance that they had done the best they could.
Because in parenthood, we need allies. We need to know there are others in the trenches who are just trying to do the right thing. We need to support one another and to stand up for one another. We need the people who dare to look away from their phone in the line at Target and offer a word of encouragement to the mom with a crying infant and two wriggly toddlers. That stuff goes a long way.
We need, at all phases of parenthood, to know that someone else gets it. We need someone who understands what you mean when you say you absolutely cannot tolerate another human touching you when the kids are young and clingy, but also understand when we say how much we’d give for just one hug from a grown, distant child.
As much as I’d like to say I’ll find another landing spot for my column, this is 2018 and the newspaper industry is nothing like it was when I became a reporter in 1994.
And maybe this is the universe’s way of telling me there’s something with a greater purpose for me to do. Sharing with elementary school kids my children’s books about the two rescue dogs currently on my lap is the most energizing work I’ve ever done, but I need to take it up a notch.
Upon finishing preschool (we didn’t “graduate” back in the 1970s) our teacher gave each of us a little book, inside which she left us each a personalized note. I didn’t own too many books, so I cherished it. That copy of “The Little Red Hen” has a prime spot on my now-crowded bookshelf.
Because of that gift, and because I’ve witnessed this joy on the giving end, getting books into the little hands of kids who don’t own any books has become a focus of mine. I’ve done many “sponsored” author visits in Connecticut’s inner cities, made possible by businesses or individuals who also value literacy (and dogs.) My friend’s mom earlier this month sent me a check that enabled me to give a copy of one of my books to 125 third and fourth graders at Kennelly School in Hartford’s South End.
I believe we’ve been put here on earth to take care of each other. That support comes in many forms. Years ago, working from home with office-mates in varying stages of potty training, the support I often needed was from a fellow freelancer/mom, whom I’d call and ask to pour a glass of wine at 5 o’clock, so I wouldn’t be drinking alone.
You’ve never come to my column looking for advice or words of wisdom from the perfect mom with the perfect family. But here’s some advice anyway: Pick up every dropped binky in the bank line or parking lot: Any mom with a child using a binky has much more back pain than you. Don’t concern yourself when other parents choose to bottle feed or return to work or feed their kids Froot Loops. And support each other through the crappy times while also cheering loudly when when everything clicks for them (even if we’re a little jealous.) We’re all on the same team.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on sponsoring a school visit.